Kataragama is place of pilgrimage for a variety of religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam and is located in south-east corner of Sri Lanka. Therefore is a multi-religious sacred city.
The deity at Kataragama is indigenous and long-celebrated in Sri Lankan lore and legend, and originally resides on the top of mountain called Wædahiti Kanda just outside of the Kataragama town. Since ancient times an inseparable connection between the God and his domain has existed. At one time the local deity was identified with God Saman, a deity that was important to the Sinhalese people before their conversion to Buddhism.
Kataragama is a holy shrine and a popular pilgrim center for Buddhists and Hindus. In fact Kataragama is one of the 16 principal places of Buddhist pilgrimage. Tamil Hindus of Sri Lanka and South India refer to the place as Katirkamam and it has a famous Hindu shrine dedicated to Lord Katirkaman.
The Buddhist Kiri Vehera Dagoba is located close to the Hindu Temple and is built by King Mahasena. Sinhala Buddhists believe that Kataragama was sanctified by the Lord Buddha. The Dagoba is said to be built right where the King listened to the Buddha’s discourse.
Manik Ganga (River of Gems)
The local river namely Manik Ganga has a similar function as that of the River Ganges in India as place of absolution where a bath taken from this river purifies and individual. Local residents declare that one can be healed of ailments by bathing in it not only from its high gem content but also the medicinal properties of the roots of various trees that line the river through the jungle.
Kataragama is famous for fire walking rituals and the annual perahera (procession) in July/August.