Kataragama Esala Festival,
In the southeast of the island, the sacred site of Kataragama is brought to life with its unique annual Esala festival, which commemorates the victory of the six-faced, 12-armed Hindu war god, Skanda, over an army of demons at Kataragama. Naturally, many Hindu devotees make the pilgrimage to the shrine, but Buddhists, Muslims and some Christians also honour this god. During this 10-day festival pilgrims demonstrate their sincerity by performing astonishing acts of penance and self-mortification. These include walking barefoot atop hot coals and spearing themselves with hooks.