Naga Deepa

Picture by: Rtr. Bhagya Egodage, Rotaract Shutterbug Trainee

Naga Deepa also known as Nainathivu or Nainatheevu or Manidweepam is a small but notable island off the coast of Jaffna Peninsula in the Sri Lankan Tamil dominated Northern Province, Sri Lanka. The name of the island alludes to its aboriginal inhabitants, the Nayanair or Nāka people. It is home to the ancient Hindu shrine of Shree Nagapooshani (Bhuvaneswari) Amman; one of the prominent 64 Shakti Peethas, and the Buddhist shrine Naga Vihare.

Nāka Tivu / Nāka Nadu was the name of the whole Jaffna peninsula in some historical documents. There are number of Buddhist myths associated with the interactions of people of this historical place with Buddha. The two Tamil Buddhist epics of Kundalakesi and Manimekalai describe the islet of Manipallavam of Nāka Tivu/Nadu which is identified with this islet of the Jaffna peninsula. Manimekalai describes the ancient island of Manipallavam from where merchants came to obtain gems and conch shells. The Tamil language inscription of the Nainativu temple by Parâkramabâhu I of the 12th century CE states that foreign merchants must land at Kayts before entering the island, and for other ports. The Hindu temple was destroyed by the Portuguese in 1620 CE. It was restored and re-established in 1788. A portion of the inscription slab is built into the wall of the present restored temple. Nainativu Nagapooshani Amman temple was attacked and burnt, and sustained severe damage, in June 1958, and in March 1986 by the Sri Lankan armed forces. The Naga Deepa Buddhist Vihara was established in the 1940s by a resident monk with the help of local Tamils.

Nāka people were snake-worshipers, a tropical custom found in South Asia, Africa, Amazon. Some of Sri Lankan Naga people spoke Sinhala and some of they spoke Tamil. According to the formation of Sinhala, Naga tribe is one of Siwhela tribe among with Raksha, Yaksha and Deva. Based on Ptolemy’s description of the Nāka people, they spoke Tamil. They also likely spoke Prakrit, a language of the school of Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh with which the early Tamils of Jaffna had strong cultural relations during the classical period. The Nākas were an offshoot of the Kerala Nayar community, at that time the Chera kingdom of ancient Tamilakam.

The picture depicts a villager selling food to the people visiting the Naga Deepa

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