The Koneshwaram temple of Trincomalee is spectacularly located on a promontory called “Swami rock”. “The Temple of the Thousand Pillars” is Sri Lanka’s most venerated Hindu Shrine, also attracting pilgrims from India. The main shrine of Koneshvaram is dedicated to Shiva in the form Kona-Ishwara, shortened to “Koneshwara”. “Kovil” is the Tamil name for “temple”. The shrine is described in the Vayu Purana, one of the Holy Scriptures of the Hindus, and in hymns of famous Tamil poets from mainland India, for example by Tirujnana Sambandar, a Shaivite saint of the 7th century AD.
It was during Sambanda’s period, that the Pallavas reigned in South India. The magnificent Koneshvaram edifices were erected during their period and the subsequent Chola period, though a first thousand pillar hall of the Koneshvaram Kovil is said to have existed already in 205 BC.
The Konneshwaram temple was destroyed by the Portuguese in 1624. Some stones were used to build the nearby Fort Frederic. Chola bronzes and sculptures were discovered by archaeologists and the scuba diver Arthur C. Clarke.
How the shrine fared at the hands of the Portuguese, and what happened thereafter, are matters of history. A good summary of the events, is what is contained in the pages of Tennent:
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