Historical background of Colombo Sri Ponnampalawaneshwarar temple | Sunday Observer

Historical background of Colombo Sri Ponnampalawaneshwarar temple

24 October, 2021

Colombo Sri Ponnampalawaneshwarar temple is known as Kochchikade Sri Ponnampalawaneshwarar temple and is often referred to as ‘Kallu Kovil’ meaning that this temple was built with granite. This is the only Hindu temple in Sri Lanka built by granite stones. This particular Sri Ponnampalawaneshwarar Sivan temple still depicts magnificent ancient Dravidian sculpture. Like all other important temples of the island nation this particular temple was also built near a sea port, next to the Colombo sea port.

This majestic temple was built only with granite. It is replete with evidence of the ancient rich Dravidian architecture, and excellent craft work of the sculptors. An important and noteworthy aspect is that most of these temples are built closer to the sea ports of the country. For instance, Thiruketheeswaram temple was built near the sea port called Manthai or Mathotam. Thirukoneshwaram is located near the natural harbour of Trincomalee. Naguleswaram temple is also located near the Jaffna Kankesanthurai natural harbour.

Built near seaports

If we analyse the reasons as to why these majestic temples were built near the sea ports, we would come to the conclusion that such sea ports provide easy access for activities such as transporting the manpower and materials for construction purposes.

It is believed that for the construction work of the temple, the labour force and the building materials were brought down from India. Hundreds of labourers and sculptors were engaged in the construction work. There is a tall impressive granite temple Kopuram and inside the temple there are numerous decorative sculptures expertly and excellently carved on the granite temple pillars, granite temple walls and on the top of the temple roof.

For many centuries, Sri Lanka was under the foreign rule. During the alien rule the native religions were neglected. Practising native religious activities were totally prohibited or partly prohibited to a certain extent. Due to the rigid attitudes of the rulers, all the native religions faced severe setbacks. Despite, all the difficulties and drawbacks the local population was vigilant about their own social, cultural and religious traditions.

Dream construction

So, many Hindu temples were renovated and new temples were built all over the country. Island wide Kumbabishekams took place at the newly built temples as well as renovated temples. Devotees were engaged in several religious activities. At this juncture, Sri Ponnampalam Mudaliyar of Colombo too strongly felt the need to have a Sivan temple in Colombo.

One day he saw a dream that strengthened his vision. He saw a pomegranate fruit and when he broke it he found a Siva Lingam in it. The dream further induced and strengthened his idea to build a Sivan temple in Colombo.

As a result, Sri Ponnampalawaneshwarar temple was built by Sri Ponnampalam Mudaliyar. He purchased a plot of land from Sir John BawalIstone.

At the time the land was full of coconut trees and a lot of buildings. He further purchased a 500 acre estate called Gampola estate at Natttandiya for the maintenance of the temple. This temple was administered systematically, according to Saiva Agama codes (Hindu traditional codes).

The foundation stone for Sri Poonampalawaneshwarar temple in Colombo was laid by Ponnampalam Mudaliyar during the British period. Sri Ponnampalam Mudaliyar started the temple construction work in 1856 and the first Kumbabishekam took place in 1857. He undertook the temple work with full dedication, devotion and determination. Earlier this temple was built with bricks and calcium substance lime paste. Further, he established a legal trust to administer the temple. In 1873 the temple was renovated and another Kumbabishekam took place.

First male member

According to the deed, the first male member of Ponnampalam Mudaliyar’s family would be the legal heir to the temple administration. After the demise of Ponnampalam Mudaliyar in 1887, the temple administration was handed over to his elder son Ponnampalam Coomaraswamy. But due to the untimely demise of Ponnampalam Coomaraswamy in 1905, the temple administration was handed over to his younger brother Sir Ponnampalam Ramanathan. He continued and carried out the temple work which was left behind by his late father and his late brother. He inherited the habits of far sightedness, dutifulness, dedication and self-confidence of his predecessors.

With the passage of time, Sri Ponnampalam Ramanathan replaced the bricks with granite. He brought down the granite from Veyangoda for the temple construction. Many people were doubtful and quite confused as to how he would implement this great project all alone. But he was determined to turn it into a majestic and magnificent temple. He felt that constructing a temple was not a short duration project. He further felt that building a temple was a long term project.

The temple building project should continue from century to century. But the people were doubtful how a huge temple could be built by a single individual.

Yet, Ponnampalam Ramanathan built this Colombo Sri Ponnampalawaneshwarar temple by his own single handed effort. To construct this temple, Sri Ponnampalam Ramanathan brought down builders and sculptors from South India. Initially his building project was started in 1907 and it almost ended by 1912. The Kumbabishekam took place on 21st of November 1912.

Theerthak Kenaru’ temple well which meets the holy water needs of the temple.

Teerthak kerni or Teertha Thadakam (water tank) of the temple is known as ‘Sri Swarna Pushkarani’ (holy temple pond). And the temple is also blessed with its own special sacred tree known as Isthala Virutham.

This great temple was expanded and constructed by Sri Ponnampalam Ramanathan. Till today the temple duties are systematically carried out by the heirs of his generation. Because of this, up to this day this particular temple stands as one of the outstanding temples in Sri Lanka. Numerous Kumbabishekams took place periodically according to the need and necessity. Recently a new Avudaiyal was installed (base of the Siva Lingham) at the Sanctum of the temple by the temple authorities. Following the installation another Kumbabishekam took place on 15th of July 2012.