Kataragama is perhaps one of the most fascinating places in Sri Lanka, particularly in terms of its lore, as well as how it holds religious and cultural significance to all Sri Lankan people! Due to this reason, it’s viewed as a ‘pilgrimage town’, with Buddhists, Hindus, Veddas, and Muslims travelling to Kataragama for various religious regions.
Adjoining Yala National Park, Kataragama is about 228 km from Colombo. Back in the day, Kataragama was a small and seemingly inconsequential town, but as its cultural significance grew, so did the town. In recent years, the Government of Sri Lanka has invested considerably in developing the town, given the high traffic of people going in and out of Kataragama on a daily basis. The town of Kataragama is one of the only sites in the country which a cross-section of Sri Lankan religious communities venerate.
The temple is dedicated to the Kataragama Deviyo (Kataragama God), who is a significant component of Sri Lankan culture, but the origin and exact details regarding this deity remain murky and lost in history. The temple’s actual date of establishment hasn’t been defined, though experts speculate it to be sometime between 1100 to the 15th century.
Every year, a massive festival takes place at Kataragama, usually between July and August, where devotees undertake a pilgrimage to Kataragama on foot, making stops at various religious sites prior to concluding their journey at the temple. The pilgrimage takes two weeks to complete, after which everyone celebrates with a lineup of festivities, involving dancing and lights, basically like a ‘perahera’.