KOTAHULAWEEMA | Sri Lankan Parents Bathe Their Daughters In Clay Bowl To Ward Off Evil Spirits • illuminaija
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    KOTAHULAWEEMA | Sri Lankan Parents Bathe Their Daughters In Clay Bowl To Ward Off Evil Spirits

    KOTAHULAWEEMA | Sri Lankan Parents Bathe Their Daughters In Clay Bowl To Ward Off Evil Spirits

    Just like every other tribe, the Sinhalese have its coming of age tradition that is still followed by its people. 

    While the term may be unfamiliar to some, the rituals it entails are all too familiar to a majority of Sri Lankan women.

    Origin Of Sri Lankan Puberty Rituals

    According to Roarmedia, the puberty rituals are ancient, and as such, their historical origins are hard to establish. 

    However, there are a number of legends, which have, over the centuries, been woven around these rituals, that have helped to add a sense of historic and/or spiritual significance to them.

    One such legend involves the rite of passage rituals practiced with regard to the daughter of Maha Sammata, who is the first monarch of the world according to Buddhist tradition (whose reign was 11 trillion years BP).

    Another legend involves a giant named Nila who served King Gajabahu I (113 AD) in Anuradhapura. 

    As a result of some amazing feats performed by Nila against the Chola Kingdom, Nila became a deity famous for his strength. 

    KOTAHULAWEEMA | Sri Lankan Parents Bathe Their Daughters In Clay Bowl To Ward Off Evil Spirits

    Accordingly, his power came to be invoked at kotahalu yaagayas, i.e. the ritual that is performed by the village kattadiya, on the advice of an astrologer, when a girl gets her first period but is faced with the evil effects that result from a negatively influenced auspicious time or nekatha. 

    The kotahalu yaagaya is supposedly 2performed to save the girl from such evil effects.

    Nila Deva’s mother being from the “washer-caste” is said to be the reason a “washer woman” or redi nenda is involved in the pubertal bathing ritual of girls in Sri Lanka, even today.

    KOTAHULAWEEMA | Sri Lankan Parents Bathe Their Daughters In Clay Bowl To Ward Off Evil Spirits

    The Veddas of Sri Lanka believe demons relish blood and flesh. Since blood occupies a prominent position in the case of puberty, an effort is taken in the Vedda community to avoid, or subdue, the anger of the demons during the time of a girl’s first period. 

    Although the practices differ from region to region, and community to community, the majority of Sri Lankans, especially those from Buddhist and Hindu backgrounds, are likely to be able to relate to the following basic rituals, at least to varying degrees:

    The Astrologer

    It is not as uncommon as one might imagine for a Sri Lankan mother to consult the family astrologer immediately upon receiving the news of her daughter having commenced her first period. 

    The mother is expected to provide the astrologer with information concerning her daughter and everything that happened during her first period. He then will provide her with a forecast of her daughter’s future and when to perform the pubertal bathing ritual. 

    Seclusion

    Upon discovering the commencement of her first period, the girl is made to stay in a room away from the normal traffic of the house until the time comes for her bathing ritual. 

    It is believed that the reason for seclusion is to protect the girl against evil spirits, which she is said to be particularly vulnerable to at this point in her life. 

    Dietary Restrictions

    KOTAHULAWEEMA | Sri Lankan Parents Bathe Their Daughters In Clay Bowl To Ward Off Evil Spirits

    Until the date of the ritual bathing, the girl’s daily diet will usually consist of bland vegetable preparations with rice. 

    According to Tamil tradition, it is believed that raw eggs and gingerly oil strengthens the womb and balances body heat. 

    “Rich foods,” including any form of meat and fried food items, are strictly prohibited. 

    Pubertal bath

    KOTAHULAWEEMA | Sri Lankan Parents Bathe Their Daughters In Clay Bowl To Ward Off Evil Spirits

    A clay pot or kalaya is filled with water and sprinkled with jasmine flowers. This is poured over the girl seven times as she sits on a wooden stool, usually facing a particular direction, on the advice of the family astrologer. 

    It is believed that kili (a contaminant that is thought to be around women when they menstruate) is eradicated in this way. 

    The pubertal bathing ritual concludes with the dashing of the kalaya to pieces. 

    In some instances, the redi nenda bathes the girl and breaks the kalaya. In such instances, the redi nenda is given all the clothes and jewellery worn by the girl, prior to her being adorned in new clothes and jewellery. 

    In Tamil/Hindu tradition, the girl is bathed in saffron and milk.

    Gold And New Clothes

    Once the girl completes the bathing ritual she is dressed in new clothes and is made to wear ancestral gold jewellery. 

    In Tamil communities, the girl is made to wear a saree for the first time, symbolizing her passage into womanhood, and a priest is invited to her home to perform a religious ceremony amidst family.

    Coconut Reading

    KOTAHULAWEEMA | Sri Lankan Parents Bathe Their Daughters In Clay Bowl To Ward Off Evil Spirits

    The girl is made to exit the house from a back door and re-enter from the main front door, symbolising her new role as a woman. 

    At this pivotal point, an older male relative will hold an unhusked coconut in front of her and bash it open with the blunt edge of a knife. 

    The manner in which the coconut splits (equal halves or unequal halves, more water in one half than the other etc.) is said to indicate good or bad omens regarding the girl’s future.

    The Party

    KOTAHULAWEEMA | Sri Lankan Parents Bathe Their Daughters In Clay Bowl To Ward Off Evil Spirits

    Known as the kotahalu mangalya in Sinhala and as the poopunitha neerathu vizha in Tamil, a joyous celebration is held to mark the occasion. 

    It is believed that the kotahalu mangalya was held historically to announce to the community that there was a young woman of marriageable age in their midst. 

    Girls receive gifts such as ginger oil, brinjals, golds and the likes. In modern times, parents rent a hall and make it a fun-filled day for their daughters. 

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