The Ritualizing of the Martial and Benevolent Side of Ravana in Two Annual Rituals at the Sri Devram Maha Viharaya in Pannipitiya, Sri Lanka

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Abstract

Within the context of Ravanisation—by which I mean the current revitalisation of Ravana among Sinhalese Buddhists in Sri Lanka—multiple conceptualizations of Ravana are constructed. This article concentrates on two different Ravana conceptualizations: Ravana as a warrior king and Ravana as a healer. At the Sri Devram Maha Viharaya, a recently constructed Buddhist complex in Colombo, Ravana has become the object of devotion. In addition to erecting a Ravana statue in a shrine of his own, two annual rituals for Ravana are organized by this temple. In these rituals we can clearly discern the two previously mentioned conceptualizations: the Ravana perahera (procession) mainly concentrates on Ravana’s martial side by exalting Ravana as warrior king, and in the maha Ravana nanumura mangalyaya, a ritual which focusses on healing, his benevolent side as a healer is stressed. These conceptualizations from the broader Ravana discourse are ritualized in iconography, attributes, and sacred substances. The focus on ritual invention in this article not only directs our attention to the creativity within the rituals but also to the wider context of these developments: the glorification of an ancient civilization as part of increased nationalistic sentiments and an increased assertiveness among the Sinhalese Buddhist majority in post-war Sri Lanka.
Original languageEnglish
Article number250
JournalReligions
Volume9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Aug 2018

Keywords

  • Ravana
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sinhalese Buddhist Majority
  • ritual creativity
  • healing
  • procession

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