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Presentations - Paliya

These Presentations are to entertain Mangara, Mahasona’s superior. The format was similar to the Tovil dances held at family homes to cure an individual of Demon caused sickness. (See section on Presentations in Midnight Watch Dances). In the case of this type of ceremony for the Deities the Presentations are for the entertainment of the Deities.

The Presentations commenced with a comic interchange between the drummer and the dancer during which he held the palm leaf in front of him and “read” it out (it is supposed to be the “warrant” from the Deities giving him permission to conduct the Presentations. He recited the list of “ritual  items” that will be presented.

The first one was “Cloth” - This is used to shelter  Deities or dignitaries such as monks and can also be used to place on the ground so that their feet do not become defiled. Following the interchange with the drummer about its uses, the dancer sang about it and danced with it to the drumbeat. Then he placed it back by the Toran.

The next Presentation was the Umbrella. This represents the umbrella held over dignitaries to shelter them from the sun and rain whilst at the same time  apologising to the Deities if they have felt insulted by commoners using this article. This is another comic turn whereby the dancer takes up the coconut leaf umbrella from the Toran and then asks the drummer its usage making various comic guesses. He parades with it in a dance to the drumbeat and finally ends up destroying it. (The pieces he collected up carefully  and returned them to the Toran.)

The Flag and Fan followed next. The dancer paraded around the Performance Area holding one in each hand, singing about this Presentation as he moved. The flag represents the flag of the Deities. On the face of the Fan is a sun and moon face. He ended the dance by twirling around before depositing them back in the Toran.

More comic interchange then followed with the drummer and then he picked up the Horn which was the next Presentation. He asked for directions of how it is sounded - the Drummer obliged. He then marched around blowing on it to the amusement of the audience before destroying it.

Then followed the Drum Presentation. This as always caused great amusement in the audience at the interchange with the Drummer. The dancer asked what it is and makes a few wild guesses e.g. women’s breasts or perhaps buttocks?. He demonstrated each of these possibilities.  He eventually “understood” it was a drum and received instructions from the Drummer on how to beat it with drumsticks. He marches around “drumming” before, as before, destroying it and then collecting up the remains.

Next the dancer brought  out a Vina which is a sort of violin which is Indian not Sri Lankan. However it features in Sri Lankan Jataka (folk) Tales where one tale relates a previous life of Buddha when he was a music teacher who played the Vina. The dancer imitated the high pitched squeaky sound of the Vina as he paraded around to the drumbeat pretending  to play it. This musical instrument suffered the similar fate of the previous ones.

In the meantime an Assistant has been dressed up as an Elephant for the next Presentation of Elephant Tying. The Drummer announced it was time to capture an elephant from the Jungle for the Deities. The “Elephant” was led around the Performance Area by the dancer who carried a herding stick. There was again much comic interchange with the Drummer and ribald comments that were greatly enjoyed by the audience. The dancer in the role as a “simple villager” described his adventures whilst “capturing the elephant”. At the end of this Presentation the Elephant returned behind the Toran as it had been sent back to the Jungle.

Buffalo Tying followed next. This is similar to Elephant Tying. Again an Assistant had been arrayed as a Buffalo. In this dialogue the myth of how the Deity Mangara was killed by a buffalo is the reference (see Myths section)

Mangara to whom these Presentations are directed in particular, is considered to be helpful in healing people and communities.

Horn Presentation

Joking interchange with the drummer

Elephant Tying

Buffalo Tying

“Tie the bull buffalo and be ready to lead him away

Deck him as if he was going to the heavenly abodes

In the name of the glorious god Mangara

We offer this buffalo to him, the god Mangara.”

                                                            (Obeysekere p. 170)

You Tube Video Link

Gam Madua Part 8 Presentations


After the buffalo had been “herded” back behind the Toran, the dancer then sang and danced to the drumbeat. He concluded the Presentations by twirling very fast back towards the Toran where he came to a stop and bowed to it before returning behind the Toran.