Spirits Nether world inhabitants visiting us
Chatting late into the night recently, the talk turned to ghosties and ghoulies. Not very comfortable for most since we women are funksticks and prefer the inhabitants of the seen and known world rather than peep into the unknown or have visitations from those areas.
Kumari remembers a Buddhist monk saying that as we walk we pass or knock against hundreds of spirits – the unborn life forces wandering around until their karma directs them to births, whether human or animal. Another monk comfortingly said a human can only go down in the hierarchy of animal births to mammals, not lower. So you won't be born a pestilent mosquito or a wriggling worm. Consoling!
Most of those chatting that night were from Kandy, so the conversation naturally went Kandy-wards and invariably the ghost of Ehelepola Kumarihamy emerged. Poor thing! Not only was she made to believe her husband was a traitor and had fled to the British, but also she had to witness the beheading of her dearly beloved eldest son. Then, Sri Wickrema Rajasinha was supposed to have ordered a mortar and pestle to be brought forth and she had to pound (kotanawa) her infant to death. Mercifully, Prof. Gananath Obeyesekera has tossed that story aside as no historical event but a myth created to show the last King of the Kandyan Kingdom a bad light. This is his major theme in his book: The Doomed King: a requiem for Sri Vikrama Rajasinha. It is said the story about the pounding was made up by D'Oyly, master spy, and his men. Prof. Obeyesekera contends that Ehelepola Kumarihamy was not called upon to commit that gruesome crime. The family had to pay for the father being a traitor to king and country and helping the British enter and conquer.
Thus far the Kandyan Kingdom was invincible under the Nayakar dynasty. The story was concocted to discredit King Sri Wickrema Rajasinha and show him up as utterly wicked and depraved to boot. This was a ruse by the British and was seconded by some of the Kandyan Adigars.
But the story, whether made up myth or exaggerated historical event lived on and people swore the ghost of the Kumarihamy roamed around Kandy, mostly in the Bogambara grounds area. She is supposed to appear to lone men walking home probably, late at night.Clutching with one hand the sari edge that had come undone at her waist, she asks the man to hold her baby until she tucks her sari in. Woe betide him if he takes the baby in his arms. No one has told the tale after obliging the lady, but many claim to have seen the ghost and fled, after scolding it in filth, which is the remedy for outdoing a ghost one has the misfortune to meet.
Well, Kandy of say 60 years ago was fertile ground to be inhabited by ghosts as there were lonely roads like the Upper Lake Road, even Halloluwa Road, which now renamed George E. de Silva Mawata is overcrowded with houses clinging to hillsides and huge stores replacing the old Kalutara Kade at the junction leading to the seminary and church.
Well, these are concentrated around Borella Kanatta burial grounds. One is of a lady who hailed a three wheeler taxi late at night and asked the man to go along the Kanatta Road. He obliged. Felt no fear maybe because she looked so solidly human in her dress and high heeled shoes. He was stopped midway on the road; the woman got off and in a very unladylike manner tossed herself over the wall (there were walls then) and was lost. The taxi driver barely made it to the nearest boutique; there to divest himself of his utter shock and fear.
Yours truly has lived in two ghost ridden houses, one in Yatiyantota and the other in Wariyapola. Both homes were holiday stay-ins from the school hostel. In the first she heard, sleeping as she was right next to the kitchen, all sorts of noises: cutting, chopping, scraping of coconut and dragging of pots and pans. She shivered and sprinted across the room to her mother's bed. Next morning her elders and betters believed her and did not pooh pooh her fears.
Surmise was that having been a rest house previous to the present occupants, many lives of chickens and even goats would have been given short shrift, so blood spilt was coming back as noisy spirits.
The house at Wariyapola was truly haunted, admitted to by the landlady herself who was safe from spirits in a newly built annexe.
The main house creaked and groaned at midnight, a grinning brown dwarf was seen around and the worst was when the cook woman sleeping in a room below on the ground floor woke up and looked out. Lo and behold, there walking around the meda midula were six men carrying a coffin on their shoulders. How she gathered her child to her bosom and braved getting into the cortege was beyond us as she sped up the stairs to our bedroom area and was consoled and comforted.
A question often posed is: Are there ghosts? If you nod your yes, then the next question follows soon after: Have you seen a ghost?
Kumari's belief is that there are ghosts about the place and appearing to those who are afraid. Humans can face and overpower even spirits that take material form and appear to the weak-hearted. They too are unborn spirits waiting for their bad karma to end and to be reborn again.
Prethayas are different. They remain invisible, but up to bad tricks like throwing sand into pots of cooked rice or curries. The devathawas, again unborn life forces, are benevolent and will even answer your call for help.
Kumari ends this piece by wishing her readers the gaze or protection of good spirits and never visitations from the other.
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