© 2023 Dr Margaret Sheppard

Deities Hierarchy Ceremonies Sakra Guardians Twelve Deities

Suniyan/Huniyan and Other Deities


Suniyan or Huniyan is the Deity of Sorcery. Formerly he was a Demon who wreaked havoc up and down ancient Sri Lanka, devastating the land and killing and eating the  people  Finally he was trapped by Buddha becoming a follower. Lord Buddha gave him a boon to become the Deity of Sorcery.

His main Shrines are at Lunava near the railway station (about 7 miles South of Colombo) and also at Kuliyapitiya, Kabalawa in the North West Province. He is believed to have two aspects. While the moon is waxing his “good side” is portrayed, but during the waning of the moon, his more sinister aspect.  He rides around on a white stallion, has blue eyes and carries a brazier. Around his neck, waist and on his head are interlocking cobras. He supposedly is subservient to the Deity Kataragama.

As well as his main Shrines, there are Shrines dedicated to him in many temples as he is also the Deity responsible for overlooking the villages ensuring their boundaries are protected from evil influences (sorcery). In this role he dispenses justice, rewarding the good and punishing the evil doers acting on information received from his large retinue of assigned followers - minor Deities and demons - who are believed to circulate within the villages. They act as his informants and his demons punish transgressors on his orders. The “good” are rewarded with e.g. success in marriages, agricultural and business enterprises.

At Tovil and Pattini Ceremonies he is always “invited” respectfully by the Tovil dancers  and officiants and offerings are made to him on his Shrine. He is also “requested” for his permission before curative and cursing mantra are used.

Brief mention should be mentioned of two other Deities who feature in ceremonies - Gini-Kurumbara and Vahala. They are not full Deities but are part Demon. (See section on Pattini Ceremonies).

Besides these Deities so far outlined there are many more other minor ones  typically  who are assigned to the main Deities as their assistants. These are often revered locally by individual villages as their protectors and may be responsible for a particular aspect of life. Propitiation and worship is the same as described in the other sections. All Deities are faithful Buddhists, extending their protective powers not only to the Buddhist religion, teachings and philosophy but also to faithful Buddhist. As Buddhists, none of the Deities is regarded as superior or even remotely equal to the Buddha. They all are followers of Lord Buddha, who has transcended the constant round of rebirths  whilst they are still striving to achieve this state by following Buddha's Teachings.

A Deity Shrine within a Temple

Punishment by Demons

Statues of Deities on Koneswaram Temple complex Trincomalee

Temple sculptures  depicting Deities at temple complex near Pedro’s Point, Jaffna Peninsula