There is a devote atmosphere at the biggest of all religious places of worship in Kataragama, especially around the Buddhist Kiri Vehara Dagaba and the multi religious surrounding complex. The township of Kataragama is of limited proportions, located in the south eastern part of Sri Lanka, some 283 kilometers away from the capital Colombo, but of great religious importance for a high number of Sri Lankans. Attractive tree-lined, shady roads are the important works done by the late President of Sri Lanka, R.A. Premadasa. It has made the town and its surroundings attractive and different from other places in Sri Lanka. In July, August, during weekends and on festival days there is a huge crowd coming to Kataragama to worship their Gods and Lord Buddha, carrying fruit plates and flowers to the places of worship. Kataragama is one of the 16 and the most important spiritual places in Sri Lanka. Worshippers from all walks of life, rich and poor, Buddhists, Hindus, Veddah’s and Muslims visit Kataragama regularly. Since the 1940s the Buddhists are the biggest crowd, because they are in the majority in Sri Lanka. Before that time the minority Tamil Hindu’s from Sri Lanka and Southern India were the biggest group of pilgrims. Up to that time the temple complex was hidden in a thick jungle and difficult to reach. Improvement of the transport infrastructure attracted big flocks of Buddhists to this sacred town. The main shrines in Kataragama are dedicated to Skanda- Murugan or Kataragama God, venerated by a majority of the Buddhist population and the Tamil Hindu’s. Within the complex is also a mosque with the tombs of some important Muslim historic figures from Kyrgyzstan and India.
The main events take place in two places within the temple complex, the Maha Devale and the Kiri Vehara Dagaba, on the one hand and the Sella Kataragama on the other hand, of which most of the activities takes place in the Maha Devala part. Long queues are there to worship Kataragama God; he is definitely the main God in Kataragama.
Sella Kataragama attracts also many Veddahs, the indigenous population of Sri Lanka, because the second wife of Kataragama God was a daughter of a Veddah. It was at Sella Kataragama that he asked her to marry him. She is known as the Goddess of prosperity and success.
All over the country, but mainly in the eastern part, there are temples connected to Kataragama God. Annually a long pilgrimage takes place from Jaffna, the northern-most city in Sri Lanka, to Kataragama. It is an expedition of 45 days in which mainly Tamils from Sri Lanka and southern India take place, both children and elderly also take part in this long walk, which ends on full moon day in July. In the same period a spectacular procession (perahera) takes place in Kataragama. It is the second famous perahera in the country after the Kandy Esala Perahera. At that time Kataragama is very crowded.