Kataragama a popular pilgrimage destination frequented by adherents of all religions in Sri Lanka.
The main shrine devoted to Skanda popularly described in eulogies as God having six faces and twelve arms whose assistance is sought for worldly gain. The history of the shrine dates back to 2 century BC. The annual procession held in July or August is the main event of the shrine with fire walkers and Kawadi dancers. Offering to the got are made at 4.30am 10.30am and 6.30pm daily.
Kataragama has a network of hotels, guest houses as well as free pilgrim rests.
19km inland from Tissamaharama lies the small & remote town of Kataragama. Kataragama is one of most popular & most sacred pilgrimages sites of Sri Lanka. Like Adam’s Peak, it attracts Sinhalese Buddhists as well as Hindu Tamils. The adored site is visited by Muslims & Christians too.
Kataragama is a small town with clean, tree lined roads with rows of stalls selling garlands & platters of fruit-coconut, mango watermelon.
Located 5km from Kataragama is the small town of Sella Kataragama. The tree lined, well sheltered road make the drive pleasant. Sella Kataragama is the place where god Kataragama first met his first consort Valli Amma.
Kiriwehera Temple Kataragama
Beyond the Maha Devale is a meeting hall on the north side of the square. From the east gate, a Tulip tree avenue leads 500m past further lines of stalls selling lotus flowers to the Kiri Vehera dating from 1 BC.It is a milk white large stupa with a well maintained peaceful courtyard. The temple elephant is often seen shackled to the trees here, being fed a copious diet of palm leaves. Its only unusual feature being the two sets of square walls which enclose it. A modern statue of King Dutugamunu stands behind the dagoba.
Kataragama Maha Devale
Inside are three main shrines. Directly opposite the entrance gate is the principal shrine, that of God Kataragama, a simple quadrangular white building with carved wooden doors & walls decorated with pink lotuses, green Bo leaves & Elephants. The shrine is believed to contain the spear of the multi-visaged, 12-armed warrior deity.
The other two shrines are dedicated to God Vishnu, one of the supreme Hindu deities, & the elephant-headed God Ganesha, the god of prosperity & wisdom. To the side of three shrines stand two fine Bo trees, the larger surrounded by golden rails & an elephant wall.
This archaeological museum inside the complex has a collection of Hindu and Buddhist religious items, as well as huge fibreglass replicas of statues from around Sri Lanka. However, you’ll need a guide to provide context as the labelling is woeful.