Real Traveler Experiences

Kataragama | one god, many legends

Sri Lanka and its gods are nothing to be surpised about. Being a country with a high religious diversity, Sri Lanka has it’s own centuries old traditions, legends and beliefs as well. Kataragama is one hub where many religions consider this place to be holy, worshipers consider their belief is right for each religion too.

Situated in the Uva province, the Monaragala district, Kataragama is 278 km’s from Colombo and a drive of around 6 1/2 hours. Today, many visiting Kataragama also plans for other visits such as visits to Yala National Park, Ridiyagama Safari Park etc.

Religions for Kataragama

Being a multi-religious country, Sri Lanka is the home for Buddhists, Hindus, Catholics and Muslims along with a few other religions practised. As for Kataragama, 03 main religions consider Kataragama a sacred place and also the indigenous Vedda community as well.

reference to buddhism

During one of Lord Buddha’s visits to Sri Lanka, Buddha has visited the Kataragama area. During that time, the ruler was Mahasena – a local Townhead. He welcomed Lord Buddha and also promised that he would protect his village and its people. Because of his good practices, the villagers started to believe in him and then considered him to be a god looking after them even after his death. This chief Mahasena is also called Lord Kataragama and almost all Buddhists worship him and ask for his protection, blessings for their lives and especially businesses. It has become very common for many Buddhists to go to Kataragama as the maiden drive when they purchase a new vehicle.

reference to HINDUISM

Skanda, Murukan or Kanthan Kumara – all these names refer to the same Kataragama god. The legend has it that Skanda lived in the Mount Kailash in Tibet with his wife Thevani-amma. During one of the explorations of Skanda, he comes across this girl in Kataragama area named Valli. He falls in love with her and marries this Valli-amma. Later, Thevani-amma comes in search of her husband and sees him with Valli-amma. Failing to take him back to Mount Kailash, Thevani-amma also decides to stay with Skanda and Valli-amma in the same Kataragama region. This is why god Kataragama has two brides on his side – Thevani Amma and Valli Amma.

Skanda with the two wives on his side – Wikipedia

reference to islam

A different story comes with Islam’s take on Kataragama. They believe that Kataragama is the location for a stream that provides Immortality. Unfortunately, there is no such stream found in the area (could be legend or could be lost in time). The Al-Khidr mosque found within close proximity to the Kovil complex is proof that the Muslims believe on the same holy-angle for Kataragama.

reference to veddas

The legend has it that Skanda who fell in love with Valli-amma, the young girl in Kataragama later came to know that Valli-amma was the daughter of the local Vedda chief. Skanda who married Valli-amma was thereafter a protector for the Vedda community, looked them after well and now Skanda is considered to be a god who takes care of the Vedda community and the area.

kiri vehera

Songs are written about the Kiri Vehera – both romantic and religious. But why? Buddhists believe that the Kiri Vehera premises – which is already within the Kataragama temple complex is the place where Lord Buddha met with Mahasena – the local Townhead.

offerings to god kataragama

Just as you enter the Kataragama Temple complex, you get to see many shops selling the fruits (for Pooja) and other offertory platters.

The Kawadi Dance as an offering to please the god Kataragama

kataragama pooja times

For the many who wish to partcipate in the Pooja (prayer service) at the Kataragama Temple, refer the below timings.

Note: The queue is at least 200 people long because the devotees wait in line trying to offer their goods and offerings to the temple/devala counters.

Morning 04.30 AM
Noon 10.30 AM
Evening 06.30 PM
No Morning Worship on Saturday

(Devalaya Opening @ 09.00 AM)

Kataragama temple management

the kataragama perahara

The Kandy Esala Maha Perahara is the famous one, right? But, just like the one in Kandy, the Kataragama Temple also hosts its own Perahara which is preserving a centuries-old tradition. The elephants, the dancers, the devotees, and the temple monks and Kapuwas – the ritual officiants.

Thousands flock to celebrate this majestic Perahara and there are many traditions and practices associated with this as well. Especially, the Padha Yathra, a walk through the thick jungles to get to the Kataragama Temple complex is still being carried out today as well.

The Kataragama Perahara is also related to the Kandy Esala Maha Perahara too. The dates are fixed with the agenda on the same calendar and during the Kandy Esala Perahara, a special part is carried out by the Kataragama Temple team as well.

should i visit kataragama?

As a Sri Lankan, totally! If not, still, Totally!

Where else would you find the same land – interpreted by many religions and legends on to something that is very powerful? The environment, the many superstitious practices carried out are fascinating and come to think of it, relates to religions in many ways too.

Despite the fact that you are a believer in the god Kataragama or not, after visiting Kataragama, that’s one thing scratched off your list of Important places to visit in Sri Lanka..

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1 Comment

  1. Mark De Silva March 10, 2019

    Very Educational one!

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