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Kataragama is a pilgrimage town sacred to Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim as well as the indigenous Veddha people of Sri Lanka. The Ul-Khizr mosque has the tomb where a Muslim saint is buried, while the Hindu Kovil adjacent to the mosque pays tribute to the Hindu God Shiva. The main shrine at the Ruhunu Maha Kataragama Devalaya (Temple) is dedicated to Skanda-Murugan also known as the Kataragama deity while there are other shrines dedicated to the Buddha and Ganesh. The Kiri Vihara Dagaba which was built in the 1st century BC is believed to be one of the sites visited by the Buddha during his third visit to the island. During the evening pooja, Kataragama comes to life as thousands of pilgrims visit the main shrine offering fruit platters and other offerings.

Kataragama is the end-point for the holy pilgrimage known as the Pada Yatra where thousands of devotees of the Kataragama God walk on foot over 45 days from the northern peninsula in Jaffna, along the east coast and through the jungles of Yala to Kataragama. The end of the pilgrimage is celebrated by the colourful Annual Kataragama Festival which falls on the Esala Poya full moon in July or August

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