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A Visit to the Koneswaram Temple, Trincomalee

00 Koneswaram Temple

For most of the late 20th century, Trincomalee was at the heart of Sri Lanka’s long, bloody Civil War.  As you would expect, visitation to the area was limited and I’ve only been to the city once, this during my last visit to Ceylon.  It’s one of the nicer communities in the country and has a beautiful setting along the Indian Ocean.

Located high on a rock promontory (known as Konesar Malai) is one of the biggest attractions in Trincomalee, the Koneswaram Hindu Temple (a.k.a Dakshinakailasha).  The temple is built on an ancient Hindu site that dates to around the 16th century B.C.  A temple has occupied the space since at least the 6th century B.C., and it’s long been a site of Hindu pilgrimage.  (Of note, most Hindus in Sri Lanka are Tamils who nationwide are a minority religion, Buddhism being the most popular faith).

Koneswaram Temple, Trincomalee
(Koneswaram Temple, Trincomalee)

The temple complex was destroyed by Portuguese colonists between 1622 and 1624 A.D. and many of its artifacts were stolen or tossed into the sea (some of which have been recovered, including by my friend Sir Arthur C. Clarke who loved to dive in Trincomalee).  The temple was subsequently rebuilt and now lies within greater Fort Frederick, an important military post that is still actively used.

Welcoming you on your approach to the temple is a massive statue of Shiva in the lotus position, shown in our top image. The statue is fairly new and painted (in gold since these photos were taken) and is almost five meters tall.  The entrance to the Koneswaram Temple facing the stairs is not the main entrance, but a side entrance.  

Photographs of the interior are discouraged and out of respect I didn’t take any.  It’s interesting inside, with many paintings and shrines.  

Lovers’ Leap or Ravana’s Cleft at Swami Rock
(Lovers’ Leap at Swami Rock)

Located nearby is Lovers’ Leap or Ravana’s Cleft at Swami Rock (Konamalai).  It’s 350 feet above the sea level and a sheer drop, so watch your step!

The temple is reached by a road that was part of the original pilgrimage path.  On the road up the hill to the temple are many shops, offering food and drink, small gifts that can be left as offerings, household and souvenir items.  It’s a fairly busy market, with images of it shown below:

(Click on thumbnails to enlarge)


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