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Kataragama Perahera

The beautiful island country of Sri Lanka is home to several fairs and festivals, due to its wide spectrum of religious group and religions. Kataragama Perahera is one of the prominent festivals of the country, celebrated in the month of July/ August. Although less famous outside Sri Lanka, the Kataragama festival is a major Esala Festival, lasting up to 14 days and culminating with the Maha Perahera at the July full moon.

Insight to Kataragama Perahera
Kataragama in the South-East corner of the island is a jungle shrine dedicated to the God Skanda (Kartik), depicted as a six-headed (Shanmukha), twelve-handed (Dvadasakara) warrior riding a peacock (Paravani). Kataragama is a popular pilgrimage centre for Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and the Vedda. Many follow a special 45-day pilgrimage route from Jaffna, or from Dondra, visiting many temples and shrines, culminating in this festival. Pilgrims take a sacred bath in the Manik Ganga (Menik or Manika Gangai, River of Gems).

These 14-days of pageants include whip crackers and fire dancers; with troupes of dancers and drummers in colourful traditional costumes; torch bearers and many, many caparisoned elephants. The Festival involves a procession of elephants that commences from the Temple of Kataragama. Devotees (Sri Lankans and tourists) of all religions join in the festivities including the aboriginal Veddahs of Sri Lanka.

Rituals
An important ritual involves taking dip in the holy river Menik, after which the devotees make their offering to the shrine. Some devotees are also seen performing excruciating acts such as swinging on hooks pierced to their skin. Some even roll barely clad on hot sands near the temple.
Devotees also perform Kavadi Dance. Kavadi (burden) Dancing is the dance of the peacock, the vehicle of God Skanda. The prop used for the Kavadi (burden) Dancing is a 2 piece arched structure attached to a cross pole and can weigh up to 30 kgs. This is done to demonstrate the devotees’ (Sri Lankans’) gratitude in return for vows made or favours sought.

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