Nakuleswaram Kovil in Jaffna – Oldest Siva Temple in Sri Lanka

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Nakuleswaram is situated north of the main town of Jaffna and is close to the Port City of Kankesanturai. It is dedicated to the main deity in Saivism Lord Siva and is one of the five ancient Sivan temples on the island.

It is situated near a mineral water spring called Keerimalai reputed for its curative properties. There is also a cave complex nearby believed to have been used for meditation by a mythical sage called Nagula Muni.

A local myth states that a Pandiyan Princess named Maruthapura Veeravalli built the nearby Maviddapuram Murukan temple after she was cured by the Keerimalai Springs.

Hence, the entire temple complex seems to have been built around the cave and the curative springs indicate a pre-historic origin for the shrine.

In Tamil word Keeri and its Sanskrit equivalent, Nagulam means a Mangoose. The antiquity of this temple can be evidenced by its mention in many Indian religious treatises such as Dakshina Kailasa Puranam and Skanda Puranam indicating that it was a pilgrimage center for South Indian Hindus.

Some traditions relating to the origins of Nakuleswaram were recorded in the Yalpana Vaipavamalai. During the 18th century when the Yalpana Vaipavamalai was written, there was no temple at Keerimalai.

The old temple at the site had been destroyed by the Portuguese. But memories of that temple had persisted in the minds of the people and the site where it had stood was venerated as a sacred one. Though this temple was destroyed in 1621, the local, Brahmin priests are said to have hidden the main idols before fleeing the temple. After a gap of 400 years in 1894 local Hindus under the guidance of Sri La Sri Arumuganavalar built the present temple.

At Nakuleswaram, the daily rituals and festivals are conducted according to the prescriptions of Agamas. Activities at the temple commence during the early hours of morning with Thirupallieli elichi and worship accompanied by rituals are conducted six times daily.

The annual festival at this temple is conducted in the month of February and it ends with the Water Cutting Ceremony on the day of Maha Sivarathri. The annual festival at the Amman Shrine is celebrated in the latter part of the month of March. A large number of pilgrims congregate at the temple premises during the festival season.

In this temple, Kandapuranam Periyapuranam and Nakulalaya Puranam are recited. In the Nakulalaya Puranam, the legends about Keerimalai have been recorded in an elaborate form.

Indeed, Nakuleswaram at Keerimalai is one of the oldest temples of Lord Shiva in Sri Lanka. As a center of the Hindu religious tradition, it has played a key role in the development and sustenance of the ideology and practice of Saivism with a local flavor in the Jaffna Peninsula.

By Chelvatamby Maniccavasagar
The Daily news

Also See

Map of Nakuleswaram Kovil in Jaffna

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The map above also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites

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Travel Directions to Nakuleswaram Kovil in Jaffna

Jaffna can be reached through 2 directions. The first one is over the Elephant Pass which is the normal route to Jaffna. The other entrance is from Pooneryn over the newly built Sangupiddi Bridge. This road connects to Mannar.

Route 01 from Colombo to Jaffna (Through Kurunegala)Route 02 from Colombo to Jaffna (Through Puttalam)
Through : Kurunegala – Dambulla – Anuradhapura – Vavuniya
Distance : 400 km
Travel Time : 7-8 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map
Through : Puttalam – Anuradhapura – Vavuniya
Distance : 400 km
Travel Time : 7-8 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google maps
Route from Jaffna to Nakuleswaram Kovil
Distance : 18km
Travel time : 20 minutes.
Driving directions : see on google map


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