Veyil Ugantha Pillaiyar Kovil in Nallur

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Pillaiyar is known by many names Ganesha, Ganapati, Vinayaka, Ganapathy, Vigneswara, Yanaimukan, etc and is one of the most popular and widespread deities in Sri Lankan Hindu culture been worshipped by both Buddhists and Hindus as well. Ganesha is the deity for wisdom, remover of obstacles to bring good luck. Although how Pillayar worship was born is not known, it is believed that the veneration of the deity Pillayar was commended in the 5th century BC.

The physical representation of the deity Pillayar (Ganesha, Ganapati, Vinayaka, Ganapathy, Vigneswara, Yanaimukan) is unique as with all other Hindu deities. He has a head of an Elephant and four hands, with two lower arms in the abhaya (fear not) and boon-giving poses. In one of the upper arms is a noose and in the other a hook. The noose is suggestive of his intention to remove delusion from his devotees and the hook is indicative of his position as leader or ruler. The long trunk bends at the end to get around obstacles. He has only one whole tusk, the other is broken halfway.

There is a legend among the Sinhalese who pay respect to these deities about how Ganesha ended up having an elephant head. According to Hindu beliefs deity Skanda is also known as Murugan, Arumugam, Kandasami (Skanda Swami), Subrahmanya, etc. According to Hindu legends, Skanda came to Sri Lanka after a row with his wife Thevani and landed in the southern part of the island. He made Vedihiti Kanda near Kataragama his adobe. One day he saw a beautiful 16 year old local girl called Valli who was adopted by the veddha chieftain of the tribe who lived in the area.

Skanda unable to win her love consulted his brother Ganesha to help him. Finding out that Valli feared elephants, a plan was devised for Ganesh to appear as an Elephant and Skanda to come to her rescue. Before turning into the elephant, Ganesh gave a pot of water to Skanda and asked him to pour the water onto him after the planned attack so he would turn back to the Human form.

When Skanda approached Valli in the form of an old man she was choking on some food and in the eagerness to help her, he dropped all the water. At the same time, Ganesh appears in the form of an elephant and scares her. Skanda offered her to help with the condition of marrying him. Valli having no choice consents to marry him and then he appears in his true form. Unfortunately, Ganesha has to stay with an elephant head since Skanda has dropped the water.

Singhai Ariya was the first Ariya Chakravarthy (13th century). Originally from South India, he eventually made Nallur the capital and sought divine protection to the celebrated city by erecting temples for worship of Hindu deities, in the four directions around it. Veyil Ugantha Pillaiyar Kovil was erected in the eastern approaches to Nallur. It is said that the structure of the temple was so devised that sunlight could penetrate the innermost holy of holies.

The temple is believed to have been destroyed along with several other Hindu temples when the Kingdom of Jaffna fell into the hands of the Portuguese in 1621. The temple you see today is a recently built temple at the site.

References

  • Arumugam, S. (1991) More Hindu temples of Sri Lanka: Ancient, medieval and modern. London
  • Kandiah, T. (2014) Ancient Hindu Temples in Sri Lanka.

Also See

Map of Kandy Pillaiyar Kovil

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Traveling Directions to Veyil Ugantha Pillaiyar Kovil in Nallur

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

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