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Buddhist monks lead rival prayers at Kanniya on Tamil fast day

Buddhist monks in Trincomalee led prayers at the Kanniya hot wells, with hundreds of Sinhalese followers attempting to crowd out Tamil devotees who were commemorating an important fast day at the spring’s Hindu temple.

Rituals to mark Aadi Amavasai, the July new moon fast which Tamil Hindus observe to honour their deceased fathers and forefathers, have continued at Kanniya’s temple in recent years despite intense Sinhalisation of the area. However this year rival rituals led by Buddhist monks led to difficulties for the Tamil devotees in accessing the area and carrying out their normal rituals, such as bathing beforehand in the hot wells.

“Why today of all days are the Buddhist monks holding special prayers,” one Tamil devotee questioned. “We can only assume it is to crowd us out of our own temple. Last week they ganged up with the police to stop us entering the temple and now they are disrupting our very holy fast day.”

Recently the UN Special Rapporteur for the right to freedom of assembly expressed concern about the blocking of Tamils from the Kanniya Hindu temple, stating “individuals were prevented from taking part in a special prayer event at Vinayagar Temple, located in the premises of Kanniya hot water springs in Trincomalee, when their bus was repeatedly stopped for excessive periods of time at checkpoints. When they reached the fourth and final checkpoint on their journey, they were stopped and forbidden from travelling any further. Meanwhile, police obtained an injunction order from the court for public nuisance, which prevented individuals from accessing the site.”