Living Heritage of Sri Lanka

Okanda ashram community

The annual foot pilgrimage or Pada Yatra from Jaffna to Kataragama stops at Okanda for a few days on its journey. At present, pilgrims join the yatra from all over the East Coast. This initiative will also pave the way for Indian and other pilgrims to once again participate in this primordial tradition that has kept an oral culture alive. The Okanda shrine and the villagers of Kudimbigala will provide traditional hospitality for these pilgrims who in turn will teach us through their experience.

The Okanda shrine, which now stands half-constructed, will be completed and the surrounding garden preserved as a sacred grove, with the addition of appropriate environmentally friendly pilgrim shelters and sanitation facilities. The wells servicing the temple will also be cleaned and maintained. The traditional relationship between the village and the shrine will be re-established, whereby the villagers of Kudimbigala will once again become the shrine's principal patrons.

We have been told that traditional knowledge is disseminated by masters in accordance with rules of pupilage. All those invited to visit us will be motivated by this ideology. We will seek to re-establish the guru kula, or school of wisdom and knowledge of the orient, by revitalizing village institutions like the ambalama - the wayside halt - which was traditionally used by travelers to impart clarity of thought through stories. All our teachers shall be of authentic paramparavas, or lineages.

Six dwellings will be built as an ashram at Okanda for visiting teachers from Sri Lanka and elsewhere, invited by us to impart their knowledge in a temple environment. We have sought the support of various communities in the island, the SAARC region and the world at large to introduce us to visiting masters of the Perennial Philosophy.