25 September, 2023


The President Visited Kandy: O Lord! The Clouds Are Gathering

 By Tobias Vishvabaratha

Tobias Vishvabaratha

The Pageant of the Golden Palanquins or the Randoli Perahera held for 5 days ended last night which was undoubtedly the most attractive and colourful night of the festival. The Tooth Relic was temporarily deposited in the Gedige Vihara of the Asgiri Temple last night until it is taken back to the Maligava (Temple of the Tooth Relic) today.

At about 3am today the lay-priests of the devales went in procession to the ford at Getambe, Kandy on the Mahaveli River. They got onto a boat and rowed to the middle of the river with golden swords and caskets containing water collected the previous year. The boat was surrounded by a white cloth so that no one can see how the casket is emptied and refilled with water. They say that refilling is done in a magical way: the lay-priest empties the casket, draws a circle in the water, immerses the casket in it, re-fills it while striking the water with the sword.

To fill the casket, water is actually cut. How can you cut water? Only solid things can be cut. Cutting water is based on two kinds of beliefs: first, that there is no rain because all the water in the sky is enveloped into one huge block and second, that it will rain again if that block can be cut.

However, no one can go up to the heavens to cut that block of water. All that can be done is to imitate that cutting in a place that man can reach. Hence it is done by the Getambe ford in the Mahaveli River. Buddhists strongly believe that it rains on the day of the water-cutting ceremony or ‘diya kapime mangalle’.

It is told that in 1826, the British government suspended the pageant and for three years there was not a drop of rain. All agriculture failed and the Kandyan chiefs and monks met with the Governor, Sir Edward Barnes, and sought his permission to hold the pageant again so that there will be rain. With reluctance, he agreed. On the morning of the water-cutting ceremony in 1829 it was reported to have rained so much that it ended in a flood or gang vatura and the people called it dalanda vatura (waters of tooth relic). A folk poem written then, titled Dalanda Vatura, is found in the Dept. of National Archives.

The lay-priests now will go back to the city with the caskets. The Dalanda Perahera joins them and all five pageants return to their respective shrines before noon, bringing to an end another Festival of the Sacred Tooth intended to bring rain, marking the beginning of another rainy season.

With rains, hopefully, that come on the ‘water-cutting’ day, begins the Rain-retreat or Vassana Kaala (Pali) of the Buddhist monks. They remain in their temples – hopefully including those monks who have been duped and deceived by their leaders, who have vested interests, into believing as protectors of Buddhism through non-Buddhist methods – for three months, observing the rites and rituals of the Rain-retreat. For the monks to be able to say ‘ayam vassana kalo’ (this is the rainy season), this festival has to ensure a good downpour of rain.

Once the Perahera is over it is the duty of the Diyawadana Nilame (cup-bearer of the King or the present day custodian of the Temple of the Tooth) to report to the King that the Perahera was held successfully.

However in the absence of a king, his place is taken by the Head of the State, the President of the Island. So the President and his delegation visits Kandy – transported this time via an ‘air-show’ of more than 20 helicopter rides up and down, much to the delight of my daughter who was excited and loved the pleasant disturbance to her holiday-reading – resides in his Lodge to meet the Diyavadana Nilame, the ‘basnayakes’ and other lay dignitaries to bring to a close the Festival of the Sacred Tooth.

This custom reminds the ruler (Raja/ King) that it will rain in due season ONLY if he is ‘righteous’ (dhammiko). The wish of all Buddhists is summed up in the following Pali stanza, that is chanted everyday:

                                                Devo vassatu kalena – May gods give rain in due season

Sasa sampatti hotuca  – May the crops be bountiful

Pito bhavatu lokoca – May the people be happy

Raja bhavatu dhammiko – May the king be righteous

For the information of the readers of this article, although I’m a Sri Lankan and a Sinhalese resident in Kandy, I’m first a Christian. I beg to believe differently, have a Bible-based rationale for what will happen today and am not one bit flustered.

The clouds have been gathering from last night, a slight drizzle of rain has been witnessed this morning and the showers have begun even as I pen this article giving hopes to the majority of the population of Sri Lanka including its leader whose trust has been placed in superstition rather than following the path of Buddha, the noble teacher, and his teachings via the ‘dhamma pada’ which they claim to follow and foster. The Hon. President would be rubbing his hands and ‘good-luck charm’ that he carries around with glee and will also be utterly convinced that the gods are in favour of his kind of ‘righteousness’ that has been metered out  in the land. Having witnessed these ‘favourable’ conditions I’m again pushed also to think that the Hon. President will be looking forward more to a downpour of votes in his favour in the upcoming elections and the ‘righteous rains’ will only be passing thought in his mind.

Allow me the audience Your Excellency, to convey to you the bitter truth, that you are deceived in your thinking! Not regarding the votes, mind you, since the masses that is as much superstitious as you will vote your party reps in, except in the Northern Province that is, unless of course supernatural tactics are already in place with the help of some mortals who consider themselves ‘demi-gods’ and will execute their powers knowing full-well that they will be supernaturally let off the hook.

Let this be a time for contemplation for Your Excellency to be mindful of the true ground situation of our beloved mother-land.

I’m offering below a prayer, encompassing all other Christians in the one Spirit Jesus gave all of us, to the one living God using the words of the following popular song by a renowned Christian song-writer dedicated to our beloved mother-land that is Sri Lanka;

O Lord, the clouds are gathering
The fire of judgment burns
How we have fallen!
O Lord, you stand appalled to see
Your laws of love so scorned
And lives so broken

O Lord, over the nations now
Where is the dove of peace?
Her wings are broken
O Lord, while precious children starve
The tools of war increase

Their bread is stolen

O Lord, dark powers are poised to flood
Our streets with hate and fear
We must awaken!
O Lord, let love reclaim the lives
That sin would sweep away
And let your kingdom come

Yet, O Lord, your glorious cross shall tower
Triumphant in this land
Evil confounding
Through the fire your suffering church display
The glories of her Christ
Praises resounding!


