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Kataragama
Kataragama
(Sinhalese: කතරගම, translit.  Kataragama
Kataragama
, Tamil: கதிர்காமம், translit. Katirkāmam) is a pilgrimage town sacred to Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim
Muslim
and indigenous Vedda people
Vedda people
of Sri Lanka. People from South India
South India
also go there to worship. The town has the Kataragama
Kataragama
temple, a shrine dedicated to Skanda Kumara
Skanda Kumara
also known as Kataragama
Kataragama
deviyo. Kataragama
Kataragama
is located in the Monaragala District
Monaragala District
of Uva province, Sri Lanka. It is 228 km ESE of Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. Although Kataragama
Kataragama
was a small village in medieval times, today it is a fast-developing township surrounded by jungle in the southeastern region of Sri Lanka. The ancient Kiri Vehera
Kiri Vehera
Buddhist
Buddhist
stupa, which is believed to be built by the regional king Mahasena in the 6th century BC is also a major attraction in Kataragama
Kataragama
area.[1] The town has a venerable history dating back to the last centuries BCE. It was the seat of government of many Sinhalese kings during the days of Rohana kingdom.[2] Since the 1950s the city has undergone many improvements with successive governments investing in public transportation, medical facilities, and business development and hotel services. It adjoins the popular Yala National Park.

Contents

1 Etymology 2 History

2.1 Early history 2.2 Historic period

3 Kataragama
Kataragama
temple

3.1 Temple of Syncretism 3.2 Hindu
Hindu
Katirkamam 3.3 Buddhist
Buddhist
Kataragama 3.4 Pre- Hindu
Hindu
and Buddhist
Buddhist
origins

4 Education 5 Population 6 Transport 7 See also 8 References 9 External links

Etymology[edit] The first reference to this village by this name is in the 6th century AD Pali
Pali
chroncile Mahavamsa, referring to the place as Kājaragāma.[3] It is mentioned in Mahavamsa
Mahavamsa
that the nobles of Kajaragama were among those took part in the festival of the Bodhi Tree when it was brought over by Sangamitta
Sangamitta
Theri.[2] Some scholars derive Kataragama
Kataragama
from Karthikeya Grama, literally meaning Village of Kartikeya, which was shortened in Pali
Pali
as Kājaragāma and later evolved to Kataragama.[4][5] However according to some scholars, the derivation of Kataragama
Kataragama
from Karthikeya Grama shows neither phonetic similarity nor linguistic authority.[6] The literal Sinhalese meaning of Kataragama
Kataragama
is the "village in the desert", due to its location in a dry area, stemmed from the words Katara meaning Desert and gama meaning village.[7][8][9] According to a folk etymology, the Tamil name Kathirkāmam is said to be evolved from the combination of two words Kathir (meaning glory of light) and kāmam (Love), which according to the legend is "where the light of Murugan
Murugan
mingled with the love of Valli". [10] The aboriginal Vedda
Vedda
community used to refer to this deity as O' Vedda or Oya Vedda, meaning "river hunter".[11] The Sri Lankan Moors visiting this place pay homage to a Muslim
Muslim
saint known as al-Khidir, who according to them gave his name to the Islamic
Islamic
shrine at this place, and therefore attributing to the place etymology.[12] History[edit] Early history[edit] The general vicinity of Kataragama
Kataragama
has yielded evidence of human habitation at least 125,000 years ago. It has also yielded evidence of Mesolithic and Neolithic habitations.[13] Historic period[edit] During the historic period, the general area was characterized by small reservoirs for water conservation and associated paddy cultivation. Kataragama
Kataragama
village is first mentioned in the historical annals known as Mahavamsa
Mahavamsa
written in the 5th century CE. It mentions a town named Kajjaragama from which important dignitaries came to receive the sacred Bo sapling sent from Ashoka’s Mauryan Empire in 288 BCE. It functioned as the capital of number of kings of the Ruhuna
Ruhuna
kingdom. It provided refuge to many kings from the north when the north was invaded by South Indian kingdoms. It is believed that the area was abandoned around the 13th century.[13] Based on archeological evidence found, it is believed that the Kiri Vehera was either renovated to build during the first century BCE. There are number of others inscriptions and ruins. By the 16th century the Kataragamadevio shrine at Kataragama
Kataragama
had become synonymous with Skanda-Kumara who was a guardian deity of Sinhala Buddhism.[14] The town was popular as a place of pilgrimage for Hindus
Hindus
from India and Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
by the 15th century. The popularity of the deity at the Kataragama temple
Kataragama temple
was recorded by the Pali
Pali
chronicles of Thailand such as Jinkalmali in the 16th century. There are Buddhist
Buddhist
and Hindu legends that attribute supernatural events to the locality.[14] Scholars such as Paul Younger and Heinz Bechert speculate that rituals practiced by the native priests of Kataragama temple
Kataragama temple
betray Vedda ideals of propitiation. Hence they believe the area was of Vedda veneration that was taken over by the Buddhist
Buddhist
and Hindus
Hindus
in the medieval period.[15] Kataragama
Kataragama
temple[edit] Main article: Kataragama
Kataragama
temple Temple of Syncretism[edit] Kataragama
Kataragama
is a multi-religious sacred town as it contains an Islamic Mosque
Mosque
within its temple complex as well. In spite of the differences of caste and creed, many Sri Lankans show great reverence to God Kataragama. They honor him as a very powerful deity and beg divine help to overcome their personal problems or for success in business enterprises, etc., with the fervent hope that their requests will be granted. They believe that God Kataragama exists and is vested with extraordinary power to assist those who appeal to him with faith and devotion in times of distress or calamity. Hindu
Hindu
Katirkamam[edit]

