Sella Kataragama


Sella Kataragama is a little town lying on the cliffs of Menik Ganga river about 4 kilometres north-west of Kataragama, which has been formed into the legends of Deity Kataragama as much as Kataragama itself.
According to Hindu trusts, God Skanda is also known as Murugan, Arumugam, Kandasami, Subrahmanya, etc. Several legends describe the birth of this deity, and according to Hindu stories, God Skanda got to Sri Lanka following a row with his partner Thevani and landed in the southern part of the island. He made Wedihiti Kanda near Kataragama his adobe. One day he saw a stunning 16-year-old local girl called Valli, who was adopted by the Vedda chieftain of the race who lived in the area.

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The history of Kataragama can be traced back to ancient times, with its roots intertwined in the rich tapestry of Sri Lankan culture and legends. According to chronicles and historical accounts, the origins of Kataragama can be linked to the arrival of Vijaya, the legendary first king of Sri Lanka, in 543 BC. It is said that some individuals who accompanied Vijaya from India established a village called Kajara-Gama, which eventually evolved into the present-day Kataragama.

Hindu Beliefs and Legends

In Hindu beliefs, Kataragama holds a special place as the abode of the god Skanda, also known as Murugan, Arumugam, Kandasami (Skanda Swami), and Subrahmanya. Skanda is a powerful deity associated with war, victory, and wisdom. According to Hindu mythology, Skanda arrived in Sri Lanka after a disagreement with his wife, Thevani. He chose the southern part of the island as his dwelling and specifically settled near Kataragama, at a place known as Wedihiti Kanda.

One of the most captivating legends associated with Kataragama involves Skanda's encounter with Valli, a young girl adopted by the Vedda chieftain residing in the Sella Kataragama area. Smitten by Valli's beauty, Skanda sought her love but faced rejection. Determined to win her heart, Skanda enlisted the help of his brother, Ganesh. They devised a plan where Ganesh would transform into an elephant, and Skanda would rescue Valli, impressing her with his bravery.

As part of the plan, Ganesh handed Skanda a pot of water and instructed him to pour it over Ganesh after the planned attack so that he would revert to his human form. However, when Skanda approached Valli in the form of an older man at Sella Kataragama, she was choking on food. In his eagerness to help her, Skanda accidentally dropped all the water. Simultaneously, Ganesh appeared as an elephant, startling Valli. Skanda proposed to allow Valli, and she reluctantly agreed in the absence of other options. Skanda then revealed his proper divine form. However, due to the spilled water, Ganesh was left with an elephant head.

According to the legends, Skanda and Valli resided in Sella Kataragama as a newly married couple, marking the beginning of their enduring association with the area.

Today Sella Kataragama

Sella Kataragama has transformed into a vibrant and multicultural area, attracting people from diverse religious backgrounds. The allure of this sacred place extends beyond Hindus and encompasses Buddhists, indigenous Veddas, and visitors seeking spiritual solace. To enter the holy precincts of Sella Kataragama, one must cross the Menik Ganga River, which adds to the mystical ambience surrounding the town.

The pathway from the car park to the river is adorned with various shops, offering an array of items to visitors. These shops showcase a range of products, from delectable sweetmeats to captivating toys and memorabilia, providing a glimpse into the region's cultural heritage.

On the other side of the river, a cluster of kovils and devils awaits exploration. These sacred temples and shrines include the Ganapathi Kovil, Siva Kovil, Kataragama Kovil, Valliamma Kovil, Lakshmi Kovil, Saman Devalaya, and Mahasen Viharaya—an homage to King Mahasen. Each of these places of worship represents the amalgamation of different religious traditions, contributing to the unique spiritual atmosphere of Sella Kataragama.

For those embarking on a pilgrimage to Kataragama, visiting Sella Kataragama becomes an essential part of their journey. The devales dedicated to Valli Amma hold special significance for newly married couples who seek divine blessings and support for their new lives together.

Sella Kataragama stands as a testament to the ancient roots and cultural significance of Kataragama in Sri Lanka. Its history, rooted in the legends of the deity Kataragama, and its present-day status as a multicultural area make it a compelling destination for visitors from various religious backgrounds.

The town's vibrant aura, brought to life by its various temples, shrines, and the sacred Menik Ganga river, draws pilgrims and tourists alike. Sella Kataragama represents a harmonious blend of traditions, fostering an environment where people can seek spiritual solace and embark on personal journeys of faith.

As you explore Sella Kataragama, you'll be immersed in the cultural tapestry of Sri Lanka, discovering the intertwining threads of history, mythology, and spirituality that have shaped this remarkable destination.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Is Sella Kataragama open to visitors of all religions? Yes, Sella Kataragama welcomes visitors from all religions. It is where people of various faiths can come together to worship and seek blessings.

2. What are the major festivals celebrated in Sella Kataragama? The most significant festival celebrated in Sella Kataragama is the Kataragama Esala Perahera, which occurs annually in July or August. This grand procession attracts devotees and tourists from all over the country.

3. Can you visit Sella Kataragama independently, or is it recommended to join a tour? You can see Sella Kataragama alone if you prefer to explore independently. However, joining a time can provide insights from knowledgeable guides who can enhance your understanding of the cultural and religious significance of the area.

4. Are there any accommodation options available in Sella Kataragama? Yes, Sella Kataragama offers a range of accommodation options, including hotels, guesthouses, and homestays, catering to different budgets and preferences. It is advisable to book your accommodation in advance, especially during peak festival seasons.

5. How can I reach Sella Kataragama from Kataragama? Sella Kataragama is located near Kataragama town. It is accessible by road, and you can hire a tuk-tuk or taxi to reach the sacred area. It is also possible to walk from Kataragama, as it is approximately a 4-kilometre journey.



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