Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sri Lanka & Sri Rangam


The Hindu temple will be an exact replica of the Vishnu temple at Srirangam near Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu. This, and the fact that Tamil Hindus in Sri Lanka worship Shiva, not Vishnu, has given rise to speculation that the Government may have initiated the multi-million project due to other, more godlyconcerns.
Myth has it that the Srirangam temple, more specifically, its gopuram or tower, has a direct impact on the fortunes of Sri Lanka. Till the 1980s, the medieval temple had no tower though several kings had tried to build one, only to see it fall even before its completion.
As the story went, construction of a gopuram at the temple would lead to the destruction of Sri Lanka, as the structure would block the southward-facing Vishnu idol's view, thus depriving the island of his beneficial gaze. Independent of this myth, but adding to it considerably, is the Sinhalese belief that Vishnu is the protector of their country.
About a decade ago, several worthies of Tamil Nadu including then chief minister M.G. Ramachandran, pitched in money and effort to ensure that the Srirangam gopuram was built.
It was completed shortly before MGR died, and this time, it has lasted. Rationalists would say it is purely coincidental that the conflict in Sri Lanka intensified about the same time that the tower wascompleted.
According to reports, however, the government has preferred to take the non- rationalist view. Insiders say the construction was undertaken on the advise of astrologers that the ill-effects of the Srirangam gopuram could be greatly mitigated if its replica was built here. Cabinet ministers Anuruddha Ratwatte, Nimal Sripala de Silva and Lakshman Jayakody were present at the foundation stone ceremony of this latest government-project in 20 acres of land at Muthurajawala.
Minister for cultural and religious affairs Lakshman Jayakody said the government's latest project was to build a reconciliation centre and denied it had anything to do with the myth.
``Not only ethnic reconciliation but religious reconciliation is essential to bring about complete peace in the country,'' he noted, though no one has yet projected the island's crisis as a religious conflict. The complex will have a library and a research centre to promote understanding between the two communities.
But the speculation refusesto go away, especially as the government should have built a Shiva temple if it wanted Tamil Hindus to visit it in large numbers. In fact, more Buddhists than Hindus in Sri Lanka pray to Vishnu, and a small shrine dedicated to this Hindu god can be seen in many Buddha viharas, especially those built during and after the Kandyan period.
Vishnu-worship can be traced to the Buddhist myth that on his death bed, Gautama entrusted the protection of his religion to the Hindu god. The Srirangam replica will be the first big Vishnu temple in Sri Lanka. President Chandrika Kumaratunga has made a contribution of Rs 10 million from the President's Fund for the construction, while a trust will solicit more contributions.

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