© 2023 Dr Margaret Sheppard

Deities Hierarchy Ceremonies Sakra Guardians Twelve Deities


Legend of Mangara

The Deity Mangara, was in a previous life, the son of a King. When his horoscope was drawn up soon after his birth, the astrologers foretold that he would be killed by a buffalo as in a previous life he had milked a cow who was suckling her calf thus denying the young calf a chance of life. Thus in an attempt  to avert this fate the King sent him away.

He and his followers sailed away on a boat and ended up in the far South of Sri Lanka at Usangpda, near Ambalantota. This is a very dry area and they took shelter from the burning sun under a large, shady tree. They heard a lot of buzzing above in the tree and the prince realized that they were sitting under a wild beehive. He ordered his men to climb the tree and obtain honey. The men climbed the tree but the wicked Demon who lived in the tree became angry and sent them away as it was his tree and his bees and his honey.

The men were very frightened and ran away, but the Prince took out his golden sword and cut out the hive. They collected the honey up in leaves and relished the delicious nectar.

A little while later when they had made their way further inland, they came to some lakes and a wild buffalo was standing in the water. The Prince commanded his men to capture it but they were too frightened, so the Prince entered the water but was killed by the irate buffalo who was in fact the angry demon of the honey tree. The buffalo then killed all the Prince’s followers.

A cowherd then came across the dead men and managed to kill the buffalo with his spear and chopped it up. He was to become the first priest of Mangara (the dead Prince). He built a Shrine to Mangara out of the pieces of the dead Buffalo :

“Thereupon he built a hall, dedicated it

Worshipped the gods and asked their leave

He obtained warrant from the gods

To make preparations for boiling the milk.”

Then follows a description of how he used the different part of the buffalo for different parts of the Shrine:

“The four legs were used for four posts

And the tail cut into four bars

The twelve ribs were used for a stand…..

…..The four kneecaps used for  hearthstones

The hide stretched for a canopy…

The eyes were used for sapphire lamps… “etc etc.

When he was ready for the traditional “Boiling of Milk” ( the custom whereby a pot of coconut milk is boiled to predict the success for a new enterprise when it is opened) he was short of the necessary tumeric as he then needed to purify the area of all pollution. So he decided to approach the Deity Pattini for assistance. She became angry as she said he had brought the  pollution of the dead with him and his attendant. However she agreed to help them and they obtained rice and tumeric from the Naga King. They were now enabled to perform the ceremonial Boiling of the Milk.

Pattini then sprinkled some of the milk on the dead Prince and his followers:

“As if in response to a sudden command

As if emerging from the ambrosia lake

As if awakening from a sleep

The god stood up with his retinue.”

They then rejoined the pieces of the buffalo and captured and tamed the herd and lived off the buffalo milk and kiri (sour milk) and honey (a speciality much enjoyed in this Southern area of Sri Lanka to this day).

The myth then relates how Mangara is invoked to heal the illnesses of people and communities as the Deity of Runhunu area (this part of Sri Lanka). He was  given a retinue of demons under the much feared Cemetery Demon Mahasona, to punish human transgressors.

(See Obeysekere pages 297-299 for further details)

During Tovil and Pattini Ceremonies one of the Presentations in honour of Mangara (the final one) is Buffalo Tethering. This is associated with this myth - see the sections on Presentation for more details.

Mangara is the Deity who controls the much feared Cemetery Demon, Mahasona. In Tovil and Pattini Ceremonies the Mangara Pelayiya Presentations are directed towards him in his honour. Mangara is requested to exercise control over the much feared  Mahansona’s attacks on and control of the patient, and release the patient from their resultant illness.