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Posted on Thursday, August 17 - 2006

By: Florence Wickramage The Weekend Express - Saturday 24th - Sunday 25th, July 1999

Amidst the wafting fragrance of the golden-hued Esala flowers, the Esala full moon will once again herald in a season of splendour, unequalled to nay other such season anywhere else in the world. The Esala season which goes into the annals of Sri Lankan history as a period dedicated to festival connected with different deities, is unique, in that the whole nation involves itself in these festive Esala celebrations. Lanka is a land where all the major religions of the world are practised. Therefore it could be surmised that this is a blessed land. According to Buddhist belief Lanka is known as the thrice-blessed land due to the "Tun Saranaya". Associated with the Esala Full Moon, are several Buddhist festivals. However, festivals connected with other religions too coincide during this season. The Esala Full Moon Poya is of special significance to Buddhists, because it was on such a poya day that the Buddha preached his first sermon, 25 centuries ago, according to the reckoning under the Buddhist Era 544 BC.

Dalada: Certain festivals held during this season are dedicated to different Gods such as Skanda, Vishnu, Natha, Paththini and Saman. But the crowning glory of all these festivals is the Sri Dalada Perahera, held in the charming hill capital and culture city Mahanuwara (Kandy). (Incidentally the Colonial rulers called it Kandy for Kanda in Sinhala, meaning a hill). The colourful perahera held annually to pay homage to the Sacreds Tooth Relic dates back to the period of the Sinhala kings. Spreading over two weeks, the perahera begins with the traditional "kap situweema" - and ends with the water cutting ceremony at Gatambe. The Mahanuwara Esala Perahera begins with the festivities inside the Maligawa, which preceeds the actual parading of the streets by the perahera. The center of attraction of the Dalada perahera is the majestic Raja, the Maligawa Tusker, carrying the jewelled casket of the Sacred tooth Relic, walking reverently over the pavada, amidst the beating of drums and kandyan dancing...

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Posted on Thursday, August 17 - 2006

by Gamini G. Punchihewa

If one were to travel along the Colombo-Kandy highway, going past Mawanella, near the bridge over Maha Oya there lies a stone monument by the roadside reminiscent of the daring highway man called Utuwankande Saradiel. This monument carries the following words etched on it "Near this spot on March 1864, P.C. Sabhan of the Ceylon Police lost his life in an act of gallantry which was immediately responsible for the arrest by Mr. F. R. Saunders, Asst. Government Agent, Kegalla, of Saradiel. Five days previously George Van Haght and Christian Appu were killed and four others wounded in an attempt to effect Saradielís capture".

Though over 125 years have passed away since the death of Saradiel caused by execution, still his name not only around the Kandyan kingdom but in the rest of the country lingers as a legend Saradiel was a daredevil highway robber. He waylaid stage coaches and plundered the money and distributed them among the poor villagers who were in need of money. Saradiel was romantically called as the Robin Hood of Ceylon then. Even cine films were produced of his notorious exploits and his romantic episodes with the village lasses around his village in Utuwankanda. Utuwankanda is called in Sinhalese more appropriately as Otuwan-kanda ó meaning its profile has the shape of a camelís hump. Around his rustic village of Utuwankanda/Otuwankanda, old folk still reminisce about his daredevil life and times as a highwayman who robbed the coaches carrying money. Recently when I past Utuwankanda old timers gave me wealth of information about his biography. The British well-noted for naming romantic and fascinating spots on its natural beauty, called this rocky mountain as Camelís hump.

Saradiel was born in 1835 to a family in Otumankanda. His fatherís name was Dikiri Kaga Adasi Appu, a carter by profession, while his motherís name was Pichche Hami. He was the eldest of five children. Saradielís earliest schooling to learn to read and write was at Etulgoda Vihara. Saradiel by nature was a mischievous and an incorrigible chap as he was stubborn and wanted to do things on his own in a somewhat notorious way.

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Posted on Thursday, August 17 - 2006

This is a famous demon of Sri Lanka who it is claimed uses a black dog as the vehicle. When it's influence is felt, people see the apparition of a black dog and faint off; some have the hand print on the body where the apparition struck. Mythological history claims that two warriors of the warrior king Dutugemunu (Circa B.C. 100) had a duel. One kicked the head of the other out of joint effectively decapitating the victim. Since the dead warrior was a champion bear-hunter, he was buried with the head of a bear. This is claimed to be the "Mahasona" apparition.

In the village of Hundarivapi there lived a man named Tissa, who had eight sons. The youngest was named Sona and later became known as Maha Sona. It is said that when Mahasona was seven years old, he had the strength to tear young palms with his bear hands. When he was ten, he could uproot palm trees.

The King of Rohana, Khavantissa, who was looking for brave young men for his army, heard of the this young boy's strength and sent his men with gifts to his parents, requesting them to send their son to the royal court. After seeing him, the King enlisted him into the service of Prince Gemunu who was building up his army.

WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka

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Posted on Thursday, August 17 - 2006
Text by Alan Pate Photography by Mary Wickline Courtesy of Akanezumiya

A MIDNIGHT ceremony. Crowds milling, bodies slick with sweat in the tropical night. Torches lining an earthen arena. A patient is dazed with illness, propped on a low seat. The rhythmic beat of drums. The smell of smoking resin. A figure enters, back first and the rhythm of the drums changes, intensifies. The figure whirls and the patient is suddenly presented with the face of his tormentor! The yakun natima, or devil dance ritual of Sri Lanka, is nothing if not full of drama. Not just a charade or interval designed to entertain, the yakun natima is a carefully crafted ritual with a history reaching far back into Sri Lanka's pre-Buddhist past. It combines ancient Ayurvedic concepts of disease causation with deftpsychological manipulation. Lasting up to twelve hours, it mixes raucous humour with deep-rooted fears to create a healing catharsis for both patient and community.

But while the beating of the bereya drums, the torchlight, and the smoky resin contribute to the aura of the night's magic, it is the masked face of the edura, or exorcist/shaman, that personifies the power of the moment-the devil incarnate (1). It is the mask or vesmuna which localises the fears and anxieties of both patient and audience. To the Sinhalese, it is this face, carved of wood, with bulging eyes, protruding nose and gaping mouth, disfigured and fierce, which represents both cause and cure (2). For the ethnographer, the traditional belief systems and practices surrounding the yakun natima and other masked dance rituals of Sri Lanka's southern coast provide a rich and fascinating field for research. For the collector, these ritual masks represent a sophisticated folk art form; beautiful and mysterious. Carved of wood and pigmented with natural hues and resins, these masks are infused with a spirit and animation which command attention. The patination of a ritual mask, darkened by years of use, and the repairs upon repairs of cherished examples bespeak their importance within their village communities. Within the context of the dance they are hypnotising. Taken out of that context and viewed on their own they are masterpieces of a rich folk art tradition (3).

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