Posted on July 31st, 2023


One strategy used to suppress Buddhism in the north and east, is to plant a Hindu kovil amidst   the Buddhist ruins. These brand new ‘kovils’ were set up in carefully selected Buddhist sites which were of strategic importance.

Unknown to the Sinhala Buddhists, the Tamil Separatist Movement was busy identifying critical Buddhist ruins in the north and east, damaging them, destroying the Buddha statues, placing a trident and a lingam in its place and then calling them ancient kovils where Tamil have been worshipping for several generations.

These ‘ancient kovils’ are not ancient at all, they are brand new. It seems that anyone can create a kovil by planting a trident.  Kovils it appears need not be created by an official body and consecrated by them.

Sri Malai Kovil, Sivapuram was built amidst Buddhist ruins.  Department of Archaeology, Administration report, 1950 stated that that a small kovil had been started in Sivapuram,   in a location where Buddhist ruins,    could be seen. When the archaeology team went there in      2010, they found the kovil greatly enlarged.  Buddhist pillars  were seen beside the Kovil

When the Archaeological Department went to Jaffna peninsula in the 1960s remains of the Buddhist sites that were cited in the 16th Nam pota could still be seen. These have been gradually built over with Hindu Kovils, observed Susantha Goonetilleke.

 Ven Ellawala Medhananda said 90% of the Hindu kovils he had seen have been built over Buddhist shrines.  He specifically named Kanagarayam kovil, Vavunikulam kovil, Maranayagam kovil, Koneswaram kovil. LTTE had put up a Hindu kovil at Oddusuddan. Materials from Buddhist ruins were used for the Oddusuddan kovil.  

Archaeological officers in Vavuniya complained to the Omanthai police about a kovil being built in Maligai, Omanthai in an area which has ruins dated to the Anuradhapura period. Buddhist ruins including ancient ‘stupa’ bases, siripatul, bases of buildings, stone pillars, bricks and tiles had been bulldozed and replaced by statues of Hindu gods. The area, seven acres in extent, has been enclosed as private land and arrangements have been made to build a Kovil there, the report concluded, said Kamal Rajapaksa sinhale.news1815@gmail.com.

Cyril Mathew in his statement to UNESCO, (1983) listed many Buddhist sites that had been turned into Kovils. The Buddhist ruins had been damaged and a new kovil built at Samanalankulam.At Nelugala Hindu symbols had been placed in one of the caves. The stupa at Nellikulam in Vavuniya had been leveled and cemented and a trident placed there.  A Hindu kovil has been constructed in the vihara premises at Mohantankulam in Vavuniya. The entire area, including ruins has been fenced in and turned into a large cattle shed, said Cyril Mathew.

 Kurundi vihara was also given the same treatment. Cyril Mathew listed Kurundi among the Buddhist sites which had been meddled with. Among the monuments destroyed he lists Kurundanmalai where in 1981 there was an attempt to turn the image house into a Hindu kovil. A siripatula found there was used as a base to light camphor.

Ellawala Medhananda said that when he went to Kurundi during the Eelam war he found that some areas of the site, which had been overgrown, had been cleared. This proves that the Tamil Separatist Movement was active in the Kurundi site during the Eelam war. The pilimage had been intruded into, the Buddha statue smashed and a trident placed there. A broken yupa gala was made an object of worship.   In June 2023, a large group of Tamils went there wanting to celebrate Pongal. They shouted out Hindu chants, smashed coconuts and went away.

Tamil Separatist Movement   likes to place Hindu Kovils next to major Buddhist monuments in the north. The best example is at Nagadipa. There is now an impressive large Hindu kovil at Nagadipa. A story had been woven around it and fed to Wikipedia.

Wikipedia states that theNainativu Nagapoosani Amman Temple is a historic temple. It has been mentioned in ancient Tamil literature, such as Manimekalai and Kundalakesi. It is one of the prominent 64 Shakti Peethams of Hinduism and was identified as such in the 9th century by Adi Shankaracharya, a Hindu philosopher of Tamilnadu .The present structure was built during 1720 to 1790, concluded Wikipedia. 

This is all nonsense. This kovil was not there in the 1950s when I visited Nagadipa as a schoolgirl. This new kovil is strategically located at the tip of the island. It has four tall gopurams ranging from 20–25 feet in height, the tallest being the eastern gopuram soaring at 108 feet high.  The kovil is clearly visible   from miles away and gives the impression that Nagadipa is a Hindu island.  Buddhists eagerly visit the kovil and praise it.

Tamil Separatist Movement charged that the Department of Archaeology was preventing Tamils from worshipping at kovils sited in archaeology reserves. There is increased activity of Sri Lanka’s Department of Archaeology in the Tamil-majority north and east. Authorities have restricted public access to some temples, citing ongoing archaeological research”   there, stated Morning News. Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam of the Tamil National People’s Front   saw this as part of a larger, persistent assault on Tamils’ rights, including to worship.

Global Tamil News reported that Archaeology Department has imposed ban on people visiting the ancient Tamil temples such as Vedukkunari malai in Olumadu. The people of this area have been worshipping this place for five generations, the report complained.

This ban was been  temporarily lifted by the Nedunkerny Police with the cooperation of the Archaeology Department and the people have  been allowed to go this place to worship but  the Department has refused to allow them to renovate the exiting temple and build new buildings for this temple, continued Global Tamil News. 

A massive protest was  staged in front of the Vavuniya North Divisional Secretariat in August .2018 condemning the Archaeology Department’s attempts to deny the Tamil’s right to worship at Vedukkunari malai in Olumadu and demanding the retrieval of this particular Vedukkunarimalai from the Archaeology Department’s control,  reported  Global Tamil News.

