Ballet in Pictures: Kaaraikkaal Ammaiyaar, embodiment of prayer and devotion

By Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

“Kaaraikkaal Ammaiyaar”-the sixth century poetess is an embodiment of prayer and devotion; she is one of the early Saints of the Hindu Thirumurai, who was acclaimed by the Lord himself as “Ammaiye”-O Mother!

“Kaaraikaal Ammaiyaar” was born in Kaaraikaal, which is situated on the Eastern littoral of Tamil Nadu. Today it is one of the four regions of the Union Territory of Pondicherry.

“Kaaraikaal Ammaiyaar” means the mother of Kaaraikaal. Her childhood name is Punithavathy, meaning a pure one. She is called “Kaaraikaal Ammaiyaar” due to her exceptional devotion to Lord Siva.

The students of the Fine Arts Society of the Saiva Mangaiyar Vidyalayam known for their talents and commitment under the guidance of their Guru Smt.Triveni Shankar presented this unique story of “Kaaraikaal Ammaiyaar” as a ballet. Together with the students two well known Indian artistes Ashwatha Shrikanth and Nikhil Raveendran of Nrityaalaya Kerala joined in presenting the Shiva Thaandava dance. The ballet was performed at Kathiresan hall in Bambalapitty on July 26th 2008 at dusk.

And, as a finale of the programme Smt. Uma Muralikrishna presented Simhanandini dance where she dances drawing the Simha Peetam on the bed of Rangoli powder which was viewed by the audience on the video screen on the stage.

For Saiva Mangaiyar Vidyalayam, as a girls’ school, it is ideal to perform Kaaraikkaal Ammaiyaar’s story, and set her as a role model for the growing young generation.

The funds collected through the ballet will go towards in upgrading the education of information technology, multi media skills and English of more displaced children form North and East. Due to the conflict situation in the North and east, the children live with a sense of fear and need to have an education in a peaceful atmosphere.

The Saiva Mangaiyar Kazhagam today, is the only private assisted Hindu school in the Island and with great difficulty, it presents imparting skills to these children who are already with the school from the conflict areas together with the children from Colombo, plantation areas and greater Colombo areas. More children are seeking admission, and the requirements need to be met.

In this endeavour, Kazhagam has joined hands with the California based Visions Learning Centre, and has formed a Kazhagam Visions Learning Center in the school premises. The students danced dedicated in this ballet to collect funds to give an opportunity to learn by the future students of the school.

Multi coloured rice Kolam along with the clay lamps lit at the main entrance

“Narththana Pillaiyar” along with the “Nirai Kudam” and “Kuththu Vilakku” decorates the entrance

Young women serve sugar cane candy (Katkandu) and welcome the invitees

Little clay lamps lamps are lit on the edge of the stage

Idol of Sivalingam is decorated and kept on the stage

Bargavi Baskaran dances as little Punithavathy

Kaaraikaal Ammaiayar worships Lord Siva alongwith his wife Goddess Parvathi

Kaaraikaal Ammaiyaar was great devotee of Lord Siva

From childhood Punithavathy grew up in a religious atmosphere and worshiped Lord Siva diligently.

Lord Siva and his wife Goddess Parvathy bless Kaaraikaal Ammaiyar in Kailasa mountain

A part of the beautiful ballet by the students

Punithavathy was eager to entertain the devotees of Lord Siva

Kaaraikaal Ammaiyaar was the first Saint to compose hymns in the style of Pathikam

Punithavathiyara’s father Dharmadathan and mother Dhanalakshmi Ammal

Kaaraikaal Ammaiyar created two Thirumai namely Atputha Thiruvanthathi, and Thiru Irattai Mani Malai

She enchanted the five letter mantra Namasivaya.

