Page images

the Kukulapola Kiri-Ammā. The last place is a village of the Vaedi-rata (as the district inhabited by the Vaeddas is termed), on the west bank of the Madura-oya; while Indigollāēwa is in the North-central Province, near Kalāwaewa, and there is a temple at it devoted to her and her husband. According to the tradition of that district she is not Parvati, but Mohini, the beautiful incarnation of Vishnu, who was also a Hill-God, and who, according to Indian authorities, took her form temporarily so as to enable the Gods to cheat the Demons at the celebrated Churning of the Ocean by the Gods and Asuras (or demons) in order to produce Amrita, the Liquor of Immortality. The admiring and unsuspecting demons agreed that the lovely Mōhini should divide the Amrita between them and the Gods. She separated them into two rows, and then distributed the whole to those in the Gods' row, to whom she gave it first.

One Asura sat among them, and thus obtained a share of the precious drink. The Sun and Moon observed this and pointed him out to Mōhini, who promptly cut off his head; but the magic liquor had already conferred immortality on him, and therefore Brahmā, who always found a way of dealing with apparently insuperable difficulties, transformed the two parts into heavenly bodies. The tail or body became a comet, and the head a planetary sign called Rahu, which as a heavenly dragon endeavours by way of revenge to swallow the Sun and Moon, and thus causes eclipses. On account of the unfair treatment of the demons by the Gods on this occasion, there has been undying feud between the two classes of supernatural beings from that day.

Some confirmation of the identification of the Kiri-Ammā as Mōhini is to be seen in the fact that throughout the interior of Ceylon, Ayiyanar, the son of Mōhini, is everywhere considered to be also a Forest-God, who specially guards travellers in the forests and jungles when they appeal to him for pro

1 In the Rig Veda, i, 154, 3 (Griffiths' translation), he is called 'The Bull far-striding, dwelling on the mountains.'

2 Her name is derived from the word Mōhani, delusion, fascination, and in South India she is always colloquially termed Mohani.


FIG. 36. Mohini (Ramaswami Temple, Kumbakonam).

To face p. 136.

tection-and is certainly not a Hill-God. On the whole evidence, therefore, and especially since the Vaeddas do not treat her as a Hill-Goddess, I am inclined to accept the only native explanation of the identity of the Kiri-Ammā which I have been able to find, and to look upon her as a form of Mōhini rather than Parvati.

Seven other Goddesses, who are also termed Kiri-Ammās, are revered collectively in the south. They are stated to have been originally influential chieftainesses who have been deified, possibly in comparatively recent times. Their names are given as: (1) Miriyabaedda Kiri-Ammā, the most important of them; (2) Pusmarāga Kiri-Ammā; (3) Unāpāna KiriAmmā; (4) Kosgama Kiri-Ammā; (5) Bōwelagedara KiriAmmā; (6) Bālagiri Kiri-Ammā; and (7) Ginigal Dēvatāgē Kiri-Ammā. The last one evidently belongs to a different class from the others, and is clearly the Sakti or female manifestation of the minor deity called Ginigal Dēvatā. There is some doubt regarding the class to which Balagiri Kiri-Ammā belongs. These are all beneficent deities, that is, Goddesses.

Of the same class, according to Mr. Nevill, is Bōwala Dēyā, who may be connected with the fifth one in the list just given. He is believed by Mr. Nevill to be a late instance of the propitiation of a local chief who became an evil spirit after his death. He resembles the numerous Baṇḍāras of the Kandian Sinhalese, by whom more than one hundred are enumerated, some having protective powers though all are ranked as demons. Panikki Vaeddā, already mentioned, is included among them; Dr. Seligmann informs me that a person of this name is a spirit deity of one group of the Forest Vaeddas. He traced the belief in him to a Vedarāla, or village doctor, of mixed descent. The older men do not recognise him.

According to the description of them supplied to Mr. Nevill, a group of deities called the Uḍa Yako,' the Upper Yakās,' or the Yakās who live Above,' are the most important gods of the Vaeddas. Their individuality is stated by him to be ill-defined; they occupy the position of superior nebulous spirits who are like little children,' and who apparently neither do much good nor much harm to mankind. The

expression evidently merely corresponds to the collective term, Atāla Deviyō, of the Sinhalese,' the Gods of the Upper World,' in contradistinction to the Pātāla Deviyō, 'the Gods of the Lower World.'

[ocr errors]

After the Uḍa Yakō, Mr. Nevill places the Bilindu Yakō, literally the Children Demons,' said to be a father and son, the mother of the latter being thought to be the Kukulāpola Kiri-Ammā, while the child is supposed to have died shortly after birth, and to be now separately gifted with divine powers.' Some state that the Bilindu Yakō are two brothers; others say that they are seven in number. It is apparent that their identity is uncertain. I have no knowledge of them, but perhaps it may be assumed that the first account of them, being the most definite, is the most likely to be correct.

The younger one is said by Mr. Nevill to be the Ilandari Devata of the Coast Tamils, who is also one of the deities of the Wanniyas, and is known to the Kandian Sinhalese as a son of the Kiri-Amma, thus confirming the relationship.

[ocr errors]

The elder one is identified by Mr. Nevill as a Mūdē Dēyiyā, or God of the Sea,' of the Coast Vaeddas, but I am not aware for what reason, as the Sea God is not described by him as being the husband of the Kiri-Ammā. As her consort, the elder Bilindā Yakā would appear to be the Hill God. The functions of these deities are said to be warding off disease, granting food, and generally protecting their worshippers from unseen dangers; they are thus similar to those of the Hill-God.

[ocr errors]

[ocr errors]

Mr. Nevill also mentions a Mã Yakini,1 the Great Goddess,' who appears to be the Indigollāēwa Kiri-Ammā; (2) Unāpāna Yakini, who is evidently the Unāpāna Kiri-Ammā; (3) Kino-mal Nacci, the Blue-lotus (coloured) Lady,' whose symbols are an arrow and a bowl of water, and who is the protectress of hunters, and therefore apparently another form of the Indigollāēwa Kiri-Ammā; and (4) a Baedi-Maeli, 'the Woman of the Jungle,' who has similar functions and

1 Yakini, or Yaksani, the usual colloquial expression, is the feminine form of Yakā.

2 The letter C is pronounced as Ch in all transliterations.

« PreviousContinue »