Page images

the transverse bar for steadying the horns being fixed through the log behind the horn, and another short cross-bar through a hole behind it again, to prevent the longitudinal rope on which the strain falls from slipping off the coconut log.

Usually, on a propitious day chosen by an astrologer, a large body of people accompanied by a kapurāla, or devilpriest, repair to the foot of a selected tree surrounded by open ground, and there, at the distance of a few yards from the tree, a narrow hole about six feet long and four or five feet deep is dug, in which a substantial coconut stump called Henakanda (which according to Ludovisi is-or was-always taken from a tree that has been struck by lightning 1) is loosely inserted, with the root end upwards. The toughest jungle creepers are looped round the lower part of the sheltering tree, and a loop of them is placed round the stump; to these are tied ropes that have been attached to the An-molas, which are placed between the tree and the stump. Other strong ropes of considerable length are fastened to the upper part of the Henakanda, and these are now pulled by the united force of the villagers, or in some places only by the section of them who form the party of Palanga, until one of the horns gives way.

Although in some cases all except the men who are steadying the horns unite at the pulling, they in reality form two entirely separate parties, one of which is that of the Goddess Pattini, while the other is supposed to be on the side of her husband Palanga. The former party is called the Yata-pila, or' Lower Row,' whose horn is the lower one and is attached to the short rope which is tied to the loop fastened round the tree. The latter party forms the Uḍa-pila, or Upper Row,' and has the upper horn which is attached to the rope that is fastened to the Henakanda.

Membership of these two sides is hereditary; and so strong is the party feeling or jealousy between them that those of one side usually avoid marriage with the members of the families

1 As Hena (gahāpu) kandan is the term applied to a tree stump struck by lightning it would appear that originally such a stump was always used as the post.

belonging to the other side, and in fact never have much intercourse or friendly relations with them. In places where the Uḍa-pila men alone do the pulling, the Yaṭa-pila men stand as onlookers under the tree. For managing the whole ceremony each party elects a temporary leader.

At the beginning of the ceremony the two bars-the Anmōla-and the ropes to be attached to the horns are either first dedicated to the Goddess at the local dēwāla or temple, if there be one devoted to Pattini at the village; or are separately taken in procession by their respective parties to the site of the contest, and placed on platforms or altars covered with flowers, each set in a separate small shed, which has been erected there for it. They are first purified by being deposited on the altar covered with flowers and there sprinkled with saffron water; incense is also waved round them. The kapurāla invokes the aid and favour of the Goddess, to the accompaniment of the jingling of hollow anklets or bracelets such as she wore, and of various musical instruments, such as tom-toms, small trumpets called horanãēwa, and cymbals.

After this necessary preliminary, the horns are sometimes carried by the leaders in procession round the Henakanda, and followed by the kapurāla and musicians. They are then attached to the bars which are to steady them, and are interlocked and bound round with cords which at first are placed loosely and then, after the accurate adjustment of the horns, are tightened by means of a tourniquet (tirinki).

After a trial pulling at the respective ropes by the two parties, the Yaṭa-pila rope is tied to the loops round the tree, and the Uḍa-pila rope to the Henakanda, which is inclined towards the tree for the purpose. Where it is the custom of the Yata-pila men to join in the final pulling both parties then unite in tugging at ropes attached to the top of the Henakanda, or passed though a hole in it and fastened to the Uḍa-pila log-until one horn is broken.

The leaders then examine the horns and ascertain whether the Yata-pila or Uḍa-pila one has given way. The victorious horn is removed, wrapped in white cloth, and carried under a white canopy round the Henakanda in a procession, accom

panied by the music, and is again placed in the dēwāla, or the temporary shed erected for it.

A rope is then stretched from the tree to the Henakanda, and the losing party are made to stand or sit on one side of it while the winners take up a position on the opposite side and jeer at them, exhausting their vocabulary, which is a somewhat replete one, of abusive and foul language. In the expressive words of Captain Robert Knox' Upon the breaking of the stick, that Party that hath won doth not a little rejoyce, which rejoycing is exprest by Dancing and Singing, and uttering such sordid beastly Expressions together with Postures of their Bodies, as I omit to write them, it being their shame in acting, and would be mine in rehearsing. For he is at that time most renowned that behaves himself most shameless and beastlike.'1

