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Folklore from North Ceylon

J. P. Lewis
1895 Folklore  
DURING the eighteen months in 1889-1890 that I was in official charge of a part of the Northern Province of Ceylon known as "the Vanni," I,came across a few items of folklore which I send you. The Vanni was in the time of the Sinhalese kings a nourishing district; but with the Tamil invasion six hundred years ago, and the consequent destruction of the large irrigation works constructed by the Sinhalese kings, it fell into decay, and has now a population of between fifteen and sixteen thousand,
more » ... sixteen thousand, or eight to the square mile. The great majority are Tamils, but there are about a thousand Sinhalese in the extreme south of the district. There are only seventy-five females to every hundred males. The Tamils are nearly all Saivites and the Sinhalese Buddhists; but the favourite god of the villagers of both races is Pillaiyar or Ganesa, 1 the elephant-headed son of Siva and Durga, and god of wisdom and fortune. The people are much devoted to his culte, and on the brink of nearly every tank is to be found a shrine dedicated to him. A broken pillar or head of Buddha or the figure of an elephant sometimes serves to represent the god, or the shrine is indicated merely by a large tree with a trident stuck in front. Villages are abandoned both by Tamils and Sinhalese because the site is supposed, to be haunted by devils or subject to the anger of Pillaiyar or otherwise unlucky. Some Sinhalese villagers attributed the great mortality in 1 " And on the middle porch god Ganesha-With disc and hook-to bring wisdom and wealth Propitious sate, wreathing his sidelong trunk." Light of Asia, bk. ii.
doi:10.1080/0015587x.1895.9720297 fatcat:t224jiedwjgunoeiolwywzq7wu