Annual festival of Ukanthamalai Sylvan Shrine

The sylvan shrine of the Ukanthamalai Śrī Murugan Kovil, in the jungle amidst rocks, devoted to the Kataragama Deity, is teeming with pilgrims as the annual festival began on July 15 with the Mayoora Flag-Hoisting ceremonies, conducted by a dozen priests.

Thousands of devotees flock to Okanda Malai Murugan Kovil (above) for its annual festival in July. Many of them come on foot as Pada Yatra pilgrims and proceed on to Kataragama to attend its festival also. (Photo: 9 July 2007)

The Ven. Shiva Agama Kiriya-Juti, Siddhantha Banu Shiva Śrī Sita Ram Kurukal conducted the poojas assisted by Ven. Isana Shiva Achariyar, Shiva Śrī Sat Chit Ananda Kurukal, Shiva Śrī Illi Palanivel Kurukal, Shiva-Śrī M. Vettivel Kurukal and Shiva Śrī M. Uma Sutha Sarma.

The inspiring ceremonies and rites began in the morning and continued till late afternoon, in the midst of chanting of sacred Sankrit hymns, and cries of Haro-Hara.

The Chairman of the Temple Committee, Nadarajah Tharmalingam, the Senior Superintendent of Police, Ampara District and several local Heads of Departments and institutions participated in the ceremonies.

The security in the area was strengthened with an addition to Security Forces, as decided at a meeting held at the kachcheri, Ampara. Thousands of worshippers at the hallowed Srine ensured a manifestation of divinity and sublimity.

Pilgrims said a devout prayer at this brought them success. A striking feature at the Ukanthamalai Srine was that the worshippers belonged to the various religions in the country and an air of love and friendship prevailed.

Many thousands arrived at Ukanthamalai Temple with the intention to proceed to Kataragama on a Pada Yatra - pilgrimage on foot. The pilgrims are sheltered under the spreading trees. The NGO, Foundation for Co-Existence is keen on restoring a Pilgrims' Rest at a cost of Rs. 2 million.

The Temple and the many Pilgrims' Rests suffered damage in the tsunami.

The local authorities in the district are providing drinking water to the pilgrims. A matter lacking in the Temple is to provide facilities for health and sanitation, toilets are inadequate. The Ministry of Nation Building and Estate Infrastructure Development has decided to provide facilities for sanitation.

The GA Ampara has taken all measures to ensure the successful completion of the festival which would conclude on July 30 with the water cutting ceremony. The CTB has provided adequate buses for the pilgrims.

Courtesy: The Ceylon Daily News of 18 July 2007