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Mangara Pelapaliya – the 12 Presentations

This dance is usually performed between midnight and 2 am. N.B when I observed Mahasona Tovils, usually only 10 Presentations were performed.  The Presentations are in honour of and for the entertainment of the Deity Mangara , Mahasona’s superior. By entertaining Mangara it is hoped that the Deity will assist in the cure of the Patient.

They are comic performances with ribald interchange between the Tovil Dancer performing them and the Drummer – much also to the amusement of the Audience.  Each Presentation follows roughly the same format. Each start with a drum rhythm The Dancer enters from the Demon Palace with the Presentation, sings and dances to the drum rhythm displaying the Presentation around the Performance Area. The songs praise Mangara. Then follows the comic interchange with the Drummer in which typically the Dancer asks the Drummer to identify the Presentation and makes various outrageous suggestions about its usage which the Drummer “corrects”.  These Presentations provide welcome light relief  to the Audience and the Patient after the terrifying appearance and Dance of Mahasona.

The Presentations are:

1  Cloth   2 Umbrella    3 Flag     4 Fan    5 Horn    6 Drum    7 Ceremonial band    8 Stringed instrument    9 Stick Game

10  lime juggling    11 Elephant Tying    12  Buffalo Tying

(In the Tovil dances I observed 7, 9 and 10 were not  usually included.)

The Presentation objects are specially constructed for each ceremony, except the Flag and Fan and the Elephant and Buffalo masks. They are made out of coconut leaves and banana stems by the Tovil Dancers. At the end of each presentation these objects  were usually trashed and the remains  placed in the Demon Palace.  (N.B. The following illustrations are from several different ceremonies.)

At the beginning of the Presentations , the Dancer “reads” from an “ancient” palm leaf “justifying” his right. This he claims is his “warrant”  proving his right to perform them. Then follow the Presentations in order.

 For each Presentation the Dancer is accompanied by one of the Drummers and sings  in praise of Mangara and about the Presentation. Then follows the comic interchange. The Presentation typically finishes with the Dancer waving the remains over the Patient before placing them in the Demon Palace.


First Presentation - Cloth

The first Presentation is Cloth. This is perhaps symbolic of a canopy used to shade dignitaries or sacred relics during processions from the sun. Monks and relics are shaded in this way.  On this occasion the song also refers to respectfully shading the Deity Mangara. It could also represent the cloth unravelled along funereal routes  on which the coffin bearers tread whilst bearing the coffin to the grave.

“Umbrella” in  the Demon Palace before Presentation

“Umbrella” Presentation dance.

Second Presentation - Umbrella

Then the “umbrella” is trashed and the remains placed in the Demon Palace

Fifth Presentation - “Horn”

This Presentation follows the usual format then, during the “discussion”.the Dancer often makes outrageous suggestions as to what the Presentation is. Eventually the Drummer “instructs” him how to play it. The Dancer then processes around the Performance Area blowing Horn to the drum rhythm ending with the disintegration of Horn. After collecting up and waving the remains over the Patient, the Dancer places them in the Demon Palace.

This “Horn” can be blown to make a sound!

The “Flag” and “Fan” Presentations are often performed together. The comic discussion follows a similar format

Third and Fourth Presentations - Flag and Fan

The Dancer asks  the drummer what it is.

The Drummer demonstrates how to play it

Eighth Presentation - Stringed instrument

The Dancer then “plays” it, before destroying it, waving the pieces over the Patient, and placing the remains to the Demon Palace

Another group selected 10 young boys from the Audience who were then formed into a line, each carrying one of the Presentations. They then paraded around the Performance Area, before being called out one at a time by the officiating Dancer, to demonstrate their particular Presentation and engage in a 3-way riposte between the officiating Dancer and Drummer . (According to Kapferer this is the Ceremonial Band Presentation.)

Following Buffalo Presentation Kalu Vadi follows.

There is  then usually then a break of about 20-30 minutes during which refreshments - biscuits, bananas and plain tea - are served by the host family to the Audience.

Eleventh Presentation - Elephant Tying

These last two Presentations perhaps relate to restoring order over chaos, and enact the taming of a wild elephant and wild buffalo. As well as the usual comic “misunderstandings” and interchange with the Drummer and songs in praise of Mangara, one song relates how Mangara went into the jungle and tamed a wild elephant. The other relates how he tamed the wild buffalo.

A member of the Audience or an Assistant is “dressed” in the Demon Palace depicting first Elephant and then Buffalo.

The “Elephant” appears from the Demon Palace and the dancer drives it around the Performance Area, before mounting it.

Twelfth Presentation - Buffalo Tying

This is similar to the elephant tying presentation. The “Buffalo” enters from the Demon Palace and is driven around the Performance Area by the Dancer. This “tying” is suggested to be securing and confining the powers of the demons.


Some Tovil Dancer Groups use masks of the elephant and buffalo for these last two presentations.

The Dancer takes the “drum” from the Demon Palace and considers what it could possibly be.

Is it for example, women’s buttocks or perhaps breasts? This causes great amusement to the Audience, especially when the Dancer dances around the Performance Area in this pose!

Eventually, after “consulting” the Drummer, he is told it is a drum and told how to use it. He then dances around the Performance Area “beating the drum”.

As before the Dancer destroys the “drum”, waves the remains over the Patient before placing them in the Demon Palace.

Sixth Presentation - Drum

You Tube Video Link:

Morning Watch Dances - Presentations


Much of the comic interchange follows criticism about how far from Umbrella being suitable for shading Deities and dignitaries  as it looks more like the umbrella bought at a shop . Various comic and outrageous suggestions are made of what it is, how it works and its possible uses .

Buffalo in particular is very unwilling and strays around the Audience creating havoc and butts the Dancer much to the amusement of Patient and Audience alike!

(See Section on Deities - Mangara - for further information on some myths associated with Mangara  e.g. as a human he was killed by a wild buffalo.)