A visit to Katharagama - Part I - History

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Trip to Katharagama

Part I- History

"Visit my previous post on “Sri Lanka - Gem stone of the Indian Ocean” if you missed it"

On a Friday night, after an exhausting day, I got back home late from University after lectures. Surprisingly, I found my mom packing our travelling bags and as soon as she saw me, she told me to get my travelling bag ready with sufficient clothes for two days and a night. I was so tired that I thought I was dreaming since I thought I heard something my mom was likely to have said during holidays “Let’s pack-up and go somewhere”. 

I suddenly got the feeling that my exams were over and it was our holiday season so I was going to go on a long trip during the weekend. A couple of minutes later, I came back to reality and asked my mom again what she said to make sure that I wasn’t actually dreaming. As soon as she repeated what she said earlier, I told her “Woaw.. I love trips during the weekend” and I started packing my bag.

The natural beauty that I get to witness on my way while travelling is what I love the most.

Paddy Fields on a sunny day is the best picture to capture on a peaceful trip.

Birds resting in the middle of the lake 

Apparently, we were visiting a place which was not my first time of visit. But I loved that place as it has significant values involving the history of Sri Lanka which runs back to 2300 years.

Therefore, highlighting and outlining the cultural importance and value of Sri Lanka, I would like to educate you of this wonderful and famous religious place which I visited as do many other local and foreign travelers throughout the year. This particular place in the exotic island of Sri Lanka, which I am yet to mention, is a highly valued tourist destination of ancient traditional values.

The Kiri Vehera Degoba

With the name of Kiri Vehera, this is a very old Buddhist temple with a great history running to the time of Gauthama Lord Buddha and the ancient Southern Kingdom (called the Ruhunu Kingdom) of this wonderful country. (The Ruhuna Province is the area identified with "Ruhuna" in ancient times which is mainly the Southern Province, a large part of the Uva Province and small parts of Sabaragamuwa & Eastern Provinces). It is one of the 16 most important pilgrimage sites in Sri Lanka. It is also included in the Buddhist stanza used to worship these sites.

First, as a piece of information, I would like to make you aware of the fact that the entire history of Sri Lanka is written down in a script known as the “Mahawansaya”. It is the most valuable book which provides information of all the kingdoms and eras of Sri Lanka. As a result, every incident taken place, in relation to the historical value of this country attached to Buddhism is also written down in the Mahawansaya. 

Lord Buddha, of the Kshakya Caste in his childhood, out of the 4 Castes which existed long ago in India, attained enlightenment and died in the great nation of India, (when it was one whole area of land belonging to just the main Indian territory; Countries like Nepal and Pakistan were also part of India then) and visited Sri Lanka three times in his life. I plan to talk more about his first and second visits and how the majority of the Buddhist sacred places have been valued so greatly due to his arrival. 

It is also believed that ancient Sri Lanka consisted of three major tribes namely; Yaksha (Demon), Naaga (Snake) and Deva (God). The beliefs were that the Yaksha tribe was originated by a type of people who live immorally and sin.

The Deva Tribe was considered as the type of people with godly habits of all mankind, who mostly resided in the Central Province, Kandy, of Sri Lanka. I will talk more about this wonderful area called “Kandy” in one of my future posts.

The Naaga tribe was believed to be moderate and they originated with a cultural attachment to Snakes. The areas with Naaga Tribes were mainly “Naagadeepaya” and “Kelaniya” as it is said that rulers of Kelaniya and Naagadeepaya were relations.

Lord Buddha’s first visit to Sri Lanka was after 9 months of attaining Buddhahood to the “Mahiyanganaya Kingdom”. Following this first visit, his second visit was after 5 years of attainment of Buddhahood to “Nagadeepaya Kingdom” and his final visit was after 8 years of attaining Buddhahood to the “Kelaniya Kingdom”. 

As a traveler, if you have visited The Kelaniya Buddhist Temple, you would see that the symbol mainly used in the temple, is the symbol of the Snake. This is also one of the sacred places situated in the Western Province of Sri Lanka which is visited by many locals and foreigners during every season of the year. 

However, all these tribes were represented by normal human beings and were only differentiated so, due to their various ways of living. I have planned to visit the many places mentioned above and once I do, I will let you know their importance.

Lord Buddha’s first and second visits have mainly been with the intention of solving certain disputes that would have otherwise ended up with very harmful consequences such as wars incurring a lot of damage to mankind. But his third visit was on an invitation by “Maniakkika King”, who ruled “Kelaniya”. To pay tribute to Lord Buddha and the 500 Arhat monks, many other kings from all around the country had then arrived to the Kelaniya Kingdom, to the King’s palace. The area in which the palace was situated is what has been transformed into the “Kelaniya Temple”.

However, amidst this gathering, was the king who ruled the “Ruhunu Kingdom” called “King Mahasen”. After his visit to the Kelaniya Temple and various other places, Lord Buddha, followed by 500 Arhat monks were invited by King Mahasen to visit one of the King’s Royal Gardens which was named as “Kihiriwane”. Lord Buddha accepted the King’s invitation and as such visited the Royal Garden which is presently called "Kiri Vehera" and has become a place of worship. 

Part II of this post will consist of further details on my trip to Katharagama.

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(Watch my video for more pictures which I captured on our trip)

"Also visit my post on How to get rid of Stress"

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