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Kataragama Devalaya

One of the most visited Hindu temples in the country, Kataragama Devalaya is located in the province of Uva, in close proximity to the famous ‘Kiri Vehera’ Buddhist temple.  A temple that is exclusively dedicated to the worship of god Kataragama (also known as Skanda), this religious monument holds multi-religious significance to Hindus, Buddhists, Sri Lankan Moors and the indigenous people of the country.

Up until the 1940s, the predominant worshippers at the temple were Sri Lankan and South Indian Hindus, who undertook the strenuous ‘padayatra’ (pilgrimage on foot).  Thereafter, the Temple of Kataragama gained popularity among local Buddhists as well and is now being governed by the latter.

Built by King Dutugamunu, the Kataragama Temple is famous for its customary forms of worship done by the native priests known as ‘Kapuralas’.  The pooja in the evening is the main event of the day as pilgrims enter the temple and make offerings to the gods, whilst the priest chants prayers.

The chief celebration held in association with this temple is the ‘Esela Perehera,’ (procession) that is celebrated during the months of July and August, annually.  During this festivity, the priests conduct their religious rituals with a white cloth covering their mouths.  A significant feature of the procession is the act of ‘fire walking,’ where hundreds of devotees take part in this daring task.  Other participants engage themselves in a unique form of dance known ‘kavadi’ incorporating semicircular wooden frames adorned with peacock feathers in their act.  A large number of worshippers also exhibit signs of being physically possessed by gods during this time.

A visit to this iconic temple filled with colour, vibrancy as well as cultural and religious importance will undoubtedly be a visit to remember.

Title image by: KnowSL

Type

Culture and Heritage

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