ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Holy City of Kataragama, Sri Lanka

Updated on June 20, 2012
Entrance to the shrine of God Kataragama.
Entrance to the shrine of God Kataragama.
Pigeons around Kataragama Devale.
Pigeons around Kataragama Devale.

Historical Significance of Kataragama

Kataragama is the only place in the world where people of all religions and all races come to venerate one god. This god is called God Kataragama, or Skanda. Buddhists of Sri Lanka believe that a provincial king named 'Mahasena' happened to meet Lord Buddha at this place.

Lord Buddha visited Sri Lanka thrice, and in his third and final visit occured in 580 BC he met King Mahasena at Kataragama, in the royal garden of the king and preached him Dhamma, afterwards which the king attained a higher faculty of mind called 'Sövan'. To commemorate this incident King Mahasena built a stupa at the very spot where he listened to Dhamma from Lord Buddha. This huge stupa is called 'Kiri Vehera' today. After the death of King Mahasena, it is believed that he has reincarnated as God Kataragama and staying as the guardian deity of this holy city.

Reaching Kataragama

If you travel from Colombo by bus, you can take a direct bus to Kataragama. If you travel by train, you have to get down at Matara Railway Station (for that is the last stop along the southern railway line), and get a bus to Kataragama from Matara Bus Stand.

Menik Ganga (River of Gems) flowing through the tranquility of Kataragama holy site.
Menik Ganga (River of Gems) flowing through the tranquility of Kataragama holy site.

In 161 BC, King Duttagamani Abhaya waged a massive war against King Elara who came from India, invaded and ruled a part of Sri Lanka for about 40 years. Before setting off for war, King Duttagamani wowed that if he could win he would build a Devale (abode) for God Kataragama. After winning the war and ascending to the throne, King Duttagamani Abhaya built this shrine and dedicated it for God Kataragama.

The Shrine in the Forest

River Menik (Menik Ganga).
River Menik (Menik Ganga).

In the early 19th century Kataragama holy city was hidden in the jungle. Even then, people from all corners of Sri Lanka and from South of India came to venerate and receive the blessings of God Kataragama or God Skanda as the Hindus believe, facing greatest difficulties. River Menik flows by the side of the Great Devale (abode of God Kataragama). The banks of the river is shaded by huge trees even today. Elephants bathing in the river are a common scene around here.

In front of Maha Devale (the place where coconuts are smashed in respect of God Kataragama).
In front of Maha Devale (the place where coconuts are smashed in respect of God Kataragama).

People bring offertories to God Kataragama. They are nicely arranged trays of fruits and coconut. As they enter the compound of the shrine, there is an age-old slab of granite with small metal fence around it. On one side of the fence the weapon of God Kataragama, that is the lance, is fixed. People come to this granite slab to pray for prosperity and smash their coconuts in it.

When their trays of fruit are offered to the Maha Devale, they will receive half of the fruits back with the blessings of God Kataragama. The devotees are supposed to eat those fruits received from the god for the blessing to be completed.

When I visited Kataragama recently, I saw this very pleasing scene of a devotee who had received his blessed portion of fruits from the Maha Devale sharing it with some monkeys.

There is a big population of Ceylon Grey Langur monkeys in the surroundings of Kataragama holy area.
There is a big population of Ceylon Grey Langur monkeys in the surroundings of Kataragama holy area.

The Sacred Bodhi Tree

The Sacred Bodhi Tree
The Sacred Bodhi Tree

The Sacred Bodhi Tree is situated right behind the Devale of God Kataragama. This Bodhi Tree was planted here in 307 BC, during the reign of King Devanampiya Tissa (307-267 BC). It is sacred to the Buddhists because it is one of the first eight plants that sprang from the Maha Bodhi sapling which was brought to Sri Lanka from Buddha Gaya, India, during Emperor Asoka's time. It is a direct descendant of the first Maha Bodhi under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment 2500 years ago.

Kiri Vehera Stupa

Kiri Vehera Stupa.
Kiri Vehera Stupa.
Old brick structures behind Kiri Vehera.
Old brick structures behind Kiri Vehera.

When walking further down passing the sacred bodhi tree, there is a road which leads to the huge stupa, On a side of this road there are flower sellers who sell lotuses, incense sticks, and other goods needed to worship Lord Buddha near Kiri Vehera.

Kiri Vehera stupa as it appears today, was built in the 1st century BC. Archaeological evidence for this has been found in the old brick structures standing behind the present Kiri Vehera. Ancient bricks with engraved Brahmi scripts has been found from this area.

People who visit Kataragama have fun feeding fish in River Menik. River Menik is teaming with fish because fishing is not done in this holy site. There are villagers who sell plates of popcorn to those who wish to feed the fish. Feeding fish is really fun. when you take a handful of popcorn the fish can feel it. When you throw it to the river they jump to get them! Those fish are feeding machines. However much popcorn you throw on them, they will vanish them in seconds.

A village woman selling popcorn on the river bank.
A village woman selling popcorn on the river bank.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Lot of information with good photographs. Thanks.

    • megni profile image


      9 years ago

      Very good information. Enjoyed reading about the hub.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)