Indian Tamils of Sri Lanka - Religion


See also: Hinduism in Sri Lanka and Village deities of Tamils of Sri Lanka

In general they use Hindu beliefs to guide their day to day lives. There are number of temples and places of worship for deities on estates and in villages, towns and other places within Sri Lanka to which they have migrated. When a place is decided to be settled, the settlers would institute, under a banyan or bo tree, a triangular shaped stone or figure of a deity, plant a weapon of a popularly worshiped god such as a spear, trident or sword and worshiped these. The main deities worshiped ay are, in order of popularity, the goddess Mariamman, Murugan and his consorts, Valli and Theivanai, Pillayar, Siva, Parvathi, Vishnu and Laxmi, and the goddess of wisdom Saraswati.

In 1981 about 90 percent of the Indian Tamils were Hindus. They have little contact with Buddhism, and they worship the Hindu pantheon of gods. Their religious myths, stories of saints, literature, and rituals are distinct from the cultural sources of the Sinhalese. Furthermore, a minority of the Indian Tamils- 7.6 percent are converts to Christianity, with their own places of worship and separate cultural lives. In this way, the large Tamil minority in Sri Lanka is effectively separated from the mainstream Sinhalese culture and is fragmented into two major groups with their own Christian minorities

The first known temple was built in Matale. It began as a stone an icon of the goddess Mariamman. At this very location where the worship of her began in 1820, the now-famous Matale Sri Muthumariamman Temple was built in 1852. The trading community of the Nattukotai Chettiars introduced the worship of Murugan in his form as Lord Kathiresan at Matale and was to subsequently build the Kathiresan temple at Matale. The annual festival of this temple is celebrated in the month of July. Devotees of the plantation sector walk from the tea estates and hometowns they live in to Kathirkamam, a place considered sacred by both Buddhists and Hindus, in the South of Sri Lanka, where Murugan is worshiped in the form of Skanda.Deepavali, Pongal and Tamil New Year are commonly celebrated as festivals.

Folk deities

Each caste has its own deity based on caste predecessors and are worshiped as guardian angels, such as the Kallar caste had Nallananpillai Perumal as their guardian angel to whom vows and sacrifices made. Deities such as Madasamy, Muniandi, Kali, Madurai Veeran, Sangili Karuppan, Vaalraja, Vairavar, Veerabathran, Sudalai Madan, and Roda Mini are also worshiped.

Temple societies

There were 104 registered Hindu temples in the Nuwara Eliya District, 153 in Kandy region and 62 in Matale in 2001. Religious schools or Araa Nerri Padasaligal are conducted throughout the Central Province and registered schools of such nature are, Nuwara Eliya 22, Kandy 54 and Matale 11. A considerable number of Hindu associations and Institutions have been established and are functioning actively. There is a serious effort at conversions to other religions as well. Many have converted to Christianity and Islam. Hindu organizations such as the Vishva Hindu Parishad tries to stem the tide of conversions.

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