Kohomba Kankariya or the Kohomba Yak Kankariya is the main ritual or the Shanthi Karma,which is performed in the Kandyan dance tradition to invoke blessings from the deities or gods known as the New Kohomba, the old Kohomba, the great Kohomba. Moreover the Black prince (Kalu Kumara), Ambarapati (Pattini), God Weeramunda, God Kadawara, Kudaguru, Mahaguru,and the group of 36 ancestors of veddhasor Adivasi are also included here. Kohomba Kankariya is traditionally associated with the circle of harvesting in the country. After gathering the bountiful harvest from the paddy cultivation, people worship deities and gods by offering the first portion of the harvest to gods in order to express their gratitude to gods for giving them a bountiful harvest. In order to bring prosperity to the village, to prevent the spread of diseases, to cure a person from an illness and to get prosperity in animal breeding are the other reasons to hold this ritualistic performance. This ritualistic performance is associated with variety of folk and popular Buddhist practices. It is said that in the past, the kohomba Yak Kankariya was performed for about Seven days, but today it is limited to one day.
Historical Background of the Kohomba Kankariya
There is a myth of the origin of the Kohomba Yak Kankariya, which goes back to the arrival of prince Vijaya
to Sri lanka from Lata Rata.
During the time of Vijaya’s
arrival, the country was ruled by the Yakkhas.
Kuweni is the daughter of the king of Yakkhas, and it is believed that she had cast a spell on Vijaya
in order to seduce him. Even though Vijaya
and becomes the king by a coup, his peers pressurize him to legitimize his position as a king by marrying a queen from Madu rata.
and his descendants and leaves the palace with her children. Kuveni
is kiiled by the yakkhas
but the children manage to survive.
The curse inflicted by kuveni is known as the “Divi Dosha” in which, Kuweni appears in Vijaya’sdreams as a leopard and tries to kill him, but he manages to escape by the help of gods. After Vijaya, his successor Panduwasdeva was too afflicted with the curse and becomes seriously ill. The Sakra(king of Gods) decides that the affliction could only be cured by a prince born out of a water-lily.
The king of Malaya,who is believed to have been born out of a water lily, is strategically brought to Sri Lanka by God Rahuin order to perform the ritual. Accordingly, to trick Malayato come to Sri Lanka, god Rahu assumes the figure of a wild boar and starts ravaging the royal garden whereupon, the boar is chased all the way to Sri Lanka by Malaya.God Sakrathen explains the incident and Malayaagrees to perform the ritual to cure king Panduwasdeva.After king Panduwasdeva recovers, Malayaassigns Kohomba,a local prince, who later assumes the form of a deity, to perform the ritual in future. The Kohomba Kankariya has been performed in various parts of the country in order to ward off evil influences and bring prosperity to the country.
This legendary mythical story is described in the well known Buddhist chronicles known as the "Deepavansaya as well as in the Mahavansaya". But the healing of the king Panduvasdevais not mentioned or found in any written records until the 15th century. However, the myth of the kuveni and the myth of the king Malayaare recited or sung in the Kuveni Asna and in the great invocation called the Maha Yathikawa which is the collection of five stories (Katha Paha) performed during the Kohomba Kankariya.
According to some records, the Kohomba Yak Kankariya is originated in the Kotteperiod in Moreover, the King Parakramabahuthe 6th has been the 1st patron of the Kohomba Yak Kankariya.
Structure of the Kohomba Yak Kankariya
Kohomba Kankariya is a combination of a set of rituals that are performed three months prior to to the main ritual. Some rituals and events are held prior to the main ceremony. These are;
- Planting the Kappa- After selecting the proper place for the ceremony, a branch of a jack tree is planted in the selected place. This branch is cut at an auspicious time. This ritual is conducted three months before the main ritual.
- Akyala Wen Kireema- The first portion of the paddy harvest is reserved on behalf of the gods, and offered during the ritual. A section of the paddy field is reserved especially to obtain the harvest for gods.
- Pol Bulate Yama- Goods such as coconuts, fruits, other decorative items and supplies are collected from the village for the main ritual.
- Maduwa Sekaseema- Constructing the hall or hut for the ritual is known as aduwa sekaseema.This task is conducted by the villagers. Three to four days prior to the main ritual, they finish the task of constructing the main hut. Another small hut is made to keep all the goods that are used during the kankariya. This hut is known as the Gabadawaor the store room.
Some activities and rituals are conducted the day before the performance. These are:
- Decorating the Hut or Maduwa- The hut and the alter is decorated using coconut leaves, banana leaves and other ornaments. After that the entire hut is offered for gods. This ritual is known as madu-pe-kireema.After the ritual, as a custom, women are not allowed to enter the hut.
- In order to get water for the ritual, a well is dug. It is then offered to gods. This ritual is known as Thota pe-kireema.
- The coconut flowers, coconut leaves and coconuts necessary for the entire ritual is obtained from a selected coconut tree. The ritual of offering the tree to god is traditionally known as Ruk pe-kireema.
- Then the collected rice is prepared. This is known as Wee Keteema.
The morning rituals are conducted on the day scheduled to perform the main ritual.
