Kataragama

Katragam (Kaddirkdmam), a renowned place of Hindoo pilgrimage in the province of Uwa, situated on the left bank of the Parapa oya, about 58 miles south east of , and 40 miles north east of Hambantotte.

At this place there are within two adjoining enclosures, a number of temples erected to every deity in the Hindoo calendar, and also a Wihare and a Dagoba belonging to the Buddhists; but the principal temple for which it is celebrated is dedicated to Skanda, the god of war, who, according to tradition, halted on the summit of a hill in the neighborhood, on his return from Mahendrapuri, after destroying the Asuras, who oppressed the Suras, or gods.

The temple in question, is a plain building divided into two apartments, of which the inner (inaccessible to the populace) contains the image of the god, and the walls are ornamented with figures of different gods and heroes, richly executed; while the inside of the roof is covered with painted cloths, and the entrance to the inner apartment hidden by a similar cloth. So great is the veneration in which the shrine of this god is held, that pilgrims from every part of India resort to worship it, frequently bringing with them pots of water from the at Benares, slung on cross bamboos; and even the professors of Islamism do not object to participate with them, under the excuse, that the place is a favorite resort of one of their holy men, called Kheder Nasi, who, they say, rendered himself immortal by drinking the water of life, which he discovered in the neighborhood.

During the rebellion in 1817, access to this temple was completely barred by the British government, and all persons resorting to under the denomination of Fakeers, Pandarams, and Jogees from foreign parts, were placed under great restrictions; but at present nothing of the kind exists, and the pilgrims are only required to have a passport from the authorities on the coast, before they proceed into the interior.

The temple is placed under the superintendence of a Basnaike Nilame, and the revenue arising from the offerings is shared among the priests, who officiate in the sanctuary.

A grand festival is held in the month of July, and continue for several days; and according to a long standing custom, Moormen are obliged to bear torches before the image when it is taken out and carried in procession.

Skanda has several names in Sanscrit; but he is here commonly styled ” Kadirama” or ” the Lord of the rays”, he having sprang from an assemblage of rays, emitted from the eyes of for the purpose of accomplishing the destruction of the Asuras. He is represented with six heads and twelve hands, in each of which he holds a different weapon; and his Vahane (or vehicle,) is a peacock, which is hence reckoned sacred by his votaries. Of his two consorts, namely Deivane and Valli, the latter is represented as having been nurtured by a Wedda female, and the Weddas are therefore particularly attached to his worship.