Foot pilgrimage to Kataragama begins | Sunday Observer

Foot pilgrimage to Kataragama begins

18 June, 2023

The well-established infrastructure of contemporary society, including transportation, is readily evident. Travelling to the sacred Kataragama Kovil is made convenient through the utilisation of highways and comfortable air-conditioned vehicles.

In spite of the availability of convenient transportation options, it is remarkable to observe the dedication of worshippers as they make their way to the revered Kataragama Kovil, overcoming various obstacles and traversing arduous routes during the Esala festival in Kataragama. The Kataragama Esala Festival is scheduled to start tomorow, June 19, 2023.

This festival is a symbol of the marriage between the goddess Walli and god Kataragama and this festival is capable of delineating the religious harmony in Sri Lanka.

At present, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and even foreign devotees from the North and the East have started their pilgrimage to participate in the sacred Kataragama procession.

The devotees who come from Mannar, Trincomalee and Ampara started their sacred foot pilgrimage in the name of the God Kataragama on May 5. They safely arrived at the Kataragama Kovil which is located in ‘Okada’ and received the blessings of the god . They are hoping to come to the main Kataragama Kovil by passing difficult roads that lie through the Yala National Park.

Ancient roots

This foot pilgrimage has ancient roots. It is also assumed that God Kataragama also used the same path on his journey to meet the goddess Walli. Accordingly, this pilgrimage has its connection to the life of the god Kataragama. It is also notable to focus on how any of the devotees don’t get victimised by any of the wild animals in the Yala National Park.

The powerful chant of Haro Hara serves as their protective shield, warding off any potential danger lurking in the surroundings. These devotees usually rest on the way and share their food within the group. It can be perceived as a shared, communal experience. One of the most popular food item among these devotees is ‘precooked Habala Pethi; a good energiser for the body.

In addition, they are nourished by an abundance of natural fruits such as woodapple, Palu, Weera, and various edible green leaves.


However, it is evident that there’s a transformation in some of these natural practices impacted by the human donations they receive on the way. And there are concerns over the purity of these food items mixed with meat and eggs.

The Esala Festival, characterised by the traditional water cutting ceremony, concludes with devotees returning to their villages from the revered Kataragama Kovil, carrying sacred water collected from the Manik River.