Kahatapitiya Mosque

Kahatapitiya Mosque
Kahatapitiya Mosque (Sinhala: කහටපිටිය පල්ලිය) is an orthodox Muslim Mosque near Gampola town in Kandy District, Sri Lanka.

The history of this site probably runs back to the Gampola Period [(1341-1412 A.D.) Silva et al., 2016]. According to folklore, a saint named Athaulla who came on a pilgrimage to Adam's Peak had obtained a plot of land from King Bhuvanekabahu IV (1341-1350 A.D.) and later taken up residence there (Abeyawardana, 2004; De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009). It is said that he had selected that site because of the view of Adams Peak that he could see from there (Abeyawardana, 2004). After his death, the mosque was erected at this site (Abeyawardana, 2004; De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009).

Another similar legend associated with the Kahatapitiya mosque reveals how the present shrine was established. According to that, an ascetic from Mecca named Bawa Khauf sat at this place in meditation and his dignified motionless posture struck the attention of a toddy tapper who had come to tap a palm tree (Dewaraja, 1994).  In order to confirm whether this ascetic was alive or dead, the tapper sliced off the tip of his nose but the ascetic was motionless (Dewaraja, 1994). In the next day, the tapper was surprised to see the piece he had cut off from the ascetic re-attached to the nose (Dewaraja, 1994). The tapper informed this incident to the Gampola king who visited the ascetic and asked him what he needed (Dewaraja, 1994). The ascetic asked the king for some land for him to lay his head on and when the king wished to know the extent he required, the ascetic threw his bangle called the Sakkara Valalla in four directions and indicated the area (Dewaraja, 1994). The king is said to have granted the ascetic this plot of land and this area is still known among the locals as Sakkarankotuva (Dewaraja, 1994). This ascetic was deified after his death and a tomb was erected at the site in his memory (Dewaraja, 1994). Later a mosque sprang up on the same place (Dewaraja, 1994).

According to another legend, the body of Henakanda Biso Bandara has been buried at this place (Abeyawardana, 2004; De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009).

Bawa Khauf shrine
Besides the main mosque, there is a separate shrine dedicated to the Awlia (a Sufi saint) named Bawa Khauf who, according to legend, arrived in Kahatapitiya from Mecca (Dewaraja, 1994; Silva et al., 2016). As is typical of Sufi shrines, this shrine also contains the tomb of that saint (Silva et al., 2016). According to Obeyesekere, this shrine is a popular sorcery shrine among Muslims as well as Buddhists (Obeyesekere, 1975).

The architectural style of this shrine is different from the style of typical Muslim shrines (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009). The walls have been plastered with lime and some parts of them are covered with glazed ceramic wall tiles (De Silva & Chandrasekara, 2009). 

Wahabi influence
Some Muslims who returned to Sri Lanka after going to the Middle East for employment started a campaign to discredit the Awlia shrine in the 1990s as they identified it as a place conducting anti-Islamic practices that are not in conformity with Wahabi teachings (Silva et al., 2016). 

1) Abeyawardana, H.A.P., 2004. Heritage of Kandurata: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Colombo: The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. p.63.
2) De Silva, N.; Chandrasekara, D.P., 2009. Heritage Buildings of Sri Lanka. Colombo: The National Trust Sri Lanka, ISBN: 978-955-0093-01-4. p.134.
3) Dewaraja, L.S., 1994. The Muslims of Sri Lanka: one thousand years of ethnic harmony, 900-1915. Lanka Islamic Foundation. pp.116-117.
4) Obeyesekere, G., 1975. Sorcery, premeditated murder, and the canalization of aggression in Sri Lanka. Ethnology, 14(1), pp.1-23.
5) Silva, K.T., Niwas, A. and Wickramasinghe, W.M.K.B., 2016. Religious Interface and Contestations between Buddhists and Muslims in Sri Lanka. Colombo: International Centre for Ethnic Studies, pp.24-25.

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This page was last updated on 7 May 2023

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