Ruhunu Maha Katharagama Devalaya

The Kataragama Devalaya in the Uva Province has been a revered place of pilgrimage among Buddhists and Hindus for centuries. Pilgrims seek the divine intervention of God Kataragama, depicted with four faces and twelve arms, to fulfill their vows. The main shrine room is believed to have been built in 160 BCE by King Dutugemunu, fulfilling a vow to defeat the Dravidian King Elara. Kataragama Devalaya and its surroundings are always a hive of activity. The most common sight in the premises is pilgrims carrying baskets of fruits to offer to God Kataragama during the three main Poojas of the day. The annual Kataragama festival in July/August is a spectacle of devotion which attracts pilgrims from all over the island, including those from the far North who walk all the way, over several days.

Distance Address Google Map Contact Number
1 km Katharagama, Sri Lanka Show in Map 047 2235122

Kiri Vehera

According to the Buddhists, Kataragama is one of the 16 places visited by Buddha (Solos Maha Sthana) during his three visits to Sri Lanka. The history of Kataragama goes back to the pre Christian era and both Buddhist and Hindu literature have identified this place in various ways. According to chronicles some of the people who accompanied Prince Vijaya from India in 543 BC established a village called Kajara-Gama which is thought to be the current Kataragama. Hence the significance of Kiri Vehera, which is close to the Kataragama Devalaya. The hallowed Stupa was built by the King Mahasena. Buddhists consider Kataragama Deviyo as one of the guardian deities of Buddhism and the Presiding Deity of the Kataragama Temple. According to the Mahavamsa, when the sapling of the Bodhi Tree, under which Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment, was brought to the city of Anuradhapura 2,300 years ago, warriors from Kataragama attended this sacred ceremony. The Bo tree situated behind the Kataragama Temple is one of the eight saplings (Ashta Phala Bodhi) of the Sri Maha Bodhiya in Anuradhapura planted in the 3rd century BCE.

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4 km Katharagama, Sri Lanka Show in Map 047 2235237

Sella Katharagama Temple

Katharagama is one of the few places in Sri Lanka which is worshiped by most of the popular religious people in Sri Lanka. According to the Buddhists, Katharagama is one of the 16 places visited by Buddha (solos maha stana) during his 3 visits to Sri Lanka. The history of Katharagama goes back to pre Christian era and both Buddhist and Hindu literature have identified this place in various ways. According to chronicles some of the people who accompanied Vijaya from India in 543 BC established a village called Kajara-Gama which is thought to be current Katharagama. Sella Katharagama is a small town lying on the banks of Menik Ganga about 4 kilometers north -west of Katharagama which has been weaved in to the legends of deity Katharagama ( Skanda Kumaraya) as much as Katharagama itself. According to Hindu beliefs god Skanda is also known as Murugan, Arumugam, Kandasami (Skanda Swami), Subrahmanya, etc. Many legends describes the birth of this deity and according to Hindu legends God Skanda came to Sri Lanka after a row with his wife Thevani and landed in the southern part of the island.

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6 km Sella Katharagama, Sri Lanka Show in Map 077 6254486

Sithulpauwa Rock Temple

Situated in Kirinda in the Hambantota District, the Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya has also been called Chiththala Pabbatha in ancient texts. Stone Inscriptions have identified this location as “Chithala Paawatha Vehera”. This temple complex is attributed to King Kavanthissa who ruled the Southern area of the country. Thousands of Arahats are believed to have lived here at one time. According to folklore it is said that a novice monk called Thissa who has reached the state of Arahat lived here and later a Stupa was built encasing his sacred remains. Thus this also has been known as Tissa Thera Chetiya. The Sithulpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya contains large number of Stupas, cave temples, Buddha statues, a Stupa house and image houses spread among a large land area. Among these there is a cave temple with ancient paintings thought to be belonging to the 3rd century BC. These drawings have been done on a thin layer of plaster on the rock surface and primarily used red – yellow colours. This temple complex is located within the Yala National Park.

