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.
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.