Posted on April 9th, 2024


Talk shows on Kurundi invariably led to the question, Was there a kovil at Kurundi?” This ensures that in any discussion on Kurundi, the word Kovil also gets a mention. This is significant. Hinduism is now starting to run parallel to Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

Hinduism, originated in India in   the Vedic period (2000 BC – 400 BC). It was known then as Santana dharma. Hinduism does not have a founder or a leader but has many texts such as Vedas. Hinduism believes in one God, but in many incarnations. It has a trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

Hinduism is not a   world religion. It is confined to India. Hinduism was introduced to East Asia   in ancient times, probably through trade, but failed to take root there.   Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia rejected the Hindu religion in favor of Buddhism and Islam.

Today, Hinduism does not hold an undisputed position even in India.  The term Hindutva was created in 1922   as a label for Hindu nationalism with the hope of creating a   Hindu India when the British left. HindutvainH should have been an uplifting,   stirring, rousing concept, said critics. Instead it is   used in a disparaging manner by those who oppose Hindu based political parties of India.

In addition, Hinduism is a contested religion in its country of origin. There is an ongoing tussle between the Hindus and Muslims in India. Hindus cannot even claim a temple without a fight erupting like at Ayodhaya.  When Supreme Court awarded Ayodhaya to the Hindus, they were jubilant.

Hindus are now   planning to replace several other prominent mosques with Hindu temples. They have taken over the disputed Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi, which they say was built over a Hindu temple during the Mughal period.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is pushing the Hindu religion in India. He dived into the Arabian Sea off the coast of Gujarat to perform underwater puja. He sat in meditation for a while on the sea bed and offered peacock feathers.

Modi is also pushing Hinduism abroad. Modi inaugurated a grand Hindu temple in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) when he visited in 2024. It is built on a 27-acre plot donated by the UAE government. Made from pink sandstone from Rajasthan state and white Italian marble, the temple was carved in India and assembled in Dubai. Indians are the largest expatriate group in Abu Dhabi.

Ada Derana reported that a Sri Lanka-based trust had approached India through the Government of Sri Lanka, seeking help to construct a massive Hindu temple for Venkateswara in Sri Lanka. Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam of India (TTD) approved the project as a step towards disseminating Hindu dharma. The Trust will also provide   the items needed to run the temple and   perform rituals including the idols. They will be sculpted at the TTD-run Sri Venkateswara College of Traditional Sculpture and Architecture in Tirupati.[1]

Hinduism did not take root in Sri Lanka. The Hindu bronzes found buried under the Siva devale in Polonnaruwa  and  proudly displayed at the Colombo and Polonnaruwa museums, are   evidence of Chola occupation, not Hindu practice in Sri Lanka .The Sinhalese  did not embrace Hinduism, they stayed Buddhist .

There is no mention of kovil or mosques in the Udarata kingdom (1469-1815) either.  The Esala Perahera was originally a Devala perahera   of   three gods Kataragama, Pattini, and Natha. Kataragama and Pattini were Hindu gods, but they did not come from kovils, they came from devala. Natha was not Hindu, he was Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara.

The Hindu minority in Sri Lanka    is confined to the descendants of those who came as   laborers during Dutch occupation and as settlers during British rule as well as those on the tea estates.

 These Tamil Hindus worship Siva, also Ganesh and Skandia, the sons of Shiva. They follow the Bhakthi School. The Bhakthi doctrine, which appeared in Tamilnadu in the 7thh century, placed much emphasis on devotional prayers and worship through pujas and bhajans.  K .Sivatamby observed that Sri Lanka Tamils follow Saiva siddhanta in preference to the Vedanta tradition. Sri Lanka Tamils want to call their religion Saivism not Hinduism, he said.

Sri Lanka is recognized as Hindu by India. Sri Lanka participated in the international Gita Mahotsav 2023 at Kurukshetra, India as a partner country.  Sri Lanka’s Buddha Sasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs Minister, Vidura Wickramanayake attended.

