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Kandian Rituals

A different style of tovil (exorcism) ceremony evolved in the central hill country around Kandy - historically isolated from the rest of the island.



The general concept of the ceremony is much the same  - a sequence of rituals in which Buddha and the gods are called on to assist in removing evil influences and the demons attracted with praises and offerings. But here the centrepiece is the avamangalle - the death time ritual.


Other rituals may be missing or cut down and there are no wooden masks.



  Closely related - very different

                  A patient ( in white), possesed by a demon.


The patient, watching from her seat on the ground suddenly  jumps up and, controlled by the demon, starts dancing, hopping and shaking in front of the excorcist (in red). The yakadura asks the demon why it infected the patient and what it requires to cure her and leave.

Avamangalle - the death time ritual

This is longer and more elaborate than the equivalent low counry ritual, with the whole exorcist group taking part. Singing and dancing continually, the exorcists retell the legend of Buddha's birth under the Sal Tree. It is said that he took seven steps - a lotus springing up at each one - before declaring that this was his last incarnation. The power of Buddha is also called on to remove more demon influences by cutting limes.


The ritual starts with covering the patient with a white sheet. The step markers (young areca flowers) are smoked with dummala. Still singing and dancing, the exorcist touches the heads of the patient twice with the markers, makes two circles over their heads, then places them in position on the ground. This is repeated for each marker.


The cylindrical 'lotus flower' steps have a packet of rice in them, a betel leaf and a light. The patient places a coin in the first as an offering, then it is touched to his forehead and placed on its marker on the ground.


The limes are briefly placed against the patient's forehead to transfer evil influence, then placed in the steps, two in each.


Now all seven steps are in place. One by one the limes are taken out and as the yakadura chants, they are cut at the patient's forehead and feet then put back on the steps. After the ceremony is finished they will be fried in five kinds of oil to destroy them.

Steps with rice and coin

Avamangalle in sinhala means death time. Posing as a corpse, the yakadura lays under a white sheet and with a candle at his head, a typical arrangement of a dead body.  The patient, a rooster, limes and pot are at  his feet. The demon's altar full of offerings is placed over him.


The exorcist sings to the demons demanding they take his own body instead of the patient's.


Singing "...take my body, not the patient's body, take my flesh, not the patient's flesh, drink my blood, not the patient's blood...'  


The demons enter the yakadura's body but he is too pure and strong for them and discharges them into the cock laying at his feet.


Legend of the Seven Steps

Possessed patient dancing outdoor avamangalle

The Bali Ritual


This is a rare ceremony performed to ward off the evil influences of planetary deities.


It was introduced from south India comparatively recently and adapted to incorporate Buddhist beliefs. The planets are considered highly important in Sri Lanka and horoscopes are consulted at all important junctures of a person's life.


This is another all night ceremony. It begins with homage being paid to Buddha, then a long complex piece of drumming.


The majority of the ceremony consists of the practitioners passing between the planet's altar and the offerings area behind which sits the patient. Singing constantly, they call for the protection of the patient while occasionally flaring torches to scare away influences.