|Above: The Kataragama festival officially starts with the hoisting of an Islamic flag at the Mosque. Below: Bawas of the Refai Tariqat
|Khizr Maqām: Refai bawas with Basnayake Nilame and Mosque Trustee Gaffar at right
|Ratheeb: Weapons of steel draw no blood from Refai bawas who demonstrate the power of faith at Kataragama.
Trustee of the Kataragama Mosque and Shrine al-Haj M.L.A. Gaffar, addressing the devotees at the Esala festival Flag-hoisting Ceremony on July 23, 1998, said that only at one place in the world do people of three religions worship together. Kataragama belongs to all the people of the world, not only to Sri Lankans.
The hoisting of the Islamic flag to mark the start of the 16-day Esala festival is only one of Kataragama's many traditions associated with the Mosque and Shrine. The origin of many traditions are lost in antiquity.
Kataragama is renowned among pious Muslims the world over as Khidr-gama, 'the home of al-Khidr'. In Islamic lore, al-Khidr 'the Green Man' was the companion of Alexander the Great who discovered the ma'ul hayat or Water of Life.
Al-Khidr will live until the end of the world and whatever place he visits remains fresh and green. He is also known as Hayat Nabi 'the living prophet'.
During the Esala Festival, Maulood is recited in the name of Hayat Nabi (Khidr alai) every morning. The final Thamam recital occurs on August 8 after the Buddhists and Hindus celebrate the Water-cutting Ceremony at the Menik Ganga. Following Thamam, a great feast is offered and the flag is lowered to end the festival.
Throughout the Esala festival, bawas or faqirs of the Refai Sufi Order perform Ratheeb ceremony every evening at the Mosque. The dramatic ritual of self-mortification in the Name of Allah attracts hundreds of Muslims and non-Muslims.
"Muslims call him Hayat Nabi," al-Haj Gaffar told the assembled crowd. "To Hindus he is Murugan. Buddhists call him Kataragama Deviyo."
Traditions of Islamic Kataragama
Islamic Kataragama: The Timeless Shrine
Interview with M.H.A. Gaffar, Trustee of Kataragama Mosque & Shrine
The Story of al-Khadir and Zul-Qarnain
"Kataragama is for all people"
Coming of Mystery Imam al-Mahdi
Kataragama the 'Home of al-Khidr'
Al-Khadir, Alexander and the Fountain of Life
Al-Faqr or `Spiritual Poverty'
"Kataragama - The land of Khidr"
"Flag-Hoisting Ceremony at the Mosque"
"Muslim Pal Kudi Bawa of Kataragama"
www.khidr.org web site Abul `Abbas, Hazrat al-Khidr
www.jailani.org web site Dafther Jailany associated with Sheikh Muhiyadeen Abdul Qadir Jilani