The remote town of Kataragama situated in the south east of Sri Lanka adjoining the famous Yala National Sanctuary, is one of the most popular and sacred pilgrim sites of Sri Lanka. It is 283km from Colombo along the coastline. Devotees of all religions be they Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims or Christians frequent this shrine to offer homage and make vows interceding for divine assistance.
Kataragama is believed to be the domain of God Skanda and one finds a Buddhist temple, Hindu shrine and Islamic mosque depicting the multi-religious nature of this hallowed place. Sri Lankans believe that God Skanda also called Kataragama Deviyo is one of the four guardian deities of the country. He is called the Benevolent God, having six faces and twelve arms. The history of the shrine dates back to the 2nd century B.C. the time of the king Dutugemunu. The waters of Menik ganga considered sacred by devotees separate the town from the worshipping area. An annual festival held with a grand procession in July-August draws large crowds from all over the country as well as foreign tourists. Devotees from north and east trek along jungle lands and arid dry zones for two months to participate in this festival which ends with ‘Fire Walking’ (treading on red hot coal beds) and performing various penitential acts for fulfilling vows and demonstrating their faith in God. Sella Kataragama located 5km from Kataragama is also visited by devotees and is the place where God Skanda is supposed to have first met his consort Valli Amma
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