Kataragama Devalaya

The fabled Kataragama Devalaya is shrouded in mysterious legends about the Kataragama god or ‘God Skanda’ (the god of war, love and beauty in Hinduism) and is illustrated in different ways by the various religious groups of the country that dates back to the ancient times. The close association of the ‘devalaya’ or temple to the many religious groups in the country is a shining example of Sri Lanka’s diverse, but united society.

Best Known For

Culture and Heritage:

  • It is considered by many to be the one of the main sanctums of the god of war, love and beauty, often called ‘Kataragama Deviyo’ or ‘God Skanda’.
  • The Katargama Devalaya has become one of the main cultural sites to visit, as the devalaya is held closely by the main religions of the country of which many take the long and arduous ‘padayatra’ or foot pilgrimage to worship God Skanda.
  • The devalaya is also responsible for the Kataragama festival that lasts for 15 days and happens in the month of July, where a special ‘perahera’ or procession is held in honour of the deity. The resulting ‘perahera’ is a spectacle combined with religious rituals and colourful displays, along the streets of Kataragama town, which has garnered worldwide attention for being a place that showcases unique culture.

Interesting Facts

  • According to the more popular Hindu scriptures, the devalaya is believed to be the home of the deity after he left India in search of a girl named ‘Valli’.
  • However, God Skanda was already married to ‘Thevani - Amma’, which prompted her to leave to Sri Lanka in search of her missing husband.
  • Once Thevani - Amma found the deity in Kataragama she convinced him to come back to India, however, it was to no avail as god Skanda refused.
  • It was after the deity’s refusal that Thevani - Amma made the tenacious compromise of settling with the deity alongside his second wife.
  • The shrines that flank the Kataragama Devalaya are in fact the physical representations of the two wives that settled with him in the little village and has also become one of the sacred sites to visit when worshipping the deity.
  • The story rings true to many of the religious groups in the country, including the indigenous ‘Vedda’ tribes with the exception of the Islamic version.
  • The Muslims believe that Kataragama is home to a saint that resembles the depiction of god Skanda.

Times, Seasons and Tips

  • Late July is considered the best time to visit the place as the devalaya hosts the Kataragama Esala festival filled with unique displays of culture.
  • The devalaya is opened every day and the best experience can be obtained when taking part in one of the poojas (religious rituals and offerings) that take place three times a day; 4.30am, 10.30am and 6.30pm.
  • It is important to note, however, that the devalaya opens at 9.00am on Saturdays on which no morning pooja is conducted.
  • Clothing to enter the devalaya is very strict, with both, males and females requested to dress conservatively.

The Kataragama Devalaya is a unique temple that is shrouded in legends and is considered a holy place by many due to its close association to many faiths. It is just one of the many sacred sites that display the unique culture the country.

Title image by: KNOWSL The information displayed is provided by Kataragama Devalaya

Location info





Culture and Heritage

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