Divine Disappearance: Gold Tray Vanishes from Katharagama

Divine Disappearance: Gold Tray Vanishes from Katharagama

Kataragama, Sri Lanka In a bizarre twist of faith and finance, Sri Lanka’s most senior shaman, Somipala Ratnayake, has been arrested for an alleged breach of trust involving a missing gold tray gifted to the revered Hindu deity Lord Murugan. The tray, valued at over $20,000, vanished from the Kataragama shrine under Ratnayake’s watch, sparking a two-year saga that now culminates in court.

Ratnayake, in his mid-80s, faces charges for the “criminal breach of trust” after a lay custodian raised the alarm over the missing offering in 2021. However, the case is complicated by competing claims. While police proceed with the charges, another shaman, Lal Arapaksha, insists that offerings belong to the shamans as per tradition

No theft:

“There’s no theft,” Arapaksha asserts. “Offerings like nails from a manufacturer get used for shrine upkeep or exchanged for cash. These things are needed to support the ten kapuwas and their helpers.”

Adding to the intrigue, Sri Lanka’s religious landscape is a tapestry of beliefs. Though predominantly Buddhist, the island nation readily incorporates Hindu and animistic elements. Buddhist priests even invoke the 330 million Hindu gods, demonstrating the intertwining of practices.

Kataragama, a site venerated by Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims,  and Christians alike, stands as a testament to this interfaith harmony. Yet, the missing gold tray has cast a shadow over the revered shrine, drawing attention to the delicate balance between tradition, responsibility, and faith.

Ratnayake’s fate will be decided in a Tissamaharama court, just miles from the Kataragama shrine. This story, with its mix of religion, ritual, and financial concerns, is sure to be closely watched in Sri Lanka, where the line between piety and profit often blurs.

The incident also casts a shadow over another recent shaman controversy—a strike at a different shrine over pay disputes. As spiritual practices intermingle with financial realities, Sri Lanka’s religious institutions face growing scrutiny and calls for transparency.

One thing is certain: the missing gold tray has stirred a divine storm in Sri Lanka, with the whispers of faith and finance echoing through the halls of Kataragama’s ancient shrine.

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