Hindus celebrate the annual Nallur Festival in a grand scale. Nallur Temple, which is one of the oldest temple in the country. The temple is also popular among the world countries. The Tamils mostly Hindus enjoy a much better freedom in the province and country celebrate this festival in spiritual manner.
Hindus thank the present government for providing a peaceful atmosphere to practice their religious rites. Hindu and Buddhism have many things in common. Even the Buddhist from the south will travel to north to worship “Lord Muruga” or “KatharagamaTheviya” in their terms. Thus this festival will be a symbol of religious harmony , peace & reconciliation. Today ( 01-08-2014 ) is the first day of the festival. Like last time, this time also we can expect more than 1 million Hindu devotees not only from the country but also from abroad.The Nallur festival will definitely be an eye opener to the tourism industry in north as well. I wish the organizers of this festival“ All the very best “ for the success of this event.
Hon G A Chandrasiri
Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil or Nallur Murugan Kovil (kovil meaning temple in Tamil) is one of the of the most significant Hindu temples in the Jaffna District of Sri Lanka. It stands in the town of Nallur.The Nallur festival in Jaffna in August is the island’s longest festival. Spanning 25 days of vibrant chariot processions, drumming, dancing and acts of self-mortification, held in honour of the war god Skanda.
Due to political reasons the temple was shifted from place to place in Nallur area. Although it is believed that the first temple was originally built in 948 A.D at the land called ‘KurukkalValavu’, due to foreign invasion the temple had to be re-constructed number of times in different places.
The temple has the main entrance facing the east. It has an ornately carved five-storied tower or gopuram in the Dravidian architecture style at the main entrance.
The fourth and the present temple was constructed in 1749 A.D. during the benign Dutch colonial era by one Krishna SubaIyer and Ragunatha Maapaana Mudaliyar in the ‘Kurukkal Valavu’, which is the original temple premise.
Initially the temple was built using bricks and stones, and had a cadjaned roof. The original shrine had only two main halls and didn’t have any clock tower, or any surrounding courtyard and an enclosing wall, or any ornately carved towers or gopuram
The “Mahotsavam” (annual Great Festival) begins with “Kodietram”(Hoisting Holy flag) on the sixth day following “Aadi Amavasai” ( the new moon in the Tamil month of ‘Aadi’) and continues for twenty five days. The cloth for hoisting is obtained ceremonially from the Saddanathar Temple in the neighborhood. This temple was patronized by Ariyachakravarthi – one of the kings of Jaffna Kingdom.
During the festival days various “Yaagams”, “Abishekams” and special poojas are conducted.
The deity goes round the inner precincts at noon and the outer precincts in the evening daily. Lord Skanda or his vel, as the case may be, does the rounds by the “Vahanams” (Vehicles) like Silver Peacock. Silver Swan, Silver Rishapam (the Cobra), the green Peacock, the House and etc.
The huge and heavy chariot carrying the statue of God Muruga is paraded along the streets of Nallur shrine. It is pulled by a rope by thousands of devotees where the rich and poor, old and young stand shoulder to shoulder in pulling it giving God Muruga the opportunity to witness the sincerity and purity of the devotees. The next day is the water cutting ceremony which is called in Tamil ‘Theertham”.
The final religious activity of ‘Theertham” is the lowering the flag – “Kodiirrakkam” in Tamil.
Socio – cultural role of Nallur Festival
During Nallur festival, all the days feeding the congregation with quality lunch takes place in various “Madams” around the temple. The word “Madam” in Tamil refers generally to a religious establishment which does social and religious activities.
Everywhere we saw large decorated cadjan sheds built by various private organizations. They supply freely soft cool drinks in day time and some of them supply freely milk tea in evenings. The worshippers can rest in the sheds sitting on the white sand during day time’s sunshine .
In evenings parents with their kids, elderly people and youngsters accompanied by their friends sitting on the silver sandy area around the temple in all directions, east, west, north and south usually take rest and have chat for long hours with enjoying music or art programmes staged in the open spaces and halls around the temple after pooja come to end. Small children and young people often create temporary divine statues by using the white sand.
Traders competitively invade Nallur area during festival time. They install stalls. Almost south west area and west area around the temple become trade fair exhibition area” , often held annually, at which from big companies to small book shops exhibit their goods and products to potential buyers or inform people of business, educational and job opportunities. Many food stalls serve delicious food items. Sweet and chilly flavored hot short eats.
Nallur temple trustees implements strict dress code guidelines for male devotees entering the temple. Male devotees should remove their shirts when they enter the temple. It is observed that all the visitors including all the VIPs and VVIPS coming from south of Sri Lanka and members of armed forces and the police respect the cultural values and traditions of Nallur.
The historic festival draws devotees from around the island as well as overseas. Many families of expatriate Tamils living in Europe, Canada, USA and Australia show interest to visit their native land , Jaffna during the festival season . They stay in Jaffna for one or two months and take part in the Nallur festival.