Along with Adam’s Peak and the Temple of Tooth in Kandy, Kataragama forms the three most important religious sites in Sri-Lanka. The place is a pilgrimage place for all Buddhists, Muslims and Hindu alike. Every religion somehow pops up here. The town is often described as a place where outlandish legends takes place, there is blurry line between facts and fiction and magic is just considered to be in the air.
Located some 19kms from Tissa, this small and remote town is known for its shrines and the Kataragama festival. The most famous shrine is the Maha Devale shrine. The shrine is believed to contain the spear of the multi-visage, 12-armed warrior deity. Pujas are held twice a day. There are two more shrines located here. A little further from here is another temple where The Kirivehara dagoba dedicated to Buddha is located. On the other side of the Maha Devale shrine a few kms away lies the Sivam Kovi temple dedicated to God Ganesha. The temple is located alongside the river and also makes up for a beautiful view.
Another important religious place is the Ul-Khizr Mosque. This historic mosque stands the winds of time. It has the tombs of two important holy men. What is more attractive besides the religious sentiment is how beautiful this mosque is. Coloured tile work and wooden lintels govern the mosque.
The Kataragama festival is held around July-August during the Esala Poya Day. Elephant parades, drummers drum and dances take place. Grand processions are taken out and the temples are beautifully decorated. Group of devotees walk for forty-five days before the festival for spiritual development. They take the long route from the Jaffna Peninsula via Trincomalee and Batticaloa to Okanda, then through the Yala National Park to Kataragama.
One of the other places you can visit in this town is the Kataragama Museum. It consists of artefacts from both Hindu and Buddhist religions as well as statues of personalities from all over Sri-Lanka. It a good place to get your history up to mark.
Around 5kms from the town is another sleepy town of Sella Kataragama. The weather here is generally good and makes up for a pleasant drive!