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Karunakara Pillayar Temple (Urumpirai)

Urumpirai Karunakara Pillayar Temple
Karunakara Pillayar Temple, also known as Karunakarap Pillayar Kovil (Tamil: கருணாகரப் பிள்ளையார் கோயில், உரும்பிராய்; Sinhala: කරුණාගර පුල්ලෙයාර් කෝවිල), is a Hindu temple situated in Urumpirai in Jaffna District, Sri Lanka. This is considered one of the few temples in the Jaffna Peninsula where a stone inscription has so far been found relating to it (Kandiah, 2014). Another temple where there is an inscription is the Nagapooshani Amman Temple at Nainativu, but there the inscription relates to a feature not connected with the temple.

The history of this temple runs back to the period of the Jaffna Kingdom [(1215–1619 A.D.) Kandiah, 2014; Pushparatnam, 2014]. It is said that this temple was originally started under a banyan tree as a Pillayar Lingam and a devotee named Karunakara Iyer took it upon himself to manage the temple (Kandiah, 2014). Hence the temple came to be known among the people as the Karunakara Pillayar Temple (Kandiah, 2014). However, according to the opinion of some authors such as Mudaliyar C. Rasanayagam, this temple was erected by Karunakara Tontaiman, a commander of South Indian Cola King Kulottunga I (1070-1118 A.D.) who came to Jaffna to produce and export salt to his home country (Pushparatnam, 2014; Rasanayagam, 1926). It is believed that Karunakara who lived in Inuvil built this temple for the worship of Pillayar while being engaged in collecting salt (Rasanayagam, 1926). However, there is no concrete evidence to confirm Rasanayagam's this opinion (Pushparatnam, 2014).

Two Tamil inscriptions discovered at the temple premises, belonging to the 16th century A.D., confirm that it was a prominent Hindu temple in the area during the Jaffna Kingdom (Indrapala, 1973). The temple is believed to have been destroyed by the Dutch and re-erected during the dawn of the Hindu Renaissance in Jaffna during the Arumuka Navalar (1822-1879 A.D.) era (Kandiah, 2014).

Two Tamil inscriptions
These two inscriptions reveal that the name of the temple is Karunakara Pillaiyar and the donations made to the temple (Pushparatnam, 2014). The first inscription consists of eleven lines of writing and begins with the "Iswathy Sri" greeting (Indrapala, 1973). Dated in April 1567, it records the name (obliterated) of donors of a gift (probably of land) to the Karunakara Pillaiyar Temple. No names of kings or rulers are mentioned in the inscription and considering the Vairava Soolam inscribed on it, it is surmised that it could be a boundary stone.

The second inscription has been engraved above the first inscription and it consists of five lines of writing (Indrapala, 1973). Inscribed probably at the end of the 16th century, it records the donation of five Panams to the temple Pandaram.


1) Indrapala, K., 1973. உரும்பிராய் கருணகாரப் பிள்ளையார் கோயிலிலுள்ள கல்வெட்டுக்கள் (In Tamil). உரும்பிராய் கருணாகரப் பிள்ளையார் கோயில் மகா கும்பாபிசேக மலர். pp.34-38.
2) Kandiah, T, 2014. Ancient Hindu temples of Sri Lanka. pp.3-5.
3) Pushparatnam, P., 2014. Tourism and monuments of archaeological heritage in Northern Sri Lanka. Author Publication. ISBN: 978-955-0811-08-3. p.31.
4) Rasanayagam, C., 1926. Ancient Jaffna: Being a Research Into the History of Jaffna from Very Early Times to the Portuguese Period. Asian Educational Services (1984). pp.266-267.

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This page was last updated on 4 May 2023

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