Ketheeswaram temple is an ancient Hindu temple in Mannar, Northern Province Sri Lanka. Overlooking the ancient period port towns of Manthai and Kadiramale, the temple has lay in ruins, been restored, renovated and enlarged by various royals and devotees throughout its history. Ketheeswaram is one of five Ishwarams dedicated to Shiva and is venerated by Saivites throughout the continent.

Throughout its history, the temple has been administered and frequented by Sri Lankan Hindus. Its famous tank, the Pahlavi tank, is of ancient antiquity and was restored from the ruins. Ketheeswaram is one of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams of Lord Shiva glorified in the poems of the Tevaram.

Literary and inscriptional evidence of the post classical period (300CE-1500CE) attests to the upkeep of the temple during the ancient period by kings of the Tamil Pallava, Pandyan and Chola empires who contributed to its development up to the late 16th century. In 1575, Ketheeswaram was largely destroyed by Portuguese colonials, with Poojas terminating at the shrine in 1589. Following an appeal by Arumugar Navalar in 1872, the temple was rebuilt at its original site in 1903.
The exact date of the Ketheeswaram temple's birth is not universally agreed upon. The shrine is known to have existed for at least 1400 years, with inscriptional and literary evidence of the postclassical era attesting to the shrine's classical antiquity. The buried ancient Tamil trading port of Manthota in the Mannar District, where Ketheeswaram is located has provided historians extant remains of the culture of the area during the ancient period. This includes the vestiges of its ancient temple tank; the Pahlavi tank, and the ruins of a former Hindu city built of brick, described by J.W. Bennet in 1843.  

During the ancient period, Manthota was a centre of international trade, with Greeks, Romans, Phoenicians, Arabs, Ethiopians, Persians, Chinese, Japanese, Burmese and others vying with each other to monopolise the trade of North Ceylon with Tamil traders. Manthota is currently viewed as the only port on the island that could be called a "buried city," with much of the ancient ruins under sand today. The existence of the Thiru-Ketheeswaram temple attests to the antiquity of the port. Manthota finds mention as "one of the greatest ports" on the seaboard between the Island in the Tamil Sangam literature of the classical period (600 BCE - 300 CE). Hugh Neville wrote in 1887 of the illustrious city of Manthota “A renowned shrine grew into repute there dedicated to one Supreme God symbolized by a single stone, and in later times restored by a Shaivite after lying long in ruins. The temple was dedicated as "Thirukethiswaram.”

Mythical stories related to the Indian epic Ramayana recount that Mandodari, the Queen of King Rawana was from Mannar and that Mayan, the father of Mandodari built the ancient Temple of Thirukethiswaram to worship Shiva. According to one Hindu legend, Bhrigu Muni worshipped Shiva at this shrine. Another tradition holds that the Hindu planetary god Kethu worshipped Shiva at the shrine, thus creating the shrine's name "Ketheeswaram". Another legend is found in the Skanda Purana, an ancient work in Sanskrit of which the antiquity is unknown. It consists of 2500 verses grouped into 27 Chapters and had been handed down in accordance with the traditional custom as oral discourses by the Guru to his disciples in this case by Sootha Muni to the Naimisaraniya Muni. Three Chapters of the Skanda Purana which have been given the title Dhakshana Kailasa Manmiam deal with historical events in ancient Ceylon. The first chapter narrates about the Puranas in general and the splendour that was of ancient Ceylon; the second chapter relates about the celebrated places of religious importance in Ceylon and the story of "Thirukethiswaram". In this chapter is narrated the incident of how, at one time long ago, the God of Wind (Vayu) uprooted the three towers of the great mountain Maha Meru in order to keep off Athichedan who fought against him, obstructing the great mountain with thousands of adorned summits resembling serpents’ heads and deposited one of these towers at Thirukethiswaram. The Lord established Himself there, at Thirukethiswaram. According to the Manmiam, Thirukethiswaram along with Koneswaram are two of the nine most sacred Sthalams of the Hindus. The other seven are in India.
enquiry Call Us: +94764228009 (WhatsApp/Viber)
enquiry Email:
enquiry Skype: srilankaheritages
enquiry Quick Browsing
Ayurveda & Meditations
Heritage Sites
Speeches & Articles
Towns in Alphabetical Order
Travel Agents Hotels
Sared Destinations
List of Beaches
List of Beaches
Oldest Human found in Sri Lanka