Nestled away in the foothills from Tissamaharama is the quaint town of Kataragama – known predominantly as a multi-religious sacred city. A trip to Kataragama unravels the religious extravagance of the island, bringing together Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus alike as a place of pilgrimage.
Prepare yourself for a compelling mix of pomp, procession and piety at the Hindu Kataragama festival. Held in July and August, this festival draws thousands of devotees from around the country, where over a two-week period, devout followers make their pilgrimage. Hear the pujas (offerings or prayers) as you watch over the devotees move lightly up to the temple – barefooted and laden with offerings. Clouds of incense fills up the air as you here the sharp sound of breaking coconuts from inside the temple. It is one of those marvelous events where the most outlandish of legends comes alive as devotees demonstrate their sincerity by performing astonishing acts of penance.
The Kataragama Shrine, the popular pilgrim center is indigenous and long-celebrated in Sri Lankan lore and legend. Dedicated to Lord Katirkaman, there are a number of legends and myths associated with the deity and the location, varying by religion, ethnic affiliation and time. Apart from festival time, the town resonates an air of a tranquility, befitting its holy status.
For those who travel to Kataragama, the Kiri Vehera Dagoba is a must-see. Located in close proximity to the Hindu Temple, this snowy-white dagoba was built by King Mahasena and is believed to be sanctified by the Lord Buddha. Beyond the town’s confines lies the Manik Ganga (River of Gems), a place of absolution. Residents believe that a bath taken from this river purifies the individual – healing all ailments due to the medicinal properties of the various trees that line the river through the jungle.
Closest Domestic Airport – Weerawila Domestic Airport.