Saturday Jun 15, 2024

Kataragama Temple, Srilanka


Kataragama Temple, Srilanka

Ruhunu Maha Kataragama Dewalaya,

Kataragama 91400,

Sri Lanka


 Kathirkaman (Lord Murugan)


The Kataragama temple is one of the ancient sites which are revered by Hindus, Buddhists as well as the Veddas. The temple also attracts many people from South India. The temple complex is a shrine to the Buddhist guardian deity Kataragama ‘deviyo’ and War God Murugan. The complex contains the Buddhist temples which are managed by Buddhists, the temples and shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva the Hindu maintain and a mosque which the Muslims govern. This unique feature of Kataragama temples makes the complex, one of the most secular sites in Sri Lanka. Kataragama was initially a small town which was a small village nestled between the jungle in the ancient and the medieval period.

Puranic Significance 

           The first form of evidence of the temple traces back to the 15th Century, where the devotional poems of Arunagirinathar mention it. The verse reveals that the deity- Kataragama ‘deviyo’ in the form Khattugama, resided on the top of the mountain as a guardian deity of Sri Lankan and Buddhist deities.

The main temple shrine is dedicated to Kartikeya who is also known as Murugan as the chief warrior of the celestial Gods. The mention of Lord Murugan is in Sangam literature. The deity was known to be the protector or the guardian deity of Sri Lanka.

One of the legends speaks about the saint Skanda-Kumara who moved to Sri Lanka to ask for refuge from the Tamils. However, they declined him this help, which resulted in punishment. The deity forced the Tamils into penance, which involved body piercing and fire walking on the annual festival.

Special Features

The complex consists of shrines in stone which are built in the ancient site without much decoration and ornamentation to them since the people want to preserve the original state without much tampering. The most important part of the complex is the shrine of Maha Devale or Maha Kovil. The temple has a deity of Skanda-Murugan known amongst the Sinhalese as Kataragama ‘deviyo’. The memorial does not consist of a deity but a Yantra which is a religious drawing of the pure deity’s power. In the other shrine, you will find the statue of Lord Shiva accompanied by the statue of Lord Ganesha. There is also a figure of Lord Vishnu and Gautama Buddha near it. Behind the Buddha image is the Bodhi tree which has sprung from the Bo Sapling. Going outside the temple yard is the consort of Murugan and a Kedamba tree which is sacred to the deity.


       The annual festival at the Kataragama temple takes place from July to August to celebrate the glory of God as well as the marriage of the Vedda princess. This festival is known as Eshele Perehera in Sinhalese. About 45 days before the festival commences the priests head out to the jungle from where they search for two forked branches of the sacred tree. These branches are later immersed into the river and dedicated to the deity.

During the main festival the devotees take the deity and parade through the streets and return back with the deity to the temple after a duration of two hours. The priests conduct the rituals of the temple in a calm manner covering their mouth with a white cloth. Hundreds of devotees participate in fire walking, body piercing and ecstatic dance forms called Kavadi.


15th Century

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