Posted on February 29th, 2024


The Buddhist lobby set out to re-establish Buddhism in the Northeast when the Eelam war ended in 2009. They were helped in this task by the army. The Buddhist lobby started off by setting up Buddha statues. Buddha-images were planted triumphantly in Tamil areas of re-conquest” lamented Tamil Separatist Movement.  By 2012 the number of Buddhist statues from Omanthai to Yālpāṇam had increased to 29.

A Buddha statue came up in Sambaltheevu in Trincomalee with police protection. Construction work started on the Buddha statue at Mahindaramaya, Valaichchenai In 2019. The 60-foot statue will be the tallest in Batticaloa said chief priest, Ven. Katugastota (Kaddukasthodda) Mahindalangara.

Buddha statues were placed in sensitive locations. One statue was in front of Thirukoneswaram Hindu temple in Trincomalee and another was at Thiruketheeswaram temple in Mannar.A large Buddha statue has been built near Yālpāṇam harbor making it clearly visible to the vessels, complained Tamil Separatist Movement.

The military has built Buddha statues within or in close proximity to Hindu temples at Vavuniya, Kilinochchi, and Point Pedro, complained Aadalayan Centre. A 67 foot Buddha statue is coming up in front of the Nainai Nagabhooshani Amman Hindu temple, at Nainativu. 

 The Buddhist lobby then went on to build temples in the northeast, regardless of opposition from the Tamil Separatists. They started with Kankesanturai in the north (Tissa vihara) then   Mullaitivu,   Trincomalee, Batticaloa.  A Vihara has come up in front of the hot water springs in Kinniya.

In 2016 Tamil Separatist Movement stated that new viharas were coming up at Omanthai, Semmadu, Kanakarayankulam, Kilinochchi, Mankulam, Paranthan and Pooneryn. Nine Viharas are coming up in Mullaitivu district alone. In Kokkilai which is in Mullaitivu district, a Buddha vihara is coming up with army support .There is   a Buddhist site at Muḷḷivāykkāl as well. 

Northern Province Governor Reginold Cooray   replied in 2016   that there are only 13 Buddhist temples in the entire Northern Province.  There is nothing wrong in constructing Buddhist temples.

These newly constructed Buddhist sites are becoming places of devotion, lamented the Tamil Separatist Movement. Many tourists stop at these key junctions and make donations.  Pilgrim resorts have started to appear. Then Sinhala settlements   come up near   these resorts, complained the Tamil Separatist Movement. One example is the Madhu Road Housing Scheme that came after the vihara and pilgrim resort were built.

Tamil Separatist Movement complained that Buddhist places of worship have been built in strategic places in the north. There is a temple at Navatkuli. Navatkuli is a strategically a very important location.   Two important Jaffna roads, A32 and A9 intersect at Navatkuli. These two roads are the only land route between the Jaffna Peninsula and the rest of the island. A Buddhist temple at this location would help the Buddhists control access to Jaffna.

Similarly Maṅkuḷam is the main junction between Vavuṉiyā and Kilinochchi towns. Mankulam junction and Kaṉakārayaṉkuḷam junction connect roads from all four directions. They are the key business locations in Kilinochchi district.

There is a newly built large Buddhist stūpa on the A9 road, near Maṅkuḷam junction. It is designed as a proper Buddhist monastery” with the aim of bringing monks to reside there. A plan for expansion is visible.  The building of a large stūpa at this key commercial junction not only has a religio-military dimension, but also a commercial aspect.

 A sapling of the Śrī Mahā Bodhi has been planted on a 20 feet-high mound at Kanakārayaṉkuḷam on the A9 road. The place is guarded around the clock by four soldiers who live in a nearby military barrack. A soldier also operates as a tourist guide at this site and gives the history of Śrī Mahā Bodhi and how the sapling was brought here after the military victory over the LTTE. There are plans to arrange for Buddhist monks to reside at the site.  Devotees who pass through the A9 route daily in their thousands donate generously to the site. The site is continuously expanding. 

