Keerimalai is a village 18 kms north of Jaffna and 24 km west of Point Pedro, Sri Lanka’s northernmost point. The town of Palali is close-by. Keerimalai is famous for one of Sri Lanka’s four highly estimated Ishwaram temples and for the island’s most picturesque hot springs. The Jaffna peninsula is notorious für shortage of fresh water sources, this is why the Keerimalai springs are unique in two ways, they are located very close to the ocean and thermal springs are otherwise known only in the plains to the east and south of the highlands. Hindus believe the mineral springs are of healing power. There are two ponds separated by a wall, one for male and one for female pilgrims.
So the legend goes: A Hindu sage called Nagula Muni had had the face of a mongoose but was cured after bathing in the holy water of the hot springs. So the location of the miracle was called “mongoose hill” in Tamil: Keerimalai. Full of gratitude the sage built the temple for praising a Shiva Lingam: the Naguleshvaram Kovil. Maruthapura Veeravalli, a princess from southern India’s Pandya kingdom, built the nearby Mavidapuram Murukan temple after she was cured by bathing in the Keerimalai springs, too.
The Naguleshvaram temple, historically known as the Thirutambaleswaram Kovil, is said to originate from the 6th century BC. It was situated near the ancient port of Kankesanthurai. Presumably, Naguleshvaram became a larger stone temple during the Pallava or Chola period. This classical Tamil temple building was one of Sri Lanka’s many Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim places of worship that were destroyed by the Christian invaders from Portugal. But the local Brahmin priests are said to have managed to hide and preserve the main icons in a well. The final destruction took place in 1621. In the context of a Hindu revival among Tamils in during the British colonial period, Sri Lanka’s most renowned Hindu reformer, Aarumuga Navalar, started campaigning for the construction of a new temple in 1878. It was completed at the site of the ancient Naguleshvaram Kovil before 1900. The new temple had to be rebuild after destruction by a fire in 1918. During the Civil War, the Naguleshvaram Kovil was bombed by the Sri Lankan Airforce during a pilgrim festival. After the Civil War had ended in 2009, the temple was completely restored again and a consecration ceremony visited by thousands of devotees took place in 2012.
Keerimalai is famous for the annual Aadi Amaavaasai festival, when Hindu pilgrims carry out bathing rituals in commemoration of their ancestors.
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