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Kataragama

Believed to be the main domain of Lord Murugan (sometimes called God Skanda and considered to be the god of war in Hinduism and Buddhism) and his wives, the rural city of Kataragama, located approximately 5 hours away from Colombo, may be small, but what lacks in size shows up for an interesting history that is deeply embedded in the cultural core of the country. It has become a pilgrimage city for good reason, since it is closely associated with the many major religious denominations, thus making it a multi religious city. The rural jungle village town of Kataragama is just one of the many melting pots in Sri Lanka that allows you witness the rich diversity of the country.

Top Reason to Visit

It is without a doubt the main reason to visit the ‘city of gods’, as it is sometimes called, due to its cultural significance with many places of worship associated to the main faiths of the country dating back to the 6th century BC, further taking the spot of being ‘a must visit cultural travel destination’.

While You're There

Major religious significance and culture cart:

According to Buddhist and Hindu religious scripture, Lord Murugan travelled to Kataragama from India in search of a beautiful girl named ‘Valli’. This prompted his wife, ‘Thevani - Amma’, to travel to Sri Lanka, in order to persuade the deity to come back, however, the deity refused. Thevani - Amma then made the audacious compromise to the deity with Valli and Lord Murugan for the rest of her days. The Kataragama Devalaya located in the city centre is believed to embody the deity and his wives. The Kiri Vehera, a short distance from the devalaya, adds to the religious significance, as it dates back to the 6th century BC and is believed to be hallowed ground that the Buddha visited.

The Muslims too have an interesting belief and it is well narrated at the nearby Al-Khidr Mosque. It is believed that two saints settled in the jungle village where one of them found a little river that flowed close to the ‘Menik Ganga’ claiming to give immortality. However, it is now believed to have dried up long ago.

Understand its significance:

It may be hard to grasp the differing stories of the city at first, but visiting the museum makes it all the more easier to understand the cultural and religious significance of the ancient city.

Festivals to behold:

The months of July - August elevates the city into a festive mood as the town prepares for the Esala Perahera (procession) that has gained critical acclaim for its colourful displays and unique pageantry featuring traditional dancers, kawadi dancers, drummers, fire walkers, elephants and many other religious rituals, making it one of the most elegant historical cultural pageants in Sri Lanka.

Rustic getaway:

The ancient town also serves as a rustic getaway due to its undisturbed surrounding jungles that make it the secluded hideaway you always wanted away from the hustle and bustle of urban life. All you would want to do, apart from visiting the religious places and the museum, is just kick back and relax.

Insider Advice

Travel: Getting about in the ancient city is very simple as the main attractions are in close proximity to each other and can be visited all on foot with ease.

Money: Due to the town’s rural nature, almost all places do not accept credit or debit cards making it imperative to carry cash with small notes like LKR 20s, 50s and 100s.

Clothing: It is important to note that conservative clothing should be worn at all times when exploring the town and places of worship. Bring along a sarong or scarf if you dislike wearing long clothing in hot weather to make things much easier.

Safety: The town is very safe and has a friendly society, however, you can never be too careful of your belongings.

Customs: The city’s deep integration to the main religions of the country makes the society very conservative and its customs should be respected at all times.

In conclusion, Kataragama is one little town packed with interesting stories and monuments to show for it, making it the ideal location to gain a deep understanding of Sri Lanka’s rich and diverse culture and history.

Title image by: KNOWSL
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