Slave Island, also called Colombo 02, is the area immediately south of the Colombo Fort. The quarter is surrounded by branches of the Beira Lake. The name “Slave Island” is from the colonial period. This area enclosed by canals and lakes was used to confine African slaves. It is said that the colonial rulers filled the canals with crocodiles. Slaves from Africa were not only deported to American colonies but also, in almost even high numbers, to Asian colonies. However, most of the slaves confined in Colombo returned to Africa later on. Only a very small group of African descendants, so-called Kaffirs, lives in Sri Lanka today. Colombo’s Slave Island has become a commercial area with shopping centres and some first-class hotels. Besides Sinhalese, many Muslims live in this quarter of Colombo.
Sri Subramaniya Kovil, one of the capital’s most impressive Tamil temples, is situated in the eastern half of Slave Island, not far from the Masjidul Akbar mosque. The Sri Subramaniya temple is in the typical Tamil style. The landmarks of Tamil temples are entrance gate towers called Gopurams. They are extremely colourful. Literally hundreds of sculptures depicting deities and other mythological figures are seen on the levels of the steep step pyramidic structure. The Gopuram of Colombo’s Subramaniya temple ist 25 m high.
Subramaniya is the warrior god, son of Shiva, who is known as Skanda, Kartikkeya, Murugan or Kataragama in different parts of India, particularly venerated by Tamils. This is why he is often referred to as “Tamil Kadavul”, meaning “God of Tamils”. Indeed, Tamils worshipped a hill deity called Murugan already before the “Sanskritisation” of their religion by Brahmin priests of North-Indian origin, who identified this local god with the son of Shiva. Under the name of Kataragama the very same god is venerated by Sinhalese Buddhists, too.
Please don`t forget to remove your shoes before entering a Hinsu or Buddhist sanctuary. Usually foreigners are allowed to see the ceremonies. However, in order to be polite you should not take photo’s without asking a priest or a waiter for permission.
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