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Kataragama- The Mystery Shrine

Kataragama- The Mystery Shrine

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Item Code: NAY756
Author: Patrick Harrigan
Publisher: Institute of Asian Studies, Chennai
Language: English
Edition: 2011
Pages: 150
Cover: PAPERBACK
Other Details: 8.50 X 5.50 inch
Weight 210 gm
Introduction
Tucked away in the dry jungle of southeastern Sri Lanka, in a corner of island Taprobane that the 2nd Century geographer Ptolemy identifies as Bacchi seu Dionysi ciudad (Latin: 'the town of Bacchus or Dionysus') lies the sleepy town of Kataragama whose sole industry centers around a modest unimpressive temple. Here lives, according to Sri Lankan Buddhists and Hindus (as well as many Muslims and Christians) the spirit or divinity Skanda or Murukan, the pan-Indian wargod. By far the most popular of Sri Lankan deities today, the Kataragama god is an almost earthy figure who came to Lanka from somewhere long ago and far away and stubbornly refuses to vacate his jungle redoubt even in this age of modern urban values.

In early 1971 while studying Buddhism in Ceylon as it was then called, I encountered this anomaly called Kataragama where folks of three major religions celebrate a 16-day festival side-by-side, each appreciating the sacred place in their own unique way. It must have worked some attraction upon me, for the following year I was determined and foolhardy enough to join the veteran foot pilgrims from Jaffna who brave two months and several hundred miles of scorching hot roads - barefoot, of course -- to walk in the annual Kataragama Pada Yatra down the entirety of the island’s east coast in those days of relative peace and tranquility.

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