Nallur, 2 km from Jaffna, was the capital city of ancient Jaffna kingdom. The royal palace, minister’ residence and other important buildings were located there; some remnants, including the palace front can still be seen. The city was laid out like the traditional kovil town according to Hindu traditions. Nallur, which means ‘good city’ in Tamil, was a focal point where writers, artists and poets had come to entertain the king in his court.
The Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil, one of Jaffna’s main landmarks, is dedicated to Lord Murugan. This temple is intricately woven with the history of the kingdom of Jaffna. Its distinctive red and white stripes covering the outer walls are a clear symbol of Hinduism, and the towering golden ‘Gopurams’ that rise nine-stories in height are an undoubtedly impressive sight. The original kovil was built in 948 AD soon after the declaration of Nallur. After several destructions during many colonial invasions, the kovil was rebuilt by 1749. From being a simple affair the kovil has now become an elaborate and imposing example of Dravidian-influenced architecture. This kovil reflects great cultural and social significance to the identity of the Hindu Tamils of North Sri Lanka and for the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora. The kovil hosts the annual religious festival called Thaipusam which commemorates the history of Lord Murugan over the demon, Tarakasuran.
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