Legacy in Visa Wedakama | Sunday Observer

Legacy in Visa Wedakama

The media has a major role to play in disseminating the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) among the people. The writer,as a promoter of indigenous knowledge at theoretical and practical levels, hopes to narrate a personal experience.  

Two weeks ago, I got stung on the eye by a poisonous insect followed by a painful near blind aftermath. Through this experience, I got a firsthand case study on how even some of my friends who know the benefits of our indigenous medicine are afraid to trust it fully when it comes to something serious.

This could be due to our obsession with the rather narrow lens of Western science.  

The accuracy of our medical heritage (Desheeya Chikitsa and Ayurvedha), shocked 20th century allopathic veterans, such as Dr. George Clarke, Dr. Emmanual Roberts and George Artygalle (as mentioned in the book, Herbal Food and Medicines in Sri Lanka by Dr. Seela Fernando).

These experts tested in their laboratories the medical treatments administered by our ancestors and came to the conclusion that we are indeed a lucky nation to have such medical expertise.  

Today, we hardly recognise this. We are akin to being beggars on other nations’ ‘expertise’ while sitting on a gold mine of knowledge we have trampled upon.  

As I believe in practising what I preach and because my system only responds to indigenous medicine which I am researching, I visited a Visa Weda, (poison treating physician) in a village in Kandy.

Prior to that, I focused on boosting my immunity by consuming village fruits grown without poisonous chemical and onions, garlic, karapincha, as well as applying crushed turmeric pieces with ghee on eyelid while also bathing it with Delum leaves so that by the time I went to the Wedamahattaya it would be slightly reduced.  

By interacting with the traditional physician, I found deep insights into the ancient art of poison removal that is carried out interwoven with astrological (cosmic) based analysis of time and the understanding that humans are just one aspect of the universe.  

Pussekotuwe Karunaratne Banda, operating from his native village of Jambugahapitiya in Kandy, is an indigenous medicine physician registered with the Ayurvedic Department. He also runs a grocery store in addition to being a physician. He is the third generation of a family of native physicians specialising in dealing, especially with snake bites.  

His father, Pussekotuwa Muthu Banda and grandfather, Pussekotuwa Ukku Banda had been into trading and travelling long distances, carrying their beheth heppuwa with them.

Along with trading, they considered it a key humanistic role to administer their cures to those they met on the way, who fell prey to poisonous creatures living amid the then wilderness.  

Visa Kalawa

In the indigenous medical system of the Visa Kalawa (art of poison removal), it is believed (based on many conditions) that even up to three days after the body has seemingly given way and ‘died’, there are possibilities of ‘resurrection.’

This involves a complex interweaving with nature’s energy alongside tapping into the deepest mysteries of human consciousness/awareness. The snake that was responsible for the death, is sometimes summoned back to ‘withdraw’ the poison. Karunaratne Banda said that the person’s Karmic lifespan which is determined by his Astrological chart matters.  

He said that according to family legend, his grandfather had brought ‘to life’ a person whose funeral he had observed as a passerby and offered to try and revive the ‘dead man’, if his Karma was in order and all other aspects within the cosmic consciousness worked.  

This kind of ‘resurrection’ related to snake bites, includes an intriguing process of energising the pressure points of the body and connecting to the reptile concerned as well as connecting with the third eye chakra of the forehead which is pressed and diverse mantras (series of words that have cosmic energising power) used. The methods vary from physician to physician.  

Karunaratne Banda, who uses mantras mostly from the Malaya tradition, said that he sometimes asks if his patients would like him to merely give only the medicine or carry out the mantra as well.  

The writer has come across similar other narrations from diverse village based physicians who know that treating skeptics is counterproductive. The unity of cosmic consciousness plays a major role, especially in the Visa Kalawa. We are unable to understand this dimension of being, which possibly explains why we treat the natural world and all creatures in it, so callously and brutally and why our so called ‘educated city based lives’ are often meaningless.  

Five to 10 centuries ago, an indigenous doctor practising the time proven science of healing, found out which kind of snake bit the person concerned.

Some would do it by lighting an oil lamp and getting the patient to tell the number of flames he sees (the poison being high if the person sees several flames and thereby the physician being able to detect the species of reptile).

If the messenger brought the news on behalf of someone else, some traditional medicine physicians had the method of lightly tapping the ear of the messenger to find out the information he needed from the patient. This kind of knowledge baffles us today, but being baffled by what we do not know does not mean it is false.  

The time, the date and the side of the body affected is also believed to give an indication as to the severity of the condition.  

In my case I was bitten not by a snake but probably by an ant on a Friday. Physician Banda consulted a worn-out book to know that if one is bitten by a poisonous insect on Friday, there are 90 hours within which one can safely treat without the poison. It is not the same for Saturday when the treatment span is lower.  

“Many centuries ago, the word ‘science’ meant cosmic knowledge as per each culture, where all creatures were considered linked within the wider universal energy field and medicine encompassed this interweaving,” Karunaratne Banda said.  

After examining my eye and assuring me that it is not serious, he proceeds to wave a dry dehiatta (lime branch) around my aura up to the feet uttering a Malayali mantra, indicating the removal of poison from the system.  

The writer has read on the Mantra/Tantra tradition/Energy based theories by Western authors, and studied the scientific power of words from a psychological and scientific angle based on diverse experiments.  

I patiently waited for physician Banda to finish his chanting to facilitate my healing and conversed with him on the medicine preparation as he mixed rare herbs with ghee and gave it to me in a sachet.  

He said that ingredients used in general for poison removal are lime leaves, Karapincha leaves, Ghee, Kuppamenia, Amu Kaha, Sassada, Ambul Dodang, Pas Pangiri, Rathandun, Murunga and Bo gahepothu. I was prescribed to consume Murunga, Karapincha and leaves, such as Penala known to remove poison from the body.  

Karunaratne Banda said that the Malayali mantra aspect of his treatment came to their family owing to his father’s sojourns with a clan of Malayali origin gypsies (Ahikuntaka) who were experts on ‘snake communication’ which we know as snake charming.


The treatment physician Banda uses are, however, from the indigenous tradition that his grandfather used and passed onto his father who in turn had passed it onto his two sons.  

“The experiences that myself and my family have gathered is so much that it can fill couple of books,” Banda said. About 25 years ago, a 12 year old girl had been admitted to hospital with severe stomach pain no Allopathic doctor could explain, despite keeping her in hospital for weeks.

A senior bhikku requested by the family to chant the Pirith, had approached physician Banda and asked if he could check what poisonous substance the child had consumed.  

“The girl could not eat nor drink. They did not know the reason for all this. When I went there, I found that the last thing she had consumed before getting pain was a pineapple. I discovered that the pineapple had been stung by a poisonous snake. It is this poison that was affecting her. I treated her and within days, she was normal,” he said.  

After I came home with my medicine and applied it like a pathu over the eye, I got calls from my skeptical friends. I replied that I not only write about Intangible Cultural Heritage but also practise it and benefit from it.