Where have all the spirits gone?
Spectacular moments of the Daha ata sanniya enacted in Oruwala
A Sanni, according to Pundit Dr. Nandadeva Wijesekera in his book
Deities and Demons Magic and Masks Part 1 is a manifestation assumed by
the Maha Kola Sanni Yaka, whose name is mentioned during a plague in the
city of Vesali. There are eighteen such sannis personifying certain
Each Sanni is believed to be responsible for causing an illness.
Though it is not known when the concept was introduced Dr. Wijesekera
believes the most likely persons may have been Ayurvedic practitioners.
"Treatment of illness caused by spirits is the fourth division of
Ayurveda. It is called bhuta cikitsa." writes Dr. Wijesekera.
To quote from P. 143 "When a person falls ill the Ayurvedic physician
is consulted. He treats the patient as usual. But if he suspects the
illness is caused by spirits or the influence of a demon the kattadiya
If the patient does not respond to normal treatment the illness needs
"bhuta chikitsa" according to Auyrveda. " The spirit can cause illness
by casting an evil look (disti), or by possession (avesa) or even by
loneliness (tanikama). In some cases black magic (kodivina) is
If it is a kodivina then it has to be countered by a Kattadiya. If
that is not so the Kattadeiya (devil priest), Yak-edura takes
preliminary precautions to arrest the progress of the illness. He charms
yellow thread and ties a security thread (epa nool). He offers himself
as surety and promises to make suitable offering within three months by
performing a tovil.
Within this period the devil possessing the patient has to be
exorcised by a special ceremony. A favourable day according to the
patient's horoscope has to be selected. The patient should avoid facing
Maruva when he is seated at the dancing ritual.
The social position and wealth of the patient determines
elaborateness and duration of the ceremony. It may be simple with a few
dancers and a drummer or elaborate with several dancers and two or three
drummers. The dancing may last from 18 hours to 8 hours the following