Temple of Kataragama
God Kataragama is also known as Skanda of Kanda Kumara. The main devale is dedicated to Kanda Kumara. Various other deavles have been constructed in the same premises recently. They are Gana Devale, Vishnu Devale and Suniyam Devale.
There are different stories of old, connected with god Kataragama. Goddess Uma had two children. The elder one was Ganesh or Ganadevi, the younger one was Kanda Kumara, or God Kataragama. Out of the two, Ganesh was intelligent, therefore he was known as God of Wisdom. One day a fruit fell from the mango tree in front Uma’s house. Both Ganesh and Skanda ran to pick it up. The father then said the person who runs round the ocean which is salty, and reach the destination first can pick up the fruit. Ganesh who was endowed with intelligence thought the coconut shell with salt water is also salty, and he ran around the coconut shell containing salt, and picked up the mango first, Skanda, furious as he was the only one who ran round the ocean, can behind and gave Ganesh a thundering blow. The blow was so hard that Ganesh fell on his face and broke one of the tusks. Ganesh posses the head of an elephant. The statue of Ganesh portrays the tusks in one hand and a mango in the other hand. Thus this incident is depicted.
God Kataragama is also known by the following names Karthika Kumara, Shuba, Skanda, Mahasena, Devasena, Subramanya, Kadira, Agenibhuwa, and Shanmukha. It is recorded in Mahabharatha that the father is God Shiva and mother is Uma. According to Ramayanaya father is Agni and the mother is ‘Ganga’. Literary works have amazing stories connected with the birth the birth of this God.
According to another story Kanda Kumara was born in Himalaya. It says six female Veddhas have seen this prince in a bush, and they brought up this child. This powerful prince created six faces and drank milk from each of them. This is how he possesses six faces, when describing God Kataragama it is said that he possesses six faces, twelve hands and rides a peacock.
Having subdues the Tharaka, proceeding towards “Kailashakutaya”, God Skanda met “Valliamma”, a beautiful female Veddha in an elevated area in Kataragama. He tried to win the heart of the beautiful Valliamma, as it was of no avail, he asked from Ganesh. Ganesh with the elephant’s head ran and frightened Valliamma. She then ran to Skanda for protection. This is how Valliamma became God Kataragama’s queen and resided at Kataragama.
The Kataragama procession is held during the month of August. Two important events are connected with it are fire walking and water cutting ceremonies.
Offering of Puja vatti, putting Panduru, breaking coconuts, Kavadi dance, lying on steel nails, hanging from steel nails, rolling round the devale premises, pricking the body with sharpened spikes pilgrims do these acts to fulfill their vows.
Connected with the Kataragama Devale are two other places of worship. One is Sella Kataragama and it is also as old as the main devale in Kataragama. According to folk lore it is said God Kataragama met Valliamma at this place. The distance from Kataragama to Sella Kataragama is about 5 km.
It is believed that God Kataragama resided at Vedihitikanda which is about 3 km from Kataragama. Shrine with a Bo-tree, where the God resided is located on top of a mountain. Even though the climbing is hard, it is one of the most venerated places in the southern Sri Lanka.