The original temple is claimed by some to have been the greatest building of its age, for both its architecture and its ornamentation. It combined key features to form a typically southern Indian plan, such as a thousand-pillared hall (similar to the famous “Aayiram Kaal Mandapam” in Madurai, India) and raised platform (or “jagati”) configuration, features that had been destroyed. It said that its gopuram (gateway tower) was visible to sailors approaching Sri Lanka from the sea.
The evidence for this magnificence comes from unearthing the very remnants that were buried, as well as the discovery of key pieces at the bottom of the bay. They were founded by photographer Mike Wilson and science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke. In 1956, Wilson and Clarke uncovered masonry, idol images, carved columns with flower insignias, and elephant head carvings while scuba-diving. More importantly, they also retrieved the legendary Swayambhu lingam; a large stone phallus / obelisk said to originate from a Tibetan mountain top. Upon reinstalling the lingam to the temple, Wilson was so overwhelmed by the experience that he renounced his career and family to become a Hindu swami.
As well as the recovered underwater pieces, there are also some original drawings done by Constantino de Sá de Noronha, the Portuguese governor responsible for the destruction.
Restoration work was completed in 1963 with the old pieces reinstalled. Today the site is reborn, and there is some quite modern construction as well. And while the current site does not match up to the pre-1624 temple, it is still an awe-inspiring place to visit, for Hindus and non-Hindus alike.