One of Lanka’s oldest traditions is the Pada Yatra foot pilgrimage from Jaffna to Kataragama along the East Coast. The origins of the Yatra are shrouded in myth. Several versions declare that it began with God Kataragama himself when he landed somewhere on our shores and walked to Kataragama.
Over the centuries this multi-religious 45-day (from Mullaittivu) pilgrimage to Kataragama has become a Sri Lankan institution. Villages en-route participate by providing refreshments, meals, hospitality and accommodation to the pilgrims, whom they regard as the god’s messengers. For centuries pilgrims from India and beyond have also been ‘called’ to Kataragama.
Revived in 1988 by the Kataragama Devotees Trust and Cultural Survival today over 10,000 attend the pilgrimage annually. No innovations have been tolerated by these pilgrims who insist that the only way to know the tradition is to live the tradition.