Kaaraikkaal Ammaiyaar has immortalised her experience in 143 beautiful songs

About 90 students performed at the ballet

Spectacular performance by another set of students

She pioneered “Pathikam” and it became popular

She betrothed in divine musical composition

Little dancers of Saiva Mangaiyar Kazhagam

The divine play enacted her intense love for Lord Siva

Dancers of all age performed under one roof

Script and song for the beautiful two hours long ballet was by Professor Gana Kulendran; Vocal by Sri A. Aruran, Smt.Sashiyanthi Shankar and Smt.Nilani Gobishankar

Different sets were used in the ballet to vividly portray the life and times of Kaaraikkaal Ammaiyaar

Being an ardent devotee of Lord Siva, she sang hymns in praise of the deity

Geerthana Satchithananthan performs as young Punithavathiyaar

She was endowed with heavenly gifts

Pooja is performed to Lord Sivalingam

A Siva Yogi comes to Punithavathy’s house

Punithavathy is being blessed by the Siva Yogi

Siva Yogi is being served meals at Punithavathy’s house

Handsome and wealthy rice merchant Paramadhaththan comes to marry Punithavathiyaar

Punithavathy’s friends savouring the moment

Punithavathy is getting married

Punithavathiyaar with her husband Paramadhaththan

Dance composition, Nattuvangam and Choreography by Smt.Thiruveni Sangar

Mango vendor sells delicious mangoes

Tamil music revived largely due to the four Saiva Saints, twelve Alvaars and various other saint composed devotional hymns

Punithavathiyaar at her house

Punithavathiyaar serves meals to her husband

Paramadhaththan queries about the mangoes he sent for his beloved wife

Punithavathy ponders as what to do

Paramadhaththan wonders about the where about of the mangoes

“Is there a way to find similar mangoes with similar taste” asks Punithavathiyaar

The query about the mangoes continues

Punithavathiyaar is still perplexed

Punithavaithiyaar offers fervent prayers to Lord Siva

Lord Siva heard her prayers and a mango was found in here hands. She served that mango to her husband

The mango vanished, when she gave it to her husband

He is surprised

He is completely confounded

He decides to leave his wife

Mango was a divine gift

He went to Madurai without revealing his decision to anybody

Karakaattam is being performed in Madurai

Punithavathiyaar comes to Madurai

She comes to know that her husband married again in Madurai

Her husband prostrated before her and said that he cannot be her husband as she is supernatural with the great power and devotion to Lord Siva

She faints as she is unable to absorb the loss

Punithavathiyaar is unable to accept the fact that here husband is remarried

Sharaniya Nadarajan acts as old Kaaraikaal Ammaiyar

Lord Siva appears in Kailash mountain

Kaaraikkaal Ammaiyaar always wanted to witness the cosmic dance by Lord Siva in Kailash mountain

Kaaraikkaal Ammaiyar has decided to leave Madurai after hearing the news of her husband’s remarriage, and she comes to Kailash mountain

She decides to be at Kailash mountain

She renders her religious duties to Lord Siva

Her charming smiling face expresses her inner peace

Feeling that it would be a great sin to place her foot on those sacred grounds, she made the last part of the journey on her head to Kailash mountain. This scene was shown on screen to the audience

Nikhil Raveendran from Kerala dances as Lord Sivaperuman, and Aswathy Srikanth also from Kerala dances as Goddess Parvathi.

He started his lessons in Bharatha Natyam at the tender age of four under Guru Smt.Kalamandalam Saraswathy- Director Nrityalaya. He is now specilising in Bharatha Natyam under the guidance of Srikanth and Ashwathy, the dancing duo of Kerala and is a trainee in the faculty of the dance school. He also trained in Kuchchupudi, Kalari (martial art) and folk dance. He has won several awards at the Youth Festival in Kerala, and first place in Bharatha Natyam and Kuchchupudi at the Calicut University Arts Festival. He has given more than 200 performances withing the country.

Kaaraikkaal Ammaiyar finally reached Kailash mountain

Lord Siva addressed her with the words of love calling her “Ammaiye” (O Mother!)

‘Oh Lord of Mercy, give me sincere, pure, unalloyed, eternal and overflowing devotion unto You. I want no more birth. If, however, I have to take birth here, grant me that I should never forget You. Whenever You dance, I must be at Your feet singing Your praise. This is my only wish.’

