Grandeur of a procession | Sunday Observer

Grandeur of a procession

10 October, 2021

When we talk about the grandeur of a procession, also known as a Perahera, we ask how many elephants were in the procession because it determines the beauty and grandeur of the procession.

But it would be surprising to hear or see a procession of cattle instead of elephants. This special procession with sixty or seventy cattle can be seen at the Navagamuwa Siddha Pattini Devalaya Perahera. This procession, which is also called the ‘Gonpita Perahera’ is held for three days.

The Siddha Pattini Devalaya Perahera in Navagamuwa begins with the Kumbal Perahera, which only lasts a day. Thereafter another procession is held for three days. Cattle or elephants are not allowed on the procession and this procession is held only within the premises of Devalaya. The Gonpita Perahera is held for another three days thereafter. It is known as the Gonpita Randoli Perahera and takes to the streets.


The Gonpita Perahera which starts from the main entrance of the Navagamuwa Rajamaha Viharaya, enters the Vihara Mawatha via Sri Sumanatissa Mawatha, enters the road behind the Devalaya and returns to the Rajamaha Vihara. After the Gonpita Perahera, the procession with the elephants begins. The last Randoli Perahera with these elephants is second only to the Kandy Dalada Perahera. However, the uniqueness of the Siddha Pattini Devalaya Perahera in Navagamuwa is expressed in the Gonpita Perahera. It is not wrong to call the Siddha Pattini Devalaya in Navagamuwa the only place in Sri Lanka where such a procession is held.

According to legends, Goddess Pattini aspires to become the next Buddha. However, some call her “Sath Pattini” and “Dolos Pattini” and the beginning of the Navagamuwa historical Pattini Maha Devalaya dates back to 114-113 AD.

It is a well-known legend that King Gajabahu I, who ruled Sri Lanka at that time, brought the anklets of Goddess Pattini with him on his return journey to Ceylon in return for the 12,000 people who were taken captive to Soli (South India) during the reign of his father, King Vankanashikatissa. .

On the way to the palace, he rested with the visitors at the Kelani River ferry in front of the present location of the Pattini Devalaya. Before resting, he had placed the anklets on a high place and when he went to retrieve it, the king saw that there were seven huge cobras guarding around the anklet after which he left them in the same place and made a cover with clay.

That little cover is the beginning of the Pattini Devalaya, and at that time this area was a beautiful forested area.

King Seraman, who later lived in India, came to Ceylon since he wanted to cure a severe headache. After coming to the Pattini Devalaya and performing the Devolmadu Yaga and taking vows, he had recovered from his headache. This Devolmadu Yaga was the first of such to be held in Ceylon. Therefore, the low country dance tradition of Sri Lanka has started in this background. As this Devolmadu Yaga is held during the month of Esala, the Esala festival in the country is believed to have started in this historical background.

Before King Seraman returned to his homeland, he settled nine different around the Devalaya to continue the annual Devolmadu Yaga and Esala festival. They have performed various rituals for the Devalaya and they still perform those rituals without fail. History has it that the area where the Devalaya is located got the name Navagamuwa due to the nine buildings (nine villages) inhabited by these communities.

Na trees

There are also two opinions that ‘Nagagomuwa’ became Navagamuwa because of the abundance of snakes and that there was a group of Na trees in the highlands where the Devalaya is located. The name Navagamuwa is mentioned in several poems belonging to the book “Devavarnana Kavyaya” which is several centuries old.

It is mentioned in the Rajavali that during the Kotte period this area was known as Hewagam Koralaya. Later, Navagamuwa was used as a port on the main road connecting Colombo Fort, Malwana, Hanwella and Gurubabila. The earliest written evidence of the Navagamuwa Pattini Devalaya dates back to the Kotte period. One of the most important details of the royal patronage given to this Devalaya is found in the Godagama Sannasa presented by King Bhuvanekabahu (1521-1551 AD).

This area was historically important during the Seethawaka period and it is said that King Mayadunne (1521-1580 AD) took a vow to the Pattini Devalaya in Navagamuwa during the war from Seethawaka to the Colombo Fort. A Portuguese report states that in 1550 CE, about 600 men sent by Don Asoragarda Crusco to help King Buwanekaba of Portugal clashed with King Mayadunne at Navagamuwa.

It is also said that the Portuguese destroyed the Navagamuwa Devalaya in 1576 AD and used Navagamuwa as a military base and built a nearby Portuguese church using the stone pillars there. The destroyed Navagamuwa Devalaya was rebuilt by King Mayadunne.

Colombo Fort

It is said that the Devalaya became a heap of ruins in 1594 as a result of the destruction of it by Captain Peter Cowan Perera of Colombo Fort. During excavations at the Navagamuwa Devalaya site and its suburbs for various purposes, remains of buildings, Dutch coins and certain statues have been found.

Navagamuwa and Kaduwela are agricultural areas. In those days cattle were widely used for farming, milk trade, carts and agriculture. Cattle that lived in the area centuries ago died of hoof disease. Hoof disease was so rampant that the inhabitants could not make a living. When cattle died, agriculture and dairy farming came to a standstill. Cattle were not there to be found for carts and villagers then went to the Siddhi Pattini Devalaya in Navagamuwa and expressed their grief to Goddess Pattini.

The villagers promised that if the epidemic was eradicated, the relics and costumes would be placed on the cattle and brought to the Devalaya. Eventually the cows recovered and as promised, the villagers, including the cattle owners, paraded the cattle and carried the relics and costumes to the Devalaya.

The same legend exists in folklore in a slightly different way. It is said that the Vanni Goddesses who represented and took care of Goddess Pattini gave cattle to the farmers of the area to enrich their farming activities.

They have also instructed to perform rituals for Goddess Pattini. Although the rituals were continued, in time the villagers avoided them. Meanwhile, the economy of the villagers collapsed due to the death of cattle due to an epidemic. When the farmers were discussing the cause of death of the cattle, the non-offering of offerings to Goddess Pattini was considered as the reason. It is said that after giving a large scale alms, the cattle in the village bathed in the Kelani River, after which they were taken to the Devalaya in a procession. After that the cattle got rid of the epidemic and lived a healthy life. This procession is held annually thereafter.

The jewels of four Devalas are placed on the backs of cattle in the procession. Only cattle are used in this procession and cows are not allowed to participate. The cattle in the Gonpita Perahera are bathed, cleaned, garlanded and covered with a beautiful cloak. Well-bred, cattle with long horns are selected for this purpose. That is why today cattle are being raised in this area and the surrounding villages with the intention of participating in the procession.