The Government of India has agreed to facilitate the travel of Sri Lankan pilgrims, to Maarkazhi Thiruvaathirai, through a ferry from Kankasanthurai in the North to Chennai in the State of Tamil Nadu.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs in a statement issued Thursday said that the central Government was approached on behalf of Lord Shiva devotees in northern Sri Lanka, who had expressed a desire to visit the Thillai Nataraja Temple in Chidambaram to participate in a religious festival.
The “Maarkazhi Thiruvaathirai” (Aarudraa Dharshana Festival), 24 December 2017 – 3 January 2018, is a major festival at a particularly sacred temple for both Indians and Sri Lankans.
In response to the request, the Government of India has agreed to facilitate the travel of pilgrims through a ferry from Kankesanturai (near Jaffna) to Chennai. “We expect this will permit a large number of Sri Lankan Tamil pilgrims to undertake this important and auspicious pilgrimage,” the Ministry said.
Welcoming the government’s move, S.C. Chandrahasan (above), founder, OfFER (Organisation for Eelam Refugees’ Rehabilitation), reiterated his long standing demand for the resumption of Rameswaram-Thalaimannar ferry services on a regular basis so that “poorer and more deserving pilgrims and people” could come to India, The Hindu reported.
He sees the start of these services as a pre-requisite for voluntary repatriation of refugees living in Tamil Nadu.
Niranjan, coordinator of the Jaffna Managers’ Forum, a civil society organization based in Jaffna, said the decision would go a long way in strengthening traditional ties between the people of Tamil Nadu and the Northern Province. He hoped that the step would strengthen the relationship in the fields of education, health, trade and commerce.