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Pada Yathra : The Trail To Meet Lord Katharagama

Paada yatra Kumaa and Yala Ceylon Silk Route

Among the ancient living traditions that survive in Sri Lanka, few are as well-known or as poorly understood as that the Kataragama Pada Yatra. Starting from the island’s far north, the journey ends up at the Kataragama shrine in the remote Southeastern jungle, which covers hundreds of kilometres and approximately it will take two months.

God Kataragama is popularly known among the Hindus as God Skanda and the Saivites of South India call the God Subrahmanya. The other names applicable to the deity, as mentioned in the Hindu texts are: Kandasamy, Kadirdeva, Kadirvel, Tarakajit etc., and in the Hindu Puranas (ancient holy scriptures), the names associated with him are: Guha, Saktidhara, Gangaputra, Sarabhu, Yudaranga, Irjukaya etc.

Every year in the month of July or August, Kataragama throbs with life. A site of pilgrimage for all faiths, this city located in the southeast coast of Sri Lanka, is always crowded but during the annual festival it becomes a seething mass of people. A huge number of people from all over the island travel to Kataragama, drawn by the annual festival and Perahera.

Paada yatra Morning Camping Ceylon Silk Route
Crossing river Ceylon Silk Route

The entry point is the Kumana National park from the Okanda dewalaya and this trail runs about 100 km to reach to the Kataragama Devalaya. This is the point where we have started our journey and walked in the desert filled with sunrise and the dust. Normally it takes five days to walk this trails and we have to go through two national parks, which are Kumana National Park and Yala National Park. You have to be vigilant when you are travelling in this trail because all the time there will be Elephants, Leopards and Bears on the road who are the inhabitants of this surrounding.

If anyone is planning to go in this trail, for the first time, I recommend you to have a guide, you have to have adequate food, medicine and other supplies for 5 days, sometimes there will be boutiques that are run  by the Sri Lankan Armyou can purchase limited number of goods from them. Besides, you have to be esteemed about the rituals of the people as that reflects their utmost faith on Lord Katharagama. You might find it curious and adventurous to walk into the woods away from the trail, but for your own safety, but it will be highly dangerous.

I understood lastly that the ancient tradition of the Kataragama Pada Yatra exudes its mystery, magic and tremendous enthusiasm among the pilgrims for one reason, and that is simply, the deep-seated devotion to Lord Kataragama. Yes, the reasons for participation on this journey may vary, be it asking for charity, repaying debts for Murugan’s benevolence in the past, or simply to express, as Arnden did, one’s whole-hearted love for God.

As I mentioned early this is 100 km trail on your feet which will be there for five days, if you are physically fit enough and have faith, you can complete this life time experience. So if you are ready, go for it, and don’t forget to preserve the serenity of the surrounding, through which you’ll be traveling, to praise the glory of the God.

The pilgrimage is usually held in July and August.

The pilgrims walk in groups, and they are accompanied by support vehicles that carry food, water, and medical supplies.

The Pada Yatra is a challenging journey, but it is also a rewarding one. Pilgrims often say that the experience has changed their lives for the better.


The Pada Yatra is an annual two-month long foot pilgrimage in Sri Lanka. It is a religious and cultural festival that attracts thousands of devotees from all over the country. The Pada Yatra begins in Jaffna, in the north of Sri Lanka, and ends in Kataragama, in the south. The pilgrims walk an average of 10-15 kilometers per day, and they pay tribute to about 73 places of worship along the way.
Paada yatra katharagama Ceylon Silk Route

Diverse Participants

  • Though primarily a Hindu pilgrimage honoring Skanda-Murugan, it attracts devotees of various faiths, including Buddhists, Muslims, and Christians, reflecting Sri Lanka’s religious pluralism.
  • Participants range from seasoned devotees fulfilling vows to first-timers seeking spiritual growth or cultural immersion.
  • Local communities along the route warmly welcome pilgrims, offering food, shelter, and support, fostering a sense of shared humanity.
  • Cultural Significance:
  • The Pada Yatra embodies themes of sacrifice, devotion, and renewal, resonating deeply with Sri Lankan values.
  • It serves as a platform for cultural exchange, showcasing traditional music, dance, and rituals along the way.

  • The journey fosters social cohesion, breaking down barriers between ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Paada yatra Kataragama devalaya Ceylon Silk Route

Here are some of the most popular and highly-rated long trekking trail in Sri Lanka

The Pekoe Trail

This multi-day trail is considered the ultimate Sri Lankan hiking experience, taking you through the heart of the Central Highlands. You’ll traverse lush tea estates, encounter hidden waterfalls, and visit charming villages. The trail is well-maintained and offers various homestays and campsites for rest and rejuvenation.

Sri Padaya /Adam's Peak

This pilgrimage route is also a popular trek for its breathtaking panoramas, especially at sunrise. Be prepared for a steep climb through diverse ecological zones, from grasslands to cloud forests. While the peak holds religious significance for several faiths, the experience transcends cultural boundaries and offers a sense of accomplishment.

Knuckles Mountain Range

This lesser-known mountain range offers a wilder, more adventurous experience. Explore hidden waterfalls, encounter endemic flora and fauna, and connect with local communities living in traditional villages. The diverse trails cater to different fitness levels and offer a glimpse into Sri Lanka’s natural beauty.

Duwili Ella Hike

The Duwili Ella hike is often considered one of the most challenging and rewarding treks in Sri Lanka. It’s nearly a 20-kilometer out-and-back journey through the Knuckles Mountain Range, leading you to the majestic Duwili Ella waterfall. Immerse yourself in the unique biodiversity of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to endemic flora and fauna. This hike is not for the faint of heart. You should be in good physical condition and comfortable with challenging terrain. If you’re up for the challenge, the Duwili Ella hike will be an unforgettable experience. Just be sure to be well-prepared and enjoy the journey!

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