Interior of the Maha Devale, the Yantra is kept behind a curtain that figures Murukan with his two wives

Tamil Hindus
Hindus
of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
and South India
South India
refer to the place as Katirkamam. Lord Katirkaman is associated with Skanda-Murukan. Saivite Hindus
Hindus
of South India
South India
call him Subrahmanya as well. He is known as Kandasamy, Katiradeva, Katiravel, Kartikeya, and Tarakajith. Some of these names are derived from the root katir from Katirkamam. "Katir" means formless light. The Deity
Deity
is depicted with six faces and twelve hands or one face and four hands. Out of love for Lord Murugan
Murugan
and to mitigate bad karma, bhaktars pierce their cheeks and tongues with vels, pull large chariots carrying murthi of Murugan
Murugan
with large hooks pierced through the skin of their backs. This practice is known as kavadi. Murugan's vahana or vehicle is Mayil, the peacock. There is a related shrine called Sella Katirkamam dedicated to the beloved elephant-faced God Ganesha
Ganesha
nearby, who is known as Lord Murugan's elder brother. The local Manik Ganga or Manika Gangai (River of Gems) is a place of ablution where a sacred bath is taken to purify oneself. Local residents declare that one can be healed of ailments by bathing in it from its high gem content and the medicinal properties of the roots of trees that line the river through the jungle. Buddhist
Buddhist
Kataragama[edit] Many Sinhala Buddhists of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
believe that Kataragama deviyo
Kataragama deviyo
is a guardian deity of Buddhism and he is the presiding deity of Kataragama
Kataragama
temple. Kataragama
Kataragama
is one of the 16 principal places of Buddhist
Buddhist
pilgrimage to be visited in Sri Lanka. According to the chronicle of Sri Lankan history, the Mahawamsa, when the Bo sapling of Bodhi Tree, under which Gotama Buddha attained enlightenment in North India was brought to the city of Anuradhapura
Anuradhapura
2,300 years ago, the warriors or Kshatriyas from Kataragama
Kataragama
were present on the occasion to pay homage and respect.

Kiri Vehera
Kiri Vehera
Dagoba at Night

The Bo tree
Bo tree
behind the Kataragama temple
Kataragama temple
is one of the eight saplings (Ashta Phala Ruhu Bodhi) of Sri Maha Bodhiya
Sri Maha Bodhiya
in Anuradapura, Sri Lanka. This tree was planted in the 3rd century BC.[16] The Buddhist
Buddhist
Kiri Vehera
Kiri Vehera
Dagoba which stands in close to the Kataragama devalaya
Kataragama devalaya
was built by the King Mahasena. According to the legend, Lord Buddha, on his third and the last visit to Sri Lanka, was believed to have met King Mahasena, who ruled over the Kataragama
Kataragama
area in 580 BC. It is said that King Mahasena met Lord Buddha and listened to his discourse. As a token of gratitude, the Dagoba was built on that exact spot where it now stands. Thus the local Sinhalese Buddhists believe that Kataragama
Kataragama
was sanctified by Lord Buddha. Pre- Hindu
Hindu
and Buddhist
Buddhist
origins[edit] The deity at Kataragama
Kataragama
is indigenous and long-celebrated in Sri Lankan lore and legend, and originally resides on the top of mountain called Wædahiti Kanda (or hill of the indigenous Vedda
Vedda
people) just outside the Kataragama
Kataragama
town. Since ancient times an inseparable connection between the Kataragama
Kataragama
God and his domain has existed. At one time the local deity was identified with God Saman, a guardian deity of Buddhism and Sri Lanka. As was the Sinhalese tradition, local ancestors, rulers and kings, who did a great service to the country or community were ordained as deities. According to the legendary hisrtory, God Saman was an ancient ruler of the Deva people in the Sabaragamuwa
Sabaragamuwa
area of Sri Lanka. Therefore, some believe that King Mahasena, who built Kiri Vehera
Kiri Vehera
in Kataragama
Kataragama
later came to be worshiped as God Kataragama. Till today the indigenous Vedda people
Vedda people
come to venerate at the temple complex from their forest abodes. As a link to the Vedda
Vedda
past, the temple holds its annual festival that celebrates the God's courtship and marriage to a Vedda
Vedda
princess in July to August. Education[edit] There are local government schools that provide education to primary, secondary and higher secondary students in the Sinhala medium. Population[edit] Since its abandonment, during the 1800s the population of the village did not exceed over a few dozen. Since the 1950s the town has experienced and increase in population. Most of the residents are Sinhalese apart from residents of nearby Tanjanagaram who are Sri Lankan Tamils. During July and August the population swells to a few hundred thousand due to the annual festival held in the honor of the deity. Kataragama
Kataragama
has a total population of over 20,000 (2010).[17]

