COLOMBO, SRI LANKA, February 16, 2004: Sri Lanka is an avowedly Buddhist country, and the majority population is Sinhala-Buddhist. But the Buddhist here are also ardent worshippers of Hindu Gods. When the need arises, they may even indulge in Hindu ritualistic practices, says this report in the Hindustan Times. In fact, the worship of Hindu Gods is intrinsic to the 2,500-year-old Sinhala-Buddhist cultural tradition, states this article on the position of Gods in Buddhism. Almost every Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka has shrines for a variety of Hindu and pre-Buddhist Sri Lankan divinities. After worshipping at the main shrine dedicated to the Buddha, the devotees proceed to smaller shrines dedicated to Hindu Gods like Ganesha, Vishnu, and Skanda (known as Kataragama among the Sinhalas and Murugan among the Tamils). One of the most deeply entrenched and enduring beliefs among the Sinhala-Buddhists is that Vishnu is the defender and protector of Sri Lanka. The ancient Sinhala-Buddhist chronicle Mahavamsa, mentions this. Skanda or Lord Kataragama is also deemed to be a protector, though mainly of individuals, points out Dr. Arjuna De Zoysa, an expert in Buddhism and the philosophy of science at the Open University of Sri Lanka. The shrine for Skanda in Kataragama, in south Sri Lanka is a popular pilgrimage destination for the Sinhala-Buddhists as well as for the country's Tamils. For the complete article, click on "source" above.