Kataragama is one of most popular and sacred pilgrimages sites of Sri Lanka, which attracts scores of Sinhalese Buddhists as well as Hindu Tamils. Kataragama is a small town with clean, tree lined avenues and shops selling garlands & platters of fruit-coconut, which are offerings to the temple. The town is at its colorful best during the Kataragama festival, held around the Kandy Esala Perahera pageant in Kandy - two weeks in July & August.
Apart from the peaceful milieu of the temple, Kataragama is equally famous for its laid-back rural charm. The town is separated by the River Menik Ganga ("Gem River") the banks of which is a beautiful parkland overrun by a grey langurs.
The main shrine of the temple, which dates back to the 2nd century BC is devoted to Skanda, popularly described in eulogies as God having six faces and twelve arms whose assistance is sought for worldly gain. The annual procession held in July or August is the main event of the shrine with fire walkers and Kawadi dancers.
Kataragama has a range of hotels and guest houses apart from free pilgrim rests. The luxury hotel of Rosen Renaissance located at the foothill of Vedahiti Kanda is a good choice to explore not only the temple but also the nature parks of Yala and Bundala