By Shyamon Jayasinghe –
In today’s Lankadeepa I read a story about the Kataragama Devale that made me wonder if I had travelled in time toward somewhere in the 10th century in Sri Lanka. This story is said to be based on an account given by the chief Kapumahattaya of the Devale, Mr Somipala Ratnayake. Claimed as having been written by the ‘editorial board,’ the story, therefore, is invested with some authority and official stamp from what goes as the most popular Sinhala daily in Sri Lanka. It is an axiom that newspapers tend to reflect the quality of its readership. If that be so, oh what faith can we have about Sri Lanka making any headway with a kind of media like this and a kind of 10th century gullible population?
The story begins by saying that the God Kataragama is a most powerful deity. He is none other than the local ruler, King Mahasena. The site of the Devale is in fact the site where the king’s palace had once been. Now, there isn’t a shred of historical evidence to support this statement but that doesn’t worry the ‘editorial board.’ More to come: The Buddha once visited this spot and gave a sermon to the king. No evidence at all that the Buddha ever came to Sri Lanka. But no worries; continue. Having listened to the sermon, the king instantly reached the state of ‘Sovan.’ What magic! Just one sermon and hey presto the king shoots up into a sublime state. Was the Buddha so seductive?
When the king reached that state he had requested the Buddha for a ‘pooja wattiya.’ This means an offering. Height of cheek, I thought! The Buddha felt around his head pulled out a lock of hair and gave it to the king as his offering. Treasure hunters, here is a winning goal for you: this lock of hair is buried under the present Kiri Vehera. Our political heavyweights can head toward this spot and keep digging under the base of the Vihara like termites. Now that they don’t appear in Parliament for important business they could turn into treasure hunters.
King Mahasena eventually passed away in India and reappeared as the deity of Kataragama. Why did he go to India at all? The ‘editorial board’ is happy accepting such bull. The deity once met King Dutugemunu and gave his blessing to fight King Elara. Why on earth did a deity show favour like this to one of the warring parties? Besides, King Elara, according to historical records, had been a benevolent king who even did a lot for the Buddha Sasana. He would not have reigned for forty years had he not received popular support from the Sinhalese people. The story gives a clue and that is that Dutugemunu had had a deal with the deity to build a palace with gold tiles and make arrangements for daily poojas to the deity. If this wasn’t plain bribery then what was it? If this was his behaviour the deity could not have been the same person who had morphed into ‘Sovan’ after receiving Buddha’s one power-packed sermon.
The war won, King Dutugemunu returned to Kataragama Wedihitikande, met the deity and announced that he is about to fulfill his promise of the palace.
This whole crap of a story written by ‘the editorial board’ of the Lankadeepe mercifully ends with an excellent prophetic statement alleged to have been made by the deity who declined to accept the promised gift. The deity said: “Oh King! There is no point in making luxury palaces even for me because very soon the country will face a ‘kali yugaya’ (evil period) when people will no longer worship the Buddha or the deities. Therefore, Oh king, refrain from your great building plans. People will destroy them all. Build something very modest.”
That Kali Yugaya has arrived today. Praise be to the deity of Kataragama! The deity deserves a ‘malwattiya’ for that bit of prophetic warning.
Readers, if you happen to visit Kataragama you should follow the advice of Mr. Ratnayake who in this fairy tale explains that the deity personally appears on Tuesdays. “As he arrives, a red light sweeps across the Devale,” says Mr Ratnayake.
If any of you have seen this red light you are bloody lucky. A word of caution: be sure it is not the chief Kapuwa himself who emanates the light.