What is it about?

This article explores the multiethnic and multireligious sacred place of Kataragama (Tamil: Kathirkamam) located at the southeast corner of Sri Lanka. Kataragama attracts people from all ethnic and religious communities, as well as from all social strata in Sri Lankan society. Using Marianne Qvortrup Fibiger’s notion of “religious hotspots” as a starting point, this article analyzes how the “thaumaturgical power” of Kataragama forms the basis for the coexistence of multiple religious systems within the defined space of the sacred city. This coexistence, however, is under constant pressure from exclusionary nationalist and political forces.

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Why is it important?

The article shows that existing ethnic and inter-religious co-existence cannot be taken for granted and is vulnerable to politicization and exclusionary forces. It also draws attention to the Buddhist politics of space, too often ignored in theorization of space. It adds to post-colonial perspectives by showing why pre-modern Buddhist concepts of space and territorialization are crucial for our understanding of contemporary Buddhist politics of space.


It has been a privilege to have been able to follow one particular sacred space for 24 years and follow developments over the long durée.

Iselin Frydenlund
MF Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and Society

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: The Power of Kataragama: From “Hotspot” to “Cold Spot”?, Numen, January 2023, Brill,
DOI: 10.1163/15685276-12341676.
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