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17 km Sithulpawwa, Sri Lanka Show in Map 047 3489550

Ramba Raja Maha Viharaya

The Ramba Raja Maha Viharaya was the temple of the Maha Nagakula city where a large number of artifacts have been found. It is an extraordinary historic and beautiful site. Ramba Viharaya in Ruhuna is located on the bank of the Walawe Ganga, in the village of Udarata on the Nonagama-Ratnapura Road. It is a newly declared heritage site which is situated about 12.8 km from Ambalantota in Hambantota district. The temple site, still undergoing extensive excavation, is thought to be part of the medieval capital of Sri Lanka in the 11th century, Maha Nagakula. This Viharaya was considered as the royal temple then. History of Ramba Viharaya indicates that it had been the hide-out for King Vijayabahu I who arrived there in the year 1055, while he planned his war against the Cholas for 15 years. Sri Lanka was under Chola rule for 53 years. He led three attacks to surround Polonnaruwa and defeated the Cholas.

Distance Address Google Map Contact Number
60 km Hambanthota, Sri Lanka Show in Map 071 433 7700

Kebiliththa Devalaya

Also known as Siyambalawa Devalaya, Kebiliththa, located deep in the jungle, is believed to be the spiritual residence of God Kataragama. According to the ancient stories, God Kataragama (Skanda Kumaraya) had met his future wife Walli Amma at this place near a tamarind tree (“Siyambala” tree) from which it develops its name “Siyambalawa Devalaya”. Devotees believe that God Kataragama resides and meditates at this sacred land. It is believed that Kataragama Deviyo resides in the Kataragama Devalaya only on festival days or Poya days and on all other days he resides in Kebiliththa. It has to be reached after an arduous journey, which should be undertaken only be pious pilgrims who have abstained from consuming animal flesh and alcohol for at least one month prior.

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50 km Yala Park, Sri Lanka Show in Map

Kirinda Raja Maha Viharaya

Kirinda Rajamaha Viharaya can be reached easily via the Tissa- Kirinda road. This temple is located on a summit of a rocky mountain, just next to the southern coast of Sri Lanka. Due to its location, this temple gives a magnificent view of sand dunes, the beach, the Indian Ocean, the Kirinda fishing harbor and the rest of the surroundings. The Kirinda temple was built by king Kawanthissa. Most devotees who are on pilgrimage to Ruhunu-Kataragama, usually come to this place. The Kirinda temple can be easily spotted from a distance, due to the recently constructed standing Buddha statue. A large parking area is provided so you can park your vehicle without much hassle, but it is also easy to reach by public transport. You need to climb up to reach the temple premises. You can use either the recently paved stairways or the steps carved on the rock bed, which were used in old days. For additional safety, opt for the former. According to the historical records and stories, some believe that Kirinda is the place where Princess Viharamahadevi drifted ashore after being sacrificed to the sea. King Kelanithissa, who ruled Kelaniya, was the father of Princess Viharamahadevi. In second century, there was a rising sea water level situation (perhaps the first Tsunami Situation recorded in Sri Lanka) that occurred in Kelaniya. People thought that this was due to the sin committed by the King Kelanithissa who had ordering to execute a monk. To amend that sin, he was asked to sacrifice his daughter, Princess Viharamahadevi to the sea. However, she managed to stay alive and after landing in the Kirinda area, king Kawanthissa, who ruled the Ruhunu kingdom, welcomed her and later married her. They had two sons, Prince Dutugemunu and Prince Thissa, who were later to become legendary kings in their own right.

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28 km Kirinda, Sri Lanka Show in Map +94473489381

Tissamaharama Raja Maha Viharaya

The Tissamaharama Raja Maha Viharaya is an ancient Buddhist temple in Tissamaharama, just off Kataragama. It was one of the four major Buddhist monasteries established in Sri Lanka, after the arrival of Arahath Mahinda Thera in the country. According to historical chronicles, the site of the Tissamaharama Raja Maha Viharaya was consecrated by the Buddha himself, who spent some time in meditation there with 500 Arahaths during his third visit to the island. The Tissamaharama monastery has been recognized as a pre-eminent Buddhist educational centre in Southern Sri Lanka from the 3rd century B.C. to the 11th century A.D. The Tissamaharama Dagoba which is situated in the premises of the monastery is one of the largest stupas in Sri Lanka. This temple complex has been originally built as Silapassa Pirivena, by King Kavantissa (186-161 B.C.) and expanded in the reign of King Illanga. But according to some historians the temple was initially built by king Mahanaga in the 3rd century BC and later it was expanded as a major temple by king Kawantissa in the 2nd century BC. The King is believed to have modified the nearby Tissa Wewa (tank) to provide water to the Tissamaharama monastery. Many other ancient kings had offered lands to the Tissamaharama monastery for the welfare of Buddhist monks who lived there. According to ancient stone inscriptions, many land donations to the Tissamaharama Viharaya were made during the reigns of Kings Jettha Tissa, Wasabha and Mihindu.

