<< Back | Temple Anniversary an insight into Sri Lanka’s historic rituals and traditions
Every villagefolk, which enjoys a Hindu temple amidst their village, celebrates a colorful temple anniversary. It is the time when it is not only the Hindus who gather together for celebrating the foundation of the temple; as it is attributed to Sri Lanka’s history and its multiethnic population, it is also devotees from other religions who join and celebrate this special festivity. It all starts during the night when a specific item is hidden by the 3 temple’s key person. It can be a coin, flower, fruit, religious symbol or, anything else. Therefore nobody knows what they are searching for. From this moment on everything depends on the villagefolk. Only if they can identify what this year’s item is and fit it, the annual temple anniversary will be celebrated this year. As only 3 specific persons know what the item is, they may fib about what it may be, and change it during the night. The most important historic rituals begin on the very next day. While everyone is already dressed up in sarongs and saris in the morning, most of the houses are decorated with huge banana leaves and streets are adorned in colorful paintings. There are still more preparations going on in the village. Wood needs to be burned throughout the day for the traditional fire-walking, and the trucks need to be made ready for the hanging rituals. In every little corner throughout the village you will find people playing traditional instruments while dancing to the music. Others offer fruits and flowers to the temple and pray to the gods.
When everything is prepared the chariot procession starts and all people gather together. The main chariot is leading the procession and carries the representatives of the temple. It is accompanied by dancers, musicians, and smaller chariots; while people are pulling the main chariot with the help of ropes in order to carry it through the village. You will observe that villagers will try to pull the ropes of the main chariot at least once, as it is also a matter of tradition and devotion to god if they do so. When the chariot is passing by the village, it pauses to bless people’ fruits and the main representatives will go on to share Bindis. You might even find glorified spiritual members on the street who would share Bindis as well, and also exorcise bad spirits off someone during the rituals. When these rituals are exercised on the sidewalk along the way it attracts a lot of attention by the audience. After the chariot and the gathering reaches the final destination everyone especially the younger generation start dancing on the streets to loud music in celebration. While people are celebrating, and dancing others prepare for the next ritual of the temple anniversary celebrations. This ritual reaches back to ancient history and is still a popular practice of devotion to the gods. That is why some villagers volunteer to be pricked with hooks from branches fixed on trucks, which are then driven through the village. Although the procedure of putting the hooks into the skin is hidden behind a linen, relatives and other villagers stand in front of the linen and engage in spiritual and historic rituals for support. The intensive celebration ends with people walking over fire in the premises of the respective temple.
Arul traditions describe a particular practice of devotion to Hindu gods. Hanging rituals go back to ancient Hindu history and are still executed in Sri Lanka. Even though in most cases it is performed when someone or one’s family member is suffering from a severe disease, it can technically be offered as an exchange for many other reasons as well. As it is believed that Arul is one of the most powerful rituals a person can offer to the gods; especially persons in desperate need offers this specific hanging rituals. Due to the belief of its strong power people from other religions would end up performing these historic Hindu hanging rituals in order to receive the support and blessings of the Hindu gods.