Whew, that title is a mouthful. From now on I’m calling it Nainativu, which is the name of the island where the temple is located. This temple is very famous here in Sri Lanka and in the many countries that took in Tamil refugees during the civil war.
To give you an idea, we met a woman there who lives in Toronto and hasn’t been back to Sri Lanka for 27 years. She was visiting with her family from the Jaffna area and absolutely had to come to the temple on Nainativu for puja. One of her brothers who was there lives in Germany and also hasn’t been back for almost 30 years. This is a very special place for Tamil people. Check out historical information and details here.
To get there, you have to take the bus I ranted about in my last post. Bring earplugs. When you get off that racket-mobile, you wait on a dock in front of a very sturdy, reliable looking coast guard type boat. Beside it is a bunch of high-sided, low-ceiling tubs which look like they ought to be transporting refugees or illicit substances in the dead of night. We naively thought we were going on the coast guard boat because we read that the “ferry” is run by the Navy. Nope.
We piled into the diesel-fume filled tub with an armful of questionable life jackets and settled in for a quick ten minute cruise to Nainativu Island. The arrival is spectacular, getting out of the ferry tub to this view:
The two temples we explored in Jaffna ask women to dress modestly and men to take off their shirts. This one is easy to comply with because it’s so dang hot. It seemed strange at first because we were used to Buddhist temple rules which stress modest dress for everyone.
The list of temple rules:
The interior of the temple is spectacular, and again there are no photos allowed so you’ll have to visit yourself to see it. There are enormous murals depicting scenes from various Hindu stories as well as sculptures and various implements used in ceremonies.
We arrived in time for the noon puja which involved taking a small statue out of a locked alcove and mounting it on a 1 m high cow statuette. The people then lifted the whole rig and walked around the inside of the temple. The parade includes horns and drums and people swinging pots of fire around. It’s really quite interesting even if you don’t understand any single thing they are doing.