The Ceylon Traveller Keerimalai, Jaffna
Text and Pictures By Sachini Perera
The most interesting places are found when deviating from a pre-planned trip and Keerimalai was one such wonderful find. While driving from Point Pedro back to our hotel in Jaffna city, we were told that very close to the Jaffna-Point Pedro road was a sacred location containing an ancient temple and two ponds, bathing in which cures impotency in both men and women.
Although none of us were looking for cures for impotency, it still sounded interesting enough for us to make a stop. This was a few years ago when the premises were being renovated and some areas were inaccessible. However, the little we explored was intriguing enough.
Keerimalai literally translates to “Mongoose Mound” and legend has it that a mongoosed-faced sage (Nakula Muni) who bathed in the ponds had his face turned into a human face, thus the name. The name of the presiding deity lord Shiva was known as Nakuleshwara ( Nakula – Mongoose Eshwara – Lord)
Another legend is that a princess called “Maruthapuraveega valli” who had a horse’s head bathed in the nearby holy tank of Maviddapuram resulting in her head transforming into a human head as per the advice of saint Nakula. True or not, this story is supported by the two statues of women with horses’ heads that are standing side by side near the temple in the premises.
Keerimalai consists of two ponds that have been built adjacent to the sea and also on the premises is the Naguleswaram temple. The temple was under construction when we went and we were only granted an outside view of it. However it is now open to the public and as one of the five main Hindu temples in the country, it should definitely be visited. Inside this temple is the biggest Sivalingam to be found in Sri Lanka.
The ponds are segregated, one for men and the other for women, the latter built more sheltered than the former which opens up to the sea. People travel many miles to Keerimalai in order to bathe in these ponds where the water is supposed to cure various diseases as well as impotency.
Although the ponds have been built right next to the sea, divided only by a stonewall, its water is not from the sea but from an underground fresh water spring. Also, Keerimalai should not be confused with hot water springs because the water in the ponds is not hot and is at a normal temperature. Since the ponds are located within a sacred site, visitors are urged to treat the place with respect. No smoking or consumption of alcohol is allowed at the ponds and changing rooms are provided so as to prevent bathers from using soap and shampoo inside the ponds. These rules and more are listed out on notice boards within the premises. It is advisable to visit Keerimalai as early as possible as it gets both crowded and sunny later in the day. It is not difficult to find. Nearby, St. Anne’s Church that was partially damaged during the war can also be seen.
So whether you’re looking for cures for diseases or not, Keerimalai is a slice of history and legend that must be visited and experienced.
How To Get There
Take the Jaffna-Palali Road and then turn to the Jaffna-Kankasanthurai Road. The Keerimalai turnoff is about 8 km after the Pilliyar Kovil. There will be a signboard to the ponds in Sinhala, Tamil and English.