Kataragama is considered to be a multi religious city because it is visited by Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and even Christians seeking divine intervention. Maha devale (Hindu shrine), Shiva kovil and ul-Khizr mosque are located within the sacred city of Kataragama. Kataragama God is indigenous to Sri Lanka and was named after the town in which his shrine was situated. It is believed that the Lord Buddha had met with king Mahasena in Kataragama during Buddha’s final visit to Sri Lanka. Therefore many Sri Lankans believe that Kataragama was sanctified by Buddha himself. Maha devale (Hindu shrine) is dedicated to God Skanda, known as the God with four faces and twelve arms, it is at this shrine that his followers ask for divine assistance to obtain worldly gains.
The main event held in this city is the Kataragama festival, which is held in July or August against the Esala Poya day. The festival is famous for the various modes of self mutilation such as flesh hooks, walking on burning coals and piercing one’s cheeks and tongue with skewers. Kataragama stirs into life during the puja times, the Pooja’s are held at 5am, 10.30am and 7pm. The evening pooja is the main event of the day pilgrims visit the temple with offerings, others smash a coconut wishing ill will on their enemies, while a priest chants prayers within the shrine.