Antiquity of Koneswaram

Koneswaram-temple-575-01

By V.Varathasuntharam

The origin of Koneswaram, according to geologists and mythology, dates back to early legendary era when there had been an oceanic bed upheaval around 306 B C in which the earliest temple of Koneswaram was submerged.

It is in that beliefe that even today the first and foremost pooja of the temple is performed on the Swamy rock projecting over the sea. The officiating priest faces the direction in which the original temple is belived to have been engulfed and offers the pooja to the holy shrine underneath the sea. This pooja is called malai Poosai.  

According to mythology the ancient temple had existed during    the period of Ravana which is reckoned as 6000 B.C for both Rama and Ravana had worshipped at this sacred shrine.

According to historians, Koneswaram had exised long before the arrival of Prince Vijaya  (483-445B.C) in the island. This is the considered view of historian Dr.Paul Pieris which is cited below.

‘ Long before the arrival of Vijaya, there were in Lanka ,five Ishvarms of Siva  which claimed and received the adoration of all India. These were Thiruketheeswaram, which was near Mahathirtha , Munneswaram, dominating Salawatte and the pearl fishery, thondeshwaram near the great bay of Kottiyar and Naguleswaram near Kankesanthurai’

Pali chronicles refer to the existence of ancient Koneswaram temple in the early period .The Mahavamesa refers to Hindu temple at Trincomalee.

Saint Thirugnanasampanthar of the seventh century had sung a garland of hymns on Thirukoneswaram. Saint  suntharamoorthy of the ninth century had sung in praise of this temple .  Arunagiri Nathar of the fifteenth century had composed  Thirupugal on the glory of Koneswaram.

It is befitting here to quote from “The Temporal and Spritual Conquest “written in the Portuquese language and translated into English by historiam S.G.Perera.

“ The pagoda of Trinqulimale was at this time the Rome of the Orient and more frequented by pilgrims than that of Raman coir near shoals of Chilao and that  and that of Canjavarao , two days journey from S. Thome and fripite and Tremel in Bisnager and jeganatim orixa and Vixante in Bengali”

In his vivid expression of the sancity, glory and antiqutity of the shrine on the hillock, the historian expresses a forth right view that this holy shrine was comparable to the venerated Hindu temples of Rameswaram, Thirumalai (Thirupathy) and Jeganath in Orissa.

Manankerny inscription of the eleventh century refers to koneswaram as konamamalai.

Codrington traces the origin of the temple to 2590 BC.

The Nilaveli inscription which belonged to the tenth century refers to this temple as Koneswaram.

Then there is the Sanskrit inscription ona door jamp excavated within the fort Frederick by the authorities in 1945 .An English version of the Sanskrit inscription is as follows.

“ Hail prosperity  to the year Sambhu Puspe(ie one thousand one hundred and forty –five )Sake era when the sun was in the  mansion of aeris. Hasta being the constellection (in conjunction with the moon) and the point of the ecliptic at the horizon (Lagna) being aeris, the illustrious Codanga Deva, having arrived in the unconquerable Lanka  the forehead ornament of the earth at Gokarne”

It is held that Codanga Deva mentioned in the inscription is a reference to Kullakottan in 1223 AD. These pillars found in the precincts belonged to the pallava period .Gokarne is a reference to Koneswaram.

Nilavely inscription which refers to Koneswaram is considered   as an important record relating to the antiquity of Koneswaram as it mentions the name “ThiruKonamalai “திருகோணமலை)This inscription of fourteen lines which belongs to the tenth centuryis found in the Pillaiyar Temple at Nilavely and is considered to be one of the ruins of Koneswaram temple .It mentions that around 1700 acres (250 வேலிநிலம்) of land were donated to Koneswaram temple.

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