Murugan Bhakti Newsletter No. 20
Scenes (above & below) at Galle harbor 29.12.2004
|Vehicles along with passengers were hurled by the waves.|
The earthquake and tsunami or tidal wave of 26 December, which caused devastation across much of South and Southeast Asia, struck most heavily on the east and south coasts of Sri Lanka. At the time of writing, the toll is already put at more than 12,000 but it is certain to climb much higher. At least one stalwart supporter of the Pada Yatra, Per Goodman of Arugam Bay, is confirmed dead. But entire villages and orphanages that lie in the path of the Pada Yatra were also tragically in the path of the tsunami. It is feared that Sunday's tsunami may have taken the lives of uncounted devotees, particularly children and the aged.
The Sri Lankan government has declared a state of disaster as at least 12,000 people, including many children and the elderly, were killed across the island as of the time of publication. Indian officials are saying at least 3,000 people were killed across South India and the Andaman Islands. By Monday evening at least 24,000 had been reported dead across the region, but thousands are still unaccounted for.
Now the fear is that outbreaks of diseases like cholera will claim even more lives. Jasmine Whitbread, international director of the aid group Oxfam, has warned that without swift action, more people could die. "The flood waters will have contaminated drinking water and food will be scarce," she said.
The earthquake, which generated tidal surges that could be felt as far away as Africa, hit at 6:58 a.m. local time about 100 miles off the northern Indonesian island of Sumatra. It measured 9.0 on the Richter scale, which made it the largest in the world since 1964 and the fifth largest since 1900, according to the National Earthquake Information Center at the United States Geological Survey.
The worst hit areas of Sri Lanka appeared to be the eastern districts of Trincomalee and Batticaloa, where many of the victims were young children and the elderly. The waves derailed trains and washed away buses, according to reports.
II. MURUGAN BHAKTI RELIEF MISSION
Many Murugan Bhakti Newsletter subscribers know that Murugan Bhakti began already in 1990 as a movement of devotees of Lord Kathirkama Kanthan, especially those who walk in the annual Kataragama Pada Yatra or `karai yaathirai' as it is known. It was only in 1997 that the first Murugan Bhakti web page appeared, later to grow to some 1,300 web pages over 11 web sites.
Hence Murugan Bhakti owes its existence to the villagers of Sri Lanka's North and East who have preserved this ancient tradition, either by offering annadanam to the foot pilgrims, or by joining the long trek. Because the Kathirkama `karai yāthirai' follows the coast from Jaffna to Kathirkamam, it touches the lives of coastal villagers most especially, and it is they who have been its most untiring supporters.
Murugan Bhakti editor Patrick Harrigan reports, "I happened to be travelling up to Nawalapitiya in the upcountry with Ravi Prasad, the BBC Hindi Service correspondent who also reports for Reuters and Star TV. Ravi Prasad was getting reports from all over the island and was reporting live on Star TV globally as we were travelling."
"The situation in Sri Lanka is very grim. The disaster event is past and now only we are starting to assess the extent of death and destruction. We have been trying to get in contact with devotees in Trinco and Mutur, which were the hardest hit according to reports--a 5-meter tidal wave hit Mutur, leaving hundreds dead. The actual count will not be known for some days. It is said that 800 died in Hambantota alone, not far from Kathirkamam."
"Many devotees are among the very poorest, who lived in simple cadjan huts in the middle of Trinco town, which is very low on a narrow peninsula between the sea and Trinco Bay. Many other devotees live in Mutur area, which was even harder hit. Even in good times these are poor people who need help to get by from day to day.
Many will be without anything now that a tidal wave has taken away most or all of what they hadincluding their loved ones. It is almost a certainty that many, many devotees known to us have lost their loved ones, homes, and all their belongings.
Murugan Bhakti Editor Patrick Harrigan has cancelled plans to visit Tamil Nadu and is now organizing relief efforts with a view to bring food and clothing items to the East Coast as quickly as possible in order to assess people's needs and distribute essentials now when they are most urgently needed.
Murugan Bhakti Editor appeals to Muruga devotees everywhere, and to all people whose hearts go out to the `little people' all along the conflict and disaster-afflicted East Coast of Sri Lanka in their hour of need. Immediate donations of dry goods and clothing are needed in Colombo, as well as financial donations to help families to get back on their feet.
III. HOW TO CONTRIBUTE TO MURUGAN BHAKTI RELIEF FUND
If you wish to contribute to relief efforts that will go directly to Trincomalee and Batticaloa districts of Sri Lanka, contact the Editor by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone no. +94-11-267-5436 or cellular no. +94776697948.
Relief items (clothing and dry rations, etc.) should be delivered (locally) to:
Kataragama Pilgrims Thondar Sabha
3, Kovil Veethi, Captain's Garden
Colombo-10, Sri Lanka
Tel. no. +94-11-267-5436 or +94-77-669-7948
Financial donations may be sent in either of two ways:
IV. NEW PUBLICATIONS ON MURUGAN BHAKTI SITES
'KATHIRKAMAM' The classic 1947 guide booklet Murugan Bhakti Publications also republishes popular out of print publications, starting with the classic 1947 Tamil guide and song booklet 'KATHIRKAMAM' by Kula. Sabhapati. This booklet of 110 pages, for many years the standard guide booklet to Kathirkamam, gives an early 20th Century devotee's eye view of the powerful shrine's history, traditions and practices, together with 40 pages of Tamil stotras or songs in praise of Kataragama Skanda. NSK Print House in Chennai is printing 2,000 copies for release in January. For details contact: email@example.com.
To read past issues, go to the Murugan Bhakti online archives.