Page images

chapter mention the Kiri-Ammā as having accompanied the Hill God when he came to Ceylon from India, but on the contrary state definitely that he had with him only one attendant minister. This is strong evidence against Mōhini's being an aboriginal goddess of the Vaeddas. In the Sinhalese districts her star has paled before the brilliance of a later goddess, Pattini, who was introduced from the Pandiyan Madura; and offerings, in addition to those of the Vaeddas, are now made to her only in the north-central districts, and in Uva and the south-east part of the island.

Ayiyanar, the son of Mōhini, divides with his half-brother Skanda, the God of Kataragama, the attentions of all Sinhalese travellers in the forests and jungles of the interior of Ceylon. So far as the Kandians are concerned, they are the deities, above all others, whose powers are specially protective in such places. In the south-western part of the North-central Province it is stated that the first-mentioned deity and the Forest-God termed Wanni Deviyā1 are identical, and this latter deity is manifestly the Wanniyā Baṇḍāra of the northern parts. A Kandian invocation shows that he may be Bilinda and not Ayiyanar.

In view of the close connection between the religions of the Vaeddas and the Sinhalese, it is probable that the worship of Ayiyanar exists in some form among the Village Vaeddas, at least, if not the wilder Vaeddas of the forests. There is nothing to show that one of the Bilindu Yakō is Ayiyanār, excepting his relationship to the Kiri-Ammā; the identification of the younger one as the Ilandāri Dēvatā precludes his recognition as Ayiyanar, unless these two are the same deity under different titles, which the names do not support.

With regard to the other Kiri-Ammās, the local titles attached to them confirm, at any rate as regards five of them, the statement of the Vaeddas that these are their deified female chiefs. In the list of chiefs of the seventeenth century

1 An incantation of the Forest Vaeddas which Dr. Seligmann has allowed me to see throws some doubt on this identification. According to it this Forest-deity may possibly be the Gale Deviyā. But the Vaeddas may have confounded the two gods (see p. 159).

the name of one important female leader is found; and there is a distinct and unmistakable reference to one in the story of Paṇḍukābhaya—the ' horse-faced' Yakkhini. The worship of these Kiri-Ammās proves the exalted position held by the women in former times—a sure mark of at least a certain amount of civilisation-and such deification is rendered the less unlikely by the existence among the Sinhalese of a custom permitting queens to rule over the country at various times from the first century B.C. down to the sixteenth century A.D. It is strange that an entirely different group of seven KiriAmmās are worshipped by both Kandians and Low-country Sinhalese. They are described as seven manifestations of the Goddess Pattini. Pattini is never treated as a Hill Goddess, but is venerated only in her aspects as the Goddess of Chastity and the Controller of Epidemics. The worship of these seven Sinhalese goddesses seems to be an independent cult which has borrowed the nomenclature of the older one, and has ousted it in some districts.

The commanding position of Pattini among the Sinhalese is doubtless chiefly owing to her being an incarnation of the Goddess Durgā, the wife of Siva, a great foe of the demons collectively called Asuras. She has so entirely supplanted the terrible Indian Goddess Kāli that it is now considered that the 'Ashta Kāliyō,' the eight forms of Kālī, have sunk into the position of mere attendants on her, a clear proof that she is a form of Durgā.

I know of no trace of Pattini's special cult among the Village Vaeddas, and she is not ascertained to be included among the seven Kannimār, or 'Maidens,' to whom offerings are made by the Tamil-speaking Vaeddas, who, however, were unable to furnish me with their names. A list of seven Kannimăr published by Mr. Nevill1-possibly a different set of deities-shows them to be chiefly evil aspects of Kāli, whom these half-Tamil Vaeddas may have merely taken over from their Tamil neighbours. By the Tamils of the southern part of the Eastern Province, and perhaps elsewhere in Ceylon,

1 The Taprobanian, Vol. ii, p. 146.

as in India, Pattini is worshipped as a Goddess, under the name Kannakei Amman.1

To what extent the Vaeddas borrowed their religious notions from the Sinhalese, and the latter from the Vaeddas, must be partly a matter for conjecture. The legends regarding the Hill God, or God of the Rock, prove that he at least was an original deity of the aborigines; and his cult must have descended from them to the Kandian Sinhalese.

That the twelve or fifteen demons called Vaedi Yakās or Vaedi Kaḍawaras were originally primitive evil deities is at least extremely likely. It is regrettable that practically nothing is known about them. The two or three uncertain demons are perhaps included among them.