The demonstrators at this protest were village people, public organizations, members of All Ceylon Saiva Maha Sabha , Vanni district parliamentarians Sivasakthi Aananthan and Shanthy Sriskandarajah, NPC members Mayilvakanam Thiyakarajah, G.T.Linganathan and Pathmanathan Sathiyalingam, ex-parliamentarians Suresh Premachandran and Vinotharalingam, ex-NPC member Senthilnathan Mayuran, and Pradeshya Sabha members, said  Global Tamil News. A memorandum addressed to the President has been handed over by the protestors to the Vavuniya North Divisional Secretary, concluded Global Tamil News.

 The Tamil Separatist Movement claimed that Buddhists were destroying Hindu kovils in the north. Illankai Tamil Sangam has given a list of the Hindu temples destroyed.  It says the total number of Hindu temples destroyed in the north east is 2076. A list of 1342 damaged temples is provided as at August 11, 2014. this list can be found at https://sangam.org/destruction-hindu-temples-sri-lanka/

Tamils in Sri Lanka have witnessed an escalation in the attack on Hindu temples in recent weeks; a trend that they note is part of the State’s ongoing Sinhalisation project” in the island’s north, reported Morning News in April 2023.  Sumanthiran said that there were escalating instances of attacks and vandalism on Hindu temple deities across the north. Multiple incidents of vandalism at temples, where Hindu deities were found missing or damaged.

There is also the charge that Buddhist broke down kovils and built Buddhist temples over them. Tensions flared in September 2017 over the President’s proposed attendance at an illegally constructed vihara on the premises of a Hindu temple in Mannar said Adaalyan Centre. A local Hindu priest reported that the military destroyed a Hindu temple in order to construct a Buddhist temple, said Adaalayan.  

The statements that Buddhist destroyed Hindu kovils has no evidence to sustain it. It is an empty charge made by the Tamil Separatist Movement as part of its anti-Buddhist propaganda.  Buddhist are indifferent to other religions. They do not feel threatened by them and are not intolerant.  Religions which depend on blind faith feel threatened by those that do not agree with their beliefs. . It is those religions that destroy rival churches.

It is possible to show with evidence that the opposite has occurred. That Tamils have destroyed Buddhist sites. .In 1983 Cyril Mathew listed for UNESCO, many Buddhist sites that had been destroyed   by the Tamil Separatist Movement in the north and east. Statues earlier noted are now missing, he noted.   At Sebimalai statue was destroyed and ruins at the site disturbed. 

Ven. Ellawala Medhananda writing about his explorations has drawn attention to the damage done by ‘non-Buddhists’ (Hindus and Muslims), to the Buddhist monasteries, hermitages and ancient ruins in the north and east. Medhananda says that more than five hundred sites with ancient Buddhist ruins are either destroyed or are being destroyed in the north and east.  Lavatories have been built amidst Buddhist ruins in north, he said.

In 2010 that Medhananda had   told Daily Mirror that  more than 50 sites of archeological importance in the Mullaitivu district have been desecrated by the LTTE and used as bunkers and fortifications. A total of 1633 sites have been desecrated in the Anuradhapura, Vavuniya and Mullaitivu districts, he said.

  In November 2010, Sri Lanka Archeological Society presented a talk by Muditha Karunamuni on exploration and conservation of archaeology sites in north and eastern provinces.  North and east is packed with Sinhala Buddhist monuments, he said .Muditha observed that some Buddhist remains were deliberately destroyed. These included Etambagaskanda, and Kandikulam in Vavuniya. Delft had Buddhist ruins including a chaitya. As long as navy was at Delft these ruins would be safe, Muditha observed.

The   team sent from the Department of Archaeology to the north in 2010   found much damage done in the places they visited. There is clear evidence that the LTTE had vandalized the Buddhist ruins.  The Buddhist site at Kokilai was destroyed. The ruins at Sapumalgaskada were destroyed after the army left its camp.

The team found that most Hindu kovils were erected on Buddhist ruins, such as Karnatukeni kovil. Puravasakulam Badrakali kovil had used the korawakgala and the siripatul   for worship. At kovil was built over Akkaramayan kulam stupa . At  Mallavi Sri Puram kovil they were crushing the old bricks to make the new statues..Kanniar kovil was Buddhist temple,  used as bunker by LTTE . Ambakamun stupa  was also  used as a bunker.

The vandalizing continued after the Eelam war ended. A Buddhist   shrine room erected by the army in its camp at Kanagaarayakulam, Mankulam, was vandalized in 2016 and Buddha statue broken into pieces. There is no camp there at present, said the media.

A Fundamental Rights application was lodged in September  2016 by Attorney Dharshana Weraduwage seeking an order to investigate the recent incidents in the North where Buddha statues were vandalized.  There was specific reference to the shrine room at Mankulam but the petitioner stated that this was not an isolated instance. Several Buddha statues including one in Mankulam was vandalized on August 29.

  The petitioner stated  that  in the past few months there have been constant demands for the removal of   Buddhist statues from Northern Province.    As well as to stop constructing new shrine rooms in the province..  The Buddhist archaeological sites in Northern Province are  under threat, said the petitioner.   Weraduwage has also through the petition called on the Buddha Sasana Minister to rebuild and restore all statues which has been damaged.

Another Fundamental Rights petition was filed in the Supreme Court in 2019 by Weraduwage seeking an order directing the authorities to take immediate action to investigate the imminent danger to the Buddhist religious sites and archaeological sites situated in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.  The petitioner states that he was shocked and dismayed to hear the news that a certain group had bulldozed an area in Maligai, Omanthai, Vavuniya, which had contained archaeological items  and ruins that belonged to the Anuradhapura period.  (continued)

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