The fifth International Gita Mahotsav, which is a conference on the Bhagavad Gita, was held in Colombo in 2024. The previous four editions were held in Australia (2023), Canada (2022), UK (2019) and Mauritius (2019).  It was organized by Kurukshetra Development Board, Haryana, Sri Lanka’s Buddha Sasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs Ministry and Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre, the cultural arm of the High Commission of India in Colombo in collaboration with about 30 religious and social organizations in Sri Lanka. Daily News ran a two page spread on International Gita Mahotsav.

The Hindu religion has been given a visible boost in Sri Lanka in recent times. It now receives state patronage. Hindu festivals are    celebrated at Presidents House and Temple Trees. There is considerable coverage in the state newspapers of Hindu festivals and Hindu chariot processions in different parts of the country. The leading   kovils such as Nallur regularly get flattering write ups in the media. This encourages the public to think hospitably about Hindu kovils in Sri Lanka.

In 2024 Sri Lanka’s Embassy in Rome celebrated Thai Pongal at the Embassy premises. People’s Bank conducted Thai Pongal celebrations at its Wellawatte and Kotahena branches.  When the International Monetary Fund delegation including Mission Chief for Sri Lanka visited the North in 2024, they took part in a Thai Pongal ceremony held at the Northern Province Governor’s office.

The media are now playing a significant role in altering our perspective on Hinduism in Sri Lanka.  Hinduism in Sri Lanka is shown to be linked to Hinduism in the rest of the world. Maasi Magam is a Tamil festival celebrated in February day when full moon day coincides with Magma, said the media. This festival is celebrated by the Hindu Tamil population worldwide.  The festival is observed in many Shivan and Amman temples around Sri Lanka, the media said.

The Maha Magam festival occurs once in every 12 years when Jupiter enters the zodiacs sign Leo on the Maasi Magam day. A glamorous five chariot festival takes place. The festival is celebrated in Kumbhakonam in Tamil Nadu, Haridwar in North India, and Muthumari Amman temple in Matale.

The media has clearly been asked to familiarize Buddhists about Hinduism. Daily News of 25.1.24 ran two features on the same page. One feature was on significance of Duruthu poya   which  fell on that day, the other on Thai Pongal which had been celebrated on 15.1.24.

The media has also been asked to   show that Hinduism runs parallel to Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Daily News of 24.2.24 ran a feature on drumming. Drums are used in both Buddhism and Hinduism and both are part of the Sri Lanka civilization it said. The Sinhalese and Tamil drummers have a rich musical heritage from centuries ago.

 The drums used in Buddhism were described first. The last two paragraphs were on drums in Hinduism.  Drums are played at kovil festivals. Parai melam (a double-headed cylindrical drum played with two sticks) was played at weddings, rituals, and kovils.  The thavil, a large drum of Indian origin, was now used widely in Sri Lankan kovil festivals.

Jaffna was shown to be Hindu. Nallur kovil was described in flattering terms. Mahinda Rajapaksa when electioneering in the north was taken bare bodied to Nallur. Biz Pact group were also taken there on a visit. In 2010 The German Ambassador participated in the Thai Pongal festival at Nallur, bare bodied.

The media ran a feature on the village of Araly in Jaffna. It focused on the kovil there. The kovil still plays an important role in each Northern community. The kovil keeps the community together. It is the sacred hub that connects people, the feature said.

 Inlangaithalvu Murugamoorthy Kovil was an iconic landmark of Araly North with a tall Gopuram. It is a massive Kovil. The main Gopuram is 60 feet tall and has seven levels. The statues on the towers were sculpted in Mahabalipuram, Tamilnadu. The massive wooden doors were a replica of the Thiruchendur Murugan Kovil in India. Two local carpenters had taken one year to design and sculpt this fantastic masterpiece, laden with intricate designs. (Continued)

[1]source New Indian Express 


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