Unholy showdown at holy shrine
The ‘pooja’ at the historical Ruhuna Kataragama Devalaya was not held on Monday morning as the key to the devalaya had been taken away by Basnayaka Nilame D. P. Kumarage from a kapurala who was to perform the ritual.
Well informed sources said the incident had occurred due to a dispute between the Basnayake Nilame and the kapuralas.
Basnayaka Nilame Kumarage, contacted for comment, said, “When I proceeded to open the door of the Devalaya the key was missing I was forced to use another key to open the door. A kapurala came and asked me what right I had go to open the devale and abused me.
Thereafter, the main door to the Devalaya was kept closed and I returned to my official residence.”
A kapurala serving the Kataragamaa Devalaya Lal Rajapakse had a different version of the incident. He said Kumarage and his son, accompanied by a group of thugs had taken key away forcibly when he went to open the devalaya with Chief Kapurala Somapala Ratnayake.
Rajapaksa said it was the first time that the ‘pooja’ at the Kataragama Devalaya had not been and it was bad for the country. That had inconvenienced many devotees who had thronged at the Devalaya premises, he added.
Chief Kapurala Somapala Ratnayake said that the handing over of the key to the devalaya was a tradition maintained since the time of King Dutugemunu and it should not be taken to unauthorised places.
He said irate villagers with other kapuralas had retrieved the key from the Basnayake Nilame by force and made arrangements to conduct the ‘Pooja’.
Two employees of the Basnayake Nilame’s office sustained injuries in the melee and were admitted to the Tissamaharama Hospital.