Indian Minister for Culture, Housing and Poverty Alleviation Kumari Selja, who had brought the Sacred Kapilavastu Relics to Sri Lanka, visited Mannar on 20 August and launched the Project for Restoration of the Thiruketheeswaram Temple in the presence of Minister of Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development Douglas Devananda, Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiyutheen and High Commissioner of India Ashok K. Kantha. Consul General of India at Jaffna Shri V Mahalingam, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Thiruketheeswaram Temple, members of the Thiruketheeswaram Temple Restoration Society (TTRS) were also present on the occasion.
In a ceremony to mark the launch of the restoration project of the temple, Minister Kumari Selja unveiled a plaque at the sanctum sanctorum and planted a ‘Vilvam’ tree inside the temple premises.
Speaking at the launch of the project, Minister Selja highlighted that India and Sri Lanka are the closest of neighbours, with the edifice of the relationship built upon a legacy of intellectual, cultural, religious and linguistic interactions over a period of 2500 years. Minister underlined that the relationship has matured and diversified, encompassing all areas of contemporary relevance over time.
Minister highlighted that her journey to Sri Lanka with the sacred Kapilavastu relics for an exposition in Sri Lanka was very special and India’s cultural and religious ties with Sri Lanka extended to all communities of Sri Lanka and referred to special bonds that exist between the people of the Northern Province and those of southern India. She emphasised that the legendary Thiruketheeswaram temple, one of the five sacred Ishwarams dedicated to Lord Shiva, is venerated by Shaivites throughout the sub-continent and the temple was testimony to probably the most difficult period in the history of Sri Lanka as it was closed for 12 years during the armed conflict and re-opened in 2002. She thanked the Government of Sri Lanka for its full support to restoration project and emphasised that the restoration project will bring the temple back to its ancient glory, once again rendering it a mirror-image of the famous Shiva Temple in Thanjavur.
The project was taken up in pursuance of the joint declaration issued during the state visit of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to India in June 2010. The joint declaration had welcomed the proposal for the restoration of the Thiruketheeswaram Temple with the assistance of the Archaeological Survey of India and the College of Architecture and Sculpture, Mamallapuram in India. A Memorandum of Understanding was subsequently signed between the High Commission of India and the Thiruketheeswaram Temple Restoration Society (TTRS) laying down the modalities for the restoration work which is worth Rs. 326 million to be undertaken under the grant assistance program of the Government of India.