Fundamental Rights Petition against handing over Kataragama Pillaiyar Temple

The Supreme Court yesterday (19) listed for support on Monday (24) the fundamental rights petition complaining against the alleged attempt to alienate the Mannikka Pillaiyar Kovil alias Sella Kataragama Ganesha Temple of Kataragama from the control and pssession of Hindus.

The Bench comprised Chief Justice Asoka de Silva, Justices P.A.Ratnayake and Chandra Ekanayake.

Siva Sandri Swami
The Petitioner Swami Yogi Śrī Shiva Chandri
The Petitioner Swami Yogi Śrī Shiva Chandri (62) cited Kataragama Divisional Secretary T.B.M. Athapattu, Prime Minister and Buddhist & Religious Affairs Minister D.M. Jayaratne, Ratmalane Śrī Siddhartha Thero, Swami Upul Chandima Dissanayake, and the Attorney General as Respondents. M.A. Sumanthiran instructed by Sanjeewa Kaluarachchi appeared for the Petitioner.

The Petitioner stated he has led the Pada Yathra (Foot Pilgrimage) to Kataragama from Thondamanaru, Jaffna for the past 28 years, following tradition passed on to him by his father and the said foot pilgrimage has been carried out annually for centuries with approximately 10,000 Hindu devotees attending annually. The foot pilgrimage, which travels for about 300 km, would take 2 ½ months to reach the primary destination which is the Sella Kataragama Ganesha Temple.
Sella Kataragama
Mannikka Pillaiyar Kovil at Sella Kataragama

He filed this petition as the public interest litigation secure and protects the interests and rights of the congregation of the said temple, and countless Hindu devotees who have allegedly continued to be affected by the actions and/or inactions of the State and the Respondents.

The said Temple is situated in the Kataragama division of Monaragala District and is built on a rock which stands in the middle of the ‘Manik Ganga’. It has been a place of religious worship of Hindu devotees with a history of 5,000 years. He claimed this temple is also the repository of the Shiva-Linga; an aniconic naturally formed representation of the Hindu deity Shiva and unlike the Shiva-Linga found in various other Hindu Kovils, this Shiva-Linga situated at the said temple is a naturally formed phenomenon, growing out of the rock itself and not a manmade icon. He stated that it is the only site in Southern Sri Lanka where Hindu customs, rites and rituals are carried out in accordance with the traditional concepts utilizing mantras in Veda, Sanskrit and Tamil, whereas traditional mantras, in all three languages, are not conducted even at the main Kataragama Kovil.

He stated that the 1st Respondent Divisional Secretary had filed action in the Tissamaharamaya Magistrate’s Court on behalf of the 3rd Respondent Monk Siddhartha Thera, seeking an order to hand over possession of the Kovil to Venerable Siddhartha Thera. The Petitioner sought to intervene by filing a petition and affidavit inter alia stating that there were various under hand attempts by several government officials and the Respondent Siddhartha Thera, to purportedly lease out the sacred premises of the said temple to a purported ‘Vadihitikanda Development Society’ and that the said Society did not in fact exist in as much as it had no identifiable membership, and did not conform to the requirements of the duly registered society.

Source: The Daily Mirror (Colombo) of 20 May 2010