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Sunday, 8 December 2002  
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New book throws light on Thirukoneswaram temple

Excerpts of the speech delivered by Justice C.V. Wigneswaran Chairperson of the Colombo Tamil Sangam at the book launch of "Rock Cave Temple of Thirukoneswaran and Sequelae" by Dr. R. Vigneswaran.

"Those of you familiar with my histrionics would have noticed that I have today enlisted the additional support of another Vigneswaran.

The reason is simple. Neither Dr. Vigneswaran nor Justice Wigneswaran is a historian in the academic sense of the term.

Dr. Vigneswaran has recognised one fact which most historians are wont to accept and acknowledge, viz. the play of the contingent and the unforeseen in the development of human destinies.

Why the thoughts of humans flow into channels which lead to disaster and barbarism is still a mystery. Amidst a plethora of contradictory evidence the urge on the part of the author to identify a correlated and complementary, consistent and cohesive sequence of events is indeed a matter to be appreciated and congratulated upon.

This study of history is a different type of publication - a publication which is destined to beget and father, further publications in the future.

The author, I am sure is satisfied in placing this book as a compendium of his thoughts drawn from a lifelong study very often undertaken on the directions of an unseen source yet drawing inspirations from such source. The book itself is the outcome of a visionary command.

It starts with the dream of Manu Neethi Kanda Cholan which culminated in the construction of the Thirukoneswaram Temple under the rock at Thirukonamalai in the Kaliyuga Year 512 which the author has fixed at 2,590 BC.

I have wondered whether the direction of the destinies of the world is navigated by a divine power in consonance with its preplanned purposes and whether the so-called dreams and visionary commands are but proddings to keep us to a set divine plan.

The book by Dr. Vigneswaran at this particular time I thought was absolutely relevant and topical, specially at a time when the disturbance of the demographic pattern in the Eastern Province from around the time of our independence has come in for very close scrutiny by the world around. I had occasion to refer it to the Asia Pacific Regional Representative of the United Nations and its High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Nicholas Howen, when I met him in New Delhi.

To my mind the author has had three purposes -

(i) To examine the indigenous oral tradition that the original Konesar Temple had been engulfed by the sea in the light of available historical evidence and other data including geological and oceanic.

(ii) To dispute and dispel erroneous and false claims made by persons untutored in the cultural heritage of the Hindu Tamils.

(iii) To share his knowledge of the sacred and the arcane in relation to Thirukoneswaram and other temples such as Naguleswaram and Kathirgamam in order to induce a study among the Hindu Tamils in order that they may recognise the antiquity of their religion and race.

There has been not one Konesar Temple but three, one over the other. The original temple now under sea was a rock cave temple built around an earlier existing Shivalingam. Shivalingams are sacred and holy icons existing from time immemorial. There is an interesting fact the audience may like to know. Mount Kailash in the Himalayas Chidamparam Temple in South India and Thirukoneswaram are said to be on the same longitude.

Coming over to historical data furnished by Dr. Vigneswaran, it is his view having examined many sources that the original Thirukoneswaram temple is under sea. In between the present temple and that original temple under sea there appears the second temple. The Gopuram of the old temple which was of rock has been identified. There had been deluges recorded in 3,544 BC and between 2,590 BC upto 2,387 BC. During the later deluge part of the original temple went under water including the inner temple, belfry (or bell tower), sides and bottom of the doorframe and the Kerni outside the temple. The spring inside, curiously continued to flow into the sea, mingling with it, foaming as it did so. The upper doorframe continued to be visible forming a "marker" for the Hindus who continued to worship there.

Thousand years later in 1,300 BC, a king of Lanka named Manikka Rajan built temples to Lord Shiva, Madhumai Ammal and Lakshmi Narayanan at three different levels, yet all of them occupying the promontory or the head land projecting into the sea facing East. The Shiva Temple was built directly upon the Gopuram of the original rock cave temple.

The original rock cave temple is credited to have been built in 512 in Kaliyuga i.e. in 2,590 BC. The deluge was in the year 2,387 BC about 200 years later. Kulakkoddan, son of Vara Rama Thevan, who was a son of Manu Neethi Kanda Solan built the temple dedicated to Lord Shiva at Thirukonamalai in Lanka.

Having done so, a colony of Tamils was settled on the North Eastern side of the island.

Many details are given in the book. Sometimes the quotations from historical sources are difficult to be differentiated from the comments of the author. The doctor might have given the quotations in smaller types to identify them as different from the author's comments. That is an observation by the way regarding the get up of the book!

According to the author modern technological advancements could be put to good use to view the inner temple below the present temple.

There are some beautiful photographs included in the book which enhance its value.

