Page images

called in Sinhalese the Sea-Pig, Mūdu-Ūrā (Halicore dugong) ; Sea-Turtles, Kaesbā; and Eels, Āndā. The 'Iguāna,' Goyā, is added by some, but not the Peafowl.

No devil-priest may eat these animals, whether he dances or not; they are termed ' unclean' (kilutu). If he has once officiated as a priest they are forbidden foods for the rest of his life, whether he takes any part or not in the services of either the God of the Rock or demons. From infancy, it is customary for the male children of the priests not to be permitted to taste them, as possibly they may become devilpriests, and it is advisable to guard them from unnecessary defilement. The girls are allowed to eat them. Only men of good caste, rate-minissu, can officiate at the ceremonies in honour of the Galē Deviyā; but the caste has no influence affecting these food-prohibitions, which are equally applicable to low-caste dancers who take part in the services in honour of certain demons.

We have here a different set of animals from those considered unclean in the Vaedda districts, with the exception of the Pig. The Fowl may be forbidden partly as a bird whose blood is offered to demons, and perhaps also as a household bird, the cock being often kept at Buddhist temples to awake the monks early in the morning. Many Buddhists think it wrong even to eat the eggs. The Eel may be included on account of its feeding on garbage, and because it resembles a snake, which has protective powers.

I know no reason why Sea-Turtles, and no other kind of Turtles or Tortoises, are forbidden food, unless it be the Turtleincarnation of Vishnu, who was at least very highly respected in Ceylon in pre-Christian times, and even now is permitted to have his statue in the Buddhist wihāras. It was he who took the precaution to tie charmed threads on the arms of Wijaya and his comrades, in order to preserve them from the Yakshas.

The story of the incarnation goes back to the time of the

1 In Southern India, the Pūsāris, the officiators at demon offerings, are also forbidden to eat Fowls, Pigs, Peafowls, and Turtles, as well as certain grains and pulse.

great Churning of the Ocean in order to make Amrita. The Gods and Asuras or Demons agreed to work together for this laudable purpose, which was effected like the production of the sacred fire. They took a mountain, Mandara, for a twirling-stick; and the King of the Serpents, Vāsuki, allowed his body to be utilised as the cord to be passed round it once, and pulled at the ends alternately, the Gods holding it at the tail, and the Asuras at the head. At first the effort failed; the mountain sank in the water or mud by its own weight, until at last Vishnu transformed himself into an immense Turtle, and permitted it to rest and turn on his back. It is called a Tortoise in the translations of the legend; but being in the sea it must have been a Sea-Turtle.1

It is almost needless to remark that such a restriction must have been originated among a race who knew and ate the SeaTurtle. It cannot have come from an inland district where the Sea-Turtle would be unknown. This excludes all inland tracts, as none but fishers or those living near the sea would be affected by it. It appears to date from ancient times; at the present day and for more than two thousand years the people in Ceylon who are chiefly, or almost entirely, influenced by it in the case of the ceremonies in honour of the God of the Rock have never seen such an animal.

On the other hand, not one of the Vahanas of the Indian gods is prohibited as food; even the Bull may be eaten by Sinhalese Kapuwas, as well as the Peacock and the Rat. It will be observed that these are Saivite 'vehicles,' and do not belong to the worship of Vishnu.

The dance on the rock takes place about noon, or in the afternoon, and it sometimes lasts for nearly an hour. The day is fixed some weeks in advance, in order to allow time

1 In the Ordinances of Manu, v, 18, the Tortoise is included among the animals which the wise have pronounced eatable'; tame Cocks and tame Swine are excluded (v, 19). Monkeys come under the category of animals with five toes, which are forbidden. Peafowl are not expressly excluded, but it is ordained (xi, 136) that the slayer of a Peacock or an Ape must present a cow to a Brahman-the same fine as for killing wild carnivorous animals (xi, 138).

for the necessary provisions to be collected for the offering and feast which follow the dancing.

On the appointed day, the dancing priest, who is termed Anumaetirāla,1 and not Kapurāla (the ordinary title of a good-caste devil-priest), dons at the dewāla the traditional dress of the God, consisting of a many-flounced coloured skirt or skirts, an ornamental jacket with puffed out sleeves reaching to the elbows, and especially a tall tiara-like conical white hat (toppiyama), made in three tiers or sections, as well as a jingling anklet, salamba (in Tamil, silampu), and any other usual ornaments, bangles, etc., of his profession.

