Buddhas encroaching Kovils – Sinhalisation of Point Pedro
In 2010, a small Buddha statue was placed, without any prior information to locals, under a bodhi tree next to the Vairavar Kovil in the Point Pedro Harbour area. The building and expansion of two Buddhist shrines in close proximity to Hindu temples in Point Pedro have left locals fearing further Sinhalisation of their area.
In the last month, soldiers have expanded the statue’s space and built up the surroundings to resemble a Buddhist shrine.
With an army camp close by, soldiers monitor the premises from a newly erected sentry point.
Local users of the Vairavar Kovil, a decades-old local landmark and community space, have complained that the shrine encroaches upon the temple’s land, severely reducing the temple’s capacity for large scale events such as poojas and Pongal.
An army-run ‘welfare canteen’ has also been erected in the vicinity.
Also in the years following the end of the war, a Buddha statue was illegally erected in land belonging to a local doctor near Point Pedro Munai. The doctor said that while the statue has been there for a few years now, he fears that it is being gradually expanded into a Buddhist shrine.
The northernmost point of the island, Point Pedro, or Paruthithurai, is known among other things for its fishing trade, historical landmarks, Hindu temples and Catholic churches, and prestigious schools. However much of the coast, including the harbour and historic lighthouse remain occupied by Sri Lankan military forces. According to Sri Lankan law, permission must be sought from local authorities before constructing religious landmarks. However, Point Pedro local authorities have said that in their area, as is the case for Buddhist statues and shrines erected all over the North-East, this process was never followed.
Tamils in the North-East are well acquainted with Sri Lankan state projects to crowd out Tamil heritage in culturally significant sites, prominent examples being the Kanniya hot wells in Trincomalee and Nainathivu. Now for the people of Point Pedro too, the Sinhalisation of the town is a growing fear.
Photographs: Shalin for Tamil Guardian
The Sri Lankan Army continues in its mission of Sinhalising the Tamil homeland, specifically through the installation of Buddhist shrines within the premises of or in close proximity to Hindu temples in the North-East.
The trend is prominent in Vavuniya, with the A9 running through most of the district and military camps, with accompanying Buddhist shrines dotting the main road.
Worshippers in two Vavuniya villages have been left fearing the future of their temples following the construction of Buddha shrines in their vicinity.
In the village of Peiyadikoolaankulam in the Moonaimadu area, soldiers attached to the 56 Division camp have built a large Buddha statue in the premises of a Nagapooshani Amman kovil.
Locals complain that due to the Buddha statue being built on such a large scale and on higher ground, the Amman kovil is now prone to heavy flooding during rainy periods.
The statue also poses a capacity problem during busy festival and ritual days.
The temple is also now fenced in by a wall of Buddhist design. With army camps opposite and to its right, worshippers say they cannot go about their activities freely.
Similarly, a Buddhist shrine has been built next to a Pillaiyar kovil in Thaandikulam, with soldiers attempting to appropriate the kovil’s land for further expansion.