Sri Munneswaram Devasthanam
A Domain of Lord Shiva
The Sri Munneswaram Devasthanam temple (better known as the Munneswaram Temple) is over a thousand years old and is an important temple complex for Hindus in Sri Lanka. Situated in the village of Munneswaram in the Puttalam District, the complex comprises of five temples, one of which includes a Buddhist temple. Its central temple is dedicated to Shiva, who is one of the principal deities in Hinduism; in fact, Munneswaram is one of five ancient coastal kovils dedicated to Shiva that are located along the island’s perimeter, called the Pancha Ishwarams.
Destruction and Reconstruction
Over the course of its history, the Munneswaram temple has been devastated twice during the Portuguese occupations of Sri Lanka. In 1578, the temple was completely destroyed save for its basement, over which a new Roman Catholic chapel was built; however, the locals are said to have saved several of the temple’s idols before the destruction began. After the temple was rebuilt by the Sri Lankan King Rajasinghe I, it was again destroyed by the Portuguese in the early 17th century before being rebuilt by the locals.
Tourists are known to flock to the nearby pearling and fishing town of Chilaw to observe the highly popular Munneswaram Festival, which brings together locals of all religions in a four-week-long celebration. Visitors also stop by during the nine-day Navarathri festival, as well as during the overnight Sivarathri festival that celebrates Lord Shiva.