Jude Fernando (2013) [1]  speaks of the malāsanayas which have been set up all over the north .The term Malasanaya refers to the stand for flowers placed before a Buddha statue, but in this case, Malasanaya probably means a small outdoor shrine.

The end of the Eelam war led to a rapid growth in malāsanayas in the north.  New Buddhist malāsanayas can be found in Mullaitivu district, and in Mallāvi, Vaṭakau and Tarmapuram in Kiḷinocci district, said Jude. In the Eastern Province there is a new Buddhist malāsanaya near the hot water wells in Kiṇṇiyā.

Malāsana have been built on the intersecting junctions of roads. There was one at Parantan junction, which connects the A9 road to two other directions..  They are frequently visited by Buddhists who travel on the A9 road as tourists going to the Northern Province.

There were malasanayas in police stations, in public places,  and military camps as well. Some are located inside the camps but could be seen from the road. A good number are located in between the main road and the barbed-wire fence of the camp.

There were 12 clearly visible Buddhist sites of worship within 129km, along the main A9m road from Ōmantai to Yālpāṇam. there are five such places Within 33.8 km on the road from Yālpāṇam to Paruttittuṟai there were  at least 20 such sites from Matavācci to Maṉṉār visible from the road. These figures came from a random count done by a team of Tamils and Siṃhalas as part of a Human Rights training programme in 2010. 

The Buddhist lobby is reaching out beyond Jaffna as well. .Vediyarasan Fort on the island of Delft was declared an ancient Buddhist site by the Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka. The construction of a Buddhist shrine on the island of Katchatheevu, a notable place of pilgrimage for Tamil Catholics, has raised fears around the possibility of Sinhala colonization, said Tamil Guardian.

Tamil Separatist Movement has charged that Buddhist temples are built on Hindu temple lands. In Kōkkiḷāi in Mullaitīvu district, a Hindu temple (Piḷḷayār kōvil) which was damaged during the war has been demolished and replaced by a Buddhist shrine.

The entire district of Maṉṉar though populated by Tamils has been brought under the archaeological province of Anurādhapura. A section of Thirukeetheswaram temple (Mannar) has been taken over for a shrine for Buddhists. The District Secretariat in Mannar had granted rights to a monk to build within the precincts of a Hindu temple, but the trustees of the Hindu temple managed to get the Buddhist temple stopped.

In the Eastern Province the animosity towards Buddhism   is leading to confrontations. There is now an open tussle between the Buddhists and non Buddhists in Eastern Province. Neither side is prepared to give in. Kurundi is one example.

Buddhists are determined that the Eastern Province must maintain its position as a Buddhist province. They are setting up new Buddhist temples and enlarging the existing ones. A new building for Sri Pantharma temple in Vellaveli (Batticaloa) was provided by the army in 2015.  The commemorative plaque was entirely in Sinhala, complained Tamilnet.

The Eastern Province Development Committee found at its meeting   of August 2023 that land had been given to places of worship in the Trincomalee District without any formal procedures. Arisimale temple had got 100 acres.  The 365 acres requested by the Tiriyaya temple was reduced to 265 acres, by a Parliamentary Select Committee. 27 perches of land has been requested for Boralukanda Rajamaha Vihara. It was decided to re-survey and settle the issue.

In 2023, it was reported that the President intended to appoint a committee to determine whether Kurundi and Tiriyaya had historically owned 2,000 and 3,000 (sic) acres of land respectively. President wanted to know how these two Viharas could own more land than Maha vihara in Anuradhapura. The committee must show historical evidence about the land once owned by the Kurundi and Tiriyaya Viharas. This did not go down well. A cartoon in Island newspaper of 18.6.23 made fun of the Presidents observations on Maha vihara. 

The Buddhist lobby has taken an interest in Trikoneswaram temple in Trincomalee. R.Sampanthan had written to President Ranil Wickremesinghe on 14 September, 2022 saying I am informed that meetings have been held in Trincomalee regarding Thirukoneshwaram and certain decisions are to be taken.

