The much venerated Kataragama Temple is an interesting attraction in Sri Lanka which has great religious and cultural significance. Located in the town of the same name the temple is dedicated to the deity Skanda-Murukan, also identified as God Kataragama. The shrine attracts devotees of the Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and indigenous Veddah communities alike making it a major pilgrimage destination in the country.
The revered compound is in fact a number of shrines of unimpressive appearance, with the shrine devoted to Skanda-Murukan taking pride of place. Today the vast majority of the shrines are managed and administered by Buddhists excluding the temples honouring Shiva and Tevayani as well as the Muslim mosque located here.
In times past most of the devotees visiting the site were of the Tamil Hindu community of Sri Lanka as well as southern India. However in more recent times most of the pilgrims have belonged to the Sinhala Buddhist community. Many interesting legends are recounted regarding the resident deity of the locality; the different communities express varying explanations regarding the veneration of the site.
The temples at Kataragama themselves are almost without exception unassuming and modest, without any figures of deities or mythical individuals featured in their exterior. This makes the complex unique and distinct from any other Hindu shrine in India or Sri Lanka. All the shrine buildings are composed of stone with the exception of the temple honouring Valli, which is made of timber.
However the focus of attention at the complex is the main temple honouring Skanda-Murukan which does not, however feature a statue of the deity; instead you will see a Yantra which is believed to emanate the power of the god. This is the largest temple and the first shrine where devotees pay their respects. Other shrines at the site are dedicated to other deities like Shiva, Ganesha, Vishnu, Kali, Pattini and Valli.
The temple complex is particularly animated during festival times, when devotees throng the venue and many fascinating rituals and observances may be witnessed.
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Uditha Dharmawardhane is a travel writer who writes under the pen name Roland Lefevre. He specializes in creating features on leisure as well as business travel destinations across the globe. Google+