Kathirkaamam festival postponed, pilgrims on foot from Jaffna stranded midway

Saivaites in the country of Eezham Tamils have expressed deep concern over the sudden change of dates of the annual festival of the Kathirkaamam Murukan Koyil this year without any notice to them. Hundreds of Saiva devotees who are on foot pilgrimage that commenced last month from Jaffna Chella Channithi Murugan Koyil via districts of Ki’linochchi and Mullaith-theevu to reach Kathirkaamam on the day of flag hoisting that was to take place on July 8 have been stranded in midway in the districts of Trincomalee and Batticaloa with the announcement of the new dates by the Kathirkaamam Koayil administration that is now exclusively Sinhala-Buddhist.

According to tradition and according to the Hindu Pagnchaangkam (Almanac) issued by the Hindu Cultural Affairs Ministry, this year’s Kathirkaamam festival was to begin on July 8 with the flag hoisting ceremony and was to end with the Water-Cutting Ceremony on the Full Moon Day falling on July 22.

But this year, the Kathirkaamam Koyil administration headed by the Basanayake Nilame and Kapuralas has announced that the festival would begin on August 7 with flag hoisting and would end with the water cutting festival on the August 21 Full Moon Day.

The change of time table has been announced without even giving notice and reason to Sri Lanka’s own ‘Hindu Cultural Affairs Department’ that comes under the Buddha Sasana Ministry and Religious Affairs. Hindu Cultural Affairs Department sources said that the date of Kathirkaamam Koayil festival had been changed without intimation to them.

Until a few decades ago, majority of the pilgrims who used to gather at Kathirkaamam was Tamils. Since time immemorial, the Jaffna Tamil devotees start their pilgrimage on foot from the Chella-Channathi Murukan temple and walk along the eastern coast to reach Kathirkaamam. They return via walking along the western coast, thus making a complete round of the island in the clockwise direction. They have a particular schedule and traditional halting places. With the changed announcement that has now completely ignored Tamils, the pilgrims stranded in the midway halting places are puzzled whether to abandon the pilgrimage or to stay in the halting places for a month.

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