Trincomalee also known as Gokanna, is the administrative headquarters of the Trincomalee District and major resort port city of Eastern Province, Sri Lanka. People from Trincomalee are known as Trincomalians and the local authority is Trincomalee Urban Council. Trincomalee city is home to the famous Koneswaram temple alluded to in its historic Tamil name Thirukonamalai and is home to other historical monuments such as the Bhadrakali Amman temple, Trincomalee, the Trincomalee Hindu Cultural Hall and, opened in 1897, the Trincomalee Hindu College. Trincomalee is also the site of the Trincomalee railway station and an ancient ferry service to Jaffna and the south side of the harbour at Muttur. It is home to major naval and air force bases at the Trincomalee Garrison. The city also has the largest Dutch fort on the island.
Trincomalee is a port city on the northeast coast of Sri Lanka. Set on a peninsula, Fort Frederick was built by the Portuguese in the 17th century. Within its grounds, the grand Koneswaram Temple stands on Swami Rock cliff, a popular vantage point for blue-whale watching. The holy complex contains ornate shrines and a massive statue of Shiva. Nearby Gokanna Temple has panoramic views over the city and the coastline.
The recorded history of Trincomalee spans more than Two and a half thousand years, beginning with civilian settlement associated with the Koneswaram temple in the pre-modern era. One of the oldest cities in Asia, it has served as a major maritime seaport in the international trading history of the island with South East Asia.
The harbour is renowned for its large size and security; unlike any other in the Indian Ocean, it is accessible in all weathers to all craft. It has been described as the “finest harbour in the world” and by the British, “the most valuable colonial possession on the globe, as giving to our Indian Empire a security which it had not enjoyed from elsewhere”. Popular tourist destinations include its beaches at Uppuveli, Salli and Nilaveli used for temple visits, surfing, scuba diving, fishing and whale watching, and the Kanniya Hot Springs.
- The Meaning of the Name, Trincomalee – Koneswaram temple
Koneswaram gains its name from the main deity of the temple, the Hindu God Shiva. Shiva, who is also called Eeshwar or Eeshwarar, reigns over the mountain of Holy Konam (Thirukonamalai (Tamil): Thiru – Holy; Konam- Name; Malai – Mountain) hence giving the name Thirukoneshwarar (Thiru-Kona -Eeshwarar). The name ‘Konam’ is believed to have come from the Old Tamil word meaning ‘peak’.
Another name given to the temple is ‘Dakshina Kailayam’; a Sanskrit name meaning ‘Mount Kailash of the South’. Some also call it ‘Aathi Koneswaram, where ‘Aathi’ is the Tamil word for ancient.
- History and Legend of Trincomalee – Koneswaram temple
A 17th century stone inscription in the temple states that the temple began its history in 1580 BC. Though this is unconfirmed, the truth remains that the ancient cave shrine that lies beneath the pinnacle of the mountain points towards a history well predating the Sangam Period. It is also a confirmed fact that Koneswaram was a well established and popular temple during the arrival of the exiled Indian prince Vijayan during the 6th century BC.
On the other hand legend states that King Ravana, along with his mother, was a devout worshipper of Koneswaram. Ravana is also supposed to have created the hot springs of Kanniya as part of Thirukoneswaram, for the last rites of his mother. King Ravana was a legendary emperor of Sri Lanka who is believed to have lived over 5000 years ago. If this legend were to be true, then that would indicate that the temple was alive and thriving for over 5000 years.
- About Trincomalee – Koneswaram temple
Koneswaram temple, also known as Dakshinakailasha is a classical-medieval Hindu Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva in Trincomalle, Eastern Province in Sri Lanka. The temple is situated atop Konesar Malai, a promontory that overlooks the Indian Ocean, the nearby eastern coast (the Trincomalee District) as well as Trincomalee Harbour or Gokarna Bay.
Thirukoneswaram, or the Holy Koneswaram Temple, is a Hindu temple in Thirukonamalai (Trincomalee) on the east coast of Sri Lanka. The temple lies on a high rocky promontory surrounded on three sides by the sea. It bears a history of over three millennia with its records indicating its roots in 1580 BC. This, still beautiful, historical monument is what remains of what once was a sprawling temple city equal to the ancient city of Madurai, India.
Konesvaram is revered as one the Pancha Ishwarams, of Sri Lanka for long time. Being a major place for Hindu pilgrimage, it was labeled “Rome of the Gentiles/Pagans of the Orient” in some records. Konesvaram holds a significant role in the religious and cultural history of Sri Lanka, as it was likely built during the reign of the early Cholas and The five Dravidians of the Early Pandyan Kingdom.
Koneswaram has many strong historical associations. The shrine is described in the Vayu Purana, the Konesar Kalvettu and Tevaramhymns by Sambandhar and Sundarar as a Paadal Petra Sthalam along with its west coast counterpart Ketheeswaram temple, Mannar, it is the birthplace of Patanjali, and the compiler of the Yoga Sutrasand was praised for its tradition by Arrunagirinathar upon his visit. The Dakshina Kailasa Puranam and Manmiam works note it as Dakshina/Then Kailasam (Mount Kailash of the South) for its longitudinal position and pre-eminence, it lies directly east of Kudiramalaiwest coast Hindu port town, while it is the easternmost shrine of the five ancient Iswarams of Shiva on the island.
Mentioned as a widely popular bay temple of the island in the Mahabharata, Ramayana and Yalpana Vaipava Malai, the Mattakallappu Manmiam confirms its sacred status for all Hindus. Kachiyappa Sivachariar’s Kanda Puranam compares the temple to Thillai Chidambaram Templeand Mount Kailash in Saivite esteem. Konesar Malai may have been the site where Yoga originated; some scholars have suggested that the worship of the almighty god Eiswara on the promontory is the most ancient form of worship existing. Dr. Paul E. Pieris declared in 1917, at a meeting of the Royal Asiatic Society (Ceylon Branch), there was in Lanka five recognised ‘Eeswararns’ of Siva, which claimed and received adoration of all India. These were Tiruketheesvaramnear,Mahathitha, Munneswaram, Thondeswaram, Naguleswaram and Tirukoneswaram.