The Motherland – Part 2
Life in rural areas of Sri Lanka is very different to ones we lead. Udispattuwa, the village of my roots lies in a quiet valley. During day, the sun shines with the quiet drizzle of rain. Birds chirp merrily. Beautiful ‘Maala Giraw’, green parrots with bright orange red necklaces fly by, Woodpeckers urgently tap away at trees, and the bluest of Kingfishers fly by. Squirrels dance everywhere, chattering. Special mention to the young village lasses bathing in the well in our paddy field, laughing and talking to one another.
But late evenings, and at night with mist covering this little village, the far off cries of birds and the howling of an occasional wild animal and you can’t but believe in the spirits. With darkness only the bravest of souls can be seen walking around with a flaming torch. The villagers call it ‘Gods Country’ for justice at night can be violent. A Cobra who snaps at your feet as you tread the wet, muddy paths to meeting my favourite character of youth, the Pirith Kota. Death is unexpected, but yet an expected part of life in these rural communities.
A figment of my mothers imagination or her own invention, or village myth, too much of Pirith chanting (prayers) will summon the Pirith Kota. The Pirith Kota according to her is the one who goes around collecting lost souls who assemble wherever prayers are held. Unable to get away from our world either to violent death or not receiving a proper burial they wonder around and gather at places where prayers are chanted.
The Pirith Kota who I alike to Charon the Boatman sneak up to these places to catch these lost souls. If you are caught daydreaming you is well in chance of this Pirith Kota taking you away too. A midget with round red eyes dressed in white rags stolen from the cemetery, I would imagine him peering over the lush hedge of my Grandmothers house when ever we had a pirith ceremony or almsgiving in memory of dead relatives.
My mother had the quirkiest sense of humour. I still can’t understand why she would scare us with the Pirith Kota story. But it is a part of growing up and a memory of her and Udispattuwa I treasure in my heart forever.
Listen very carefully on a full moon night. You will hear the tinkle of small bells, as legend says, the King Cobra managed to sneak up on Pirith Kota to fix an anklet of small bells around Pirith Kota’s left leg, so that they the Cobra’s always hear Pirith Kota when he walks the lonely paths in the jungle and do not strike him in mistake.
I grow older, my upbringing as a Sinhala Buddhist becomes more precious. Everytime I go to Udispattuwa and climb those long steps to God Skanda’s temple I silently thank all the gods of the day and night for the privilege.
I celebrate being a Sinhala, Buddhist, Govigama Sri Lankan. In fact I am bloody proud. Especially now, now that my country is one again.
I believe in the Buddha, Dhamma and the Sangha. I seek refuge from all evil in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. My motherland too, blessed and protected by the triple gem.
A proud Sinhalese has spoken, and will speak more.