Saturday, July 25, 2009

For centuries the Kataragama Patha Yathrai tradition has been one of the great unifying factors in Sri Lankan society...!!!

Pilgrims trek through Yala for Kataragama festival

A large group of Pada Yathra pilgrims, walking from as far as Trincomalee, have entered the Yala jungle and some have already reached Kataragama sacred city for July 22 flag hoisting ceremony at the Kataragama mosque marking the beginning of Kataragama Esala festival.

A large number of pilgrims are expected to reach Kataragama on foot through traditional jungle routes in the Yala National Park from eastern districts.

Pilgrims who walk from Trincomalee must commence journey forty days before the Kataragama Esala festival begins. Their numbers include not only Tamil Hindus, but also Tamil speaking Veddas, Sinhala Buddhists, Christians, Muslims and foreign pilgrims from Europe and America as well.

The pilgrims undertake simple vows of self-denial during the Kataragama season in return for God's assistance in solving their personal problems.

Despite its hardships, traditional pilgrimage continue to grow in popularity in eastern districts, especially among the Tamils.

This year security forces anticipate that more than 10,000 foot pilgrims (Pada Yathra) will cross the Yala National Park before the festival end on August 6 with the peaceful atmosphere prevailing in the country with the annihilation of the LTTE.

The final 100 kilometres of the 400 kilometre walk from Trincomalee takes the pilgrims through uninhabited jungle of Yala Sanctuary. The pilgrims pay respects to local deities at such famous shrines as Koneswaram, Verugal, Sitthandi, Mamangam, Thanthamalai, Mandur, Tirukkovil and Okanda on their long trek to the Kataragama shrines.

For young and old pilgrims alike the Kataragama Pada Yatra is the opportunity of lifetime to visit all these renowned shrines in a single season. According to an American Pada Yathra pilgrim Patrick Harrigan, for centuries the Kataragama Pada Yathra tradition has been one of the great unifying factors in Sri Lankan society.


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