By Ashan Nanayakkara –
I am a Buddhist by inheritance. My parents were Buddhists too; their parents were the same and their forefathers, probably, too ejusdem generis. But I became a real Buddhist by conviction after attaining the age of majority when I had a comparative analysis with other religions. Since I do not wish to write truth and deception of faiths, I may stop about talking religions for the time being in this article; yet, it is a common factor within the followers of each religion to have their own and endemic way of explaining how they use sorceries or mumbo jumbo things which are not perceived to our senses.
Application of such dark arts for general day to day life was not rare in Sri Lanka up to this day. One should not amaze to hear that those who even live in Cinnamon Gardens may still go for such village voodoo practitioners whenever they are in despair. However, today, finding a man who knows this craft well is scares as hen’s teeth. As a matter of fact, I have twice seen such wonders in my lifetime. Rest, I write here, is hearsay.
According to Sinhalese, the names of some witchcrafts are ‘huniyam’ (bringing wicked things to an enemy getting the assistance of a Devil), ‘kodiwina’ (putting a charmed copper scroll or spelled specimen of human hair or nail or small body part in to a glass flacon and place it underneath the premises of the enemy), ‘Vashi Gurukam’ (way of winning the heart of a lover), ‘Dishti’ (using a demon to enter into mind of a living person and harm the latter), etc. The modes operandi of eliminating such necromancies, inter alia, were, having ‘Thowil’, ‘yathukarma’, ‘shanthikarma’, ‘dehi kepima’, ’18-Sanniya’, ‘Kohomba Kankariya’, ‘Mahason samayama’ and the list goes on. The maestros of these rituals are mainly seen in the down south of Sri Lanka. The village folks use the word, ‘Thowil’, in generally for all those ceremonies. Though I do not possess accurate definition to each of the said rituals, it is believed that, ‘yathukarma’ and ‘shanthikarma’ are done for trivial problems such as diseases, financial breakdowns etc. which are protracted among the villages for some time. ‘Dehi kepima’ (plain meaning is – cutting limes) too is limited sacramental black magic participated only by the family members to jettison a bad-patch of a person, by cutting limes in to water using areca nut cutter. If the work is successful, the limes fall on to water will turn red. This means that the bad which was looming around the person will be evaporated just as the red-lime are washed away when they fall in to the water bucket. Out of all the said rituals, ’daha ata sanniya’ is the finale of all kinds of ‘Thowil’ ceremonies and for which entire village is invited to.
Before I write further more about ’daha ata sanniya’, it is noteworthy to give a glimpse of an idea to the reader who are the persons practice these bewitchments. They are called, ‘kattadiya’ or ‘gurunnanse’ (witch-doctor). The hallmark of such a ‘kattadiya’ is wearing a an unpigmented white sarong, covered with red clothing belt around his waist leaving his bust bear body. He who does these occults earns so much of respect and fear among the villages. The fear among the gullible villages shall depend on the competency of the each ‘kattadiya’ and the more powerful and abled ‘kattadiya’ is a person that no one wants to have an enmity with. The ‘kattadiya’ who uses his skills to bring peace to people will be called as ‘benevolent kattadiya’; who may also be called as ‘kattadi mahattaya’ (Mister kattadiya). Those who are notorious for doing malicious and gruesome black magic using their powers are called as ‘KATTADIYA’ (in demeaning sense). Both kinds of ‘kattadiya(s)’ are considered to be as very powerful men who could bring happiness and sorrow to the masses. Nevertheless, the common word ‘kattadiya’ is used by all Sri Lankans, notwithstanding that witch doctor is benevolent or malevolent.
I remember, one such ‘kattadiya(s)’ lived in down-south, my village. In fact he was not promising in his financial side (which is a common factor in this profession); who started his day with sipping some fresh toddy early in the morning and kept boozed himself during the entire day. If this ‘gurunnanse’ could not get a job for the day, the life of his wife shall be so miserable as she faced so much of domestic violence which include poor woman giving birth to 11-children. More than that, an off day of the said witch doctor is a carnival for the village boys, since the said ‘kattadiya’, after having few pint of toddy, was greeting everyone with filth language. The village teenagers took it for a fun.
