Kiri Vehera – Kataragama


Kiri Vehera is found within the confines of the sacred city of Kataragama; the Kiri Vehera is a piece of the Solosmasthana or sixteen sacred sites of Buddhist devotions in Sri Lanka. The Kiri Vehera takes its title from its gleaming white structure, which reaches 95-feet tall. Believed to have been built by King Mahasen to mark the point where the Buddha delivered an address on his third visit to the island, it consecrates the golden chair from which the speech was given, a lock of the Buddha’s hair and the royal sword done by Prince Siddhartha to cut off his hair.

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Kirivehera Temple holds great importance for Buddhists, serving as a spiritual centre and a testament to the rich religious heritage of Sri Lanka. At the heart of the temple's significance lies Katharagama Deviyo, a revered figure believed to have protected Buddhism throughout history.

Historical Background

According to the Mahavamsa, a historical chronicle of Sri Lanka, warriors from Katharagama participated in a sacred ceremony when the Bo sapling from the Bodhi Tree, where Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment, was brought to the city of Anuradhapura over 2,300 years ago. This connection to the Bodhi Tree emphasizes the temple's sanctity and historical ties to Buddhism.

The Bo tree, situated behind the Katharagama temple, holds a special place among the eight saplings (Ashta Phala Bodhi) of Sri Maha Bodhiya in Anuradhapura. Planted in the 3rd century BCE, it serves as a living testament to the roots of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

Location and Pilgrimage

Located in the Monaragala District of the Uva Province, Sri Lanka, Katharagama is approximately 228 kilometres from Colombo. The town attracts a diverse range of pilgrims, including Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and indigenous Vedda communities.

Within the town's vicinity, you'll find Ruhunu Maha Katharagama Devalaya, a shrine dedicated to Katharagama Deviyo, also known as Skanda-Murunkan since the 15th century. The coexistence of multiple religious communities in this sacred space showcases the temple's multicultural significance.

Archaeological Evidence

The general vicinity of Katharagama reveals evidence of human habitation dating back at least 125,000 years. During the historical period, the area was characterized by small reservoirs constructed for water conservation and the cultivation of paddy fields. The Mahavamsa, written in the 5th century CE, mentions Kajaragama, which was significant in receiving the sacred Bo sapling sent from Asoka's Mauryan Empire.

Katharagama also served as the capital of the Ruhuna kingdom and provided refuge to numerous kings from the north during South Indian invasions. Archaeological findings suggest that Kiri Vehera, located near the Katharagama Devalaya, was either renovated or constructed during the first century BCE. The presence of other inscriptions and ruins further enriches the area's historical significance.

Popularity and Legends

The deity's popularity at the Katharagama temple has been recorded in various Pali chronicles, such as Jinkalmali from 16th-century Thailand. These chronicles shed light on the supernatural events associated with the temple and its locality. Buddhist and Hindu legends attribute divine occurrences to this sacred place, adding to its mystique.

Kirivehera Temple, with its deep historical roots, cultural diversity, and religious significance, stands as a symbol of unity among different faiths. The temple's association with Katharagama Deviyo and its role in protecting Buddhism in Sri Lanka make it an important pilgrimage site for followers from various backgrounds.


1. Is Kirivehera Temple open to visitors of all religious backgrounds?

Yes, Kirivehera Temple welcomes visitors of all religious beliefs. It is a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and indigenous Vedda communities.

2. Can I visit Kirivehera Temple from Colombo?

Yes, you can visit Kirivehera Temple from Colombo. It is approximately 228 kilometres away from the capital city.

3. Are there any other attractions near Kirivehera Temple?

Within the vicinity of Kirivehera Temple, you can explore the Ruhunu Maha Katharagama Devalaya, a shrine dedicated to Katharagama Deviyo.

4. What is the historical significance of Kiri Vehera?

Kiri Vehera, located near the Katharagama Devalaya, holds historical significance and is believed to have been renovated or built during the first century BCE.

5. Are there any supernatural legends associated with Kirivehera Temple?

Yes, Buddhist and Hindu legends attribute supernatural events to the locality of Kirivehera Temple, enhancing its spiritual allure.



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