He also takes in his right hand the Abarana, or symbol of the deity, a Bill-hook, nearly sickle-shaped, with an ornamental handle about two feet long, to which is tied a much smaller one, having its blade immediately below that of the large one. This latter is the symbol of the God's minister, the redoubtable Kurumbuḍa Dēvatā. In his other hand he sometimes holds some flowers of the Areka-palm, merely for the dance, and not as offerings.

The Anumaetirala now becomes possessed' (mayanwelā) by the God, and henceforward his actions are no longer under his own control but are those of the deity. Holding the symbols of the deities, he marches to the Dancing Rock, generally about a mile from the dewāla, accompanied by his two assistants, the smith who made the weapons, and the washerman who washes the Anumaetirala's clothes; he is preceded by tom-tom beaters, and followed by an indiscriminate crowd of villagers. Meanwhile, others have collected near the hill which is his goal, selecting vantage grounds whence a good view of the proceedings is obtainable. The crowd often numbers several hundred people.

The Anumaetirāla and his two assistants alone ascend the hill, the former being assisted by the other two to mount the crag, if necessary. At some places all three climb onto the

From Anumatiya, sanction or command. Thus he is the person who acts under the God's command, that is, because he is compelled by the God to do it. It is supposed to be involuntary on his part. * See the Frontispiece.

Dancing Rock, but generally only the smith goes onto it, in order to be ready to render him any assistance which may be needed on account of the wind; in such a case the washerman waits for them at the foot of the crag.1

On this wild and often extremely dangerous platform, on some hills a mere pinnacle, usually hundreds of feet above the plain below, and in one case (Dolukanda)-more than a thousand feet above it, and in full view of the spectators gathered there, the Anumaetirāla now performs his strange dance, like that of all so-called devil-dancers. He chants no song in honour of the ancient deity (according to my information), but postures in silence with bent knees and waving arms, holding up the Bill-hooks-the God himself for the time being. In a rough outline drawing, representing this dance, on the wall of the ancient temple of the God at Mallawaewa (Fig. No. 42)-from which I obtained the cup and lamp illustrated below-the deity is drawn with a triangular beard, and he holds a Sword instead of a Billhook. When he begins to feel exhausted the performer brings the dance to an end, but sometimes his excitement makes it necessary for his assistant to seize him, and forcibly compel him to stop. He then descends from his dizzy post, assisted by his henchmen, and returns to the dewala with the tom-toms and the crowd.

While the party are absent at the Dancing Rock, the women of the village at which the dewāla is established cook at the house of another priest, called the Mulutaen (kitchen) Kapurāla, a feast consisting of cakes, milk-rice (rice boiled in coconut milk, that is, not the liquid found in the coconut when it is opened, which is never used, but some made by squeezing grated coconut in water until the latter acquires the colour of milk), rice, and also curries made of three kinds of vegetables termed tun-mālu.

The whole party from the rock come to this place, and the Anumaetirāla examines and expresses his approval of the food, which has been laid ready for his inspection in earthen

1 At some sites it is said that only the Anumaetirāla goes on to the rock on which the dance takes place.

vessels deposited on a clean white cloth on the floor, each covered by a small round grass mat. He then proceeds to the dewāla, in which he replaces the Abarana, and removes the hat and the other habiliments of the God, being then no longer possessed by him. After this, he comes back to the house of the Mulutaen Kapurāla, and he and all the rest of the people eat the food that had been prepared. I was informed that on one occasion seven and a half bushels of

[graphic][merged small][graphic]

FIG-52. Beaten Copper Cup. Fig53. Black Earthenware Lamp

Ancient Utensils of the Galē-Deviyā.

rice were thus disposed of, making a good meal for five or six hundred people.

During all this time the deities have been left without food. After the conclusion of this feast and the indispensable chew of betel which follows it, the Anumaetirāla, the Mulutaen Kapurāla, and some of the people return to the dewāla, and there the Mulutaen Kapurāla himself cooks, in the Mulutaen-ge or kitchen, some of the same foods for the Gods. The Anumaetirāla never takes any part in these duties, but

« PreviousContinue »