Nevertheless, I remember, when I was at about 8-years old, this drunken voodoo master, took his tongue up to his navel when he was dancing ‘Mahason samayama’ (in this event, the kattadiya dresses himself as the demon – Mahasona and dances to remove the mischievous sprite from human body). Though the patient (or the aggrieved person) who is called as ‘athuraya’ got cured after the said ‘Mahason samayama’, I still remember how I got fever for about 7-days after seen that dreadful witch-craft. ‘Mahasona’ is the most feared demon in Sri Lanka. He is the Lucifer in Sri Lanka. Mahasona, originally a human and giant of the Army of King Dutugemunu who had been defeated and decapitated by another giant named Gotaimbara. Consequently, Maha Sona replaced his head with a bear head. This evil spirit is believed to kill people by crushing their shoulders and also by afflicting awful illnesses. Thus, quite a relief that I escaped from a minor fever.
The second occasion in my life time I experienced how these mumbo jumbo masters apply their skills to our day to day affairs was when my mother got suddenly ill, if my memory serves me correct, probably, during same age that I mentioned above. All of a sudden, her hand got unbearable pain like someone is inserting a nail to her wrist. She was hospitalized, observed by the best orthopaedic consultant doctors, one week, two weeks passed by, yet the diminishing of her pain was indiscernible. After almost 1-month passed, my father went to an ‘anjanam balanna’ (another type of witch doctor who looks into a white dish, centre on which has some black paste, and looking at that plate, this person tells that what reason you came for him and the solutions to our problems) at Eluketiya, Ahangama, Galle with my aunt. I too had the rare chance to join with this journey which we were asked to come on a ‘kemmura’ day (Those who practice these sorcery consider Thursdays or Saturdays are the best days of evil and thus they normally fix all kinds of their shadowy practices on either of those 2-days). The ‘kapurala’ (another way of calling these ‘anjanam balanna(s)’) went on to say, as if he was the shadow of my mother, that my mother has eaten something mixed to the hoppers which we used to bought from a village woman and explained the characteristics of that woman which was hundred present accurate. It was also said that this act was sponsored by my father’s enemy against whom my father had a prolong litigation in courts. This too was quite right. Finally, the said ‘kapurala’ revealed that powerful which craftsman is tormenting my mother’s hand having prepared a small doll like poppet of my mother and casting evil spell on it. Having revealed all these, this ‘kapurala’ was brought to our home couple of days after, and allowed to do a ‘shanthikarmaya’ to my mother. A miracle happened that I never believe in unless I was a recipient of that whole exercise. That is, my mother’s pain in the wrist got completely vanished since that the day of ‘shanthikarmaya’ ceremony. I, still, cannot fathom how a logical, or scientific explanation can be given to such un-conceivable events which are taken place in 20th Century. This incident haunts till I die not because of all these incidents alone, but, due to the last words of that ‘kapurala’ said to my father, to wit, “mahattaya (Sir), those who did this will be burned by their sins”, as the former said, the village woman who gave charmed hoppers to my mother died after burning down her house due to an explosion of the gas cylinder whilst she was cooking hoppers and those who litigated against my father lost their case.
This write-up will not be completed if I may not share two anecdotes of Mr. Herman Gunaratne in his book “God’s Secret Agent”, and the story of late Justice Akbar who said to have the power to enslave some non-humane spirits to do his household work.
First, let me narrate Herman’s story: Herman had a friend named Nissanka who was gifted with a divine power to transmit messages of Jesus Christ (as Herman says it). However, to me, it must be an Angel or a proponent of God not the Christ per se (I have said this to Herman but he relates conversely). In the said book – “God’s Secret Agent”, the author has written some chilling events of life experiences which are beyond laymen’s imagination. I vouch, as a person who knows Mr. Herman Gunaratne well, each word written in that book must be truth; absolute truth. Being a rationalist, just as me, the author happened to start believing in exorcism having seen some marvels which may not be acknowledged unless those were happened before his eyes.
