Devotees urged to avoid foot-pilgrimage to Kathirkaamam

[TamilNet, Sunday, 16 March 2008, 13:07 GMT]
Kathirkaamam Devotees Trust, in a press release, urged devotees of all communities to refrain from organizing traditional foot-pilgrimage to historic Kathirkaamam Murukan Temple via the Yala sanctuary this year in view of the deadly incidents in Uva province. "We strongly advise all individuals and societies to cancel any and all plans to enter jungle areas where security forces and insurgents will be engaged in armed conflict for the foreseeable future," the statement said.

"This year we encourage devotees to walk as far as Ukanthai Murugan Temple and enjoy the Ukanthai Murugan festival, or else proceed by vehicle to Kathirkaamam on roads deemed safe by authorities. Devotees should not in any way complicate the task of security forces by attempting to enter Yala National Park at a time when security operations are in progress nor should they tempt fate or invite death or injury by encouraging others to enter the jungle or by entering it themselves.

"Individuals should frame their vows this year in terms that do not necessitate crossing jungle areas on foot. There have been other years when the foot-pilgrimage was suspended for security reasons. The opportunity to walk safely will come again. But this year we urge all to avoid the jungle routes," the release said.

In 1970s only about 1500 devotees went on foot-pilgrimage from Jaffna district. 1983 July riots brought the foot-pilgrimage to an abrupt halt. There was no foot pilgrimage till 1988.

The Kathirkaamam Devotees Trust was formed in 1988 to protect devotees undertaking foot pilgrimage. In 1988 only about 60 pilgrims dared to walk through Yala sanctuary.

In 2004, the number of pilgrims swelled to more than 30 thousand entering Yala en route to Kadirgaamam according to Wild Life Department Officials.

Devotees from north and east walk through the jungles to Kathirkaamam on foot-pilgrimage to pay their homage to Lord Murugan and fulfill their vows. The tradition started centuries ago has continued even after the motorable was extended up to Kathirkaamam from Tissamaharagama.

Pilgrims on foot sleep, rest under trees and in shrines and temples when passing through jungle path along coastal areas of the eastern province before entering the Yala sanctuary in Uva province, according to temple trustees.

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