Sita Eliya is a Hamlet in the valley of Nuwara Eliya, not far from the Hakgala Botanical Gardens. Sita Eliya has a typical Hindu temple of highland Tamils. But it is a very special temple in many respects. The name of the temple is Sita Amman Kovil. Other spellings such as Seetha Amman Kovil are common, too. “Kovil” is the Tamil word for “temple”. “Amman” is “Mother”, a title of many Tamil goddesses. “Sita”or “Seetha” is the consort of Rama. The temple in Sita Eliya is one of the very few in the world dedicated to Sita Devi. Even Rama temples are very rare in Sri Lanka, because Rama is an Avatar of Vishnu, whereas most Tamils are followers of Shiva in the first place. However, Hanuman temples are quite common in Sri Lanka, Hanuman being the friend and helper and devotee of Lord Rama. The Sita Amman Kovil seems to be a Rama and Hanuman Kovil, too.
What’s even more special about this Hindu temple in Sita Eliya is this: It is regarded as the place, where Sita was lived during her captivity in Lanka. In the Indian Ramayana epic, telling the story of Sita’s marriage with Rama, her abduction by Lanka’s king Ravana and her liberation by an army of monkey led be her husband Rama, the place where Sita lived on the island of Lanka is called “Ashoka Vatika” or “Ashoka Vana”, which means “grove of Ashoka trees”. It is said, there are more Ashoka trees in the surrounding of Sita Eliya than usual, and very ancient statues of Sita were found at this site and are on display inside one of the two main shrines inside the temple now. Ashoka Vatika is the place, where Sita proved to be a faithful wife and was threatened by demons. One of the most famous episodes from the Ramayana epic took place in the Ashoka Vatika. It was here that Hanuman after a long search finally found the missed wife of his master and that he, in order to prove he is a messenger of Rama, gave Sita Rama’s signet ring.
The identification as Ashoka Vatika is the reason why the Sita Amman Kovil in Sita Eliya has become the the most venerated of all Ramayana Trail sites in Sri Lanka, attracting thousands of pious Hindu pilgrims from India and Southeast Asia. Sita is said to have bathed in the nearby stream. There are remarkable holes in the rocks at the river bank believed to be footprints of Lord Hamunan. They differ in size, this is explained by Hanuman’s capability to change his size.
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