The Tale of a Cobra God
Mudaliyar got increasingly upset over their disappearance and went everywhere searching for them, but failed every time.One fine day in his sleep, Mudaliyar had a dream where Lord Shiva appeared and told him, that he can find the snakes in a place called Puththur in Jaffna, Northern province of Sri Lanka.”Go with offerings, apologize and invite them back”, told Lord Shiva, “Raise a temple and worship them for the good fortune for you and your village” further added.Without any hesitance Mudaliyar rushed to Puththur with all the offerings.He found the cobra there and brought it back to their village.From that day onward each year his family went to Jaffna, brought offerings in arrays of bullock carts all the way to Puliyampokkanai.For the very same reason people from other villages also contributed for this and the custom evolved into a celebrated festival.
It was a period of Dutch Colonialism in Sri Lanka, where most of the Hindu identities were getting erased.One day, a dutch patrol group came across this festival and asked the priest who is their god?, "Cobra!", the priest replied."Prove it", said the officer.The priest chanted and prayed and suddenly a five hooded cobra appeared at the scene.The colonists apologized, helped the villagers with all the resources needed to expand the temple and donated a silver idol in the shape of a cobra, which the villagers started to worship thereafter.
Centuries passed, the temple & festival are still alive.Thousands of Hindus from all over Sri Lanka and abroad visit this temple - Puliyampokkanai Nagathambiran Temple, for the festival that happens every March.The routines are unchanged, the bullock cart journey still persists, though these days on tar roads, so do the faith on the Cobra god.Massive numbers of 'Kaavadiyaattam' - a ritual dance-form of Hindus, live auctions of thousands of domestic birds and animals offered to the god by the devotees and the iconic making of Pongal (A food item made of rice, jaggery & milk) are some of the most attractive parts of this temple along with the epic journey of the bullock carts over 60 km for many days through the rough terrain of the Vanni land of Sri Lanka.
*Summarized & Translated by Bhagiraj Sivagnanasundaram from the gazetted document on the temple history
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