Lord Siva granted the boon

She blissfully plays the cymbals and sings to the glory of Lord Siva

She got an irresistible desire to see dancing Lord Siva

Lord Siva agrees to perform his mystic dance for her to enjoy

Lord Siva’s dance in Kailash mountain

When she saw the dance of the Lord Siva transcending the Universe, she sang in bliss “Muththa Pathigam”

Lord Siva dances along with his wife Parvathy

The dance of Lord Siva with the matted hair that is wet with the honey of fresh flowers put her in eternal happiness under His holy feet, she sang another Thiruppathikam-“Etti IlavammIkai “

Kaaraikkaal Ammaiyaar was a loving and devotional wife

She learnt to do slavery to Lord Siva ever since she was s child

Kaaraikkaal Ammaiyaar asked for immortal blissful love for Lord Siva

Ashwathy Srikanth:

Ashwathy started her dance training under here mother at the Nrityalaya School for Classical Dance at the tender age of four. She gave her first performance at the age of seven. She is trained in Carnatic music, and has her Post-Graduate Degree in English language, and literature fro the University of Calicut. This has led to her desire to do research work combining South Indian Classical dance and Indian literature at a later date.

She is trained in three forms of dance namely Bharathanatyam, Mohiniyattam and Kuchchupudi. She dances together with her husband Shri Srikanth-the duo specialises in Bharathanatyam. Ashwathy performs regularly in Chennai and is a graded artiste of Dooradarshan in Bharathanatyam and Mohiniyattam. She has toured extensively in Indian and several countries

Mango festival is held annually in India

Kaaraikkaal Ammaiyaar’s unparalleled devotion to Lord Siva elevated her to the status of Goddess

Her devotional hymns form sixth part of Thirumurai

Kaaraikkaal Ammaiyaar is one of the 63 saints, who lived during the period of sixth and tenth century and composed devotional hymns

Her domestic life was full of pure joy and love

She spent her rest of her life at the feet of Lord Siva by singing in praise of him and serving him

Kaaraikkal Ammaiyar is the oldest in this great galaxy of musical exponents

Kaaraikkaal Ammaiyar is also known as “Our Lady of Angels”

Language (Iyal), music (Isai) and drama (nadagam) are interwoven

Performers gather on the stage to thank the audience

Uma Muralikrishna in “Simhanandini”

A magnificent performance by Uma Muralikrishna

Uma Murakrishna:

Smt.Uma Murakrishna is a graceful dancer with unprecedented talenst of Kuchchupudi and Bharatha Natyam schools of classical Indian dance. She is popularly acclaimed in dance circles as “Poetry in Movement”, and is wellknown for the purity and grace of her skill.

She has danced in different countries of the world includin India. Several titles have been bestowed on her by cultural associations namely “Natyakala Ratna”, “Singamani Yuvakala Bharathi”, “Nadanamamani”, and “Kalaimamani”. She is the founder director of “Subhasheede’, Academy of Fine Arts, a cultural organisation which promotes classical Indian dance and music.

In Sri Lanka, Uma Murakrishna performed “Simhanandini”, the rare and ancient Kuchchupudi dance form for which she is wellknown. This unique piece has for its song content, six thalams, lyrics and the climax of the item is the depiction on Rangoli powder of the figure of the Simha Peetam by the dancer with intricate and rhythmic foot movements. This is dedicated to Goddess Durga, the Goddess seated on a lion.

Simha Peetam drawn on Rangoli powder by Uma Murakrishna by her rhythmatic foot movements

In Pictures: “Dhammapada and Other Works”

By Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

“Dhammapada and Other Works”-An exhibition of Paintings and Installations by Chandraguptha Thenuwara was inaugurated at the Lionel Wendt Gallery in Colombo on 23rd July 2008.It was organised to ‘Commemoration of the Un-Commemorative Julys’.

Being an anti-war artist, Chandraguptha Thenuwara has sought to remind his fellow Sri Lankans of Lord Buddha’s teachings about tolerance and peace. The exhibition will remain open till 29th July 2008 from 10am-7pm. Chandraguptha Thenuwara is a senior lecturer at the University of Visual Arts in Colombo. He is also the Director of Vibhavi-Academy of Fine Arts, which was founded in 1993.

