• Short Summary

    The ancients of Sri Lanka held the belief that all sicknesses were caused by the curses or evil influence of various evil spirits or devils.

  • Description

    Roll 1

    The dance artists prepare the Ailaya (altar) with sender coconut leaves, made into various shapes.
    1 - 12 ft

    Lighting the traditional oil lamp near the offerings, before starting the ceremony, followed by a dance.
    12-20 ft

    The patient, an old man named Porolis, is brought to the arena, and sits on a mat.
    20-28 ft

    G.S. and CU of dancers, CU of drummer and eye of drum.
    28-55 ft

    Cutaways of spectators - GVs and CUs. followed by wipe
    55-80 ft

    The "Pandampeliya" - dance with torches. Incense thrown into the flame, causing flare of light. MSs and CUs.
    80-100 ft

    Roll 2

    The hathpada peliya and Kukul peliya dance. "Kukul" means fowl - a white cock bird is brought as an offering. MSs and CUs of dancer and bird. Wipe.
    35 ft

    Dancing continues, with the dancers wearing the mask depicting the different devils and the features of the sickness. E.g. Paralysis is represented by a mask with the mouth at a slant.
    35-50 ft

    The dance of the RIRI YAKA (blood devil)- the devil that causes diseases of the blood.
    50-60 ft

    Chanting charms and the dance of the KALU YAKA (black devil)
    60-75 ft

    GV and CU of patient
    75-85 ft

    The dance of the ABHIMANA YAKA (proud devil). CUs of drummers and drums. Dance of the THOTA YAKA (Water devil)
    85-100 ft

    Roll 3

    MS and CU of Deva Sanniya (dance wearing a god's face)
    1-15 ft

    Maru Sanniya (mask depicting death)
    5-10 ft

    Dances of the Snake devil, and the devils causing diseases like rheumatism, chills etc.
    10-35 ft

    Dances of the Sanke devil (mask depicting a snake), Hunter devil and the devil causing paralysis.
    35-45 ft

    Three more dancers wearing the Demala, Seetha and Bhutha masks.
    45-50 ft

    Bin, Okkara and Gulma masks.
    50 - 55 ft

    Under the influence of the charms and dances, the patient dances in a trance with the other dancers. The dancing becomes vigorous and the patient nears exhaustion
    55-90 ft

    The patient drops down. A short while later, he gets up cured of his malady.
    90 - 100 ft


    Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved

    Background: The ancients of Sri Lanka held the belief that all sicknesses were caused by the curses or evil influence of various evil spirits or devils. When the normal ayurvedic treatment - mainly composed of decoctions and pills from medicinal herbs- proved of no avail, it was generally believed that the sickness persisted because of the evil influence of the particular devil "in charge" of the disease. In such an event it was customary to summon a charmer (Kattadiya) and get him to perform a ceremony to appease the devils responsible by chanting manthrams or charms and performing dances wearing the masks of the different devils. The devils (Yakas) RIRI YAKA (blood devil), KALU YAKA (black devil), ABHIMANA YAKA (proud devil) and THOTA YAKA (water devil) etc. had to be appeased by chanting praises and performing dances wearing masks depicting the various devils. Western influence and medicine has pushed these customs and beliefs to the remote interiors, and they are now a dwindling ???. The children of these charmers and dancers prefer to go to school and do white collar jobs rather than follow their parents' footsteps. There are 18 masks depicting the different devils. For instance, the Awulun mask is worn to get rid of rheumatism.

    paralysis. The mouth of the mask used to cure paralysis, has a slant. Features of the disease are depicted by colour and shape.

    The dances are performed in front of an altar, made of plantain bark and tender coconut leaves. A tree is improvised behind the alter, and the devil climbed this tree from behind end appears through the branches. After raking gestures and shouting the devil out, he comes down and dances. Chanting and drumming goes on the side.

    At the end of the performance, the patient get into a trance and joins the dancers; dancing vig???ously. Soon he is exhausted, and falls on the ground. When he recovers, he is believed to be cured.

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    Reuters - Including Visnews
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