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Trincomalee (Thirukkonamalai) Shankari Devi Temple, Sri Lanka - Shakti Peetha 01

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Trincomalee (Thirukkonamalai) Shankari Devi Temple, Sri Lanka - Shakti Peetha 01
Part of the body fallen : Groin
Place : Trimkomali or Trincomalee or Thirukkonamalai or Trikoneshwara or Koneshwaram Temple (Sri Lanka)
Name of Shakthi : Sankari Devi
Ashta Dasha Shakti Peetha Slokam : Lankayam Shankari Devi

Shanakri Devi Temple is situated in an east coast town of Srilanka, Tricomalee (Tri - Cona - Malai = a triangular hill). Along with the temple of Shaankari Devi, there is a temple of Lord Shiva - TRIKONESHWARA Temple (Koneshwaram Temple). The actual name of this place was Thirukonamalai from which the new name Trincomalee is emerged. The 6th century's Tamil literature works have got references of Thirukoneshwaram temple.
Portuguese people demolished these temples in 17th century. Now we can see the new and renowned versions of this temple.

Trincomalee (Thirukkonamalai) Shankari Devi Temple, Sri Lanka - Shakti Peetha 01

History & Legends

It is but a well known fact that there are a number of holy places referred to as the Shakthi Peethas where the Mother has manifested herself in various forms to offer protection and happiness to all her devotees who take refuge in her. As I have written earlier, these places were chosen by the goddess herself, for these were the spots where many of her Angas (body parts) fell when they were cut off the body of the burnt Dakshayani by Vishnu’s Sudarshana Chakra (See Daksha’s Yagna). However, there is much confusion and controversy over the number of these Shakthi Peethas and their specific locations. Some mention them to be 51 (Panchasat Shakthi Peethas) in number while others say that there are 18, still others maintaining that there are just 4 Adi Shakthi Peethas.

Turning to literary evidence, one of the most authoritative works that we can lay our hands upon is the AshtaDasaShakthiPeetha Shloka by Shankara himself. Starting with the verses “Lankaayam Shankari Devi”, Shankara details the locations and the names of 18 Shakthi Peethas strewn across the body of the subcontinent. The first amongst them is what he mentions as the Peetha of Shankari Devi in Lanka. This is believed to be the spot where the groin of Sati Devi is said to have fallen and is exalted as one of the most sacred spots in Sri Lanka. Sadly, not many know the purana associated with the Shankari temple and many know not even of the exact location of this peetha.

Trincomalee (Thirukkonamalai) Shankari Devi Temple, Sri Lanka - Shakti Peetha 01
Ravana's Legend: Long long ago, in the Tretha Yuga Parvathi was suddenly hit with a strong desire. She wanted a house, a large palatial mansion, where she could live happily with Shiva and her children, Heyrambha and Skanda. Coyly, she approached Shiva. “Swami, I have one request to make of you” she said, her head hanging down with shyness.

Shiva smiled his all-knowing bubbly smile. “Devi, you know fully well the repercussions of your previous request to me. But still, you have a desire. Speak away.”

“I want a house Swami. I want to live in a lovely mansion, attended by Yoginis and playing with our children. Please grant me this wish” said Parvathi.

Shiva laughed. “Shakthi, who are you speaking to? Have you forgotten that you are talking to me, who is extolled as the yogi of yogis, who has achieved supreme control over his senses and who sees no difference between the luxurious and the mundane.”

“I fully understand Swami, but it is you who does not understand my intentions for the goodness of this world. I want a house and I want it now.” said Shakthi with a hint of finality.

Shiva realized the thought behind Shakthi’s request and finally he gave his assent. Waving his hands in front of him he said, “Vishwakarma, I am in need of your help”. Lo, before him stood the Devaloka Architect, with a chisel in one hand and a hammer in the other. He bowed to the divine couple and awaited his instructions.

“Vishwakarma, build me the best palace ever seen in this world so that Uma can have her desire satisfied.” intoned Shiva.

Trincomalee (Thirukkonamalai) Shankari Devi Temple, Sri Lanka - Shakti Peetha 01
In an instant Vishwakarma flew southwards and chose a beautiful spot on the island of Lanka. There he raised a magnificent structure, gleaming with gold and gems, cooled with water fountains and filled with the smell of many divine flowers in the garden, a palace that qualified to be the residence of the Mother of the three worlds.

Parvathi was extremely pleased with the outcome and wanted to perform the Griha Pravesha of this beautiful palace with the help of the best of the Brahmanas. Shiva and Shakthi came down to Lanka to find a suitable brahmana for the Grihapravesha. It was then that the distant but powerful chant of “Om Namah Shivaya” reached their ears. Following the divine sound they came to a place where they beheld a ten-headed man, performing austere tapasya invoking Shiva. Shiva smiled at Shakthi and then spoke out.

