Category Archives: Pilgrimage

The Kataragama Pilgrimage: Hindu-Buddhist Interaction and Its Significance in Sri Lanka’s Polyethnic Social System

Bryan Pfaffenberger

Tamil Hindu and Sinhalese Buddhist pilgrims gather each year at Sri Lanka’s most important polyethnic shrine, Kataragama, where they worship the deity Skanda (or Murukanṉ).

Kataragama Pada Yatra

Among the ancient living traditions that survive in Sri Lanka, few are as well known or as poorly understood as that of the Kataragama Pada Yatra. Starting from the island’s far north and ending up to two months and several hundred kilometers later at the Kataragama shrine in the remote southeastern jungle, the Kataragama Pada Yatra tradition has played a major role in propagating and perpetuating traditions of Kataragama throughout Sri Lanka and South India. Predating the arrival of all four of Sri Lanka’s major religions, it is essentially a tradition inherited from the island’s indigenous forest-dwellers, the Wanniya-laeto or Veddas, as the Kataragama shrine’s Sinhalese kapurala priest-custodians themselves readily concede.

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