Kataragama ashram asked to close
from The Island (Colombo) Friday 16th August 1996
A humble ashram in Kataragama which opens its doors to any pilgrim has been asked to shut down, seemingly for no rhyme or reason.
Patrick Harrigan who was primarily responsible for the establishment of the ashram said that the police had requested him to seal the place, while the Kataragama festival was in progress. However, he is at sea as to why the ashram was shut down. But Patrick feels that someone is eyeing the property because of its newfound value,
Since the area comes under the Kataragama Sacred City zone, the residents there are at the mercy of officialdom, from whom they must obtain permits to remain on those lands. Patrick believes that the interested parties will now seek to have the permit revoked.
This American who has been in Sri Lanka on and off since 1971 queries why his organisation has been singled out for closure.
The ashram, the Kataragama Kæle Kendra situtated at 18, Nagaha Veediya, parallel to the Menik Ganga, consists of gardens and a few wattle-and-daub huts. The huts provide shelter to any wearied traveller at no cost.
Both devotees and visitors of different nationalities and ethnicities avail themselves of the services provided by the ashram. Patrick aserts that at the ashram people of different ethnicities live together. This he said was integration.
The swami of the ashram, one S. Narayanapillai, a retired school principal from Kalawanchikudi, has returned to his hometown because of the threat to shut down.
Organic cultivation too has been introduced at the ashram, where numerous fruit and medicinal trees have been planted. The ashram area, half an acre in extent, was originally scattered with gullies and its original occupant had given it to the ashram in 1993.
It is believed that the orders to shut down came from the Kataragama Divisional Secretariat. A spokesman for the Kataragama Police said that they had not been given orders to evict the inhabitants of the ashram. The OIC of the police station was not available for comment.
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