Tovil [Sthavira-vada in Simhala]

[no pagination (until p. 146), no table of contents, no index]


tovil ‘exorcism’

Prince Oddisa (O.d.d.i-is`a) "who some say came from Kerala" "has ten forms" : "possessing a gigantic mouth many miles wide".

"In exorcism there is only one musical instrument – the demon drum or yak bere, although ankle bells (gejji) and a reed pipe (vas danda, which has a high pitched whistle) used to call the demons add much to the sound of a ritual event. The yak bere is cylindrical in shape and beaten at both ends by the hands (one end is male the other is female).



Anguru Dummala [dummala ‘incense’]

Paliya Tambili [tambili ‘coconut’]

Paliya Kendi Paliya


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II.A. "The Main Exorcisms"



deity which is exorcised



Huniyam Yaka


Sanni [/sanni/ ‘despondency, despair’] Yakuma

Kola Sanniya;

the 18 sanni (disease-daimones)


Mahasona Samayama

Great Cemetery Daimon


Rata Yakuma

Kalu Kumara (‘Black Prince’);

Riddi Bisava;

the 7 "barren queens"


Iramudun Samayama

Riri Yaka


"Oddisa is described as being born from a Queen ... who was impregnated, unbeknownst to her, while she was bathing during her menstrual cycle. ... When Oddisa reaches the age of sixteen he leaves the King’s city, ... pulls every kind of serpent from the anthills that abound and drinks their venom. ... He rides a white mare, the power of sakti."

illustration of Suniyam : his body orange, his nimbus yellow, background blue.

"Kola Kumara ... is born in Visalamahanuwara, the city of the Lichchavi’s ... . His mother, Queen Asupala the senior wife of King Sankapala, is wrongly accused of adultery ... when she announces her pregnancy. Asupala is executed and a male child falls from her rent womb. {similarly, Khrusaor was born when his mother Medousa was slain.} ... Sankapala has the child suckled by seven princesses. However, when he come of age and knowing of his mother’s cruel death the prince ... leaves the city and wanders through the forest collecting eighteen poisonous plants. ... The prince ... returning to the city ... slays his father, eating his flesh and drinking his blood. ... Buddha purifies the city with a torrential rain of flowers."

"Mahasona" (Maha-s`on.a) : "This fierce demon of the cemeteries is born from the body of one of King Dutugemunu’s ten champions. ... [Another of these 10 champions,] Gothaimbara leapt into the air and with the small toe of his left foot kicked Jayasena’s head from off his shoulders. The planetary god Saturn ... tore the head from a bear but acting a little too hastily puts it on Jayasena’s shoulders, but back to front. Thereupon Jayasena was ... Mahasona". {a descendant of Jaya-sena was R.ks.a (BhP 9:22:10-11) ‘bear (ursus, arktos)’}

"Kalu Kumara / Kalu Yaka" : "The Black Prince in a figure of insatiable lust. (Women afflicted by him are understood to see him in their dreams.)" myth : "While on a campaign he learns of a city of women and anxious to satisfy his uncontrollable lust goes to visit it. The women are so sexually voracious that they literally tear him limb from limb. {this also happened to Orpheus} He ... takes revenge on women by ... bringing all kinds of suffering to them during childbirth ... so that children are stillborn."

"Riri is often described as a dwarf, no larger than the little finger, but who has the power to change he shape into that of an enormous giant. ...

Kuveni ... betrays her people, ... and they exert vengeance upon her by ripping out her tongue. Riri is born from ... the tongue."

illustration : the 2 Riri Yaka-s, Iramudun 2-eyed and riding in a carriage; Tatapolu 3-eyes and standing.

BhP = Bhagavata Puran.a


"With the exception of the Iramudun Samayama (which is performed over ... the midday period ...) all the other tovil are performed from dusk to dawn ... . ... when the demons are generally the most dangerous (when the sun is in decline) through to when the sun is again on the ascent and the demons are weakening."

"Tovil are held at the patient’s house, the appointed day of the event being dependent on an examination of the patient’s horoscope."


"a straw dummy" : "The event involves ... drawing the illness from the patient into the dummy. The object is to convince Iramudun Riri that he should remove his gaze from the patient ... . The whole event is an elaborate trick whereby Iramudun is finally fooled into taking the straw dummy instead of ... the patient ... . ...

The event of the purale ... involves an exorcist dancer in demonic guise who is possessed by Riri. ... Hastened by the skillful rhythm of the demon drum (yak bere) the exorcist-dancer ... ideally finishes in a trance".

"demons demand blood, a drop is sufficient, obtained from a slight incision in a cockscomb. A cock ... replaces the patient ..., a two-legged creature in the image of man."

"The shrill sound of the reed pipe (vas danda) summons the demon which the smoke from the powdered resin has attracted."


"the Dance of Riddi Bisava (the Cloth Queen) and her seven daughters" : "The Riddi Bisava and the seven princesses or barren queens (described as Riddi’s seven daughters are the different forms or avatara of Riddi) are the chief consorts of Kalu Kumara / Kalu Yaka, the Black Prince. They afflict women ... with what is their own affliction, barrenness and infertility." myth : "Riddi approached the first Buddha (Dipamkara Buddha) with a gift of a ‘pure’ white cloth in return for which she wished to be granted a boon, the capacity to bear a child." "Riddi then proceeds to grow a cotton plant and weave the cloth which she presents to Dipamkara."


