One of the Most Important Hindu Temples in Sri Lanka
The Ketheeswaram temple (alternatively called Thiruketheeswaram) is an ancient Hindu kovil located in Mannar, in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province. It is one of the island’s Pancha Ishwarams (a group of five ancient coastal kovils that were built around the perimeter of Sri Lanka) that were dedicated to the Hindu supreme being Ishawara in the form of the god Shiva. The temple overlooks the ancient Tamil port towns of Manthai and Kudiramalai.
Destruction and Reconstruction
Thiruketheeswaram is at least 2,400 years old, although the exact year of its creation is unknown. It exists alongside the long-buried city of Manthottam, a former Hindu city and a centre of international trade in ancient times. In the 16th century, when the Portuguese attacked the island, the Thiruketheeswaram and countless other temples around the country were destroyed. The temple was rebuilt in the early 20th century, nearly 400 years after its destruction, and again renovated with the help of the Thirketheeswaram Restoration Society in the 1950s.
Legends Surrounding the Temple
There are different legends that claim the origin of the temple. According the Indian epic Ramayana, the wife of the king of Lanka hailed from Manthai, where her father built the Thiruketheeswaram temple in dedication to Shiva. In the Skanda Purana, an ancient Sanskrit work, legend tells of the God of Wind uprooting the three towers of the Maha Meru mountain in Indonesia, and dropping one of these towers at Thiruketheeswaram.