- Inviting the gods to the altar is the first ritual performed in the morning. Statues of gods are carried in a procession to the altar. This is called Deviyan Vedamaveema.
- Then food or alms are offered to gods. This ritual is known as Murutan Pideema.
- After the Murutan Pideema, Nanumura manglyayaor the ritual of bathing the ornaments of the god is conducted by the chief dancer known as Yakdessa.
- Then rice is offered to the god Kohombaand the god kadawara.Offering rice to god Kohombais called Pe bath Pideemawhere as offering rice to god kadawara is called kadawara gotuwa deema.
- All morning rituals are concluded after chanting verses in the name of the god Kohomba.
After the conclusion of morning rituals, the evening rituals are performed by the dancers.
- Wedi Yakun Neteema- Dance items known as Yak Anuma, Hath Padaya, Palawela danayaand Kadawara Pideemaare performed by the artists. For these, the artists do not wear the complete costume.
- Wedi Pettiya Nateema- In this dance, the activities of the adivasis are imitated by the danceres.
- Vane Yakkama- This dance idem performed around the mortar, and called Vane yakkama.
- Ruk Pa Yakum Pideema- This is a dance performed as an offering to the Sun god.
- Kande Deviyan Pideema-A god of the adivasis known as Kande Deviyanis worshipped in this dance item.
The main Ritualistic performance is commenced after 8.00 pm. The list of dance, drum and singing items performed in the ritual are as follows :
This performance generally starts around 6.p.m.
- Hangala Yadeema- Preparing costumes
- Aile Kata Kapeema- Opening the altar
- Maha Yathikawa- The great invocation
- Magul Bera- Traditional drum beating
- Atya Bera- Drumming dialogues
- Yak Enuma- Dance item
- Aile Yadeema- Reciting a song
- Asne Neteema- Performing the Kuweni Asnawith song
- Yak Tun Padaya- Performing a specific dance with drumming
- Guruge Malawa- Imitating the characher called Guru,who is from india; contains comic episodes
- Hath Padaya Netuma- Performing the traditional dance item with seven drum beat circles
- Mal Yahan Kavi- Reciting poems to invite gods to altar
- Dana Paha- Reciting songs on five types of (song)
- Kata Paha(Song) - Reciting songs on five types of stories
- Dunu Malappuwa- A dance with a bow
- Kol Paduwa- A dance with a divine ornaments
- Avanduma- A classical dance
- Madu Poray- A dance with a song; describes the caste discrimination in India and Sri Lanka
- Mal Hath Padaya- A classical dance form with seven episodes
- Aluyam Kadawara Deema- Offering morning arms to the god kadawara
- Performing Several Dramatic Performances - Ura yakkama( enacts the behavior of a Wild boar ), Naya yakkama(depicts the activities of gypsies), Wedi Yakkama(depicts the behaviour of adivasis), Boru yakama& Dharsana yakkama(describe the information on artists and some decorations)
- Kohomba Hella- Reciting the original story of the Kohomba along with dance, and drumming with songs.
- Gabada Kollaya(Robbering the store room) - A dancer enters the store room and sets it on fire. Then the audience gets permission to enter the ceremonial "Maduwa" after the ritual.
- Muwamala Wideema- Shooting the Banana flower at the altar.
- Kapa Galaweem- Signaling the conclusion.
- Hamara Padaya- The concluding step performed by the chief dancer.
The costume of the Kohomba KankariyaPerformance
The costume worn by the artist to perform the Kohomba Kankariya is known as Wes Anduma.This is the main costume in the Kandyan dance tradition. The costume consists of 64 items or parts. This costume is believed to have belonged to god Kohomba.These are:
||It is worn as the headgear
||The forehead part, which is fringed with silver bo-leaves
||The seven silver spokes rising like rays above the headgear
Jatawa and Jata Patiya
|A cone-shaped ornament worn on the dancer's head is called the jatawaand the ribbon, 45 inches long, which trails from behind the jatawais known as Jata Patiya.
||Intricately designed, large mango-shaped silver ear plates worn on ears
||used as armlets.
||Intricately woven, neck covermade of colored beads.
||The chest cover of the dancer, decorated with floral designs using with colored beads.
||Two-inch plates on dancers’ wrists.
||The entire clothing of the dancer
||Intricately pleated white cloth worn from waist to ankle, and three and half yards in length.
||Another cloth worn round the waist. This cloth is folded to a width of two inches and flounced at the end, to form layers of frills called Neriya.
||A silver belt with a decorated clasp worn over the cloth
||An elephant trunk shaped velvet cloth decorated with silver bosses and worn from center of the Bubulupatiyadown to the knees.
||An ornament, round and filled with bells worn on anklets of the dancer.
The dancer should be well trained in wearing the costume properly.
Musical Instrument used in the Kankariya
The Gata berayaor the Kandyandrum is used as the main percussion instrument in this ritual. six to eight drums are played at a time, and this is a special feature of this performance. Different types of rhythm patterns and creative drum performances are performed by the artists.
Dancing Schools Related to the Kohomba Yak Kankariya are:
Kandyand suburb area
Kurunagala (Sath koralaya)
- Ma kehelwala
Kegalle (Satara koralaya)
- Pol ambegoda