© 2023 Dr Margaret Sheppard

Deities Hierarchy Ceremonies Sakra Guardians Twelve Deities

Kavadi - Offering of Burden Dance

Kavadi is another type of offering that pilgrims make to Kataragama. They, with this offering, may be appealing to the Deity for the release of a loved one from an illness or bad luck, or carrying out a vow in gratitude for the Deity’s prior assistance.

There is an area of the Temple Market where several  stalls provide all the necessary equipment for this Kavadi offering. This consists of the “burdens” which are wooden arches decorated with peacock tail feathers carried by the dancers, the lance (Kataragama is considered by Hindus as the Deity of War) and the band who play the appropriate dance music for those making the offering to Kataragama.

(The hire fee circa 2004 was  approximately 3000 Sri Lankan rupees)

Stall holders providing this Kavadi service to pilgrims attract customers by playing  “tasters” of the distinctive Kavadi music.

Pilgrims - usually family groups - When they have selected one of the Kavadi stalls, pilgrims - usually family groups -, then organise themselves into their procession as this offering involves dancing all the way from the stall outside the temple complex, across the bridge over the sacred river and along the processional route up to the entrance of the main Kataragama Temple.

When all are ready and organised, the band commences to play the distinctive Kavadi music. The band plays at the rear of the procession, usually pilgrim groups place the children and women near the front and the men and youths around the sides and bringing up the rear in front of the band.

The dancers dance in time to the music, twirling and twisting around. As one tires with a “burden” another dancer will take it over. There are smaller “burdens” for the children. In this Kavadi the pilgrim’s leader is dancing with the trident (lance) as the procession nears the entrance to the Temple.

When they arrived at the entrance they danced for sometime before the entrance. The entrance  faces the main Temple to Kataragama. Then they retire back to the stall to return the equipment. - They usually walk back!

Kavadi is an enjoyable offering . Although basically Hindu, many Buddhist families will make it.