Where All Faiths Gather
By Sanuj Hathurusinghe
The prosperity of a religious establishment depends on the amount of devotees it can attract. People of faith will of course visit places of religious observance almost under self-obligation but the true miracle any religious place can pull off is to attract millions of visitors, including from other faiths, every year.
There are only a few such religious places in Sri Lanka which are popular among the masses of all faiths and one such popular place is depicted here. Munneswaram temple in Chilaw has a rich history that dates back to 1000 CE. Although the gods that reside here at Munneswaram come from Hindu mythology and beliefs, they are quite generous gods who listen to the woes of people of all faiths and help out in any way they can.
A sceptical you can be, but if you take time to ask around about the Munneswaram Temple I’m sure you will find plenty of testimonials from both Hindu and non-Hindu believers attesting to the power this sacred place has to perform miracles. All the historical, spiritual and religious values combined, the Hindu kovil today has become one of the most visited religious places in the country by people belonging to all faiths.
The Munneswaram temple complex is a collection of five temples, including a Buddhist temple as well. The central temple is dedicated to God Siva while the others are dedicated to Ganesh, Ayyanar, and Kali. The kovil dedicated to Kali is especially popular among Buddhist for its ability to create miracles.
The temple complex over the years has seen the patronage of many different kings, especially during the Kotte Kingdom, as well as some hostile reception. The Portuguese who weren’t fond of the temple actually destroyed it completely. Rajasingha I – the king of Sitawaka – who also held a grudge against the Portuguese, took measures to rebuild the temple.
Today, the temple is much popular among the Sinhalese rather than Tamils with about 78 per cent of all the visitors being Sinhalese. During the past year however, the usual grandeur in which the events of the temple used to be carried out has toned down, courtesy the ongoing pandemic but even amidst COVID-19, many devotees visit the temple looking for divine intervention or spiritual clarity.
(Pix by Anuruddha Medawattegedara)