The origin of the custom of deifying important spirits such as those of chiefs, male and female, or of special ancestors, is doubtless very ancient; it appears to be widespread in India as well as in Ceylon, the worship of the Manes being well known. The Buddhist monks of Ceylon are of opinion that the spirits of some deceased persons become Yakās. In the Jātaka story No. 545, it is stated of the Kuru King Dhananjaya, 'his mother in his last existence but one before this was his guardian deity.' In the story No. 544, Angati, King of Mithila, inquires of Nārada, “I ask thee this matter, O Nārada; give me not a false answer to my question; are there really gods or ancestors-is there another world as people say?" Nārada answered: "There are indeed gods and ancestors, there is another world as people say." In the Jātaka story No. 512, it is related that the spirit of the chaplain of the King of Benares supplied the latter with fruit daily after he had become an ascetic.


In Southern Indian Tamil districts and in Ceylon it is believed that a person who has been inordinately fond of his house and its surroundings becomes a spirit termed in Ceylon the Gewale Yakā, 'the Yakā at Houses,' and in India, Muni. Although considered to be an evil spirit, his love of his old home induces him to act as its protector to a certain extent; 1 The Taprobanian, Vol. iii, p. 16. 2 That is, ancestral spirits.

and he is supposed to remain in its immediate neighbourhood. It is considered to be a lucky thing to have such a Yakā about the premises, since his care of them and the inmates brings good fortune and prosperity; but, on the other hand, if the residents neglect him and do not make offerings to him he afflicts them in various ways. This is not done through vindictiveness but because, as it was explained to me by a Kapurāla, "One must live, and this is the only way in which he could make people give him food." As I understand the position, this nearly coincides with the ideas of the Vaeddas concerning the spirits of their deceased relatives and chiefs.

Such Yakās as this one and the Bandāras mentioned below are generally believed to notify their position in the spirit world by appearing to persons in dreams and saying, “I am now a Yakā ”—or a Baṇḍāra, as the case may be ; but some do this by performing supernatural feats, and then informing the people through an authorised person-a soothsayer, when 'possessed'-that they have caused them, and that they require offerings. One Yaka who resided at Jaffna is stated to have left that place in disgust, and come to the NorthWestern Province, because he was half starved there, he said. This was the Kambili Unnaehae, mentioned below as a Forest Deity.

The earliest instance of such deification in Ceylon is that of the Sōlian king who invaded Ceylon in the second century A.D. The next person is King Gaja-Bahu I, who lived in the second century, and who is believed to have been in reality an incarnation of a demon of Madura. Nila, a chief of his time, about whose prowess in the invasion of India some stories have been preserved, is also now a deity called Kalu Kumāra or Dēvatā, apparently one of the 'Five Gods' of the Wanniyas.

After him comes King Mahā Sēna, of the third century A.D., who is still worshipped as a Forest Deity by both Sinhalese and Wanniyas.

In the ranks of the deities termed Baṇḍāras, who are the spirits of important chiefs, or heroes, or ancestors, are found

six chiefs of a King Wijaya-Bāhu; but whether he was the first who bore that name, and who reigned from 1065 to 1120 A.D., or a later one, I am unable to say. It is not probable, however, that the king was one of the later rulers of that name, who were all unimportant personages, although he may have been the second one, who was at war with the Tamils in Ceylon for a short time in the thirteenth century.

Among these Baṇḍāras there are also included Postimā Baṇḍāra, who has been already mentioned as a prince who was thrown over the precipice at the Kurunāēgala rock, about 600 feet high, in the thirteenth or fourteenth century; and Panikki Vaeddā, a Vaedda Chief of the fifteenth century. Another of these deities who can be dated is a chief who lived under a son of Wimala Dhamma Suriya I or II, in the seventeenth century.

An addition was made to the list in the time of Kirti Sri (1747-1780), this being a chief called Kirti Baṇḍāra and during the early part of last century the cruelties practised by the last king of the Kandian territory, Sri Vikrama Rāja Sinha (1798-1815), caused him also to be enrolled in the ranks of the evil spirits.

Lastly comes a folk-story of a man of the Western Province, who, being thought to be dead, was taken for an evil spirit or Yaka when he returned home late one night. Every one in his village refused to open a door and admit him when he knocked at each house in turn, and informed the inmates who he was. It ended in his accepting the situation, and demanding abundant food, which was deposited for him nightly. I understand that he is now enrolled among the regular Yakās, and that offerings are still made to him.

Nearly all the other deities of the Village Vaeddas are undoubtedly of South Indian origin. Whether the belief in any of them was introduced into Ceylon by the Nagas, or the knowledge of all was acquired at a later date, possibly through the intermarriages of the royal families of Ceylon and Madura, or through their introduction during some of the various Tamil invasions, there is no evidence to prove, excepting a doubtful

« PreviousContinue »