Hi guys, hope you are doing well. Today I will take you to Southern Province again, to be specific, to Matara. I’m not taking you to another natural attraction, instead I am taking you to a ‘cultural attraction’. That is Dondra Shrine (and temple) situated in Dondra, Matara.
Dondra Shrine is a mix of a Buddhist temple and some shrines of several gods. Among them, the shrine of the God Vishnu (Uthpalawanna Sri Vishnu Devalaya) is the main and the largest one (see the above image). Legends say that Dondra is the home of God Vishnu. In the Dondra season, thousands of people visit Dondra Shrine daily. The premises get really crowded at the times.
Dondra Esala Festival
The Dondra season is a large cultural and religious festival with a very long history. It consists of Dondra Procession and the Fair. On an auspicious time, on a day before seven days to Esala Poya Day (full moon day of the month of July), the rituals get started. After that, six processions take place daily, and they are called ‘peli perahera’. Then comes the main procession called ‘randoli maha perahera’. Although I haven’t watched a procession in the memorable past, it is said to be a very beautiful and colourful one with lots of items. After the procession the fair gets started.
History of Dondra Shrine
Dondra Shrine has a very long history dated back to seventh century. According to history, King Dhappula has built the Shrine of God Vishnu around 650 AC. It was a three storied stone building. Portuguese invaders totally destroyed it in 1587. Even today, some stone pillars, a stone door frame and some other stone made remains can be seen there. The existing building is a recently built one (1954).
The procession said to be started in around 1257 AC, and it is believed that this year procession is the 762nd one. It makes this one way older than the procession of The Sacred Temple of Tooth Relic (Kandy). But obviously this is much lesser in magnitude compared to it.
My friends, my wife and I visited Dondra Shrine last month, at a night, right after the fair started, to avoid the excessive crowd (but still it was somewhat crowded).
In the season, Dondra Shrine gets heavily decorated. Check the above images of the road if front of the shrine and the entrance of the shrine. This year, the decorations are kind of less. Normally the place is decorated way more than this.
The first thing your eye will catch here, is the immense standing statue of Lord Buddha. It is not an ancient statue. But it is one of the tallest statues of Lord Buddha in Sri Lanka.
There are several image houses and a sacred relic house in the premises. We didn’t visit all of them since we have visited them several times. But make sure you visit them all if you ever go to this place.
The shrine of God Vishnu was closed by the time. Otherwise, you could see a large crowd and long queue here.
That was the religious side of the Dondra Shrine. Now I will take you to the fun side. There is a public ground in front of the Dondra Shrine. As I mentioned earlier, after the procession, it becomes a fair. Hundreds of temporary stalls of various kinds get placed there. They are called ‘perahera kada’ (meaning ‘procession stalls’). Almost everyone who came to visit the Dondra Shrine and the procession, make sure to visit this fare.
But be warned, when you take your kids in there, you will face a big trouble. Because it is a toy paradise. Not only toys, you will find foods, hand crafts, clothes, kitchenware, electric wares, ornaments, gardening items, etc. etc. etc. there. There are some uncommon stalls among them also, such as tattoo parlours and paid gaming spots.
Even though the ground is not that much big, hundreds of stalls are placed in lines so closely. Sometimes it is very hard to even walk among them in the crowd.
How to Reach…?
Here is the exact location of the Dondra Shrine. Dondra Lighthouse is also situated so close by to this.
So, that is about the Dondra Shrine and the fair. If you ever visit the place in season, make sure to worship/visit the temple and/or shrine first. Otherwise, you won’t have enough energy to do that later. If you have any doubts feel free to leave a comment below. See you in the next article.