Significance of the name Koneswaram

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By V.Varathasuntharam

Isvaram is a sacred site of Lord Siva. Thirukoneswaram  (திருக்கோணேஸ்வரம்) means a sacred hillock of Lord Siva. This venerated place is also called Thirikonamalai (திருக்கோணமலை) and Thirikonamalai (திரிகோணமலை) meaning three sided sacred hillock.

It is also known as Thenkailai (தென்கைலை) which meanes South of Kailas . Kailas in the Himalayas is a very ancient and venerated site of Siva worship.

Another name for Koneswaram is kokarnam (கோகர்ணம்). Fragmentary Sanskrit Inscription found by the military   authorites in Fort Fredrick in 1945 refers to Koneswaram as Kokarnam. A hymn by Thirunavukarasu Nayanar refers to it in the following Tamil stanza

கால்களாற் பயனென் கறைக்

கண்டனுறை கோயில் கோலக்

கோபுரக் கோகர்ணஞ் சூழாக்

குhல்களாற் பயனென்!

In such a context, it is implied that the mention of the word “Kokarnam” in the Sanskrit inscription at fort Frederick is obviously a reference to Koneswaram.

Saint Thirgnansampanthar of the seventh century praised Koneswaram as ‘ Konamamalai’ (கோணமாமலை) in the last line of each of his stanzas in his hymns on Koneswaram.

Sekkilar who produced a great Saiva Epic Periyapuranam in the twelfth century uses the term Mannukonamalai (மன்னு கோணமலை). A Saivaite saint Umapathy Sivachchariyar of the fourteenth century called this place as Konamamalai (கோணமாமலை) in his work Kalivenba (கலிவெண்பா).

Saint Arunagrinathar of the fifteenth cencery calls Koneswaram as Thirukonatha Malai (திருகோணாதமலை) meaning that it is a hillock where wealth never diminishes. In the eighteenth century, Koneswaram was called Machcheeswaram (மச்சீஸ்வரம்) or Machchendra Parvatham.

Trincona, Trequimalee,  Trinkenmali , Trincoenmalee, Trinkilimale, Tringo male and Trincomalee,  are other names for this place.

According to my Tamil teacher Kalaka Pulavar late P. Sivasegaram, the name Thirukonamalai is a derivation from Kunamalai, (குணமலை). The word Kuna (குண) in Tamil means east. Kunamalai, therefore, stood for the hillockin the east.

It is also relevant in this chapter to address our minds to the fact that most of the hamlets in the Trincomalee district bear names that brings out their association with Koneswaram directly or otherwise.

In the ancient Koneswaram temple, there were a thousand lamps lit everyday with the thread and oil supplied by the village Thriyai(திரியாய்) the word thiry (திரி) in Tamil means thread. The oil supplied for lighting the lamp was illupennai  (இலுப்பெண்ணை). In order to gather seeds to prepare this oil, the people of this village had planated a large number of illuppai trees. It is a coincidence that the sacred tree the ‘thala virutcham’ of Varatha Vinayagar temple in Thiriyai village in Kattukulla Pattu is Illuppai tree.

Kullakkottan ordained that the Dravidian Veda be sung in the temples by special singers, known as Othuvars (ஓதுவார்). These singers, known as othuwars, were provided with lands in Kottiyar Pattu in honour of their services. It is said that having received their share of the lands, these singers expressed their satisfaction as “Sampoornam “(சம்பூர்ணம்) and thereby this village got the name Sampoor (சம்பூர்)

The flowers, most of which were jasmines needed for daily pooja were obtained from a village in Kottiyar Pattu. This village is even now called Mallikai Theevu (மல்லிகைத்தீவு). Mallikai is the Tamil verson of jasmine flowers.

The village from which the sandal logs (சந்தன கட்டை) for the daily pooja were procured was Kattai Parichchan village.  (கட்டைபறிச்சான்).

The village that provided the ceremonial figs (குச்சு) for the yaga at Koneswaram was called Kuchchaveli (குச்சவெளி)

The village where Rama let his bow (வில்லு)  rest after the war in which he defeated Ravana was called Villoontry.

The village where six springs were dug for Ravana to perform the last rites for his mother after her demise is called Kanniyai (கன்னியாய்)

The village where King Kajabahu regained eye sight in one eye is called Kanthalai (கந்தளாய்) and the place where he regained the eye sight in the other eye is called Sinnakanthalai (சின்ன கந்தளாய்)

An area in the Trincomalee town is called Manankerny (மானாங்கேணி) - கேணி means tank since there was a small tank constructed by King Kullakottan to serve the purposes of Koneswaram.

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