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Nallur Kandaswamy Temple

Nallur Kandaswamy Temple

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Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil or Nallur Murugan Kovil (Tamil: நல்லூர் கந்தசுவாமி கோவில்) is one of the most significant Hindu temples in the Jaffna District of Northern Province, Sri Lanka. It stands in the town of Nallur. The presiding deity is Lord Murugan in the form of the holy Vel. The idol of the Nallur Devi or goddess was given to the temple in the 10th century CE by the Chola queen Sembiyan Mahadevi, in the style of Sembian bronzes.


The Nallur Kandaswamy Temple was founded in 948. According to the Yalpana Vaipava Malai, the temple was developed at the site in the 13th century by Puvenaya Vaku, a minister to the Jaffna King Kalinga Magha. Sapumal Kumaraya (also known as Chempaha Perumal in Tamil), who ruled the Jaffna kingdom on behalf of the Kotte kingdom is credited with either building or renovating the third Nallur Kandaswamy temple.  Nallur served as the capital of the Jaffna kings, with the royal palace situated very close to the temple. Nallur was built with four entrances with gates.  There were two main roadways and four temples at the four gateways. 

The rebuilt temples that exist now do not match their original locations which instead are occupied by churches erected by the Portuguese. The center of the city was Muthirai Santhai (market place) and was surrounded by a square fortification around it. There were courtly buildings for the kings, Brahmin priests, soldiers and other service providers.n The old Nallur Kandaswamy temple functioned as a defensive fort with high walls.  In general, the city was laid out like the traditional temple town according to Hindu traditions.  Cankilian Thoppu, the facade of the palace of King Cankili II, can still be found in Nallur.  The third temple was destroyed by the Portuguese Catholic colonial Phillippe de Oliveira in 1624 CE.

Current temple,

The fourth and the present temple was constructed in 1749 A.D. during the benign Dutch colonial era by Krishna Suba Iyer and Ragunatha Maapaana Mudaliyar in the 'Kurukkal Valavu', which is the original temple premises.

Initially the temple was built using bricks and stones and had a cadjaned roof. The original shrine had only two main halls and didn't have a clock tower, surrounding courtyard, enclosing wall, or any ornately carved towers or gopuram.

The first clock tower was erected in 1899, and the main hall where the vel or lance of the deity resides was re-furbished using rocks in 1902. The first enclosing wall was erected in 1909. Likewise, the temple has been gradually renovated from time to time with contributions from the general public. In 1964, the 'Vasantha Mandapam' or grand hall was renovated to have the present look and feel.

The temple has the main entrance facing the east. It has an ornately carved five-story tower or gopuram in the Dravidian architecture style at the main entrance.

In the surrounding inner yard, it has shrines for Lords Ganesh, Vairavar, Sun and Sandana Gopala. In the southern part of this temple, the holy pond and Thandayudhapaani shrine dedicated to another aspect of Lord Muruga can be seen. In the northern side there is a big holy garden.

A locked underground cellar of the temple was found to contain several Chola bronzes from the 10th century that had been given to the shrine.


The temple hosts the annual festival which begins with the hoisting of the flag – the Kodiyetram.  The cloth for hoisting is obtained ceremonially from the Saddanathar Temple in the neighbourhood. This temple was patronized by Ariyachakravarthi – a king of Jaffna.

The festival is spread over a period of twenty five days during which various Yāgams Abishekams and special poojas are conducted. The major religious festivals people flock to witness are the Manjam, Thirukkarthikai, Kailasavahanam, Velvimanam, Thandayuthepani, Sapparam and Ther. The Ther Thiruvila (chariot festival) the most popular of all events is a very colourful ceremony and commences at the auspicious hour – the Brahma muhurtham. The glamorously dressed Lord Murugan is brought out and placed on an elaborately designed silver throne. The huge and heavy chariot carrying the statue of God Murugan is paraded along the streets of Nallur. The chariot pulled by a rope of thousands of devotees, rich and poor, old and young stand shoulder to shoulder in pulling it giving God Murugan the opportunity to witness the sincerity and purity of the devotees.

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