MUNNESWARAM TEMPLE
 
  Munneswaram Temple is an important regional Hindu temple complex in Sri Lanka, a predominantly Buddhist country. It has been in existence at least since 1000 CE, although myths surrounding the temple associate it with the popular Indian epic Ramayana, and its legendary hero-king Rama. The temple is one of five ancient temples (Ishwarams) dedicated to Shiva in the region.

The temple complex is a collection of five temples, including a Buddhist temple. The central temple dedicated to Shiva (Siva) is the most prestigious and biggest, and is popular amongst Hindus. The other temples are dedicated to Ganesha, Ayyanayake and Kali. The Kali temple is also popular with Buddhists and Roman Catholics who frequent the complex.

Post-19th century, most of the devotees of all temples in the complex belong to the majority Sinhala Buddhist ethnic group; the temples, excluding the Ayyanayake and the Buddhist temple, are administered by families belonging to the minority Hindu Tamils.
 
The temple is located in Munneswaram, a village with mixed Sinhala and Tamil population situated in the historic Demala Pattuva region in the Puttlam District. The main Shiva temple owns extensive property in the surrounding villages, ownership of which was affirmed when the region was part of the medieval Jaffna kingdom and then the Kotte Kingdom. The temple was destroyed twice by the Portuguese colonial officers, who handed over the properties to the Jesuits. Although the Jesuits built a Catholic chapel over the temple foundation, locals reconstructed the temple both times. Due to religious and demographic change after the late 18th century, most surrounding villages and towns are not directly associated with the temple administration and maintenance. However, the villages of Maradankulama and Udappu are associated with organizing the main temple festival.  
 
The main festivals celebrated at the temple include Navarathri and Sivarathri. The former is a nine-day long festival in honour of the presiding Goddess, while the latter is an over-night observation in honour of Lord Shiva. In addition to these two Hindu festivals, the temple has a festival of its own, the Munneswaram festival, a four-week long event attended by Hindus, Buddhists, Catholics, and Muslims. 
 
  According to anthropologists Richard Gombrich and Gananath Obeyesekere, the cult of Kali reached Sri Lanka via South India. Although Kali shrines may have been part of Tamil Hindu temples prior to 12th century CE, the Sinhalese Buddhist population came to revere Kali as a village demon at least by the 12th century CE. The first known Hindu temple with a shrine to Kali to become popular with the Sinhalese Buddhists is Munneswaram.

A myth that has Kali landing at the town of Chilaw, and residing in Munneswaram, has made the temple a popular place of visit for cursing and sorcery purposes. In the early 1970s, the majority of the Sinhalese visitors were there for sorcery purposes, but by 1990s more than half have been visiting the temple for general veneration purposes, demonstrating the transformation of the deity from a malevolent demigod to a mother goddess. The veneration of Kali has completely overtaken the previously popular veneration of Pattini. Since 1960s a number of Sinhalese Buddhist shrines dedicated to Kali have sprung up all over the island, especially in urban areas. These are managed by Sinhalese priests who are trance specialists and act as intermediaries between the deity and the devotee while being possessed by the deity. The popular veneration of previously Hindu deities such as Kali and Katharagama Deviyo (the latter identified with the Hindu Skanda) have fundamentally altered the rational nature of Theravada Buddhism towards the Bhakti (“Personal veneration of deity”) aspect of Hinduism.
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