Sunday, January 3, 2010

After the war Sri Lankans are flocking to Jaffna during this holiday season, irrespective of race or religion....!!!

The Nainaadeevu temple.............ferry

Nagadeepa viharai

Thirukethiswaram Kovil in Mannar

Chariot festival at Sivam Kovil in Karainagar

Faith in unity:
Jaffna reawakens after 30 years
by Dhaneshi YATAWARA

After the war Sri Lankans are flocking to Jaffna during this holiday season, irrespective of race or religion. Today the entrance to the Northern Province, Vavuniya, has transformed into a bustling city. It's like spring time in the North.

Jaffna almost like an island, separated from the narrow maximum 12 kilometre wide isthmus at Elephant Pass is one of a kind land uniquely made out of limestone and lines of palmyra trees with its elegant fan like fronds.

Restrictions have been totally lifted on the Alpha 9 road that links two historical cities, Kandy and Jaffna. It has now become a 'freeway'. It was this road that linked two different cultures and religions, economically and socially. Broken-down for more than two decades with the closure of A9 Road on different occasions especially from Muhamalai following its total closure during August 2006 this link between the two cultures was interrupted.

"Jaffna town has now turned into a pleasure world," Mayor of Jaffna town Yogeswari Sathgunarajah said commenting on the present situation that has changed magnificently. Life in entire Northern Province is totally recovering to normality.

According to records at the Omanthai entry/exit point in Vavuniya, operated under the Wanni Security Forces Headquarters, daily 40 - 50 buses pass this point in addition to a large number of private vehicles. There were people on pilgrimage and some were on holiday. The A9 is getting busier day by day and it is a wonderful sight to any Sri Lankan eye. The restrictions on private vehicles travelling on the A9 were lifted on December 21 and since then 58,694 people have travelled to Jaffna till December 29, records indicate.

"In one particular day we had to cater to 4000 people visiting Jaffna town," the Mayor said. Municipal Council officials held a special discussion with Northern Province Governor Maj.Gen. G. A. Chandrasiri and other higher officials to plan in providing essential facilities to this mass influx of people.

On the instructions of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the prevailing curfew enforced in the Jaffna peninsula for security reasons, was lifted from midnight, December 31, 2009.

The curfew was lifted on the request made by the Northern Province Governor to the Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, under the instructions given by Senior Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa M.P. "With the eradication of terrorism, the situation in the North including Jaffna is normal, the A9 Highway opened, the public is now able to go about freely and therefore there is no need to enforce a curfew," said Northern Province Governor Maj. Gen. G. A. Chandrasiri.

Chief Incumbent of Naga Vihara in Jaffna town Ven. Meegahajathure Gnanarathana Thera had to look into the accommodation for the pilgrims. In the 'vishramashala' since it was fully occupied. Local Government officials had to look for a quick solution. With the help of principals the schools became the resting places of many visitors as the schools were closed during the holiday season. Officials specially arranged ten schools for this with all necessary facilities. Christmas holidays were truly and unbelievably busy for everyone.

"I'm visiting Jaffna after 25 years," said Upul Kodikara (45) a businessman hailing from Piliyandala. Upul with his group of friends were visiting his friends and business buddies in Jaffna. They were on their way to Nagadeepa to worship the sacred temple and the kovil. Hindus and Buddhists travel on the same ferry to visit these religious places. Visiting these places were a distant dream in the past. True happiness is written on their faces. "We of course had no problem in finding accommodation since our friends and their families took care of us," Upul said. He was hoping to come with his family on his next visit to Jaffna. "The development is taking place so fast it is unbelievable. It is now that we feel true freedom," he said.

The Siriwardane family from Galle were getting on to the ferry to visit Nagadeepa. "My children have never visited Jaffna before and it is only now, when they have reached their early twenties, that they can visit these religious places and evoke blessings," Milroy Siriwardane, the father, said. "It was like the old fashioned pilgrimages. We cooked our own meals by the side of the road and rested in the 'Vishrama shala'. It was one of those unforgettable memories we have had," he said.

Families from Horana, Panadura, Mathugama and Kadawatha were at the Purikattuwan jetty on the Punkuduthivu Island from where the ferries start their short journey to Nagadeepa. From dawn to dusk the ferries work continuously and this jetty has never been this busy in the past thirty years.

