Posted on February 10th, 2024


Jaffna  already has a vihara which could be used for a solosmastana pilgrimage, Naga Vihara. I am unable to find out the year in which  this vihara  was established. My guess is that it would have been built in the 1950s or possibly late 1940s when Buddhist worship was  sent  across the sea to Nainativu.

The Vihara somehow survived the Eelam wars and  bounced back after the war ended. The pinnacle for Naga Vihara chaitya  was received in 2002. This made news. It was handed over to the Viharadhipathi by two Catholics, Dr Jayalath Jayawardene and Fr. Ranjan Silva. Buddhist organizations objected. It should have been done by a monk or Buddhist leader, they said. The  objections were from  National Council of Buddhist women, ACWBC, International Buddhist centre, Dayake Sabhawa, Sadaham charika, SUCCESS Colombo, Dhammacharini, Lanka Buddha Sanrakshana Sabhawa, Dharmavijaya Foundation, and Buddhist Doctors Society.

Naga Vihara  resumed its Katina Puja in 2009.   The next available news was that the Katina puja was held on a grand scale in 2012. It attracted thousands, said the media. The religious activities were conducted by the Naga Vihara Development Foundation, Jaffna, and the Tamil Buddhist Association. The Nandarama Tamil Dhamma School under the auspices of the Association also participated.  The army helped. Bhikkhus from many parts of the country participated.

Naga Vihara   held its first Perahera on Esala poya day, 2003, with participation of Sri Lanka army.  There was  a Perahera in 2012, with elephants and dancers.  The elephants were sent from Gangaramaya in Colombo, said the media.

Wesak celebrations were organized in Jaffna in 2005 by Army commander, Jaffna and his   team.  Religious activities were at Naga Vihara and Kadurugoda temple. Large crowds had thronged to Jaffna for Wesak to view the celebration. There were lanterns and dansala at the Alfred Duraiyappah stadium.

Jaffna celebrated Wesak in 2009 too. Families of the forces personnel in Jaffna observed sil at the Naga Vihara Jaffna. The celebration lasted for three days. Wesak lanterns were lit along the main trunk roads,  main junctions and at the army camp. Wesak was also celebrated   at Lumbini Vihara, Kilinochchi.  Daily News carried a photograph showing the Perahera there.

In 2014, Wesak celebrations were organized by the Jaffna Buddhist Society” with the assistance of the army. This too attracted large crowds. There was a special Wesak zone  with a giant pandal  and a dansela run by the army.   The Wesak zone attracted over 100,000 on first day.  Bhakthi Gee were sung by soldiers, students of Jaffna schools and the students of the Manipay Nandarama Tamil Buddhist Dhamma School.

Wesak celebrations organized by the Jaffna Security Force Headquarters in 2018 were very popular, judging from the crowd turnout.  The Wesak Dansela catered to over 15,000 people each day. The Wesak pandals attracted large crowds.

 Previously, if a person from Jaffna needed to witness the Wesak celebrations, they would have to travel either to Anuradhapura or Colombo, but now with the Wesak celebrations being held in the North, the Northern people too could enjoy this festival,” said viewers.  Both the young and old come for the Wesak celebrations. They enjoy seeing the lanterns and pandals and it also gives them an understanding of the Buddhist culture, they said. Tamil politicians, however, objected to the Wesak celebrations.

Sunday Leader also  objected to Wesak in Jaffna. Sunday Leader said in 2010 that  Wesak in Jaffna started  only in 1950. Celebration is centered on the display of lights and lanterns and  elaborate sponsored displays in the streets.  Jaffna MP Suresh Premachandran  complained to the media that the  military had organized Buddhist celebrations in traditionally Tamil Hindu areas of the country including Jaffna. They are trying to show that the north is a Buddhist area. This could be seen as communal triumphalism  and the desire to make the whole country -Buddhist , concluded  Sunday Leader.

