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DateLine Sunday, 9 December 2007

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A night with KADAWARA





Pix: Nisansala Karunaratne


Remember the song, "it's dark and cold tonight, is anybody there"? Well.. it was dark, but not cold and yes... there was somebody out there... not just an ordinary somebody but a devil, a devil called Kadawara, on a dark night in a village called Kiravalagama, 19km away from Deniyaya.

This was his night; when the villagers held a Kadawara Pooja to summon him to cure them of illnesses, remove certain curses bestowed on them, or to seek his advice on amassing a fortune.

Nisansala Karunaratne who was there, throughout the night, was so fascinated by what she had seen, when she came to see me on Monday, she quite forgot she had spent more than an hour stuck in traffic trying to get to the Lake House from Maradana.

Confessing that this is not a strictly scientific narration, she explains what she had observed on the night of this pooja, for Kadawara, believed by the villagers to be a devil who serves God. "The night started with offerings made to the Gods Vishnu, Kataragama, Nath and Godesses Pathini. There were many items in the pooja, rice, seven fruits, seven sweets, coconuts, roti, toddy, arrack and even some blood from a chicken."

She was fascinated by the midnight ceremony: The barefooted villagers their bodies slick with sweat, sans mobile phones or even wristwatches: Torches lining an earthen arena: The rhythmic beat of drums.

The smell of smoke: A figure entered, back first and the rhythm of the drums changed, intensified. The figure whirled and the patient was suddenly presented with the face of his tormentor!

Continuing to describe what she had seen Nisansala says one of the things that grabbed her attention was the Kadawara yahana made of wood and coconut leaves. "The Kadawara yahana is not seen in every Kadawara Pooja. The one I saw was constructed from what the Kapumahaththaya had seen in a dream".

Enthraled by this ritual lasting up to twelve hours, mixing raucous humour with deep-rooted fears to create a healing catharsis, Nisansala adds, it was only after the entire ceremony came to an end that she became aware of her surroundings.

"I was speechless with the breathtaking beauty around me. I felt the Singharaja forest standing behind me was like a giant protecting my soul. The tea bushes smiled with me. The water streams whispered soothing music."

Naturally she was not too keen to leave Kiravalagama. "I left my soul in that environment". She concludes "Only my body is here in the hustle and bustle of the city".

This explains why she can tolerate the maddening life in the city with such a tolerant smile.

aditha@sundayobserver.lk

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