“Ravana, you have achieved the purpose of your tapas. So strong was your tapa that it not only drew me to you but also attracted Shakthi along with me to the place of your penance. You will achieve all that you desire.” he blessed.

Realising that Ravana was the son of the great saint Vishravas and very well versed on all the four Vedas, Parvathi was suddenly sure that he would be the right brahmana to perform the Grihapravesha to her house. Ravana gladly accepted the invitation and set a date for the auspicious entry into the palace (Ravana is believed to have been an authority in Astrology too and is said to have authored a separate book on Astrology titled Ravana Samhita)

Trincomalee (Thirukkonamalai) Shankari Devi Temple, Sri Lanka - Shakti Peetha 01
On the prescribed date, Ravana performed the ceremony with much grandeur and splendor, with the correct usage of all the mantras and shlokas. Shiva and Parvathi entered their mansion and added further sanctity to the spot. Parvathi was extremely pleased with Ravana’s prowess in the Vedas and offered him any boon that he wanted as dakshina for performing the ceremonies.

Shiva, however laughed silently besides Parvathi. “It is not proper for a Brahmana to ask what he wants for dakshina. He should be pleased with what the Yajamana or Yajamani gives him. However, as Shakthi herself offered you the boon, you may ask whatever you please.”

Ravana smiled at the couple and realized suddenly what he wanted. He had fallen in love with the palace itself. He had admired every piece of woodwork, every carving and every room that had been designed by Vishwakarma. “Jaganmata, I would like this house of yours in return for my ceremonies.” He asked.

Parvathi smiled at the play of fate and granted him his wish. Ravana was visibly thrilled but at the same time guilt rattled him. He felt ashamed at robbing Parvathi of her house. “Devi,” he exclaimed, “do continue to live in Lanka as long as you please. This land is but equivalent to one speck of dust on your feet. Please give your consent to stay here and bless this land forever.”

Trincomalee (Thirukkonamalai) Shankari Devi Temple, Sri Lanka - Shakti Peetha 01
Parvathi smiled again. “Ravana, I accept your invitation. My shakthi will always pervade this place. But on one condition- I will go away from the island the moment you disobey any of my commands.” Ravana agreed to her condition and with one last Tathastu, Parvathi returned to Kailasha.

Ravana built a gigantic temple, replete with architectural details, dedicated to the goddess Shankari Devi. The temple was located on the top a cliff that fell sharply into the magnificent sea below. Around the temple, Ravana set up a beautiful garden, the best in all of Lanka. The goddess smiled on the people of Lanka and the kingdom prospered.

Trouble began when Ravana, overcome by carnal desire, kidnapped Seetha and brought her to Lanka. Shankari devi was angered by this base action of Ravana. She asked him to leave Seetha and return her to Rama. But lust clung to Ravana like a leech and he did not obey Devi’s advice. Highly disappointed, Shankari left the island country and with her left all the peace and prosperity of the kingdom.

We are of course familiar with the remainder of the story detailing the Rama-Ravana war and the subsequent defeat of Ravana. When Vibheeshana was crowned by Rama as the emperor of Lanka, he prayed that Shankari devi once again take residence in the island nation. Shankari Devi accepted his prayers and re-entered her temple, bringing glory to Lanka once again.

The place where Ravana had built Shankari Devi’s temple is believed to be the exact spot where the groin of Sati is said to have fallen. The magnificent cliff where the temple was built is by itself considered to be a part of Kailasha.

Trincomalee (Thirukkonamalai) Shankari Devi Temple, Sri Lanka - Shakti Peetha 01
Adisesha Legend: When this universe was born, Parameshwara had delegated various tasks to various gods and demigods and blessed them with the required powers. Adisesha was assigned with the duty of holding up the earth steadily until the next Mahapralaya. Having heard about this Vayu, the wind god, was furious. “Sesha”, he taunted, “how can you, who is afraid of Garuda, be the perfect choice to hold up this earth”. Adisesha was livid. “I live just by eating you, oh Wind. I am much stronger than you are” he slashed back. Blinded by fury, they attacked each other. Adisesha coiled himself around Kailasha and sneered at Vayu. “If you are as powerful as you say, try blowing away one peak of this great mountain”. Vayu turned into a hurricane and attacked Kailasha. The worlds trembled at the force of this combat and the devas yearned for refuge at Shiva’s feet. Shiva then ordered Brahma to create another Kailasha to the south and then descended with Parvathi to reside at the Southern Kailasha.

“Adisesha,” said Shiva. “All this is another play of mine. I have decided to protect the people of Bharatha Khanda from the south too. This war of yours will end just as successfully in my favour. Listen to me.” Adisesha lifted three of his thousand hoods to look and listen to the lord. At that instant, Vayu broke away three peaks from Kailasa. By Parameshwara’s orders he placed these three in Thondai naadu (ThiruKaalahasthi), Chozha Naadu (Thirichirapalli {See Thayumanavar}) and in Eezha Naadu (Lanka) respectively. The third hill came to be known as Thirukkonamalai and lies along the same longitude as Kailasha, thus earning the name Dakshina Kailasha. This was where the famed Shankari Devi temple was located.

