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UMS Concert Program, March 1, 1978: Thovil -- Sicille Kotelawala

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University Musical Society
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Concert: Second
Complete Series: 4113
Rackham Auditorium, Ann Arbor, Michigan

The University Musical Society
The University of Michigan
(The Ritual Chanting, Dance, and Drumming of Exorcism) from Sri Lanka
Somapala . . . Exorcistdancer Wimalasiri . Elaris .... Exorcistdancer Dharmadasa . Arnolis . . . Exorcistdancer Guptasena
. Exorcistdrummer
. Exorcistdrummer
Chief Exorcist
Wednesday Evening, March 1, 1978, at 8:30 Rackham Auditorium, Ann Arbor, Michigan
The thovil ceremony of Sri Lanka, whose origin lies in the Ramayana and Kuveni legends, is peculiar to the Southern Maritime Province of the island, where people today still practice their ageold rituals and ceremonies. It involves all the rituals connected with exorcism and the cult of devils and spirits, since gods and demons are considered to be beings who can be brought under control by the shamans or priests, whose knowledge of ritualistic practices has been handed down by their ancestors.
Among the Sinhalese villagers, a disease which cannot be traced to a natural cause and which does not respond to the treatment of herbs and remedies prescribed by a native doctor, is believed to be caused by one or more of the eighteen principal demons. These devils have to be appeased, humored, and cajoled into leaving a patient, and different kinds of offerings must be made to them. This is done by performing a thovil ceremony. It begins at nightfall and is supposed to be completed before dawn, but often continues until midday, depending on how elaborate the ritual is. When a thovil is over, the altars are cut down and set on fire. The remains of the demolished altar are collected in a sack and thrown into the sea or other flowing water. The demons are then said to have taken flight, and the patient will soon show signs of recovery if the thovil has been successful. The chief shaman then sprinkles sanctified root water (saffron water) in the house of the patient where any of the demons may have hidden, and then silently returns home.
Many consider the thovil ceremony, with all its elaborate preparations, the begin?ning of the performing arts in Sri Lanka. It involves dancing, drumming, drama, mime, chanting of sacred liturgies, building of altars and offeringstands, mask making, painting, and sculpture of planetary deities.
Second Concert
Seventh Annual Asian Series
Complete Programs 411.
The lighting of lamps, the blowing of the conchshell to invoke the blessings of the Buddha and the gods, and ceremonial drumming mark the beginning of the thovil (exorcist ritual). A bamboo flute summons the devils to the ceremony. The chief exorcist is dressed in white and represents King Vesamuni (ruler of the demons).
Guptasena.......Chief Exorcist
This dance represents the introduction of King Vesamuni's demons.
Elaris Arnolis
(Teaching from Vadiga)
A comic enactment of a legend concerning a learned Indian Brahmin from Yadiga, India, who was invited to Sri Lanka to cure the ailing Queen Manikpala. The lack of a common language results in humorous dialogue and mime between the Brahmin and the exorcist.
Dancing with torches, the exorcists illuminate the path along which demons have access to the thovil arena.
Elaris Arnolis
Customarily, seven lotus blossoms are placed at regular intervals on the floor, where the figure of a cobra, with its head pointing towards the altar and its tail towards the patient, has been drawn with holy ash. Cutting unripe limes, the exorcist recites mantkrams (spells). The belief in the therapeutic importance of limes lies in legend. The purpose of the lime cutting ceremony is to dispel the malevolent influence of the evil eye, the evil mouth, and the deadly "evil charms."
Offerings to the Cemetery Demon are generally prepared in a human skull. If not appeased, this demon wanders about cemeteries waiting for people to bury their dead. Sometimes the exorcist, representing the demon, lies in a trance on a fresh grave where a fireplace is constructed across his body and eggs are sacrificed to him. Once he is pleased with the sacrifice, he is revived and is brought back to the ceremony by attendants. The dance you will see occurs when the demon returns from the cemetery.
