The spirit seeker

Samarakone Bandara performs poojas and other rituals at his dewala in Kandy. He talks about his connection to the spirit world, his return to Kandy, and why he feels most at home in the jungles of Sri Lanka. Photography by Kannan Arunasalam and Menika van der Poorten.

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  • Kannan Arunasalam says:

    The kapuwa mahathya feels most at home in the forest, where the sprits dwell. Before he moved to this small devalaya next to a Buddhist monastery, he roamed around the country and lived in the jungles with the elephants. He settled for some time in Trincomalee living close to the Tamils there, but when the war escalated during the 1980s, the locals advised their friend to leave for the safety of Sinhalese areas. They believed in the powers of the kapuwa, and that their “swami” had even made it rain for them, but sent him away to safety. Reluctantly, the kapuwa came to Kandy to make his home here.

    His devalaya next to a Buddhist monastery was popular with visitors, a testament to the belief they have in the mystical powers of the kapuwa. We sat in the colourful interior of his present devalaya, surrounded by the trappings of both Buddhism and Hinduism, painted murals of gods and bhikkus, and things he used for his poojas. He told me how people came to him to perform all manner of rituals. Some come asking for blessings to overcome infertility, others to improve their health or get a better job. The principled kapuwa accedes to these, but refuses to carry out malevolent requests. He doesn’t agree with animal sacrifice, the reason why he left the another devalaya, dedicated to the Goddess Kali. He had the kindest face. It was sad to think he was not where he really wanted to be. I left the kapuwa mahathya hoping that he’d one day be able to return to his forest.


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