Multi Religiosity at Gampola Kahatapitiya Jumma Mosque (කහටපිටිය ජුම්මා පල්ලිය)

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Kahatapitiya is an orthodox Muslim Mosque situated within the Urban Council Limits of Gampola in close proximity to Peradeniya – Gampola road. This is not a hybrid building but a typical Muslim mosque with a separate shrine for the Sufi saint, Bawa Khauf. This shrine has been frequented by both Sinhalese and Muslims for generations in a now rare harmony. There is only one other shrine such a harmony is seen in Sri Lanka, which is the Gale Bandara Muslim Shrine in Kurunegala.

According to legend, the land which the mosque now stands was a waste land with a few trees. An ascetic from Mecca called Bawa Khauf sat here in mediation and his dignified motionless posture struck the attention of a toddy tapper who had come to tap the palm tree.

In order to ascertain whether this figure was alive or dead, the tapper is said to have sliced off the tip of his nose. The ascetic remained motionless. The following morning the toddy tapper was astonished to see the piece he had cut-off re-attached to the nose. The tapper was overawed and related his experience to the Gampola king, who visited the ascetic and asked him what he needed “Only a strip of land to lay my head on,” was the reply. When the king wished to know the extent required, the ascetic threw his bangle called the Sakkara valalla in four directions and indicated the area. The king (believed to be Buwanekabahu IV [1341-1351]) granted this land area which is still known as Sakkarankotuva (Dewaraja,1994).

After his death Bawa Khauf was deified as a an Awliya (a Sufi saint) and a tomb was built in his memory. Later a mosque sprang up on the same place which continued to be a well known place of pilgrimage.

Another folk tradition states that the body of Henakanda Biso Bandara had been buried at this site (Abeyawardhana, 2004).

The established practice of Islam in Sri Lanka was largely Sunni who have been traditionally accommodative in its religious practices, maintaining cordial links with other religious and socio-cultural groups and also allowing for a diversity of practices such as Sufi saint worship, which goes back at least a couple of centuries (Herath & Rambukwella, 2015).

This shrine is visited by both Muslims and Buddhists in the area who seek to obtain the blessing of the Awliya for various secular problems including his mediation in divine justice. In a study conducted by Obeyesekere in 1975, this shrine was identified as a sorcery shrine popular among Buddhists and Muslims.

As in Kurunegala Gale Bandara Devalaya, some educated Muslim youth who had returned from employment in the Middle East and corresponding absorption of Wahabi teaching in the Middle East started a campaign to discredit the Awliya shrine in Kahatapitiya somewhere in the 1990s.

They first interviewed a priest working in the shrine and asked him if he really believed in Awliya’s miracle power. The priest apparently expressed doubts and this interview was secretly recorded by the youth in a mischievous effort to discredit the shrine. Later they played back the recorded conversation for visiting clients with the hope of discouraging this from soliciting assistance from Awliya, identifying it as an anti-Islamic practice as understood in Wahabi teachings.

The mosque authorities decided to sack the relevant priest as his loyalty to the mosque and the shrine was considered questionable. The action by Wahabi youth had the effect of reducing attendance in the shrine for some time but eventually the popularity of the shrine has increased to some extent even though the mosque authorities and the priests connected with the shrine had made a conscious effort to maintain a low-key presence and a distance from the activities of the shrine (Niwas et al., 2016).

References

  1. Dewaraja, L.S. (1994) The Muslims of Sri Lanka: One Thousand Years of Ethnic Harmony, 900-1915. Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Lanka Islamic Foundation.
  2. Herath, D. and Rambukwella, H. (2015) Self, religion, identity and politics: Buddhist and Muslim encounters in contemporary Sri Lanka. Colombo: International Centre for Ethnic Studies.
  3. Niwas, A., Wickramasinghe, W.M.K.B. and Silva, K.T. (2016) Religious interface and contestations between Buddhists and Muslims in Sri Lanka: A study of recent developments in multi-religious and cross-cultural sites. Colombo, Sri Lanka: International Centre for Ethnic Studies.
  4. Abeyawardhana, H. A. P. (2004) Heritage of Kandurata: Major Natural, Cultural, and Historic Sites. Kandy: Kandurata Development Bank, in association with the Central Bank of Sri Lanka.

Also See

Map of Kahatapitiya Jumma Mosque

Please click on the button below to load the Dynamic Google Map (ගූගල් සිතියම් පහලින්)
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The map above also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites

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Travel Directions to Kahatapitiya Jumma Mosque

Route from Kandy to Kahatapitiya Jumma MosqueRoute from Gampola to Kahatapitiya Jumma Mosque
Through : Peradeniya – Gampola road
Distance : 18 km
Travel time : 45 mins
Driving directions : see on google map
Through Kandy Road
Distance : 2 km
Travel time : 5 mins
Driving directions : see on google map

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