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not to fail.' Here we see a nearly similar rope-pulling contest to ensure good luck and good crops, apparently unconnected with the cult of any special deity.
Some further light is thrown on the practice by customs of this nature among other Eastern races. The rope-pulling ceremony is found among the Kāsiyas of Asām, and the Chukmas of the Chittagong hills, and in Burma; while in some East Indian islands the medium for the tugging which is to bring a rainy wind is a bamboo.1 According to Dr. Fraser it is distinctly stated by the Chukmas that one party in the pulling contest represents the good spirits and the other the evil spirits.
In the Indian plains, the men of two villages join in a tug of war across the village boundary, as a ceremony by which the winners secure a plentiful season.2 Mr. Crookes states that there are numerous instances in Northern India of mock fights as charms to secure fertility or freedom from disease. At a festival in Kumaun the fights between the two parties with stones, which were thrown across a stream, were so serious that it was considered necessary to suppress them, an act to which the increase of cholera and other epidemics was afterwards attributed by some of the people.
In some of these rites, foul and indecent language and gestures form an important part of the ceremony as scarers of demons, the authors of bad luck and misfortune; and usually the worse the words and actions are the more effective they are supposed to be.
The final torch-light procession through the village is also doubtless undertaken in Ceylon with the same object-to frighten away the malignant spirits, this being a well-known method of driving off evil influences, or the demons to whom they are due, from houses and villages.
Even so long ago as the time when the earliest part of the Rig Veda was composed, Agni, the Fire God, is repeatedly mentioned as one of the greatest foes of the demons, at whose presence they take to flight, and who preserves mankind from
1 Dr. Fraser. The Golden Bough, 1890, Vol. ii, p. 114, note. 2 Crookes. Folk-lore of Northern India, Vol. ii, p. 321.
their malevolent assaults. In the translation by Griffiths, the prayer to Agni in the 36th hymn of Book i, runs in fervent supplications that might be fitly chanted by the epidemicstricken villagers of Ceylon as they march through their hamlets :
'Erect, preserve us from sore trouble; with thy flame burn thou each ravening demon dead.
Raise thou us up that we may walk alive: so shalt thou find our worship mid the Gods.
Preserve us, Agni, from the fiend; preserve us from malicious wrong. Save us from him who fain would injure us or slay, Most Youthful, thou with lofty light.
The flames of Agni full of splendour and of might are fearful, not to be approached.
Consume for ever all demons and sorcerers, Consume thou each devouring fiend.'
As its name implies, the An Keliya, or Horn-pulling game, must have been played originally by pulling at ropes attached to deer-horns; but now two hooked pieces of extremely tough wood, especially the Andara (Dichrostachys cinerea), or the heart-wood of the Tamarind tree, are generally employed instead. In some of the more secluded northern villages the horns are still used. For this purpose the lower part of the antler and the brow tine of the Sambar deer (Rusa aristotelis) are taken, the former being shortened to about six inches, and the latter cut down to two inches. These are about the sizes of the wooden horns' now made.
Each horn is fitted into a groove cut across a separate substantial bar of wood called the An-mola, to which it is firmly lashed. The lower hook is upright and the upper one is laid behind it horizontally. The bars, to which they are attached with the greatest care, are utilised for steadying the horns, and preventing them from becoming unhooked during the contest, the lower bar being fixed transversely, and the upper one vertically, and they are held in these positions by several men during the ceremony. In some places the wooden horns are passed through holes bored longitudinally from the under side and through the end of two pieces of coconut log,
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) kandaṇ 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 Yata-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 Aņmōla-and the ropes to be attached to the horns are either first dedicated to the Goddess at the local dewāla 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 horanāēwa, 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 Yata-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 Uda-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 dewāla, 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 dewāla 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.