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An integral event of the Sri Lankan cultural calendar, the Kataragama Esala Perahera attracts devotees of many faiths from all parts of the country in large numbers to pay homage to the much-revered Hindu god, Skanda who is also fervently venerated by Buddhists as Kataragama Deviyo.
With a grand history, thousands of devotees from all corners of the island arrive at the Kataragama Devale (shrine) to take part in the fortnight long festival which culminates with the Maha Perahera (Grand Pageant) which flaunts the relics placed on the ceremonial tusker through the town at the July full moon.
A dazzling display of whip crackers, fire dancers, drummers and dancing ensembles representative of the main local three traditional forms of dancing; Udarata, Pahatarata and Sabaragamuwa in colorful traditional costumes, torch bearers and many vibrantly adorned elephants can be witnessed at the pageant.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the Kataragama festival are the flocks of thousands of Hindu devotees who travel to Kataragama on foot, from the Northern and the Eastern provinces through an old pilgrimage route that starts in Jaffna and runs down the east coast. It also customary for the pilgrims to take a sacred bath in the Manik River which runs alongside the shrine compounds.
Kataragama Devale is located 50 kilometers afar from the Yala National Park, to which excursions are arranged for the guests of The Fortress Hotel & Spa. A sampling of some of the traditional dance items witnessed at the Kataragama Perahera can also be experienced at the hotel premises with the Cultural Programme held on Wednesdays with the participation of performers exceedingly skilled in their artform.