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Photography by Renuka Wimalarathna

An extremely rare and beautiful'' Devol madu shanthi Karmaya'' and ''  Kiri Ithiraweeeme Mangalyaya'' was held in London on Sunday the 28th of April. This fantastic showcase was proudly presented by Mr Aththanayaka,  London's well known Sri Lankan Dancer and founder of the ''Aththanayaka dance Academy'', who performed on the day. The exciting ceremony in which exorcists eat fire and twirl torches to the accompaniment of drums was a truly unique experience which left the audience awestruck.

‘Kiri Ithiraweeme Mangalyaya’ traditionally takes place in April just after the Sinhala and Hindu new year festivals. The ritual contains a collection of Kandyan and Low Country dances. The rituals date back to the time before the arrival of Buddhism to Sri Lanka but have been retained, especially within the southern regions, and by both literature and performing arts. 

It is performed to thank the spirits of the earth for the harvest and in many regions the Hindu goddess of health and fertility, Pattini ,is honoured. It is believed that this will prevent disease and superstitious illnesses in the following year. This Hindu and Tamil influences are due to the historical mixture of cultures within the island and make these dances an invaluable and unique part of our culture. 

 As a part of preparation, the dancers were restricted to a purely vegetarian diet for a week and the fund that are traditionally collected from the villagers, were made up by contributions of the organisers. The audience was also treated with Kiribath and different varieties of Kavum.

 The ceremony began after observing the 5 precepts by everyone present.  In order to invite the gods to the ceremony the ‘Attaya bera’ was performed. This introduction resembles a conversation between the drums themselves with each player adding a new line to the song. This was followed by ‘Bulath Padhaya’  in which dancers sang and danced with betal leaves.

 The ‘Kothala Padhaya’ is performed to purify the vicinity. Fragrant turmeric water is sprayed from a brimming brass kettle, the ‘Kotala’, using the feathery Areca Nut flower ( Puwak Mal), to the loud and hypnotic rhythm of the drums.

  The ceremony included a colourful array of dances, accompanied by equally vivid costumes. One such as dance was the ‘Biso Kapa’, which is dedicated to a troubled princess, and ‘Kadawara Pooja’ which is performed to the spirits of  farming.

Legend states that a King once suffered from a distressing nightmare in which he was haunted by a Leopard. It is said that the king, fearing it to be black magic from Kuweni queen of Vijaya, asked for an exorcism to be performed. Dancers trained in the Kohomba Kankariya by Indian holy men performed the dance and the haunting ceased. Since then the ‘Kohomba Kankariya’ has been adopted and is performed to show the powers of the gods.

The last item was the fire dance, where performers danced with lighted batons, twirling and swallowing the flames. In a show that had the audience hanging on every swift and powerful movement, the fire dance bought it to a dramatic and awe- inspiring end.  The ritual was completed after boiling a clay pot of milk to bless the new year.

 This beautiful and rare ceremony was brought to us by  A.P. Aththanayaka, D.Arunashantha, Aruna Perera,  Nuwan Fernando,  Panduka Wickramarathna, Dinesh Priyankara, Sashipriya Asiri, Chamil Anuruddha, and Savin Bandara.

Chief Sangha Nayaka of Great Britain and the Head of the London Buddhist Vihara Most Ven. Bogoda Seelawimala Nayaka Thera, head of Sri Saddatissa International Buddhist Centre Most Ven. Aggamaha Panditha Galayaye Piyadassi Nayaka Thera and Ven. Nepale Sumana Thera blessed with their presence at this unique and very important event.

Article Submit by Tissa Madawela


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Photography by Renuka Wimalarathna

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