Have mercy, Lord!
Forgive us, Lord!
Restore us, Lord!
Revive your church again!
Let justice flow like rivers and righteousness like a never failing stream!

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Latest comments

  • 0

    The buddhist religion and national politics are so closely intertwined in Sri Lanka that the politicians deceive the uneducated public by their public display of support for the religion.

    Mahinda Rajapaksa with the blood of so many on his hands should never be allowed to pollute any place of worship.

  • 0

    There is no religion without ritual – though the founders of all religions never laid down rituals.
    Clergy too,cannot exist without ritual which each has modified to suit himself and/or his congregation.
    Prayer is a satisfying ritual for most people.
    Hinduism may be the religion with the most diverse rituals – clergy charge fees for each kind.
    Water-cutting is a ritual which has become a mystique process as reported.
    The devotees of all religions too,desire ritual,as,without it there will be no satisfaction.
    The perahera is a ritual which entertains thousands,satisfies those who beleive in its neccesity,and attracts tourists too.
    Every man knows right and wrong,even His Excellency.
    What you do determines your life on this planet.
    What a leader does determines the lives of the nation.
    Let us hope for the best.

  • 0

    There is more to the water cutting ceremony than the rather simplistic explanation given by the Author.

    “Raja Bhavathu Dhammiko” is a relatively new addition to the pirith chanting that has probably been brought about by “raja’s ” who are not interested in the well being of the people. A subtle hint from the monks, maybe ?

    The Dalada Vahanse’ is a benevolent force that looks after the well being of the people it is not affected by the machinations of tin pot rulers !

  • 3

    Dear Tobias, I personally hope that your Lord’s “glorious cross shall tower Triumphant” in your life and heart but not necessarily in our country. I would rather Sri Lanka remain a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country where one can believe in what one thinks is best. I choose to adhere to the teachings of the Buddha.

    But I want to raise a more important point. You have to realize that Sinhala culture is not exactly the same as Buddhism. The water-cutting ceremony or ‘diya kapime mangalle’ is lovely cultural practice not necessarily a Buddhist practice just like Sinhala/Tamil New Year. (I have never quite understood why Sinhala and Tamil Christians disdain this beautiful and unique culturally rich celebration steeped in tradition, why won’t you ignore the religious bits and join us in celebration?)

    Likewise it is wrong for you to say that “Buddhists strongly believe that it rains on the day of the water-cutting ceremony”?? NO THEY DON”T!!! You think Buddhists in Thailand or Bhutan give a flying squirrel about water-cutting in Kandy? Some Sri Lankans believe this and other consider it our rich heritage.

    This antagonism towards Sri Lankan culture instilled in you by missionaries is detrimental to national unity. You have every right to believe in whatever god you choose to believe in. But pleas do not belittle our heritage.

  • 0

    Raja Bahawathu Dhammiko ,

    May the KING be righteous.

    This Ruler will never be RIGHTEOUS.

    I may Believe, Hope that The Future King Be RIGHTEOUS.

    { Oh My, do not misunderstand, Not from Rajapassa clan]

    • 0

      what’s wrong with you people to blame and hate so much MR. remember we blamed and hated Mrs Bandaranayake, JR, and Premadasa also. this is only an natural phenomenon in the mind of certain class of people in our country. mind we blame and hate RW also for misruling the opposition. but Raja Bhawatu Dammiko will remain with all the rulers in our country.

  • 1

    The rain is there for Yala and Maha seasons in Sri lanka from time immemorial.

    The blessings expected is nothing more or nothing less than that seasonal rain for the seasonal cultivation s.

    Jarapaksa has nothing to do with the nature or the seasonal rains.

    He is only a POLBURUWA with his uneducated breed of kith and kin who are trying to drag the nation to misery.

    Nature will look after the country and BUDDHISM.

    Aswalaam Alaikkum

  • 0

    Mr. Vishvabharatha:
    There are two unforgivable mistakes in your article.
    Firstly: The Tooth Relic is not taken in the Perahera. It is only a casket that is taken. So what is temporarily deposited in the Gedige Vihara of the Asgiri Temple is only a casket. (What if the Tooth Relic is deposited there overnight? How much of security that has to be provided. The Tooth Relic is generally protected inside seven caskets of sizes varying from small to larger. So it could be one of those caskets that is taken in the Perahera.)
    Secondly: In the Pali stanza, the word “Devo” in “Devo Wassathu Kalena” does not mean “god” or “Deity” Most people who don’t understand Pali thinks it refers to “Deity” The real meaning is “rain” which here is a noun. “Wassathu” is the verb meaning (rain) “coming down” “Kalena” meaning “in (proper) time”. In Sinhala “Kalata (Kalena) Wesi (Devo) Waseewa (Wassathu)” (Since there is no mention of “god” or “deity” this is a wish anybody could make irrespective of what one’s own religion is.

    In Pali, there are terms with hidden meanings or different meanings in different usage. This is one. Another is “Panditha Putta” which means a “fool” and not the son of a learned man.
    You should get this clarified with someone who is knowledgeable with Perahera procedure and of Pali language to find out what I have stated is right or wrong. To the best of my knowledge I am convinced that I am right.

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