Munneswaram temple is an important regional Hindu temple complex in Sri Lanka. It has been in existence at least since 1000 CE, although myths surrounding the temple associate it with the popular Indian epic Ramayana, the temple is one of the ancient Pancha Ishwarams dedicated to Shiva in the region. The temple complex is a collection of five temples, including a Buddhist temple, the central temple dedicated to Shiva is the most prestigious and biggest, and is popular amongst Hindus. The other temples are dedicated to Ganesha, Ayyanayake and Kali, the Kali temple is also popular with Buddhists, who frequent the complex. The temple is located in Munneswaram, a village with mixed Sinhala, the main Shiva temple owns extensive property in the surrounding villages, ownership of which was affirmed when the region was part of the medieval Kotte Kingdom. The temple was destroyed twice by the Portuguese colonial officers, who handed over the properties to the Jesuits, although the Jesuits built a Catholic chapel over the temple foundation, locals reconstructed the temple both times. Due to religious and demographic change after the late 18th century, most surrounding villages and towns are not directly associated with the temple administration, however, the villages of Maradankulama and Udappu are associated with organizing the main temple festival. The main festivals celebrated at the temple include Navarathri and Sivarathri, the former is a nine-day long festival in honour of the presiding Goddess, while the latter is an overnight observation in honour of Lord Shiva. In addition to these two Hindu festivals, the temple has a festival of its own, the Munneswaram festival, Munneswaram temple is situated in Munneswaram village, the center of the spiritual and religious life of the people dwelling in a medieval administrative division called Munneswaram Pattuva. For most of the existence, Munneswaram Pattuva has had over 60 villages for which Maradankulama provided political leadership. The Pattuva belonged to an even bigger medieval division called Demala Pattuva ruled by semi-independent Tamil chiefs subject to Sinhalese kingdoms, the presiding deity is called Sri Munnainathar and the goddess is called Sri Vativampika Devi. Proximity to the routes and to the port provided an opportunity for transmission of ideas. The Pattuva has many dedicated to the higher echelons of Hindu or Buddhist deities. The temple was already a temple by the 11th century CE. The temple began under the patronage of Pattuva chiefs and was constructed during the early part of the 10th century CE. The Siva temple is attested in grants and in local literature. The Kali temple is a popular sorcery and cursing shrine associated with animal sacrifices, spirit possession of devotees was noted by the Jesuit priests who left behind records of it in the 16th century. The temple dedicated to the Sinhala deity Ayyanayake is administered by a local Sinhalese family, the Buddhist temple Pushparamaya Vihara is a post-19th century CE addition
Panel View within the Munneswaram temple, depicting goddess Durga.
A chariot carrying images of the deities in procession, as part of the temple festivals.
Image: Lingam installed at the outer walsl of Sivan temple