Sri Kailasanathar Swami Devasthanam:
The oldest Hindu temple in Colombo
Sri Kailasanathar Swamy Dewashthanam
The deafening sound of Ketti Melam, music played at Tamil weddings,
filled the atmosphere of Sri Kailasanathar Hindu Temple, and the grandly
dressed crowd rushed around the kovil to ensure a perfect nuptial
ceremony. Not wanting to barge in, we wandered around the place to find
the kovil office. A man appeared from nowhere and offered us to help.
"Show us the office please?" "Come I will show you," he signalled us to
follow. "There, at the blue painted building." We thanked him and
followed his directions. We were stunned to see the board 'wedding
hall.' The man had assumed we too were invitees. After another round,
around the kovil, we found the correct place and managed to meet the
The decorated roof
The astrology chart
A bull statue
Sri Kailasanathar Swami Devashthanam is a kovil hidden inside a bushy
surrounding behind the Fort Railway Station. Built during the Portuguese
era, it was a family kovil. Apparently, it is the oldest Hindu temple in
Colombo. Although it is Sri Kailasanathar, Swami Devashthanam, many
still identify it as the kovil at the Captain's Garden. Though I
presumed it as an unseen and unknown kovil, we later realised that it is
popular even among non-Hindus. The number of Sinhala notices displayed
there makes it obvious.
The entrance to the road leading to the kovil is near the famous
second-hand bookstores at D. R. Wijewerdene Mawatha. Turn right from the
main road and kovil Veethi, leads to the kovil over the Fort railway
lines. As soon as you take a right turn from the kovil Veethi, to the
kovil grounds, there are two kovils in the vicinity; a new building and
an old colour-faded building. According to the kovil Manager, the faded
building is the Ganapathi Kovil and the new-fangled building is the
Though the two kovils are adjacent the management of the two is
different. Construction of a new kovil was under way at the place. A man
who hid behind the stone dust was carving beautiful sculptures from the
stones brought especially from India. Nowadays with the use of machines,
cutting and polishing a stone into a sculpture is an easy task. However,
the life of the artisans who originally built the kovil would have
undergone many difficulties. The clerk of the kovil office, Nesarajah,
took us on a tour around the kovil. Starting from the intricate
lotus-carved main door, the tour covered almost all corners of the kovil.
As soon as we entered, Nesarajah pointed to the roof. Oh! A gorgeous
carving of an astrology chart, adorned the roof entrance. Magnificent
paintings of Gods and Goddesses decorated the entire roof of the kovil.
The kovil is full of statues of various gods. Shrines dedicated to
various gods filled every empty slot of the temple.
The Vel Cart
"Easwaran kovils usually have shrines for almost every god," said the
manager. The kovil has shrines for almost every god whom I have read in
Tamil folk tales. Sri Kailasanathar Swamy Devashthanam is the starting
point of the Vel ceremony, which later went up to Bamabalapitiya on the
Galle Road. The kovil has two major festivals, in March and August.
The March festival is dedicated to goddess Pattini, while the August
festival is dedicated to God Easwaran.
There is a beautiful Vel cart, decorated with intricate wooden
carvings. In June 2010, the kovil Management had organised the most
recent Kumbabhishekam ceremony. The kovil offers different special
poojas for various gods during the week.
Beginning the week on Monday with a pooja offered to Goddess Pattini,
the kovil has a unique set of poojas to Goddess Durga, Bahirawa, and
nine planets. On Poya days, the Sri Sakkara Pooja is followed by an
almsgiving to the devotees.
The Kannagi Amman festival began on May 25, and it will last for 10
consecutive days, Nesarajah said. The shrines of Goddess Pattini and God
Easwaran had two carved bronze flag poles in front.