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Temple of a Thousand Pillars

There was in times, long past a magnificent temple dedicated to Konath or Konasir on the cliff. 400 feet above the sea, at the Southern extremity of the peninsula that separates the inner from the outer harbour. British and other European writers of the 18th and 19th centuries refer to this shrine as the “Temple of a Thousand Pillars.”

What was its original name and who built it? According to a Tamil legend, a Hindu Prince, having learned from the Puranas that the rock now known as Swami Rock was a fragment of the holy Mount Meru hurled into the present site during a conflict of the gods, came over to Lanka and erected upon it a temple to Shiva, and became popular as Koneswaram Temple Trincomalee.

Being one of the main harbours in which seafarers in the Bay of Bengal dropped anchor, Trincomalee or Gokanna as this place was known earlier, must have been, from very early times, a settlement of Indo Aryan migrants.

Later the Pallavas and the Pandyan and Chola dynasties that ruled the Deccan (dhakkina desha) must have been closely associated with the up-keep of the Temple, lavishing wealth to maintain it in all its glory.

It is said that pilgrims from all over India came to the temple. One writer has said that it was more frequented by pilgrims than Rameswaram or the Jaganath Temple in Orissa.

The temple was razed to the ground by the Portuguese general Constantine de Saa in 1622 and he built a fort there using the stones of the demolished temple.

A temple has been built on Swami Rock (God’s Rock) which is inside Fort Fredrick. It is held in high veneration by the Hindus, and frequented by Buddhist pilgrims too.

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