Yakhanda 4: Dancing the Devils


Our ‘devas’ became their ‘devils.’ The ‘heathens’ of the missionaries became the ‘ethnics’ of imperialist academia.

November memories are poignant. Monsoon rains on our world now shift, arriving from north and east. 

In Africa, the northern Sirocco and Harmattan winds unfurl hot words that cannot be spoken. In North Atlantic climes, any leaves left behind on skeletonised trees, if not confused, are genetically tweaked.

Arab Springs only saw smothering Manhattan snows from New York, hostage to the world’s mass media conglomerates. Once the land of the Delaware people of the Great Mohegan River, New York lies on the wrong side of history, on the wrong side of time.

Some feel global warming. Yaka senses global whitening.

Across India, Ravana, the ‘demon’ of Lanka (wherever that is) was just burned.

Lest we forget

Preceding their November 11 remembrance of wars past but forgetting wars present and future tense, England’s children burn treasonable Catholics in effigy on ‘Bonfire Night’: Guy Fawkes! A good 414-year old ‘anti-papist’ tradition. Another fake English terrorist plot. Imagine if we annually burn some alien believers in effigy!

In Saudi Arabia, Satan is stoned in Mina, rather than stoning Rockefeller’s Arab American Oil Co. (Aramco) which rules them!

After the trillion-dollar Pentagon budget is passed, US folk give thanks for the scalps of Halloweens to come!

Their modern fairy tale then closes: They live happily ever after, get Alzheimers and forget the ending.

For those who really remember November, memories for tomorrow still stir our digital responses.

Colonial arousal

English media uses the word “Colonial’ to describe a house, a bed, a fort or a pile of bleached bricks. ‘Colonial’ is elocuted like an orgasm (fake, with accompanying swoon)!

There’s no way the Sinhala word, “Yatath Vijitha,” aka Colonial, could be de-claimed this way. It would be bathetic!

Such is our palpable difference with Englishisms, for non-English memories here are visceral, elephantine, and long.

Same with Yaksha. Yaksha has multiple meanings untranslatable in English.

Yaka was transformed under English invasion. So were our perceptions of each other: Colonial life was Hobbesian nastiness, brutish and short.

Life expectancy of the Lankika under England in 1935 was 27 years – similar to original peoples under white settler states today, from Canada to Australia!

Yet some look back, weak between the knees, recalling life under English colonialism.

In Sri Lanka, unlike in the USA or India, people without money still have a hospital to go to, for free. Long traditions of public healing and of public education inform such care. This has been threatened of course by colonial delinquency, and depredation from their modern avatars: The Disease & Ignorance UnLtd subsidiaries of the so-called ‘Private’ Banks & Big Pharma buzz the government health and education system like bubonic bluebottles.

The English word ‘Therapy’ went from our world, through the Greek: from ‘Thera,’ meaning healer – the honorific of any Buddhist priest. The Oxford Dictionary lists ‘Theravada’ right after ‘Therapy’ but, despite so many English informers in this country, doesn’t link the two words.

Oxford’s meanings for ‘Thera’ in Theravada span ‘orthodox,’ ‘ancients’ and ‘elders.’ But ‘Thera’ for ‘Therapy’ is traced to the Greek for ‘healing,’. Greece, they can’t admit, was a function of Asia and Africa, not ‘European civilisation.’

Dancing the Devas

In 1829, England published a book on mental health tradition in Lanka. They called it: Yakkun Nattannawa, a Cingalese poem descriptive of the Ceylon system of demonology; to which is appended the practices of a Capua or devil priest, as described by a Buddhist: and Kolan Natannawa, a Cingalese poem descriptive of the characters assumed by natives of Ceylon in a masquerade.

Why publish this “abstruse, antique, and multifarious” inquiry? “The reader will find himself entertained and instructed in the most delightful manner and rise … with quickened sympathy for the miseries of the three hundred millions who follow such delusions, and renewed thankfulness for the blessings of Christian revelation.”

The writer praises the beautiful workmanship and ‘brilliant’ hues of the ceremonies. He admits Greek and Roman drama, which 19thC England was suckling on, was dead! But Yaksha was a living art: “followed by multitudes,” and should be researched “by those who have at heart the illumination of the world,” hoping it would “contribute to the downfall of heathenism, which according to past example, and the voice of prophecy, is destined, when prostrate, to lie in ruins for ever.”

They also planned to divide Buddhism from Yaskha.

A revered ritual, the sexisyllabic ‘Yaka Natanava,’ twisted into “Dancing the devil!” or “Playing the merry devil!”, became the catch-all colloquial for uninhibited abandon. Our ‘devas’ became their ‘devils.’ The ‘heathens’ of the missionaries became the ‘ethnics’ of imperialist academia.

Yet ‘Yako!’ is how dear friends still greet each other.

This November we remember all Yaksha as our honoured ancestors. They worked the metals. Early scientists of arts that coalesce resistance to invasion, of both body and mind.

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