© 2023 Dr Margaret Sheppard

Deities Hierarchy Ceremonies Sakra Guardians Twelve Deities

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Valli-amma, the beautiful Veddah second wife of  the Deity Kataragama.

Valli-amma was the second wife of the Deity Kataragama. She was a beautiful Veddah woman. There are many legends about  her.

One relates that the Vedda Chief  found a beautiful girl baby in a patch of sweet potato in the Jungle. He carried the child home to his wife who was delighted as they only had sons and had long hoped for a daughter.  They brought her up as their own. She was a sweet and beautiful child and loved by all the Vedda. They named her Valli - Vedda for , sweet potato - after where she had been found. It was believed that her mother was a red deer and her father a Deity.

As she grew up she professed her love for the Deity of the Mountain who was the Deity of Hunting, Kande Yakka. This is the name by which the Vedda people know Kataragama. (Vedda huntsmen before embarking on a hunt, perform a special hunting dance dedicated to Kande Yakka that causes them to become entranced and in their entrancement the Deity shows them where to hunt. (See section on Veddas).

As Valli grew up and became  even more  beautiful, many of the young hunters wished to marry her. However she had vowed to marry only the Deity of the Mountain, Kande Yakka.  Kande Yakka in the meantime had been observing the Vedda people from his mountain top and decided to come down amongst them in the form of a young and handsome hunter in order to meet Valli to whom he had become greatly attracted.

Valli was in the Jungle protecting the millet patchfrom the birds, when Kande Yakka  suddenly appeared in front of her  pretending to be tracking a deer. When he suddenly appeared before her, she reprimanded him for his unseemly behaviour. He was just about to apologise and retreat back into the Jungle when her father and the other hunters returned from a successful hunting expedition. They were bringing her mangoes and honey as a gift whilst she kept watch over the millet patch. When Valli looked towards the approaching hunters, Kande Yakka quickly transformed himself into a tree. The moment they left he changed back into a hunter and declared his love to Valli. Valli was angry at his behaviour and warned him that her brothers would soon be returning and would punish him.

Sounds of the approaching brothers were heard. Kande Yakka immediately changed himself into an old man with a long grey beard, bent over with age. The brothers greeted the old man respectfully and told him that Valli would care for him as long as he stayed. When the brothers left he said he was hungry so she dutifully gave him some millet meal with honey and then showed him to a stream where he could drink.

He then again declared his great love for her but Valli again became angry at his behaviour. Kande Yakka then telepathically begged his brother Ganesh to help him to win Valli’s love. Ganesh suddenly appeared out of the jungle in the form of a wild elephant. Valli was so frightened that she leapt into the arms of the old man begging him to save her. Kande Yakka agreed on condition that she agreed to marry him.

She was so frightened of the wild elephant that she immediately agreed to become his wife. At this point the “old man” transformed himself back into Kande Yakka (Kataragama). He was seated on a beautiful peacock and surrounded by dazzling light. Valli realised his true identity and was overwhelmed that her vow to marry only the Deity of the Mountain had been fulfilled.

Eventually the millet patch was  harvested and Valli was recalled to the Vedda village. When Kande Yakka found her missing from the millet patch he was distraught. He entered the village late at night and when he found her, they disappeared into the Jungle. In the morning when her family could not find her, her father organised a search party which was bent on revenge. They tracked the lovers down and the hunters shot arrows at the “old man” but instead of killing him the hunters fell down dead instead.

Valli was broken-hearted at the death of her “relatives”. On seeing this, Kande Yakka  granted her the power to revive them. She touched each of them and they returned to life. The Vedda people then realised that the “old man” was in fact their sacred Deity of the Mountain and Hunting - Kande Yakka (Kataragama) and they immediately prostrated themselves before him in worship. Valli’s parents gave their consent for the couple to be married. The whole village celebrated the wedding  and from then she lived with him at Kataragama where they are still dwelling in their happiness and continue to be venerated by modern-day Vedda people.

Sculpture of Kataragama with his two wives atop one of the temple buildings at the important Koneswaram Temple complex, Trincomalee.

Local Temple dedicated to Kataragma on the Trincomalee- Batticaloa Road. Note the sculptured medallion over the entrance which depicts the Deity Kataragama with his two wives. Valli-amma is to the left and his Indian wife on the right.

Curtains screening the inner sanctuary at the main Kataragama Temple dedicated to the Deity from view of all but the Head Priest, show embroidered decorated depictions of Kataragama and his two wives seated on his transport - a peacock. Pujah offerings from the public are handed behind these to be presented within the inner sanctum.

The main pujah offerings passing before the curtains

Detail of curtain showing Valli-amma

Kataragama Temple’s women claim Veddah descent. During their evening pujah, they paid respect before the curtain depicing Valli-amma with Kataragama and his two wives. (See section on Pujah -Women)

Valli-amma on left of the Deity Kataragama who is seated on his transport (a peacock). His Indian wife Tevayani, is to the right. Kataragma’s brother the Deity Ganesh, is to the left.

(Painting within Temple at Yala East, South Eastern Sri Lanka)

Some people get help from her and ask for predictions about their future at dedicated shrines or herbal medicine centres as they  believe she can remove problems of ghosts or devils and cure sickness from her powers with holy medicine.

(See “Who are Gods & Goddesses - Why Do I Meditate?” -  On  internet.This site also gives information on which type of offerings each Deity prefers).