On page 79, the author makes a pertinent observation that whatever ensues, no attempt to violate the inner temple (i.e. the old temple) should be permitted. He further points out that the guardian deity of the North-East quarter is Isana, a manifestation of Rudra or Shvia and this deity is protecting the North-East of Sri Lanka.

In Section 2 of the book, the author has examined the concept of the Yugas of the Puranas and their consistence with the history of the earth and its satellite, the moon. In a table on page 86 he has in effect given credence to the first, second and third sangam periods referred to in Irayanar Ahapporul and Silappathikaram. He has shown that the first great deluge took place around 16,000 years before Christ, when there was a submergence of large part of the continent of Lemuria. He has tabulated the subsequent deluges and shown how the fifth deluge took place around 1715 BC and refers to the Kadai Sangam existing between 1715 BC and 23 AD. Wealth of information for scholars who wish to do further research are given in the book.

Referring to P.G. Cooray in his book "Geology of Sri Lanka", the author quotes in Section 3 of his book as follows:

The Cauvery Basin, the South-Eastern margin of which was formed by the North-Western part of Sri Lanka, developed during this (the) initial breakup of Gondwanaland".

Here the author takes us back millions of years referring to Gondwanaland which was the Southern land mass of ancient times i.e. anything between 144 and 65 million years ago, at the end of the Cretaceous period following the fracture of Pangaea where India with Sri Lanka included together with South Africa, Australia, South America and Antarctica were its constituents, starting to fragment at that time, India riding passively North towards the Asian Plate 65 million years ago.

An interesting map of the ancient Thamilagam now submerged in water is given at page 105. This map indicates how the author of this map N. Mahalingam has tracked the Pahruli river, Kumari Aru, and the Per-Aru.

But Dr. Vigneswaran questions the exact locations of these rivers, though he agrees that such rivers did exist.

In effect Dr. Vigneswaran has examined geological, and other data to determine whether there was a worldwide rise of water level confirming the oral traditions of the Tamils that their ancient haven has to a great extent gone under sea. I am sure the recent oceanic expeditions undertaken by the Russians in the Indian Ocean would throw more light on the antiquity and civilisation of the Tamils.

In Section 4 of the book he examines the history of the other recognised Iswarams in Sri Lanka.

P.E. Peiris in his article 'Nagadeepa and Buddhist remains in Jaffna' wrote thus in 1917: "Long before the arrival of Vijaya there were in Lanka five recognised Isvarams of Siva which claimed and received the adoration of all India. These were Thiruketheeswaram near Mahatittha, Munissaram dominating Salawatte and the pearl fishery, Tandiswaram near Mantota, Thirukoniswaram opposite the Great Bay of Koddiyar and Nakuleswaram near Kankesanturai".

Dr. Vingeswaran examines the background of history of these Isvarams, at least of Thiruketheeswaram, Munneswaram and Nakuleswaram, in the light of their being situated in close proximity to the sea. He examines the possibility of Tandiswaram or Thondiswaram being Thiruvirameswaram where a Lingam was consecrated by Rama before crossing the sea. He fixes Thiruvirameswaram in the Island of Mannar. In this connection, the author examines the Puranic references to Kathirgamam as well to prove that there was installed inter alia a Muthulingam in Kathirgamam.

Finally there is a chapter on Jyotirlingas to make up a case for the installation of Vaidyanatheeswaran referred to by the author as Oonapattalingam (defective or injured lingam) in Lanka. Finally the book has a glossary.

Some of the erroneous claims made by persons untutored in the history and the cultural heritage of the Hindu Tamils are disputed and criticised by the author in many pages. Readers will note them when browsing through the pages of the book. I shall refer to a few.

The author has also ventured to positively reiterate that all the evidence set out in his book confirm that Thirukoneswaram is Daksina Gokarna of ancient times bearing in addition the names Thirikoodam, Machcheeswaram and Daksina Kailasam for the original rock cave temple wherein reside Konanayagar and Madhumai Ammal for over 30,000 years.

There is no doubt that this book will induce the reader if he or she is historically tuned, to go into the several authorities or references in order to get a fuller and complete picture of the antiquity of the Sanaadana Dharma and the people who practised this religion.

This book reiterates the fact that the Tamils were the aboriginal inhabitants of the great territories bounded by the seas on the East and West and by the Venkata Hills on the North and the submerged rivers Pahruli and Kumari on the South confirming what T.R. Seshi Iyengar said in his book "Dravidian India".

Dr. R. Vigneswaran despite heavy odds has come forward to share his life long study probably kindled by a compulsive urge to do so. I commend his book for reading and contemplation."



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