Occupying Sri Lanka’s Government Agent in the Eastern Province’s Ampaa’rai district, Mr Neil de Alwis, who held a meeting with the Va’n’nakkars (trustees) of the historic Saiva shrine at Ukanthai-malai last Wednesday, has asked the trustees to cooperate with the SL authorities in constructing a Buddhist stupa, at a one and a half acres plot of land, 400 meters close to the Saiva shrine, informed sources in Ampaa’rai told TamilNet this week. The SLGA was particular in urging the trustees that this news should not be leaked to media. The disappointed trustees find themselves at a delicate situation, unable to reveal the truth to the Saiva devotees of the sacred abode. The Ukanthai-malai temple of Saiva-Vedda tradition is located at a rocky hillock in Lahugala division.
The SL Government Agent has further indicated that the SL authorities were of the view that the Saiva temple is situated within the sanctuary ‘protected’ by the SL State and that the State could go ahead with the construction of the Buddhist temple regardless of the objections from the Saiva community.
Earlier, when Tamil devotees wanted to construct a Mutt for the pilgrims, the SL authorities had refused permission to construct the building, citing the ‘protected sanctuary’ status of the place.
The SLGA told the Va’n’nakkars that the Buddhist stupa would be constructed south of the temple pond (theerththak-kea’ni) situated in front of the Murukan temple at the footstep of the rocky hillock.
Va’n’nakkar is a unique Tamil term used in Batticaloa Tamil dialect for the trustees of Saiva temples.
The Ukanthai-malai temple is a synthesis of Vedda (aborigine) and Saiva religious traditions. The Veddas were the original custodians of the Va’l’li-amman temple on the hilltop and Murukan temple at the entry to the hill.
There are several myths associated with the temple.
In the Vedda tradition, the hill, which is likely to be a prehistoric site, is called Va’l’li Malai.
There are a number of natural waterholes in the rocky hillock that are considered holy by the Saiva-Vedda population of the region.