Shasheendra Kumara Rajapaksa as the Basnayake Nilame
Ruhunu Maha Kataragama Dewalaya, a shrine dedicated to God Kataragama situated in the Monaragala District of the Uva Province is very popular with Buddhists, Hindus and indigenous Vedda communities. As per the Dept. of Archeology, this dewalaya has been identified as one of the oldest Kataragama Dewalayas in Sri Lanka. According to folklore and to the legend, it had been built by king Dutugemunu in 2 BCE during the days of Rohana Kingdom, as a token of gratitude for the blessings he had received from the deity to bring the country under one flag yet again.
As per the documented history, 12 Basnayake Nilames had served the Dewalaya and Shasheendra Kumara Rajapaksa assumed duties as its 13th Basnayake Nilame on 17th March 2006 bringing in a new aurora to the Ruhunu Maha Kataragama Dewalaya and he has made every effort to maintain its historic and religious significance.
Shasheendra Kumara Rajapaksa is the youngest ever to hold this important position and with this appointment he became a very prominent personality among the people of the Uva Province. Shasheendra, while taking up the duties associated with the new position with due reverence, has gone beyond it to be of a pillar of strength to the people of Uva.
Having taken a note of the exceptional services Shasheendra renders in his capacity as the Basnayake Nilame, His Excellency the President re-appointed him for a second term beginning 2011.
As Basnayake Nilame, he is entrusted with the day-to-day management of the Maha Dewalaya and all its possessions including lands bestowed on it by the kings of Sri Lanka. In addition, he presides over all its annual events, such as the Esala Festival (festivities in July/ August), Il Nartana festivities (November Dancing festivities) and Aluth Sahal Mangalyaya (token offering of the harvest). He has taken the initiative to introduce many traditional events to the annual Esala festival that celebrates the God Kataragama's courtship and marriage to Valli Matha, a Vedda Princess, in July to August.
Shasheendra Kumara Rajapaksa, as the Basnayake Nilame inquires regularly after the wellbeing of his staff of the Dewalaya and has provided many facilities to them and their families to improve their living standards. With the enormous assistance he receives from his staff and the well-wishers, Shasheendra has arranged to supply food and refreshments to several thousands of dedicated pilgrims who visit Kataragama during the annual festival season. Under his instructions, the surplus fruits that get collected in the Dewalaya offered by the devotees are being distributed among the resident patients in all rural hospitals of Kataragama. His innovations have led to social development of the sacred city of Kataragama centered round the Dewalaya.
Further, he has fulfilled many needs of the devotees including better access roads and uninterrupted supply of drinking water. Most of the many thousands who visit Kataragama now travel by vehicles as the road network in Kataragama has been tremendously developed. His services have gone beyond the Dewalaya and have covered even the local government schools to provide education to children of Kataragama in primary, secondary and higher grades, under his supervision as the Minister of Education of the Uva Provincail Council. The Basnayake Nilame Shasheendra Kumara Rajapaksa is bestowed with the blessings and the strength of the God Kataragama to provide more and more to the people of Kataragama and of Sri Lanka.