Feature Article

Colonising Sinhala Buddhist monks, officials provoke Saiva Tamils in Trincomalee

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 28 May 2019, 18:04 GMT]
A group of encroaching Sinhala Theravada Buddhist monks, who had illegally built a Buddhist shrine in 2013 near the Saiva (Hindu) shrine of Kanniyaa hot wells in the traditional Tamil division of Uppu-ve’ li in the Trincomalee district, have recently started to dismantle the remaining foundation-structure of the Saiva Pi’l’ laiyaar temple. The Saiva temple was destroyed during the anti-Tamil pogroms, and the occupying Colombo establishment has been blocking the Tamil landowner from reconstructing the temple. After dismantling the square-shaped foundation of the Saiva temple, the occupying Sinhala monks started to lay a circular foundation at the locality on 21 May. The controversial move has drawn strong objections from the Tamils, including the owner of the lands, Ms Ganesh Kokilaramani, triggering religious tensions between the intruding Sinhalese and the native Tamils since 22 May.

The SL Archaeology Department has seized the lands in question. However, that doesn’t allow the Sinhala Buddhist monks to dismantle the existing foundation of the Saiva temple and indeed not the construction of any new structure in that lands, the landowner claimed. Ms Kokilaramani has the land deeds for the properties which have been transferred through generations.

Kanniyaa Hot Wells
Photo from April 2013 shows the statue of Pi'l'laiyaar inside the construction and the hut [TamilNet Library Photo]

The 8 acres and 22 perches of the land belonged to her grandfather since British times. He had passed away in 1966, and the current owner, Kokilaramani, is the third one inheriting the properties through parental lineage.

The relocated statue of Pi'l'laiyaar with its hut

Land documents for Kanniyaa Pi'l'laiyaar temple
Trincomalee District Secretary N.A.A.Pushpakumara, a Sinhalese, and the Acting Assistant Director of Archaeology for Trincomalee, W.H.A. Sumanadasa, also a Sinhalese, were present on 25 May along with the Sinhala monks who were aggressively opposing the Tamil landowner.

In the meantime, TNA’s Parliamentary Group Leader Mr R Sampanthan, who hails from Trincomalee, has conveyed his objections to the concerned officials as well as the ministers, the TNA sources said.

Mano Ganesan, the SL Minister of National Integration, Official Languages, Social Progress and Hindu Religious Affairs, arranged a special meeting at his ministry to contain the situation. He has openly blamed the SL Archaeology Department of advancing Sinhala chauvinistic policies. The sinister workings of the Archaeology Department could create another wave of violence in the country, Mr Ganesan has warned.

The construction has been temporarily halted, the sources in Trincomalee said.

However, the UNP Government is proceeding with the controversial Colombo-Trincomalee Economic Corridor, which is going to change the entire demography of the Trincomalee district, destroying the territoriality of the Tamil homeland. Without addressing the major ‘development’ genocide, it would not be possible to arrest the situation, commented informed Tamil officials at the District Secretariat.

The foundation structure after destruction

Removed stones have been dumped into the abandoned well of the temple in May 2019
Back in 2002, during the Norway-facilitated Ceasefire Agreement, the Tamil landowner had started to reconstruct the Saiva temple. All of a sudden, a Sinhala Buddhist monk complained against the landowner through the SL Police filing a case at the courts against the reconstruction with a false claim of ancient Buddhist traces at the locality.

It was a planned act of blocking the Tamils from reconstructing the temple, and the case was pending in court for four years as the monk who filed the lawsuit didn’t show up at the scheduled court hearings.

In the meantime, the monk was trying to buy the lands promising large sums of money to the landowner. However, the landowner refused to succumb to the deceptions.

Later, the case was dismissed.

Kanniyaa hot wells is being transformed into a Sinhala tourist attraction with Sinhalese setting up small shops at the entrance

However, after buying time through the SL judiciary, the monks got the SL Archaeology Department to gazette an area of 5.7 acres, including the temple lands of the private owner, prolonging the dispute and permanently blocking the Saiva Tamils from reconstructing their temple and the associated mutt (resting place for pilgrims), which was destroyed in the SL State-sponsored anti-Tamil pogrom.

While citing the claim of SL Archaeology Department to block Tamils from reconstructing their temple and the mutt, the encroaching monks utilising the resources from the SL State infrastructure and the occupying Sinhala military erected a Buddhist shrine in 2013.

The Buddhist shrine built at the precincts of Kanniya Hot Wells in a fifteen-acre land is having a signboard giving the name of the place of worship as ‘Unuthiya Lin Rajamaha Viharaya’, meaning the ‘Royal Great Temple of the Hot water Wells’. The term ‘Viharaya’ used in the board implies that a Buddhist Sangha (monastery) has been established there.

Buddhist flag flying on the entrance arch of Kanniyaa Hot Wells

In 2014, the SL State put up a new road to connect Kanniyaa with a remote Sinhala settlement, abandoning the already existing way that linked the village with Jaffna – Anuradhapura Road. The move was projected as ‘development’.

Until 2002, the Tamil people were able to continue their religious rites at the locality.

The local Saiva myths associate the place with pre-Buddhist times of the King Ravana of the Ramayana epic. For centuries, the Hindu population of the region used to come to this site to perform rituals to the deceased and ancestors like the Hindus in India go to Gaya and Varanasi.

The Tamil people in Trincomalee believe that the hot wells have healing powers.

Seven springs, each with varying temperature, are situated close to each other at Kanniya.


Land documents for Kanniyaa Pi'l'laiyaar temple
Land documents for Kanniyaa Pi'l'laiyaar temple



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