Ironically it was in the sacred land of Nagadeepa the Buddha preached the two kings, the uncle and the nephew, Mahodara and Chulodara the virtues of non violence. In the fifth year after Enlightenment the Buddha visited Nagadeepa on a Buk (April) full moon poya day to settle the dispute between the kings. According to Buddhist belief it is one of the most sacred sixteen places of worship. The Buddha preached the virtues of non-violence to the warring factions. He urged them to forget clashes with each other and be united. After the two warring kings made peace the throne was offered to the Buddha, who returned it to the Naga kings. According to the historical epic the throne was later enshrined in the Nagadeepa stupa and became a place of Buddhist worship.

Chief Incumbent of the Nagadeepa temple Venerable Navadagala Padumakiththi Thissa Thera was the only Buddhist priest to conduct the religious rituals for the devotees visiting the temple.

The most sacred Nallur kovil was receiving both Tamil speaking and non-Tamil speaking people who visit irrespective of their religions, to get blessings of God Skanda. The thought itself brings peace to my mind," said Mahadeva Kurukkal the Chief Priest of the Nallur Kovil. Twenty years serving the people as a Hindu priest Mahadeva Kurukkal said, the present situation brings so much pleasure.

With more and more people coming in, to see the land unseen for 30 years, a major part of the responsibility fell on the shoulders of the Sri Lanka Army and the Navy personnel. After passing Vavuniya a traveller would find a resting place in Mankulam now managed by the Sri Lanka Army. It is a greatest relief for travellers as this lengthy distance does not accommodate resting places nor any snack bars. With the resettlement fast on progress more developments progress can be expected in the future to come.

After liberating the land from terrorists, these gallant soldiers have not abandoned the region as they are there to help you at any needed time.

From Vavuniya to Jaffna throughout the A9 Road soldiers have become the safety providers. At any emergency, people rely on them as they are never abandoned. Because of them the people can even rest by the side of the road without any fear. These true sons of the nation have made this land a peaceful island.

Sri Lanka Navy giving assistance to devotees

Ferry service
In Nagadeepa the Navy personnel become the guide for many civilians and at times they had to assist the people to reach hospital or medical care at the time of need. They assure security on land as well as in waters.

At Nagadeepa six to seven ferries are operating, owned by private owners, under the supervision of the Sri Lanka Navy detachment in Nagadeepa under the command of Sri Lanka Navy Naval Ship Elara in Karainagar.

From the time of departure and return of devotees the Navy keeps a watchful eye ensuring the safety of the people.

The Murunkandi Kovil near Kilinochchi is getting reconstructed as a religious and a rest place.

On par with restoring normality in the Jaffna peninsula major development projects continue in the western coast of the province, Mannar in particular in the pre-historic sacred Kovil Thiruketheeswaram. Seven miles to the north of Mannar town. It is one of the most sacred Sivam Kovils of the country.

According to Dr. Paul E. Peiris, an erudite scholar and historian, "long before the arrival of Vijaya (6 Century B.C.) there was in Sri Lanka five recognized Eeswarams of Siva which claimed and received adoration of Indians. These were Thiruketheeswaram near Mahathitha, Munneswaram, Thondeswaram, Thirukoneswaram and Naguleswaram. This Kovil is dedicated to the worship of the Supreme God Siva, has been one of the most venerated temples for centuries. This temple and the holy waters of Palavi Tank by its side are venerated in the sacred hymns of the two for most Saiva saints Tirugnanasampanthar and Sundarar who lived in the 7 and 8 Centuries respectively.

After 1990, the Kovil did not function due to terrorist activities and damage was done to the Kovil. With the objective of giving a face lift to the temple and its surroundings and provide facilities to the pilgrims a new development project is taking place under the instructions of Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on Northern Development Senior Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa M.P. A broader plan has also been prepared already.

The total program is to be completed in two stages considering the magnitude of the work. And the plan was implemented on December 18, 2009 with the aim of completing phase one before the 2010 Sivarathri day which falls on February 13.

In the phase one of the plan major roads towards the kovil, its roundabout, the chariot path, improving the Palavi tank and surroundings, building a passenger waiting hall and improving water and sanitary facilities are in line. And in the phase two, the internal roads, arches, putting up street lamps, repairing the pond for 'Theppaikulam', building the Vedic School and Pilgrim rest, the cultural hall and several other buildings required to conduct the religious activities are planned.

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