© 2023 Dr. M. Sheppard

Dances Evening Watch Midnight Watch Morning Watch Patient Dancing Fire Dance Finale

The Edura enters with a rolled up mat under his right arm. He dances with it, singing the “Song of the Mat”. This is the legend of how an ancient Prince was cured:

“I take refuge in the Buddha

I take refuge in the Dharmas

I take refuge in the Sangha

With my mind on the Buddha I recite the history of the mat.

The Seven Queens, the Seven forms of Pattini went to collect rushes

Then went to make a mat.

Prince Dhammeti had an illness but there was no mat upon which he could lie.

The gods told the Seven Queens to bring a mat.

They went to Dumbara Pond (a dwelling place of Mahasona) but found no rushes.

They asked everywhere

They went to the Sun Moon pond where they found many rushes.

I take the mat in my right hand.

I make the breasts of the Seven Queens full of joy.

I lie down upon the mat to remove the sickness.

I have permission from the gods.” (Kapferer p. 202)

While he is singing the Song of the Mat and dancing slowly around the Performance Area, the mat is smoked with dummala to call the demons. This is all accompanied by the special drum rhythm  for the Mat Dance.

At the end of the Song of the Mat the Dancer unrolls the mat near the Patient. At each of the corners are laid little coconut leaf structures and clay lamps .

When all are in the correct positions, the Edura then lies on the mat with his head towards the Patient and his feet pointing towards the Demon Palace. He is lying like a corpse offering himself to Siri-yakka. The Patient has a red cloth that she/he wipes over their head to imbue it with their “essence”, and then throws it to the Edura.The Assistants spread it over him. The red is to represent blood for Siri-yakka, the blood Demon. His offering basket is placed on the stomach of the Edura, The whole area is again smoked with dummala by an Attendant. This is to call the demons.

When all is ready, the Edura blows on his bamboo pipe and recites mantra to call the demons. The Assistant smokes all around the mat and Edura.

N.B. The Edura has the Pipe in his left hand and the Igaba (wand) beside him on the mat.

Sometimes 2 Edura are involved at this stage. In this case one sat on a chair and blew on his pipe and recited mantra.

(Fuller explanation Wirz p54)

The Patient is given a clean white cloth in which they tie a copper coin in one corner as an offering.

An offering basket is brought  by an attendant and the Patient is instructed to place the requisite offerings into it such as rice, cooked foods, yellow root etc.  The Edura blows his pipe to call the demons. (If  Siri-yakka  is believed to be the cause of the affliction  then another Dancer may  enter who dances around before taking the offering basket from the Edura and placing it in the Demon Palace) .

The cock is placed at the feet of the Edura and offerings made at his head, stomach and feet in the little coconut structures – the three positions where a mat would be tied around a corpse in the old days before modern coffins became commonly used

At the feet of the Edura an egg may be cooked in the top of a skull (now a clay pot is used). This represents the destruction of life and is to attract the demons. This is because it is the offering to Siri-yakka. Offerings to Mahashona and Suniyam are also made during this part of the ceremony. The other offerings consist of 7 types of vegetable curries, rice and 5 types of roasted seeds. All these offerings are placed in the offering basket on the stomach of the Edura.

Mat Dance

This is part of the Evening Watch. For a full explanation see Wirz (pages 52-5) and Kapferer (p.201-6)

Throughout this part of the ceremony the Edura will recite the mantras to call the demons. The mantras relate the individual histories of the demons and summon them (demons) to attend to accept their special offerings and then to release the patient from their illness. One such invocation is the Avamangalle Samayam Kavi :

“All the demons come to this place.

Come from across the seven seas, the seven mountains, the seven ponds, the five rivers, the five crossings

Come from the city of the demon rock.

Come the demon who dwells at the burial ground.

Come the demon who lives where the Veddas dwell.

Come the demon who makes the patient ill.

I give the cock. I give the blood for you to drink. Come quickly.

Come the demons who scream in the sky.

Come the demon who eats dead bodies.

There are many things to eat here.

Come the demon who must seek permission from Vessamuni.

Oh Mahansona come!

Come and take the cock instead of the patient.

Come Mahansona who is commanded by the god Saman and the Guardian gods.

Come the cruel demon who has caused such illness.

The power of god Natha spreads across Lanka.

The demon of death has come and struck my chest with his sword.

Oh god, I am dying. Siri has cut my leg and is drinking my blood.

I cannot live. I cannot bear my suffering.

Oh demon take my life and not the life of the patient.

Siri has come as the demon of death.

He carries a club and a rope.

Oh demon eat my flesh and drink my blood.” (Kapferer p 203-4)

While he sings these curative invocations, he holds the igaba in his hand and strokes it down the Patient's body (from the head to the feet), then over himself and then onto the cock. He does this three times. He is drawing the illness out of the Patient via himself and into the cock. The red cloth covering the Edura is then given to the Patient who is instructed to wipe their head three times with the cloth, thus imbuing it with their “essence”. The cloth is then placed in the offering basket. Then the Edura circles the Patient's head with a lighted torch three times and the Patient is then told to blow on it. This further removes the illness from the Patient. Then either the Patient or a male relative places an offering of flowers and betel leaves in the special offering basket to Buddha and the Deities. Then the Patient gives a valuable ring to the Edura who places it onto his finger. This is to further break the connection (marriage) of the Patient to the demon who has caused the sickness.

This is the end of this part of the ceremony. Flaming dummala is then burnt all around the Patient to drive away the demons – smoking dummala attracts them and flaming dummala drives them away.

The Patient then looks away as the mat is rolled up (or sometimes  as above, the Edura is carried away in it, out of the yard to e.g. a crossroads or cemetery. The cords are fastened in the places for traditional burials before coffins became commonplace.) The offering basket is placed in the Suniyam offering place or if the patient is a woman on the stand for Kalu-kumara.

You Tube Video Links:

Evening Watch Dances - Mat Dance: https://youtu.be/XuG-_fTlAjk