After one or two [properly seven] horns have been broken, Mr. Bell states that the final victorious horn, wrapped in white cloth, is again sprinkled with saffron-water and incensed as before. It is then brought out of the dēwāla or the shed in which it had been carefully placed, and is carried through the village by the kapurāla, or on the head of a kattādiyā (a 'devil-dancer'), over whom a white canopy is held, in a nocturnal procession, with torches and censers, and accompanied by kapurālas, or devil-priests, and the available music and dancers, some preceding and some following it. The houses of the victorious party, which have been prepared beforehand by cleaning and white-washing, are visited in turn, and blessings, to the accompaniment of the jingling of the hollow bangle or bracelet of Pattini, are invoked on their residents, who offer refreshments in return.

The whole ceremony is considered to be a religious one to a Goddess, and is therefore termed a pūjāwa, that offered to a demon being denominated a pidima. Where it is an annual ceremony it is usual for the opposing parties to pay in alternate years any expenses connected with it.

Although there are local variations in the form of the cere

1 An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon, 1681, p. 97.

mony, the essential parts of it are everywhere similar; these are the purification and dedication of the articles used, the pulling at the horns until one gives way, and the employment of abusive and foul language and gestures against the losing party.

DODAN KELIYA, 'the Orange Game,' or DEHI KELIYA,' the Lime Game.'

In the North-western Province this game comes after the An Keliya. The two parties take the oranges intended for the game to the dēwāla, where they are placed in heaps in front of the entrance. They are then purified by sprinkling them with saffron-water, and waving incense and lights around them; and they are afterwards consecrated to the Goddess, like the articles used in the Horn-pulling game.

In playing the game the Yaṭa-pila and Uḍa-pila parties are arranged on opposite sides of a long line, and the oranges are thrown or rolled across it from each side alternately, those on the opposing side striking them with oranges held in their hands as in the following game, until all belonging to one Iside have been broken. Limes are sometimes used instead of oranges, being then thrown over the line at the opponents, who must prevent them from passing over a boundary line at the back, which they also may not cross.

POL KELIYA, 'the Coconut Game.'

This follows the Orange game. The Yata-pila and Uḍapila parties bring up large numbers of Coconuts of a special small green variety with very thick shells, called Pora-pol, 'Fighting Coconut.' It is allowable to purchase them for the ceremony, and Mr. Ludovisi stated that very high prices were sometimes paid for those taken from trees which were known to produce nuts with shells of extreme thickness. He mentioned an instance in which as much as thirty shillings were paid for a single nut. Other nuts are procured from trees the produce of which the owner, when sick, has vowed to devote to the yearly Pol Keliya in case of his recovery through the good offices of Pattini. The nuts of the Pora-Pol trees may be eaten as usual during the rest of the year.

Like the Oranges, the Coconuts are heaped up by the two parties in front of the dewāla, and are there purified by lustration and the waving of incense and lights round them, these being technically known as 'the three Tēwawa.' They are then dedicated to the service of the Goddess, after which they are removed to the site of the contest.

The two leaders then proceed to divide them into equallymatched pairs, large nuts against large ones, and small nuts against those of similar size. A long line is also drawn on the ground, on the opposite sides of which the two parties take up their positions.

The game is then commenced by the Yata-pila leader's throwing a nut across the line at the leader of the opposite party, who stops it by striking it as it comes with the paired nut which he holds in his hand. The result of the blow is that one nut or the other is usually broken by the shock, and this broken nut then belongs to the side of the victor. The Uḍapila leader in his turn throws a nut at the captain of the Yațapila side, who receives it in a similar manner; and the game is continued in this way by the members of the two parties alternately until all the consecrated nuts on one side or the other have been broken. If the number of nuts be very large other batches may be consecrated on succeeding days, and broken in the same manner; but the game often ends in one day, after fifty to eighty nuts have been broken. On special occasions the number is said to rise up to three hundred nuts, or even more; and in one game the breaking occupied six days.

As in the Horn-pulling game, the losing party who have no unbroken nuts are subjected to the abuse of the victors.

After the nuts of one side have been exhausted, oil is expressed from all the consecrated nuts for the use of the dewala, as well as for any lights required in connection with these ceremonies.

MAL KELIYA, the Flower Game.'

This game takes place at the dewāla of the Goddess, and the flowers used are those of the Coconut palm and the Areka


« PreviousContinue »