A group of Sinhala monks who were escorted to the Vedukkunaari Adi Shiva temple in Vavuniya by the Sri Lankan army reiterated claims that the site was Buddhist and sent a warning to the Tamil diaspora over the future of the site.
It is learnt that the monks were escorted by the army on plough machine in what is said was a surprise visit that the temple administrators were not formally alerted of.
Whilst there, the monks claimed that the stone of Shiva Lingam was placed atop the mountain “a few days ago” and reiterated their claims that it was a Sinhala Buddhist site.
The visit comes at a time when there exists a court case before the Vavuniya Magistrate Court which issued an order to all government authorities including the police that worshippers in the Vedukkunaari area should not be obstructed in any manner.
"A topic that has been widely discussed is this Shiva Lingam,” said one monk on camera.
“This is a new stone that anyone can see has been placed here either yesterday or the day before. Leading up to this mountain are photographs of Shiva lined up on either side of the road. It is plain to see that there is an attempt to grab hold of this place”.
“My problem is this, politicians can change day by day and some are silenced by their intentions. But there are government officials such as those from the archaeological department. This place is designated by them as an ancient place of worship for Buddhists, so why allow for a new stone to be placed permanently when it was not there before?"
He goes on to say that "these archaeological officers are paid from taxpayers money and should think about the responsibilities they are entrusted with”.
“Either they should do their job or leave their jobs," the monk continued. He further says that there exists "no friction" between the Muslims, Tamils and Buddhists in the area but it is "a group of few individuals who are trying to cause problems and create unrest - the result of which is here".
The monk goes on to send a warning specifically to the Tamil diaspora. "This place has been referenced in the history of Sri Lanka,” he claimed. “There are historical accounts of it in the Mahavamsa. We Buddhist people believe in the truth and those who do, will not allow for such a thing. So I ask of you, if you are steadfast in your faith, this is not something you will be blessed for doing."
Last year the Athi Lingam consecrated to Lord Siva in Vedukkunaari hill was destroyed and discarded in the shrubbery surrounding the temple. Additionally, many idols such as the idols of Pillaiyaar, the Mother Goddess Amman, and the village deity Bhairavar were stolen from the temple as well.
This incident occurred following the many obstacles the Sri Lankan Police Department and the Sri Lankan Archaeological Department had put up in the recent past including a case filed at the Vavuniya Magistrate Court, in 2021. The priest of the temple and an administrator had been arrested. While this case has been investigated, the court has granted bail to the priest and the administrator and ordered the police to conduct further investigation to determine the “real” culprits. Following the destruction and theft of idols, a protest was held near the Jaffna Hindu College, condemning the act.
Tamils in the North-East have witnessed an escalation of increased ‘Sinhalisation’ throughout the provinces where there has been a concentrated and explicit attempt to destroy existing Hindu temples or erect Sinhala Buddhist viharas in place or adjoining them. Earlier last year, there was an increase in multiple incidents of vandalism at temples where Hindu deities were found missing or damaged.