Kataragama, Sri Lanka
Coordinates: 6.416158, 81.335440
Kataragama Makam Ceremony evidently takes its name after the (supposedly) maqam or shrine of Hz. Khizr عليه اسلام situated in the Muslim quarter of Kataragama.
The shrine known as Khalir Makam or ‘Hz. Khizr عليه اسلام’s Sanctuary’ is so called as it is believed that Hz. Khizr عليه اسلام’s mysterious presence pervades the shrine.
However, as the trustee of the shrine, Abdul Gaffar informed us, Hz. Khizr عليه اسلام is like air, when one thinks of him, he is there.
The shrine, it is said, had been in existence for a long time, firstly in a most crude form consisting of just one wattle and daub room called ‘Khizar room’ hardly 15 feet by 15 feet.
It was however not very long before miracles came to be attributed to that mysterious being after whom it had been named, not only in Sri Lanka but also in South India where we have a Tamil text, the Kanzul Karamat claiming that a famous 16th Century Indian saint, Shawl Hamid رحمة الله عليه, was mysteriously brought over to Sri Lanka by Hz. Khizr عليه اسلام and placed on the banks of the Menik Ganga where in the company of angels, the robe of Kutbul Akhtab was conferred on him.
Mentioned by Ibn Battuta
The influence of Hz. Khizr عليه اسلام in the country is also apparent in the writings of Ibn Battuta as far back as his travels where we find him mentioning the cave of Hz. Khizr عليه اسلام where the pilgrims to Adam’s Peak left their belongings before ascending to its summit. He even mentions a spring also called after Hz. Khizr عليه اسلام and full of fish which no one catches.
Hz. Khizr عليه اسلام influence in Asia
Around this mysterious personage has grown a number of folk beliefs in various parts of the Muslim world, especially in Asia Minor, the Near East and the Indian subcontinent. The mystical tradition of the Sufis has it that he is immortal, having drunk of the Aab-Hayat or ‘Water of Life’.
In Turkey, Hz. Khizr عليه اسلام is known as Hizir and is said to appear before human eyes in the form of a frail old dervish with a long white beard. He is regarded as the patron saint of travellers, protecting them from the hazards of the road and is also said to rescue men from disaster. In India, Hz. Khizr عليه اسلام is known as Khizar.