Murugan Temple in Okanda
Situated on the Kumana-Panama jungle path, Okanda Devalaya is believed to be a place, where God Murugan first sailed into Sri Lanka in his golden boat. This boat, which was turned into a rock, still stands on the Okanda beach known to locals as the ‘Ran Oru Gala’.
Although the ancient devalaya was of much simpler structure and adornment, the present temple imitates a more Southern Indian Kovil structure due to its large number of Tamil Hindu devotees. Temple in Okanda is open for visitors and ritual Puja every day, but the best time to visit it is during an annual two-months long Pâda Yâtrâ or foot pilgrimage form Jaffna via Okanda temple and Yala National Park to Kataragama for the Esala festivities.
Nearly 30,000 pilgrims from the Northern and Eastern coasts of Sri Lanka arrive in a procession at Okanda to commence weeks long walk through Yala National Park to the temple of God Murugan in Kataragama.
All along the way, villagers await their chance to offer dâna to the small bands of swâmis and swâmi ammas.
Sleeping and living outside, under trees and in shrines and temples; seldom knowing from where their next meal will come, braving death from animal attacks and worse in recent times; these are the factors of Pada Yahtra that make it such an intense spiritual opportunity for those who receive the ‘call’. The multi-cultural nature of the Kataragama region enables Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Christians and those of any other religion to practice their faith in the safety of a sacred area.