"The distinguishing events in this exorcism are the Mangara Pela Paliya (the procession of god Mangara ...) and the Mahasona Dapavilla (or Death of Mahasona)." "Mangara is ... the head of the gara demons who are a class of demons ... usually associated with the goddess Pattini." "the dolos deviyo (twelve gods), ... to which Mangara belongs, associated with particular districts and regions". "The Mangara Pela Paliya ... brings Mahasona and other demonic beasts such as the wild buffalo under control. Mangara is a domesticator and tamer of the wild.

The drama of the Mangara Pela Paliya is divided into 12 key events (each associated with [one of] the twelve gods or dolos deviyo). ...

At the end of the Mangara Pela Paliya, a demonic character, Kalu Vedi Paliya (the Plack Hunter Apparition) ... stalks the cock, ... and shoots the exorcist igaha (the arrow of Iswara by which the exorcists command and control the demons). ... In doing this Kalu Vadi flushes Mahasona out into the open. ...

The event called Mahasona Dapavilla immediately follows. An exorcist in the guise of Mahasona ... rushes towards the patient and then patient and then placing a pot (... from which he was born) on the ground smashes it with his staff. He ... falls down ‘dead’ ... . He is carried away amidst mock mourning."

"Mahasona Depavilla : apparition of Mahasona himself in the smoke from the resin and tochlights. ... It is there, whilst inhaling the smoke from the resin, that the actor-exorcist enters into a true trance. Mahasona places a pot ... and shatters it with a staff. At the same moment, he falls ... as if dead whereupon family and friends carry him away amidst exaggerated mourning."


"to move the victim of sorcery (... who must start the rite by wearing her head shawl ...) along the line of the snake of sorcery (... the spine or susumna of the victim) and over seven lotuses, the seven tantric points of energy ... . ... A cobra design is drawn on the floor of the verandah ... . The cobra head ends symbolically at the ... sacrum".


"A structure in the shape of a raft on which the foetus of the executed Queen Asupala was placed is put in the main vidiya and the demon (in the mask of ... Maru Sanniya) bursts screaming suddenly out of the raft".

"An egg, considered a live being, is cooked inside a human skull". {an [infertile] egg is not actually a living being, so it may be a metonymy for some herb : ‘egg’ is the Septuagint translation for (<iyob 6:6) /h.allamu^t/ (Strong’s 2495), properly ‘purslane’ (as in <arabi^ -- WHB, vol. 4)}

WHB = Christopher Wordsorth : The Holy Bible with Notes. London, 1868.

X. "THE DAHAATA PALIYA" [/dahhata/ ‘18’ (p. 146)]

"Pandam Paliya’s mask is ... in the shape of a lion. ...

Other pali are typically :

Salu Paliya (shawl apparition);

Kendi Paliya

[Kalas Paliya] (water pot apparition);

Tambili / Dalumura Paliya (coconut-betel apparition) [these are distinguished, infra];

Anguru-Dummala Paliya (brazier-resin apparition);

Igaha Paliya (Iswara’s arrow apparition);

Kukulu Paliya (cock apparition)."

"Theoretically there are eighteen sanni ... . ...

Some of the more popular sanni demons that are presented include

Gulma Sanniya (the demon of stomach [intestinal] worms ...),

Kana Sanniya (the demon of blindness),

Bita Sanniya (the demons of obsessive timidity),

Vata Sanniya (rheumatic demon), and

Maru Sanniya (the demon of death)."

"Pandam Paliya appears wearing a lion-like mask and brandishing two torches which are alight with resin powder (dummala) which he shakes before him."

"Salu Paliya, the shawl apparition advances under a voluminous black wig ... . The specific rhythm of Salu Paliya beaten by the drums is interrupted by bouts of spasmodic laughter from him."

"Kendi Paliya is an old man who leans on a cane and has difficulty walking. He farts loudly. whilst stirring a pot which he explains contains excrement."

"Kalas Paliya, the clay pot apparition : the mask is that of a girl, she wears a straight skirt ... . ... Kalas Paliya announces that ... she is the goddess of the earth (Polova Mahi) who went against Maraya ... in spite of Buddha’s warning."

"Dalumura Paliya, the betel apparition, has an asymmetric face due to his betel chewing habit."

"Tambili Paliya, the coconut apparition".

"The eight theoretical apparitions "Ata Paliya" will follow -- ...

inaugurated by Maru Sanniya.

... Bita Sanniya, the timid one with the astonished expression and green tint to his face ... .

... Demala Sanniya ... with his turban, his protruding teeth and his stuttering speech ... . ...

Gulma Sanniya appears, blue complexion ... . ... [pale blue]

Kana Sanniya reveals his problems of sight ... . ...

Naga Sanniya suffers from serpent-filled nightmares. ...

Vata Sanniya is crippled with rheumatism ... . [his mouth is depicted broad from corner to corner.] ...

Amuku Sanniya ... : vomiting and diarrhoea. [having brown, wrinkled face] ...

Deva Sanniya ... shows the eighteen sanniya figures in miniature placed around the top of the mask."

"At a Sanni Yakuma, ... the last mask to appear is that of kola Sanniya, the chief of the Sanni demons and rocognisable by the raised cobra on his mask. {cf. Aiguptian ouraios} ... The guards show him a written contract. Kola Sanniya looks at it, reads it and ... understands its meaning : he can only descend to earth to cure the sick and to accept offerings, this is the extent of his powers."

Bruce Kapferer & Georges Papigny : Tovil. Viator Publ, 2005.