For those of you who did notice the past tense in the last sentence, it was not a mistake. Sadly, the temple no longer exists. All that remains of the magnificent temple, that was lovingly build by Ravana, is but one pillar.

Trincomalee (Thirukkonamalai) Shankari Devi Temple, Sri Lanka - Shakti Peetha 01
The story behind the Linga also dates back to the time of Ravana. After years worth of prayer Ravana had succeeded in obtaining a Linga from Shiva himself, which he planned to install in the Shankari Devi temple. Proud of himself, he flew towards Lanka when suddenly the sun set, signaling the time for his evening prayers. Afraid of keeping the sacred Linga down, he spotted a boy nearby and asked him to hold the Linga while he performed his prayers. The boy, who was none other than Ganesha, nodded his head. Ravana gave him the linga and went for his prayers. Ganesha coolly placed the linga on the ground and disappeared. On returning, Ravana realized that he couldn’t lift the linga and looked for the boy to spank him, but it was all in vain. Accepting defeat, Ravana now retreated to Dakshina Kailasha and prayed for a linga. Silence was all that he got in return. Furious at the lack of response, Ravana uprooted the entire mountain of Thirukkonamalai to throw it into the ocean. But Shiva just pressed his toe down on the mountain, crushing Ravana. Finally, happy with his immense bhakthi, the Trimurthis appeared and gave Ravana a linga each, which they asked him to install at the three corners of the hill (And hence the name of the place, Tri – three, Kona – Corners, Malai – Hill). Ravana duly placed the three lingas, the central one along with Shankari Devi and the other two lingas at the two corners and built three temples around them. This account matches with the historical record of the presence of three magnificent edifices on the cliff.

Trincomalee (Thirukkonamalai) Shankari Devi Temple, Sri Lanka - Shakti Peetha 01
Thirukkonamalai is attached to another hill named Macchendira Malai. Legends speak of the story of an Asura, who after receiving extensive boons from Shiva had tormented the Devas to great extents. He had snatched the protective amulets worn by the Devas and had thrown them into the Indian Ocean. The Devas finally took refuge at Thirukkonamalai after which Shiva asked of Vishnu to take his Matsyavatara and retrieve the amulets. Vishnu obligingly took the form of a fish and retrieved the amulets. The body of the gigantic fish turned into a mountain that merged with Thirukkonamalai, thus earning the name Matsyendramalai which gradually got corrupted to Macchendira Malai.

Description: At its zenith, Thirukkonamalai was perhaps the richest and the most visited Hindu shrine, maybe more so than Rameshwaram or Puri. Extolled by the Nayanmar saints in the Tevaram and by Arunagirinathar in his Thiruppugazh, Konamaamalai was a great center of Shiva worship, second only to Chidambaram. It is one of the two Paadal Petra Thalams in Lanka. Archeological and literary evidence prove the existence of at least three temples on the cliff, with one gopuram taller than the other, the highest gopuram enshrining the main deity. The main temple itself was believed to have a thousand pillars supporting a humongous hall and many mandapas

Trincomalee (Thirukkonamalai) Shankari Devi Temple, Sri Lanka - Shakti Peetha 01
The rock carving near the temple, referred to as the Konesar Kalvettu places the beginnings of the temple circa 1580 BC. The temple has recorded history from as far as 300BC. Destroyed by the Buddhist king Mahasena and replaced by Buddha Viharas, the temple was renewed and reconstructed by the Chozha King Kulakotta Chozhan. He rebuilt the temple and the tank, earning his name (Kulam – Tank, Kattu – Build) and brought down the Vanniars to settle in the region and make it flourish. The temple was further served by the Pandya, Pallava and the Jaffna kings making it a magnificent place of pilgrimage that attracted people from all over the subcontinent. The kings and the Vanniars paid handsome tributes of gold, silver and pearl to the lord, making the temple prosperous and famous. The glory however became the very bane of the temple. On the Tamil New Year day (14th April) 1624, the temple was looted by the Portuguese. When the utsavar was taken out in a procession, the Portuguese entered the temple dressed as brahmanas and plundered its wealth. Gold, pearls and gems that were collected over thousands of years were looted in a few hours. The temple itself was cannon-balled and broken to pieces. Much of the temple’s masonry was used to reinforce Fort Frederick and the rest of it was pushed into the Indian Ocean. The fleeing priests buried much of the idols and sent the rest for safekeeping. The looting of the temple is perhaps the biggest plundering of the Indian temples by the western barbarians. An amazing yet true fact is the presence of a rock carving, dating to the early Pandya dynasty complete with the double fish Insignia, which foretells the fall of the temple into the hands of the Franks. Presently kept in the Lisbon Museum it prophesizes “O King, be warned, the franks will ruin the ancient temple built by Kulakottan and no future king will ever think of building it to its previous glory again.”

