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Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil

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An enormous, 100-foot golden tower announces the presence of the Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil, on the northern end of Jaffna. This is the largest and most important place of worship on the peninsula, and holds multiple daily ceremonies. Jürgen and I removed our shoes and shirts (oh quiet down, all you squealing tweens!), and stepped inside for an afternoon observance.

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The original Nallur Kandaswamy was built in the 1400s, and destroyed when the city was conquered by the Portuguese, who rather rudely constructed a Catholic Church on the site. The current temple dates from the early 17th century, during the occupation of the more religiously-tolerant Dutch, and it’s been the center of Hindu religious life in Jaffna ever since.

The temple has an odd design. The massive golden tower faces south, and isn’t anywhere near the entrance, which is around to the east. In order to enter the temple, you have to walk around the building, painted in circus-like red and white stripes. This provides the opportunity to appreciate its size. Inside, there’s even room for a large pool.

Once inside, we joined a group of locals watching the ceremony. I won’t pretend to have any idea what was going on — it involved incense, fire and ear-splitting music produced by a horn. We followed the horn player and a drummer on a long, clockwise lap, stopping at each of the many shrines set around the temple (to Ganesh, Subrahmanyan and others).

Every year in August, Nallur Kandaswamy is home to a 25-day long festival, whose importance to the people of Jaffna is underlined by the fact that it was even held during the years of war. The biggest event is the Chariot Festival, when thousands of people converge to help pull a giant temple car around. A shame we wouldn’t make it to that, but we still had an interesting time at Nallur Kandaswamy.

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Hotels in Jaffna

Jaffna Guide
Fixing Kovil
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Nallur-Kandaswamy-Kovil
Kovil Kaste
Kovil Detail
Walking To the Kovil
Kovil Reflection
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Kovil Entrance Jaffna
Kovil Entrance
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March 29, 2012 at 8:03 am Comment (1)

Kandy’s International Museum of World Buddhism

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Nearby the Temple of the Tooth is the International Museum of World Buddhism. Hosted in the former High Court building, this comprehensive study of Buddhism throughout Asia only opened in May, 2011, and has rooms dedicated to sixteen nations, from China to the Maldives.

International Buddhism Museum

As soon as we entered the museum, a helpful guide attached himself to us. Our intention had been to quickly skip through the rooms and be on our way — cameras were forbidden, and Jürgen has no interest in sights he can’t photograph. Besides, we had just finished a couple hours walking around the Temple of the Tooth, and were fairly exhausted. But our guide was having none of it, and led us on a long tour through the subtle variances in Buddhism throughout the world.

What were were supposed to say? “Sorry, bud, but we’re not interested in your enthusiastic, free tour of the fascinating new museum celebrating your religion. We’d rather go sit down and drink a cold beer.” No, we affixed smiles onto our faces, put phrases like “Ah” and “Interesting” on an endless playback loop, and followed him for nearly an hour.

Regardless of our poor attitudes, the museum is really fantastic. Recreations of famous temples, from Angkor Wat to Java’s amazing Borobudur, joined gifts of relics, paintings and Buddha statues from nations like Laos and Japan. It was funny how Buddha’s facial features change to match the various ethnicities of the countries who worship him. The objects on display where almost uniformly interesting, from ancient scrolls to strange musical instruments, and despite ourselves, we really enjoyed the tour.

If you have any interest at all in Buddhism, this museum provides one highlight after another. And the guys working there are great; helpful and eager to answer any questions. Just make sure you’re fully rested and ready to learn, before stepping inside!

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February 15, 2012 at 2:59 pm Comment (1)
Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil An enormous, 100-foot golden tower announces the presence of the Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil, on the northern end of Jaffna. This is the largest and most important place of worship on the peninsula, and holds multiple daily ceremonies. Jrgen and I removed our shoes and shirts (oh quiet down, all you squealing tweens!), and stepped inside for an afternoon observance.
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