During the Maha Sivarathiri of 2010, Indian High Commission officials visited the Thiruketheeswaram temple at Manthottamam, seven miles north of Mannar.

“We saw huge crowds. More than one lakh persons visited the temple…,” Indian High Commissioner Ashok K Kantha said.

Soon after, when the temple renovation committee approached him, he told it India would help in the process.

After the completion of paper work, work on the renovation was launched on Monday.

Union Minister for Culture Kumari Selja, who arrived in Colombo with the Kapilavastu relics on Sunday, travelled to Mannar to launch the Rs.13.35- crore work.

As part of the renovation, Sri Lanka will dismantle the two mandapams, provide logistics support and assist in the construction. India will sculpt all the stones at Mahabalipuram near Chennai, with inputs from the School of Architecture and Sculpture there. It will also construct the mandapams and build capacity in stone and stucco work.

Work to be completed in two years

Satyabhama Badrinath, Superintending Archaeologist, South Zone, who is the nodal person for the Archaeological Survey of India, said stone-carving, being done in Mahabalipuram, would take six months. Carving of floor granite stones, beams and slabs would take another nine months. The work is expected to be completed in two years.

The temple, where Kethu Bhagavan is said to have worshipped Shiva, was destroyed by the Portuguese in 16th century.

In 19th century, Arumuga Navalar, man behind the Saivite renaissance in Sri Lanka, worked to locate the temple. Later, a small temple was re-consecrated in June 1903.

The central shrine was reconstructed and consecrated around 1921.