What Herman had written on his book is about late President JR Jayewardene (JRJ), his son, Ceylon’s one of the best marksmen in his days – Ravi Jayewardene, Nissanka – the holy man who said to have the great gift given by the Jesus of Nazareth and Herman himself. It was during mid-1980s. JR’s government was under tremendous pressure and teetering on the edge due to 83-Backlash and waging of war in Northern Province by the LTTE. Ravi and Herman (both of whom were good friends and the founders of Special Task Force of Sri Lanka Army – STF) talking of the everlasting problems faced by the government and the first family. Ravi was asking Herman what can be done to get away from these turbulent events and, Nissanka, the aforesaid holy man, was introduced to Ravi at this context by Herman. Ravi Jayewardene and Herman Gunaratne brought this messenger of God – Nissanka to Ward Place and arranged to meet JRJ. Once Nissanka met JRJ at his residence, everyone was astounded after the revelation of Nissanka. According to Nissanka, the man who gifted with holy spirit, there was a spell cast on 2-3 inches sized 5 gold elephants (elephant is the symbol of United National Party – UNP) and have been buried in 5 places in the width and breadth of the country, i.e., at Ward Place, Sucharitha – Keselwatte, Kataragama Devalaya (Hindu Temple), Devinuwara Devalaya and a Kovil (Hindu Temple) in Jaffna for the sole purpose of brining evil to JRJ and his government by one of the best occult masters in the country. According to Nissanka, it was Kondadeniya Priest who was said to be a staunch supporter of Sirimavo Bandaranaike has cast this sorcery. Having said so, the same day, this man using his divine power found where that poppet elephant was placed at His Excellency’s garden and removed the buried elephant in front of everyone. Herman, Ravi and JRJ himself got awestruck when this was unearthed from the highest most protected place in Sri Lanka which was night and day guarded by STF soldiers. Herman poses the question that how can a man who said to be gifted with some divine power shall say the exact place of some ornament which is underneath of most fortified place in the country unless that person exercises some form of sorcery? Herman further narrates that how the fellowship of Ravi Jayewardene, team of Army personnel given by General Cyril Ranatunga and Herman himself launched the mission to go to Jaffna Hindu Temple when that area was under full control of the LTTE, to find the last evil-spelled counterfeit elephant. After so much of protest by the Army Commander of the day, valiant Ravi along with fluently Tamil-speaking Herman went to the lion’s den of LTTE personifying them to be as some Tamil civilians, on one fine afternoon, by a van from Palali Army camp, whilst a battle helicopter too providing them security sans creating any suspicion to the enemy, to remove the last miniature elephant. I do not have an iota of intention to spoil the zest of the reader to permit for going through the Herman’s original book and the entire chapter only through which one would taste the enthralling feeling of such an expedition. Nonetheless, the spelled-miniature elephant was found at the Kovil premises as told by Nissanka and the entire Jayawardene family and Herman got fascinated by seeing the battle between the powerful dark arts and divine power of Nissanka.
I know not whether these events brought prosperity to JR Jayewardene or his party (in reality, the evil spirits, once eliminated at great cost, look, that they have resurrected to destroy the UNP not 80s but today), yet, what Mr. Gunaratne wishes to say is, practicing of exorcism is not rare in this island and the methods of elimination of the same too not unreal.
Of Justice Maas Thajoon Akbar, (one time Acting Attorney-General of Ceylon) who said to have exercised some witchcrafts, was a good friend of late most Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Thero. Being a Malay who was born to a wealthy business family, and went to Royal College and studied at Emmanuel College – Cambridge, Mr. Akbar had academic eminence of engineering stream before he joined to the Bar at Grey’s Inn. It is said that in addition to have an utterly successful legal career, Justice Akbar had some penchant to learn local exorcism as well. It is mentioned in the biography of Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Thero that once the Ven. Thero went to meet Justice Akbar at his residence, there was a well-built security guard patrolling the gates of Hon. Justice’s waluwa (mansion). Moment Ven. Thero saw this guy, Thero knew it was not a human. After sharing some pleasantries by the Thero who came from Balangoda to meet his friend, the latter questioned, “it can’t be a mortal securing (nadukara thumage) your Lordship’s gate?” “No it is not, that is a demon in human form I get the service of these days”, smiling Judge retorted.
*To be continued….