There appears to have been two  short lived Tamil Buddhist Associations, in Jaffna ,  one after the other. A Tamil Dhamma Buddhist Association was started around 1959 by Maruthar Vairamuttu (1918- 2012). He lived in Manipay and was a handicrafts teacher. He had converted to Buddhism and had associated with Ven Akuretiye Amarawansa, Madihe Pannaseeha, Kanaweththewe Nandarama and Ganegama Saranankara.  Vairamuthu had worked with Nissanka Wijeratne when Wijeratne was    Government Agent, Jaffna. He had also helped individuals from depressed castes  obtain jobs.This Association   seems to have died a natural death.

 A second Tamil Buddhist Association started by A. Ravi Kumar of Manipay, Jaffna. This was launched in 2010 at the All Ceylon Buddhist Centre in Colombo.  ‘Divaina’ newspaper, May 11, 2014   told his story.

Arunnethwaraththam Ravi Kumar’s father was an Inspector of Police. The permanent residence of the family was in Jaffna, but he studied till Grade 10 in Bandarawela.  I associated mostly with the Sinhalese”. He thereafter lived in Jaffna where he clashed with Prabhakaran, received death threats and for his safety went to India.  He lived in Chennai and Mumbai, working as a travel agent. His wife was abducted and his daughter was taken in by relatives. He was depressed and looked for solace. He tried Hare Krishna, Pentecostal and Sikhism. ‘One day I chanced upon a meditation centre. I practiced meditation for ten days. I liked it’. He then turned to Buddhism.

On his return to Sri Lanka, he wanted others also to share ‘the feeling of the soothing peace of mind Buddhism brings’. He  founded the Jaffna Buddhist Association. Tamil politicians had  told the Tamils in Jaffna that Buddhism is a Sinhalese Religion. They misled the Tamil people, and made them keep away from Buddhism and the temple. They should not be deceived any longer. They should experience the Dhamma for themselves, he said.

Ravi Kumar started Nandarama Tamil Dhamma School, in Chunnakam in 2012 in his home..  It is  the first Buddhist Dhamma School in the Tamil Language.” When I started the Buddhist Dhamma School, Suresh Premachandran accused me of trying to destroy the Tamil culture by doing so. I pointed out that the Christian religion had already done that.

 Ravi Kumar carries on with his work by himself, said Divaina in 2014. 50 Tamil children are taught the Dhamma at this school. The school manages with difficulty. It lacks a suitable building. They study under a thatched roof.  There is no offer of help, Ravi told Divaina.  11 students  of this school, under the patronage of Chief Incumbent of Naga Viharaya Ven. Megahajadure Siri Vimala went on a pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya in 2013.N  In 2014 the  students observed sil on the Poson poya day. Around 53 children participated in the sil progamme. The  progamme was    organized by Naga Vihara, ACBC, Sambodhi Vihara, Colombo with the help of the security forces in Jaffna. There is no further news about these schools.

Jaffna was used as the venue for a Buddhist conference  in 2015. The Karuna International Buddhist Convention organized by the Triple Gem Foundation, Bengaluru,   held its annual conference in 2015 at Weerasingham Hall, Jaffna.  The co-sponsors of the event are Tripitaka Tamil Foundation, Chennai, Dhamma Vijaya, Maha Vihara, Madurai, Buddhist Trust of Andhra Pradesh, East Godhavari, Sarvodaya Wisvaanikethan, Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka Mahabodhi Society, Sri Wardanarama Purana Vihara and Naga Vihara, Jaffna.  Chief Organizer of Karuna International Convention   Ven. Bodhipala said he had been visiting Sri Lanka three times a year since 1999 and was a guest of Siri Perakumba Viharaya, Pita Kotte.

The Nagadeepa Purana Rajamaha Viharaya  in Nainativu also survived the Eelam war. The head priest at Nainativu was a very strong character, even the  LTTE left him alone. Ven. Nawadagala Padumakitti Tissa has  looked after the Nainativu temple for fifty  years. In 2023 he was felicitated on  completing fifty  years. He was also Chief Sanghanayake for Northern Province for his Nikaya. 

