Heated debate over Kanniya Hot Springs | Daily News


Mano Ganesan: Hindus unhappy over removal of kovil:

Heated debate over Kanniya Hot Springs

Hindu devotees are up in arms over attempts by archaeologists to excavate and conserve ancient Buddhist ruins near the famous hot springs of Kanniya, Trincomalee, while local Buddhist groups are equally adamant that the ancient site must be conserved. What concerns Hindus is that this site, which they venerate for its link to the Ramayana legends and mythical King Ravana, might be disturbed by the archaeological work.

The Department of Archaeology, however, says it is taking action to conserve the Hindu religious ambience as well while continuing with its excavations.

But their priority is the very ancient Buddhist ruins that have been discovered and require conservation. Hindus, however, claim that the site contains ruins of a Pillayar kovil.

With the rise in local community tensions, Minister of National Integration and Hindu Religious Affairs Mano Ganesan is now intervening. “Conservation work on the Kanniya hot springs which will see the removal of structures alleged to be remnants of a Hindu kovil, must be halted indefinitely as it has become the cause of unrest and instability in the North and East,” Minister Ganesan told the Daily News. “My pleas to the Department of Archaeology has fallen on deaf ears. I am compelled to take this matter up with the President urgently to brief him on the matter,” Ganesan said.

Many Tamils had reportedly gathered in the vicinity of the famed hot springs on Tuesday to protest what they see as the removal of remnants of a Hindu Kovil for renovation of a Buddhist Viharaya. Worshippers and activists were barred from entering the sacred site which falls under the purview of the Department of Archeology.

Visitors to the site were left stranded for over an hour until police, riot squad and Special Task Force were called in to quell growing tensions. Police had obtained a court injunction preventing the protest on the basis that it would cause communal tensions.

“Such acts by the Archaeology Department are a hindrance to reconciliation efforts,” Minister Ganesan said. “My accusation is well-founded because the 32-member board that advises the Department is devoid of a Hindu or Tamil historian.” The Minister claimed that the presence of Buddhist ruins could also indicate Tamil Buddhist settlements, which, he says, the Department needs to verify rather than demolish.

Officials from the Department of Archaeology however say that the laws make provision for the demolition or eviction of new structures or settlements.

“We held a meeting last week where we briefed the officials of that area of the conservation work at the Kanniya Hot Springs. At this meeting it was decided that the Department would find a suitable place to relocate this Hindu Temple to which they agreed,” said Palitha Weerasinghe Additional Director of Archaeology who oversees the sites in Anuradhapura, Trincomalee, Jaffna and Kilinochchi. “The law makes provision for the officials to demolish or break structures that are new to the protected sites. However in this instance we found that the locals were extremely aggressive towards such conservation work.”

Weerasinghe admitted that the officials found ‘concrete blocks’ at the site which need to be removed and said that this will be done during conservation. “Three members of the Department have been appointed to look into the matter and will undertake a visit to the site within the next few days.” He added that the Department does not discriminate on religious or cultural grounds adding that any archaeology site requiring protection or conservation will be duly undertaken by the Department.

“The Hot Springs in Trincomalee is just one of the places that require attention. The Jetavanarama forest monastery, the Abhayagiri monastery and Konneswaran Kovil are among other places that our officials need to visit and recommence conservation.”



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