Interweaving history and culture, Kataragama in Sri Lanka is considered to be a sacred site for both Hindus and Buddhists. Attracting over millions of devoted natives, the Kataragama Devala complex is one of the main features of the region.
According to chronicles, the antiquity of Kataragama dates as far back as the Anuradhapura Kingdom. It was then known as ‘Kacharagama’ or ‘Kajaragama’ and was deeply connected with history of the Southern region.
The Datuwamsa unveils that Lord Buddha on his third voyage to Lanka, graced the region of Kataragama with his presence. However, the Mahavamsa is said to be the first recorded work to mention Kataragama. When the Bikkhuni Sangamiththa theraniya voyaged to Lanka and bequeathed a stem of the sacrosanct Maha Bodhi to King Devanampiyatissa, distinct personalities of Kataragama had attended the pious event of planting the precious root.
It is also believed that, King Dutugemunu one of the greatest Kings of Lanka before marching to war against the usurper yet fair King Elara had prayed to Lord Kataragama. History goes to elaborate further that the growth of Kataragama is parallel with the development of the Southern Region.
Kataragama is a holy city, and is dedicated to God Kataragama, the God of prosperity and good fortune.
Attractions in Kataragama
Enhancing its innate mystical charm, the primary attractions in Kataragama are religious.
Dedicated to God Kataragama, the origins of the temple is detected have been built between the 10th and the 15th century. It is believed that God Kataragama is a powerful guardian deity of Buddhism. Despite its Hindu heritage, the Kataragama Devalaya is a venerated by Muslims and Buddhists as well.
An important site for devotees, the Menik River is adjacent to the compound of the Kataragama Devala. Deriving from the Sinhala word for Gems, this river is believed to have had precious stones in ancient times. For pilgrims, however it is a blessing to purify themselves in the waters of the Menik River before entering the consecrated ground of the God Kataragama.
Built during by King Mahasena, Kiri Vehera is a significant temple for pilgrims. The ground that the temple was consecrated is said to be where Lord Buddha had meditated, when he made his third sacred voyage to Lanka.
Ul – Khizr Mosque
An important mosque in the south, the Ul Khizr Mosque is situated close to the Kataragama Devala. It is also one of the few mosques in Sri Lanka that permits the entry of female devotees.
The Kataragama Festival
During July and August, the Kataragama Festival is a visual spectacle. Its religious bearing attracts thousands of devout Hindus to make the two-week long pilgrimage.