Solving the problem of evil in the twenty-first century

Yakun Natima: The Devil Dance of Sri Lanka

The Yakun Natima translates into the “Devil Dance” which takes place in some places (mostly rural areas) in Sri Lanka. The Yakun Natima dates back to the Pre-Buddhist era of Sri Lanka, where myths and ancient legends were the religions of the country.

The beginning of the dance consists of the Kattadiya, or the Devil Dancer. The beginning of the dance is a type of exorcism, where the person with an incurable disease is in the corner of the “arena” where the dance shall take place, and the Kattadiya dances around to rid the person of the “devils” and evils that dwell in their body. The ritual drums are beaten in rhythm as the Kattadiya, who is also the designated medicine man, dances for a bit and then attends to the patient, giving him herbal medicines and balms in order to cure him from the evil spirits.

After the first part of the Yakun Natima, the second part of the dance is like a play. It depicts old Sri Lankan legends where the Devil is displayed as a stupid, nonsensical fool who tries to tempt and corrupt the local villagers but ends up being defeated in the end. The performers of this dance wear many masks, including the one pictured above; in one part of the dance, the Devil is portrayed as a half-man half-wolf being. And of course, he is a slow witted animal, who ends up getting burned on his tail by the local farmers after he tries to make away with one of their wives but is caught in broad daylight.

The Yakun Natima is significant in world culture because it depicts how the ancient fables of the Devil are still being performed today. It also shows the comic representation of the Devil, as he is always the butt of all jokes in this performance.

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2 responses

  1. Your entertaining descriptions of this ritual make me want to witness this dance in person. I find it amusing that an exorcism would even encompass a dance–very different from what a dominantly Christian society would expect from an exorcism.

    May 11, 2011 at 6:18 am

  2. ler884

    This comical devil figure reminds me a little of the demon in Screwtape Letters. He does nonsensical things in order to tempt people but ends up getting caught or completely defeated by humans. It is also very interesting to me that in certain societies or in diffferent time periods people think that disease is caused by the devil and can be easily rid of through such things as a dance. Such ideas are quite humorous.

    May 13, 2011 at 3:08 am

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