July - Kataragama Festival

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The Kataragama Festival is the annual Esala full moon festival held in July or August at the Kataragama shrine. The jungle shrine is dedicated to the God Skanda - the Lord Kataragama - and is a place of worship for both Buddhists and Hindus. In the past, there was very limited access to the shrine and being able to visit the shrine was considered a great honor. The Kataragama festival is a pooja on a grand scale where devotees fast, meditate, pray and perform extraordinary acts of piety to show their sincerity. The highlight of the festival is the act of 'treading the flowers' where devotees put on a display of walking on beds of red-hot cinders. This is done as an act of penance and to fulfill vows. Other acts of penance - both mild and extreme - are a common sight during the festival. Self-mortification is practiced by a few individuals, with needles piercing their skin. The festival officially ends with the water-cutting ceremony in the Menik Ganga.