A critical view on the Pattini cult of Sri Lanka
Godess Pattini has been an important deity in the folk religion of Sri Lanka, dominant in all the Provinces. The main shrine is at Nawagamuwa where the famous Brahmin Neela Perumal held sway. Many devotees come to ask the Goddess the favour of the gift of prophesy at Navagamuwa, Arnbokka and Kosgoda Ilegalla, Pattini Shrines. Pattini Goddess is associated with three rituals namely Gammaduwa, Ankellya and Paneliya. The Buddhists of Sri Lanka believe that the Goddess Pattini is a Buddhist god but is also worshipped by Hindus in the east coast.
by Dr. Mirando Obeysekere
@ The Island
Godess Pattini is a shrine for the Sri Lankans, as well as the devotees of Tamil Nadu. As Sri Lankans we are proud to state that we had worshipped Godess Pattini since the illustrious days of King Ravana, who was the villain of the Ramayanaya epic. According to "Ravana Katha" an Ola manuscript of the Poth Gula of Nilgalla Walauwa, Sabaragamuwa king Rawana went to the Maha Pattini Devalaya of Matula Janapadaya and prayed for the blessings of Paththini Amma, and at the same moment King Rawana fainted and fell down near the feet of Paththini statue which had been made of pure gold. The forehead of King Rawana split and started bleeding. It is said that the drops of blood fell from Ravanas forehead became red mushrooms on the ground of Pattini Devalaya, Matale.
I think it is a folklore which had been included in the ola manuscript, called Ravana Katha. But we should not forget our folklores, which comes from generation to generation, since prehistoric days to the present millennium. This ola manuscript was written by Millava Vanni, Bandara Magina Mahakappina Wickramasinghe Adigar about a few centuries ago.
But the Ramayanaya had not written any thing regarding a Pattini Devalaya at Matale Janapadaya.
According to the same ola book King Watta Gamini Abaya alias Walagamba (104-103) had made a vow to the Pattini Devalaya of Ambokka Mountain. King Wattagamini Abhaya was chased away by Brahmin Saligrama Tissa, who brought five warriors from South India and ruled the country for 14 1/2 years. Saligrama Tissa Promised to transfer the throne to those warrior Princes, each for five years. But unfortunately power hungry warriors were relentless and began to murder them one by one and reigned only for 14 1/2 years. They had to rule for 25 years if they were obedient to the orders of Brahmin Saligrama Tissa who had lived in down south as the Royal adviser of five warrior kings, Pulahaththa, Bahlya, Panayamara, Pilayamara and Dathlya. (103-89BC).
King Walagamba’s fulfilled his vow, and offered the whole area, Ambokkka to the Pattini Devalaya. (89-77 BC) in his accession for the second time.
King Walagamba, disguised as a civilian and took refuge at the residence of Brahmin Thanasiva, a great grand son of Bralinnin Vishnu Rama Chandra of Mathula Janapadaya. He was called Mathula Janapadeeshwara who had helped Mahasangha to write Tripitaka on ola leaves.
There is a fallacy among some people that the Pattini cult was brought here during the days of King Gajaba (108-130 AD). The writers of Silappadikaram and Manimekalal certify that view. But we have a right to follow and trust the folklore as folklore constitutes a distinct part of our traditional heritage. Godess Pattini has been an important deity in the folk religion of Sri Lanka, dominant in all the Provinces. The main shrine is at Nawagamuwa where the famous Brahmin Neela Perumal held sway. Many devotees come to ask the Goddess the favour of the gift of prophesy at Navagamuwa, Arnbokka and Kosgoda Ilegalla, Pattini Shrines. Pattini Goddess is associated with three rituals namely Gammaduwa, Ankellya and Paneliya.
The Buddhists of Sri Lanka believe that the Goddess Pattini is a Buddhist god but is also worshipped by Hindus in the east coast.
Most Hindus treat her as "Muthu Marl Amman" and the Roman Catholics too treat her as "Muthu Marl Amman". Roman Catholics of Sri Lanka have a special regard for this deity.
Panthis Kolmura Kavi, which has been composed especially eulogising Goddess Pattini, is a very important literature connected with the Pattini cult. The Pattini Cult has spread from Sri Lanka to Kerala in South India and from there to all other Provinces of North India too.
Prof. Gananth Obeysekere says Pattini was a deity worshipped by merchants and that these merchants, who colonised Sri Lanka in later times brought with them the worshipping of Pattini to Sri Lanka so even in South India Pattini had its origin in the concept of Mother Goddess, which was widespread in West Asia and the whole of Meditarranian region between 500 BC and 2500 AD.
According to Prof. Gananath, the Pattini Cult was introduced in South India by the West Asian traders, who frequented South Indian sea ports such as Kerala. Whatever it is, we have facts to prove that the Pattini cult was in Sri Lanka from the Megalithic era—and still we follow the worship of Goddess Pattini as faithful devotees.
Now the present Pattini Devalaya of Matale has a long history since the British invasion of Ceylon. According to the ola Manuscript of Nilgalla Walauwa, we can guess that the present Devalaya has been built in the same locality where the Pattini Devalaya existed during the pre historic Megalithic era of king Ravana of Ramayanaya fame.
One can see the remains of a slime apple tree where Goddess Pattini was in a hut, in the form of a Tamil beauty queen.