For Sri Lankan people, Kataragama is a special sacred place. Since the Kataragama deity, who can realize any wish, is enshrined, many people visit there for the blessings. It was a sacred place with a strong Hindu color, but the development as the sacred place beyond religion advanced and a lot of Buddhist and Muslims also gathered.
The period from the full moon day of July to the full moon day of August is called as the Esala month in the Sinhala calendar peculiar to Sri Lanka, and a big festival is held all over the country. Along with the Esala Perahera Festival held in Kandi in the second half, the Perahera Festival held in Kataragama in the first half is great. During this period, people rush over to Kataragama more than usual.
On the weekend of July, when having gone down from the Hill Country to Kataragama in the southern lowland, we passed box cars and buses carrying lots of luggage on the roof one after the other, after Bandarawela at an altitude of 1200 m in the eastern part of the Hill Country. Those were returning from the pilgrimage of Kataragama.
Big waterfalls and lakes on the road were crowded with people to bathing and playing in the water. Under a big tree, family and friends brought out a kettle, cooked and had meals.
Sri Lanka is a small island with only 300 kilometers long even at the longest part, but, due to the bad road conditions, it takes time to move. When passing the mountainous Hill Country, the speed slows down further due to meandering and updown. Going to Kataragama close to the southern end of the island is a great trip to go to a distant place that we Japanese can not imagine from traveling 300 kilometers in Japan. They must go to Kataragama for several days, putting household goods and ride-sharing with other families, and return to their hometown for several days again.
However, except for those who head for serious troubles, this journey is not a penance but must be a summer vacation that they was looking forward to going worship directly for the Kataragama deity, keeping cool at the scenic spots of a waterfall or a lake and visiting the historic sites along the road. A trip to Kataragama would be surely an important opportunity for Sri Lankan people to directly learn the institutions and customs of Sri Lanka and share the Sri Lankan world.
Here and thee along a road to Kataragama in Hill Country.
Buddhist Monastic Architecture in Sri Lanka (A. Senneviratna + Benjamin Polk, Abhinav Publications, 1992)
Lonely Planet Guide 'Sri Lanka' (Lonely Planet Publication, 2006)
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