The Kataharagama festival, As a result of being an island, Sri Lanka was subjected to the invasions of various nations that belonged to different religions.
The Katharagama Sacred City
Because of these invasions, this island nation blended with different cultures of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity. Kataragama is an example of a place where all nations together for sacredness, then nothing to think about the annual festival it’s a live vivid example of an occasion full of many colors of every religion and culture.
Kataragama is the land of God Skanda also people known as the god Katharagama. There’s a nice folk story behind the God Kataragama and the dewalaya in the 2nd century BC, A beautiful veddha Called “Walli” (veddhas means the tribe people who live in Srilanka had a crush on the god Katharagama, she just imagined and devoted him, Skanda heard this news and came to old Srilanka to watch it’s reality, God surprised! This lady had ground a statue as a god alive from that day Skanda started to love Walli and they got married, in that period Kind Dutugemunu ruled Srilanka He had a big war with an aggressor called “Elara” before he fought got the blessing from God Skanda, King built the temples and sacrificed to god as a gift from that period to present kataharagama festival occur annually according to the king’s order to celebrate the marriage of the god Skanda and the Walli.
The Katharagama festival
In festival season all the devotees locally and foreign drawn to Kataragama sacred city Tamil people from the north of the country come on foot passing many miles through the Yala National Park dedicating their time, leisure even food because of respect to the god
The festival is held on Esala poya ( Full moon )usually in late July or early August that period is the feverish time not only in Katharagama but also down south.
There is a sub-event in the festival called ( Fire Stepping Mangalya) where devotees step on flaming sparks from there barefoot and the believe God also participates secretly in this event.
The procession is the main event of the festival, that procession is a long parade full of flags especially more than hundreds of elephants most of them are tuskers, all the participants line up to orders and walk around the sacred city to perform their best to show their respect to Skanda and walli. The main sacred thing in the procession is god’s costumes which are specially on the main tusker’s back. the main theme of the procession is the rain with thundering and lightning.
The costumes are very colorful and many of them have been designed to the theme of peacock reason for that is peacock is the vehicle of god and a common animal in the area.
God’s wife “Walli” is a veddha girl ( veddha means ancient tribe people in srilanka ) because of that veddha people also participate in the procession representing the kinship of god’s wife specialty is they walk backward throughout the whole parade with their traditional weapons as symbol of security guard to the god. Every morning when a procession occurs veddha people survey honey that they pick from the forest to the god as a traditional custom.
The festival runs through nearly half of the month, its final step is also a traditional event called ‘ Divya kapeeme mangalya ‘ in that occasion, the main priest goes to a special place called ‘jeewamalee bunt’ at river manik (manik means gems ) and cuts the water using an award occasionally to visualize the ancient incident happen among the god and the king dutugemunu.
Also, refer to the Unawatuna-a-hidden-gem-in-Sri-Lanka
The surroundings of the Katharagama procession
All the streets undergo a transformation every tree street is decorated using colorful bulbs and triangular flags. The government supplies all the facilities to the devotees by laying canopies, drinking water, and special security Arrangements For pilgrims with the help of security forces. Loudspeakers Play devotional music and broadcast announcements. The festival helps many villagers earn extra money from selling goods to pilgrims such as snacks, fruits, incense sticks, and many more.
Behind the Celebrations
Kataragama is not only a temple but also a best example of religious harmony a place where all the religious people get together and worship behind every event and represents people’s unity beliefs and the great Sri Lankan heritage.
“Not even Kataragama every place where people gather unity and celebrate is a festival”