By 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
Through the fire your suffering church display
The glories of her Christ
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!