A proposal has been made that a new route be opened to the Buddha statue and from there to Thirukoneshwaram kovil. This is not necessary. It can result in persons encroaching and occupying land on the route. This will result in the sanctity and piety of the two sites getting diminished. I kindly request that the opening of this new route be stopped. This will only result in evil being done. DBS Jeyaraj said in November 2022   that this controversial move seem to have been put on hold.

Some years ago some traders from Ratnapura were brought and installed on the route to Koneshwaram, continued Sampanthan. Meat and Fish were cooked there. A decision was taken that these persons be shifted from this area but not been implemented. He also complained that some persons claiming to be Archeological officials have visited this area

Sampanthan then recalled that In August 1968, a group of prominent Hindus representing several Hindu organizations wrote to Prime Minister Dudley Sanganayake and the Hindu Minister in the Government M. Tiruchelvam regarding the Koneshwaram Temple. They requested that the Fort Fredrick precincts be declared a sacred area on account of the historic Koneshwaram Temple being located within.  

The appointment of the committee on ‘Declaration of Fort Fredrick of Trincomalee, a Sacred Area’ was gazetted on 27 August 1968.   Three days later on 30 August the Ven. Mangalle Dharmakirti and Sri Dambagasare Sumedhankara Nayaka Thera of Tammankaduwe lodged a protest with Prime Minister Senanayake.

 According to Minister Tiruchelvam’s former Private Secretary Ram Balasubramaniam, the Buddhist monk claimed that an ancient place of Buddhist worship” would get into the hands of those who are neither Sinhalese nor Buddhists” because of the committee being appointed to declare Koneshwaram a sacred area. A widespread agitation was threatened if the project was not shelved immediately.   Dudley Senanayake vehemently denied that Fort Fredrick was going to be declared a Hindu sacred area. He emphasized that Fort Fredrick was under the Defence Ministry. 

 In May 2023 there was a   test of strength, between The Tamil Separatist Movement and the Buddhist lobby. This time, for once, the Buddhist lobby won. In May 2023 the Buddhist lobby had arranged for 50 Thai monks to arrive by boat to Trincomalee, and conduct a ceremony near the Bo Gas Hatara temple, to celebrate the arrival of the Siam Nikaya upasampada in 1753.  Derana news of 14.5.2023 reported on what happened next.

The delegation arrived and got as far as Jaya Sumanaramaya by foot. They were prevented from proceeding any further by students of University of Jaffna who had set up an attalaya blocking their route.   They had stayed the previous night there. These students said that the Buddhist lobby must stop their procession immediately; otherwise they will gather all the undergrads of Northeastern University as well and demonstrate.

The Sangha then went to the Trincomalee clock tower. Camera showed a row of monks seated looking formidable. They did not sit there for long.  They pushed through the army barriers using poles and reached Bo Gas Hatara.  The Tamil students who were there   departed and the ceremony was held.

This is the place where the new upasampada started” said the chief priest, standing before the gate of St Mary’s Convent. TNA must understand that there is a loyal, patriotic, Buddhist community of monks and laymen here.

 Derana news also reported that Sampanthan had said in Parliament, that there was a sacred kovil near Bo Gas Hatara and this is why they were objecting. Homeland Democratic Party” had written to India, USA and Thailand to stop this ceremony.  (Continued)

[1] As at 2013, Dr. Jude Lal Fernando (Jūd Lāl Pranāndu) was a post-doctoral research fellow and lecturer in Buddhist-Christian dialogue at the Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin. He has written on Expansion of Siṃhala Buddhism into the Tamil Region: Religio-Military Dimensions of Post-War Lanka”. He has collected documentary pictures of the Sinhalisation of the Tamil area in Īlam’s North-East region after the defeat of the LTTE . the  quotations that follow are taken from: Buddhism among Tamils in Tamilakam and Īlam Part 3 Extension and Conclusions Editor-in Chief: Peter Schalk https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:604163/FULLTEXT06.pdf

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