Trincomalee (Thirukkonamalai) Shankari Devi Temple, Sri Lanka - Shakti Peetha 01
In 1689 a smaller temple was built nearby to house the idols that had survived in the procession. This Adi Konanayakkar temple still exists and so do the idols that escaped their fate on that fateful day. No worship was allowed to take place at the ruins until the Britishers entered the country. People then often went to the rock and broke coconuts, sometimes throwing offerings into the sea below where it reached the underwater ruins. In 1950, the ancient Konanayakar Utsavamoorthy made of Panchaloha, the idol of Ambal and Ganesha were discovered while digging for a well. 350 years after the destruction of the temple, the Lankans reinstalled the utsavar idols and in 1952 built a temple to Koneswarar at the spot near the ancient ruins. A diving team which included the author Arthur C Clarke (of Space Odyssey fame) took some stunning photographs of the underwater ruins of the temple and retrieved the ancient Swayambhu Linga which was later installed in the temple.

Trincomalee (Thirukkonamalai) Shankari Devi Temple, Sri Lanka - Shakti Peetha 01
The present temple is of much modest dimensions compared to the one of yore. Regarded as one of the Pancha Eeswarams of Shiva, Koneswaram has shrines to Ganesha, Subramanya and other Shaivite deities surrounding the central Garbha Griha which enshrines the ancient powerful Asura Linga, Thirukkoneswarar. The recently recovered Panchaloha idols are worshipped in the Vasantha Mandapam. There is a separate smaller temple dedicated to the goddess worshipped as Mathumai Ambal. Though many pilgrims worship her as Shankari Devi, the Peetha Nayaki of the Shankari Shakthi Peetha, she is not the ancient Shankari devi who was worshipped by Ravana and Adi Shankara, to whom the grandest temple on Lanka was built. The form of Shankari devi as described in the Dhyana shloka does not match the divine form of Mathumai Ambal. The original idol is lost forever. People worship the lone pillar standing at the summit of the hill as the only remnant of the grand Shankari temple. Many believe that the pillar itself marks the exact position of the Shakthi peetha though this is a debatable topic.

Trincomalee (Thirukkonamalai) Shankari Devi Temple, Sri Lanka - Shakti Peetha 01
The temple theertha, the Mavaliganga, bubbles up from a well at the western portion of the hill, circumambulates the hill and empties into the Indian Ocean. It is believed that when Parvathi once examined Shiva’s matted locks, she caught the sight of a woman’s face for a fleeting second. The terrified Ganga froze into an ice drop which was covertly scooped up and dropped into the sea by Shiva. It is believed that it is she who wells up in the Sivanolipadam hills near Northern Lanka, flowing towards Thirukkonamalai as Mahabaliganga, towards Ketheeswaram (the only other Paadal Petra Thalam in Lanka) as Manikka Ganga and towards Kathirgama as Kaveri Ganga.

Bilva Tree : The temple offers a spectacular vista of the calm Indian ocean stretching out for miles. By the edge of the cliff, stands an ancient Bilva tree, under which Sri Rama is said to have meditated.

Trincomalee (Thirukkonamalai) Shankari Devi Temple, Sri Lanka - Shakti Peetha 01
The Kannyayi Hot Springs : Among the sights of the place are the seven hot springs of Kanniyayi, on the road to Trincomalee. About a mile on a side road branching from the main route, the springs are worth a visit. A high wall assembles all the seven springs in a rectangular enclosure. Each enclosed in a dwarf wall forms a well of its own. The water is mildly hot; the temperature varies but slightly in each. In effect, a public bathing resort, the use of the springs is controlled by the neighboring Mari Amman Kovil who holds the lease of the wells. People believe that bathing in these well will refesh themselves.

Trincomalee (Thirukkonamalai) Shankari Devi Temple, Sri Lanka - Shakti Peetha 01
Trincomalee (Thirukkonamalai) Shankari Devi Temple, Sri Lanka - Shakti Peetha 01
Trincomalee (Thirukkonamalai) Shankari Devi Temple, Sri Lanka - Shakti Peetha 01
Trincomalee (Thirukkonamalai) Shankari Devi Temple, Sri Lanka - Shakti Peetha 01


Shankari Devi temple and Tirukoneswara (Siva) temple are in the same complex on a small hillock, in the town of Trincomalee. This town is on the north east side of Srilanka and about 260 kms from Colombo (via Dambulla). One can go by bus or taxi from Colombo to Trincomalee. In the town, one can reach the temple by a autorickshaw which is about 3 to 4 kms.

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