The  Katina Pinkama ceremony of the Nagadeepa Purana Rajamaha Viharaya on the island of Nainativu was successfully held with the assistance of the Northern Naval Command  of the Sri Lanka Navy on October  2022, reported the media.

 Katina Cheewara was carried in a colourful procession.  Starting from the Naval Detachment of Nainativu, the procession marched along the streets of the island, for people to pay their homage, amidst pirith chanting. The cheevara was taken  to the Vihara  and Katina Cheewara Puja was conducted.

The Navy offered morning alms and ‘Pirikara’ to 25 members of Maha Sangha and also provided lunch to the  devotees. A statue  depicting the self-mortification  stage of the Buddha’s life was erected. The foundation stone for  a replica of Aukana Buddha statue was also set down on that occasion. Former Commanders of the Navy, Admiral Daya Sandagiri and Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne, as well as senior officers, sailors from the Northern Naval Command and a group of devotees were  present on this occasion.

However, Nainativu is now turning Hindu. It now has a large, impressive Hindu kovil, the   Nainativu  Nagapoosani Amman Temple. 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.  This  gopuram is clearly visible   from  miles away and  gives the impression that Nagadipa is a Hindu island. 

There are at least two fanciful accounts attributed to this temple. This kovil  is one of the prominent 64 Shakti Peethams of Hinduism , and was identified as such in the  9th century  by Adi Shankaracharya,said  Wikipedia .The present structure was built during 1720 to 1790. This is utter  nonsense. This kovil was not there in the 1950s when I visited Nagadipa . It was probably built during the Eelam wars.

Daily News (2021) gave  an interesting account of the origins of the newly built temple.  Daily News said that the kovil been visited by people from all Northern islands as well as faithful devotees from across Sri Lanka..The temple attracts around 1,000 visitors a day. The annual 16-day Mahostavam  festival celebrated  in June attracts over 100,000 pilgrims. There is an estimated 10,000 sculptures in this newly-renovated temple.

An oral tradition states that, many centuries ago, a cobra (Nagam) was swimming across the sea towards Nainativu from the nearby Puliyantivu Island with a lotus flower in its mouth, for the worship of Bhuvaneswari Amman. An eagle (Garuda) spotted the cobra and attempted to attack and kill it. Fearing harm from the eagle, the cobra wound itself around a rock in the sea about half a kilometre from the Nainativu coast. The eagle stood on another rock  some distance away.

A merchant by the name of Maanikan who was a devotee of Sri Bhuvaneswari Amman, was sailing across the Palk Strait noticed the eagle and the cobra perched upon the two rocks. He pleaded with the eagle to let the cobra go on its way without any harm. The eagle agreed with one condition that the merchant should construct a beautiful temple for Sri Bhuvaneswari Amman.

Nagadipa is the only ‘solosmastana’ temple to be located in the  Northern Province . The new Hindu kovil   is clearly an attempt to wrest this particular solosmastana from Buddhist worship and convert the location into Hindu worship.  Buddhist pilgrims ,do not seem to mind. When I visited Jaffna a few years back, as part of a tour group.  Those who went to Nagadipa returned speaking admiringly of the new  Hindu kovil.

The  annual Festival of Sri Nagapoosani Amman Temple was  supported by  the state. The Navy media unit   said in 2019, the annual festival began on July 2 in Nainativu Island. As in previous years, a large number of devotees are arriving for this year’s festival too. Sri Lanka Navy provides assistance for making the festival a success. Naval assistance is extended from providing sea transportation for VIPs, coordinating the ferry service between Kurikadduwan and Nainativu, providing drinking water for devotees, arranging safe bathing locations, life-saving assistance for devotees, and providing pier security and security checks. ( Continued)

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