Distance Address Google Map Contact Number
17 km Rubberwatte Rd, Tissamaharama Show in Map 047 3489550

Mulkirigala Raja Maha Viharaya

A short drive from Kataragama takes you to the ancient Mulkirigala Rock Monastery. Nestled on the cliffs of a 600ft rock, surrounded by jungle and watched over by families of monkeys, the series of caves and structures has played a significant role in Buddhism and Sri Lankan culture. Mulkirigala has captivated visitors with magnificent reclining Buddha statues and age old murals within cave walls depicting Lord Buddha’s life and tales from the famous Jathaka (Origin) stories. The origins of the temple are unclear. However, local legend has it that King Saddhatissa was hunting close to the rock when a villager spoke to him of an impressive rock suitable for a grand temple. The king agreed and built the temple during the 3rd century, naming it Mu Kivu Gala (‘the rock he mentioned’). It later became known as Mulkirigala, though it is also referred to as Mulgirigala. During the 18th century, Dutch explorers renamed the rock ‘Adam’s Berg’ believing it to be the tomb sites of Adam and Eve. Scholars believe they confused the temple with Sri Pada, or Adam’s Peak, located in the interior of the country. The journey to the cave temples starts at the bottom of an imposing staircase. You will climb over 500 steps along winding paths up the side of the rock to the seven caves. The first and the lowest terrace you encounter is known as Padamaluve. This terrace houses two caves with a large reclining Buddha carved into solid rock. Growing on the terrace is a sacred Bo Tree which is a descendant of the same tree that Siddhartha Gautama meditated below when he attained Enlightenment, becoming the Buddha. A further climb leads you to the ‘Bomaluwa’ housing the Majjhima Nikaya Cave with rock inscriptions believed to between 1400 and 1500 years old. A short climb leads you to the Raja Maha Viharaya compound with a series of caves, paintings and a rock inscription giving the ancient name of Mu Kivu Gala. On the fourth terrace lies the Cobra Cave. According to some local tales, whoever climbs there will not return as ‘many cobras live there’. Luckily for intrepid visitors, these encounters are incredibly rare. The final steps leading to the summit are carved into the steep rock face. On the summit stands the ancient stupa added by King Dhatusena sometime between 461-479 AD. The temple is open daily for visitors from dawn till dusk though the best time to experience this is during the majestic sunrise, when temperatures are lower too.

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84 km Mulkirigala, Sri Lanka Show in Map +94725317692

Wedihiti Kanda

Wedihiti Kanda (More correct name: Wedahiti Kanda) is a rocky mountain which is just 3.5 km away from the Kataragama Devalaya. Wedihiti Kanda is one of the most famous destinations for pilgrims to Kataragama, with the exception of Kataragama Devalaya and Sella Kataragama. Folklore reveals that this mountain has a strong connection to the Kataragama Deity. Stories of yore reveal that King Dutugemunu pledged to the Deity Kataragama that he would construct a grand devalaya, if and when he defeated King Elara whose domain of rule was Anuradhapura. When the war was concluded the King Dutugemunu arrived in Kataragama and was ushered in to the abode the Kataragama Deity which was apparently on the top of Wedihiti Kanda. The King then sought permission from the Deity to construct a Devalaya at a place indicated by the Deity. Legend has it that the present Kataragama Devalaya was constructed at the particular place indicated by the Deity. Some legends regard the Kataragama Deviyo (Deity) as the incarnation of King Mahasena who governed the region when the Buddha made his third visit to Sri Lanka in the 8th year of his Enlightenment (580 BC). It is also thought that after giving the throne to this eldest son, King Mahasena withdrew to the Wedahiti Kanda mountain top when he reached old age. At the top of this mountain, he lived a life of a hermit in meditation until his death. There are relics of an ancient shrine at the top of Wedihiti Kanda. However, new shrines have been constructed and the historical setting of the Wedihiti Kanda has been somewhat lost. However, the unique spiritual experience one feels when climbing this scared mountain, is still not lost. The peace and tranquility of this beautiful surrounding give devotees a feeling of inner peace.

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4.5 km Kataragama, Sri Lanka Show in Map