Ethnicity Population % Of Total

Sinhalese 19,812 94.64

Sri Lankan Tamils 921 4.40

Indian Tamils 56 0.27

Sri Lankan Moors 108 0.51

Others (including Burgher, Malay) 38 0.18

Total 20,935 100

Source: Statistical Information of Kataragama
Kataragama
Divisional Secretariat Transport[edit]

Colombo- Kataragama
Kataragama
Main Road

Most of the many thousands who visit Kataragama
Kataragama
travel by vehicles. Even today, despite the lure of modern transport, hundreds of dedicated pilgrims stick to the ancient practice of journeying to Kataragama
Kataragama
on foot.[18] In 1992, it was proposed to extend the railway from Matara to Kataragama
Kataragama
and beyond. The Kataragama
Kataragama
railway extension is being constructed under a three-phase accelerated development program. The first phase has begun and will consist of the 27 km stretch from Matara to Beliatta costing 60 million rupees; construction has already commenced on the bridge over the Nilwala River by the State Engineering Corporation. The entire project is expected to take six years to complete and will cost around 3 billion rupees. The project is funded by the Chinese government and it is expected to be completed by 2015.[19] See also[edit]

Hinduism in Sri Lanka Buddhism in Sri Lanka

References[edit]

^ Amarasekara, Janani (13 January 2008). "Blessed Kataragama". Sunday Observer. Retrieved 23 January 2018.  ^ a b "Kacaragama, aka: Kajaragama, Kataragama; 1 Definition(s)". Wisdom Library. Retrieved 2018-01-23.  ^ Gombrich, Richard Francis; Gombrich, Richard; Obeyesekere, Gananath (1988). Buddhism Transformed: Religious Change in Sri Lanka. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. p. 437. ISBN 9788120807020.  ^ Arunachalam, Sir Ponnambalam (1937). Studies and Translations, Philosophical and Religious. Department of Hindu
Hindu
Affairs, Ministry of Regional Development. p. 110.  ^ Wirz, Paul (1966). Kataragama: The Holiest Place in Ceylon. University of California: Lake House Investments. p. 7.  ^ Rasanayagam, Mudaliyar C. (1984). Ancient Jaffna. New Delhi: Asian Educational Services. p. 60. The village, which was below the hill and on the banks of the Menik Ganga, was, in Sinhalese times, called Kataragama, the Pali
Pali
form of which was Kajaragama. Its derivation from Kartigeya grama, as some scholars have attempted to derive it, has neither phonetic similarity nor linguistic authority  ^ Clough, B. (December 1997). Sinhalese English Dictionary. Asian Educational Services. p. 101. ISBN 9788120601055.  ^ Raj, Selva J.; Harman, William P. (February 2012). Dealing with Deities: The Ritual Vow in South Asia. New York: SUNY Press. p. 111. ISBN 9780791482001.  ^ Chandani Kirinde and Ravi Shankar (October 2, 2016). "Thirsty for water and justice". The Sunday Times.  ^ Gombrich, Richard Francis; Gombrich, Richard; Obeyesekere, Gananath (1988). Buddhism Transformed: Religious Change in Sri Lanka. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. p. 307. ISBN 9788120807020.  ^ Ancient Ceylon. Department of Archaeology, Sri Lanka. 1971. p. 158.  ^ Jazeel, Tariq (2013). Sacred
Sacred
Modernity: Nature, Environment and the Postcolonial Geographies of Sri Lankan Nationhood. Oxford University Press. p. 84. ISBN 9781846318863.  ^ a b Jayaratne, D.K. (May 5, 2009). "Rescue Archeology of Ruhuna, Veheralgala project". Peradeniya University. Retrieved 5 October 2010.  ^ a b Pathmanathan, S (September 1999). "The guardian deities of Sri Lanka: Skanda-Murgan and Kataragama". The Journal of the Institute of Asian Studies. Institute of Asian Studies.  ^ Bechert, Heinz (1970). "Skandakumara and Kataragama: An Aspect of the Relation of Hinduism and Buddhism in Sri Lanka". Proceedings of the Third International Tamil Conference Seminar. Paris: International Association of Tamil Research.  ^ "Kataragama". Travel Sri Lanka. Retrieved June 11, 2010.  ^ " Kataragama
Kataragama
Divisional Secretariat". Government of Sri Lanka. Retrieved 6 October 2010.  ^ "On Foot by Faith to Kataragama". The Sunday Leader.  ^ "Chinese company to get 600 mln USD railway project in Sri Lanka". Global Times, China. Retrieved 4 April 2014. 

External links[edit]

katharagama.lk The Official website of Ruhunu Maha Katharagama Devalaya Kataragama.org The Kataragama-Skanda website Kataragama
Kataragama
Devalaya (Temple) website

Coordinates: 06°25′00″N 81°20′00″E / 6.41667°N 81.33333°E / 6.416