DEVOL NETUMA (Devol God Dance)
This dance invokes the blessings of the Devol God (a planetary deity) who can cure the patient and, therefore, must be appeased. He is the most feared of the deities and, if antagonized, can cause epidemics and plagues on whole villages. The exorcists wear the costume of the Devol God.
Elaris Arnolis
GINI SISILA (Subduing the Fire)
Here the exorcist with his powerful spells can cure the patient by subduing the fire which he rubs on himself and swallows. The fire purifies the evil influence within the patient.
Somapala intermission
NAGA RAKSHA NETUMA (Snake Demon's Dance)
The Snake Demon has received permission from the highest deity (Sakra) and the Buddha to afflict people with disease, but only on condition that they be cured when offerings are made at a thovil ceremony.
DEKOKA VILLAKKU (DoubleHeaded Torch Dance)
The demon portrayed here is known to go about very early in the morning, frightening humans into a state of hysteria and unconsciousness, resulting in illness and sometimes death.
PANDAM PALIYA (Torch Ritual)
With the power of the torches given him by the Demon Ginikurumbara, the exorcist cures the patient.
(Black Demon's Dance)
The Black Demon can cause miscarriages, abdominal pains, consumption, and paralysis. He is known to cause headaches, hysteria, and fever, and must be appeased with blood from a fowl and alcoholic brews.
The devil drums introduce each demon with a particular rhythmic pattern. Often, the drummers demonstrate their talent in a display of competitive drumming of com?plicated rhythms between dances.
MARUSANNI YAKA (The Demon of Death)
The Demon of Death is known to haunt cemeteries and is the demon of insanity. Therefore, he behaves like a madman. He argues with the exorcist about the virtues of the Buddha and asks many questions about the symptoms of the illness. The exorcist replies on behalf of the patient and induces him to leave the patient's body.
SALU PALIYA (The Shawl Ritual)
Here a humorous devil cures illnesses by waving Goddess Pattini's shawl over the patient's head. This devil endeavors to divert the patient with his hilarious sayings and mimicry, and laughs incessantly at the patient and the ceremony itself.
About the Artists
GUPTASENA, chief exorcist--Wellknown teacher of all aspects of exorcist rites, hails from Wellawatte which is a center of maskmaking and folk rituals.
SOMAPALA, exorcistdancer--A practicing exorcist from Galle, he is wellknown for his manthrams (incantations) and ability to swallow and "subdue" fire.
DHARMADASA--Somapala's chief drummer, is also wellversed in the art of creative decorative work with gokkola (young coconut leaf), essential for the con?struction of altars in a thovil ceremony.
ELARIS, ARNOLIS, exorcistdancers, and WIMALASIRI, exorcistdrummer are brothers from a family of renowned witchdoctors from the south of Sri Lanka. Elaris has specialized in mask dance, Arnolis in acrobatic dance, and Wimalasiri in drumming.
SICILLE KOTELAWALA--A wellknown dancer, lecturer, teacher and writer, who has performed Kandyan (classical) dance in Sri Lanka and Europe. She toured the United States in the Heen Baba Dance and Drum Ensemble which performed in Ann Arbor in 1974.
Important Notice
Qawwali Music from Pakistan replaces the Okinawan Dancers on the same date, March 28, Rackham Auditorium at 8:30
After a highly successful tour of the L'nited States in 1975, which included a performance in Ann Arbor, this elevenmember troupe returns to give a new program of Qawwali music--vocal music with origins in religious practices which has become a popular form of music in Islamic countries.
All tickets for the Okinawan Dancers will be honored on March 28 for Qawwali Music. Additional tickets are available at $3.50, $5, and $6.50.
Philippe Entremont, Pianist
(replacing Lazar Berman, originally scheduled last November) Saturday, April 1, at 8:30 in Hill Auditorium
Bach: Partita No. 1 in Bflat major Beethoven: Sonata in D major, Op. 28 ("Pastorale") Chopin: Nocturne in Dflat, Op. 27, No. 2; Scherzo No. 2 Ravel: Sonatine: Gaspard de la nuit
All tickets for the Berman recital will he honored on April 1; additional tickets are available from $4 to $10.
Burton Memorial Tower, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109 Phones: 6653717, 7642538

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