Posted by: lrrp | May 31, 2008

The Madhu Shrine

Antiquity of Madhu Church

a Myth.

This claim that the site has been in use as a Catholic Shrine for over six hundred years is his only justification for recommending to the Pope that Madhu Church be sanctified as a ‘National Basilica’ But this is an over reaching claim. The facts of the matter are quite different as the following extracts from “The Manual of the North Central Province’ by the British Civil Servant R. W. Overs and also from ‘A short History of the Madhu Church’ supplied by the Bishop of Jaffna to Mr. E. B. Denham the author of Census Report of 1911 (p.77) clearly demonstrate.

In his brief note on the origin and history of the Sanctuary of Madhu, the Bishop of Jaffna had tried his best to conceal the fact that the place was actually the ancient Pattini Devale. But Denham could not be fooled so easily and did not agree to this manipulation. So he included the more accurate information that Madhu was really a Pattini Devale as had been recorded by Jevers.

Catholic Shrine only since 1870

According to the version supplied by the Bishop of Jaffna to E. B. Denham, it was after 1670, when Dutch Protestants drove out the Portuguese from Mannar, that a few Catholic Tamils fled and settled down at Marutha Madhu. Later, some Roman Catholics of Jaffna had settled down there, prompting the Bishop of Jaffna to take an interest in the place in 1870. The place is marked in the one inch map as Madhu Camp. Mr. Aelred Fernando makes mention of Negombo Catholics. It is true that these are those Tamil fishermen, who migrated far south to Negombo. The descendents who call themselves Sinhalese but speak Tamil, are yet found in Negombo. There is a story that women of this clan, were hired to cry and weep at funerals.

The Madhu Festival on July 2nd, initiated by the Bishop of Jaffna, dates back to 1870. Even at that time there was no Madhu Church.

Sacred to Buddhists for 1850 years.

Traditionally Madhu has been the site of a Pattini Devale sacred to Buddhists and Hindus from the time of King Gaja Bahu 1 (114-136) CE, who introduced the Pattini cult to ancient Lanka at a Prudent distance from the capital Anuradhapura which was the centre of orthodox Theraveda Buddhism. So Pattini Devale has been there for over 1850 years. Later on, the Hindus called it the Amman Kovil. It is sacred to Buddhists and Hindus even though the Catholics have usurped the site.

However, the truth is that Buddhists, Hindu and Mohammedan pilgrims held this place sacred long before the arrival of the Portuguese on this island in 1506 CE. The Roman Catholics only began to join these pilgrims more recently. Denham says “It is essentially a forest pilgrimage. The earth of Madhu is considered to posses special medical properties, hence the sanctity, resulting the reputation that “Madhu Medicine” effects cures for snake bite. (Denham, page 761) That age old belief has nothing to do with Roman Catholic Christianity,

Vandalism by Portuguese Catholics.

Reverend James Cordiner has explained why we do not see the old, original buildings like the old Pattini Devale of the Sinhalese people at Madhu.

“It is well know that every trace of the religious fabric of the Ceylonese was obliterated with enthusiastic ardour by the idolators from Europe.”

That conversion to Catholicism was done by force, murder and all crimes one could think of, is a universal truth. Even recently Reuters reported on 20.5.07 that Venezuelan President Hugo Chaves demanded from Pope Benedict an apology for the genocide.

Not exclusive to Catholics.

Even today, Madhu is not a holy site exclusively for Catholics. It is equally sacred to Buddhists, Hindus, Mohammedans and non-Catholic Christians.

In view of these historical facts, Madhu being considered a holy shrine by all religions, it is the responsibility of the government to see that it is protected, but unfortunately, the Bishop of Mannar seems to consider that removing the statute of Our lady to an uncleared area is much safer. In this situation, if anything untoward happens to the Holy Statue, the Bishop of Mannar and whole Catholic Church should be held responsible because a gun, bomb or any missile does not have eyes.

G. A. D. Sirimal



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