The exhibition was sponsored by The Neelan Tiruchelvam Trust.

Dhammapada # 1: Triptych (left panel)
4’*4′, Acrylic on canvass, 2008

Dhammapada # 1: Triptych (centre panel)
4’*4′, Acrylic on canvass, 2008

Dhammapada # 1: Triptych (right panel)
4’*4′, Acrylic on canvass, 2008

An abstract of “Dhamapada” by Chandraguptha Thenuwara:

From childhood we are never allowed to forget that we live in a dharma-dveepa (an island of righteousness). The full force of modern communication technology and the education system are both harnessed to this ‘fact’. Even if we don’t awaken to the sound of the bells in the nearby Buddhist temple, we open our eyes to a world in which there is some Buddhist preaching going on, on the radio or on television. Moreover, we live with the confidence that Buddhism is safe in our island, protected even by our Constitution.

Our culture is always described as a ‘Buddhist’ culture. Politicians remind us of this whenever they have the occasion to do so. Saying that ordinary politicians were abusing both the religion and the people by making false references to Buddhism, the most precious Sangha was escorted ceremoniously into that most hallowed shrine of politicians, the Parliament, and are now firmly ensconced there through the ballot of the people. The people know all this very well.

Most venerable statues of the Lord Buddha are to be seen coming up at every junction. Residents of some areas have become so holy that when they are helpless in the face of a garbage heap, they erect a Buddha statue in that place, and erase the garbage dump forever.

Each year since 1983, the month of July has dawned as no ordinary month. July acquired a new meaning as a marker of terrorism and militarism by spreading a stain of shame that we cannot wash away even today. On July 23, 1983, 13 soldiers were killed in the north. An attempt was made to play politics with their bodies, which were brought to Colombo. Because of this, a massacre of Tamils took place. Since ‘Black July’, since that day, July 25, 1983, the rate of destruction of human lives has grown rapidly. Thousands of politicians, soldiers and other professionals, so-called Liberation Tigers and all those who are labeled as opponents have been brutally murdered using a hundred and one justifications. Today, these deaths are reduced to a ‘News Alert’ SMS or a ‘Breaking News’ story.

The cycle of assassination that began with the killing of Alfred Duraiappah in Jaffna on July 25, 1975, moves ever forward. While they are in power, no politician accepts that there are specific issues that are based on ethnicity. While in power politicians turn a deaf ear to whatever is being forcefully brought to their attention in a democratic manner. When there seemed to be no further room for democratic manoeuvre, the young took up arms on behalf of those who confronted the issues. At one time, they were Sinhalese. At another time, they were Tamil. The armed Sinhalese were repressed. Perhaps this could be done because the majority of the rulers were Sinhalese themselves. The consequences occasionally still rear their heads, although they do not any longer bear arms. The educated young Tamils who have taken up arms have grown to the point that they cannot be repressed. For years now we have heard those who declare, at times loudly and at other times softly, that those who take up arms can be destroyed by arms, as if to fool themselves. Yet each time, it is the words of the Buddha that have been proven to be true. That is, that those who take up arms will perish by arms. Those who are crazy with racism and militarism boast that they can defeat the enemy. In order to hide the fact that soldiers who bear arms are also dying, they say that they have sacrificed their lives. In the same way, in the terrorist operations arena, those who kill themselves and kill others also become heroes who have sacrificed their lives. While they race on in the spirit of self-sacrifice, they also compel innocent civilians to sacrifice their lives.

The question is not being resolved. Rather, it is becoming worse by the day. There is no end to the bomb explosions. Neither does there seem to be an end to the operations to save the country. After each operation we hear repeated State appeals, calling on us to sacrifice our lives for the sake of our country. We see the same images again and again on posters and billboards, and in advertisements. Time flows on. Politicians work hard to drive the scoreboard of the rate of dying ever higher.

On our dharma-dveepa, no death can take place that is not a natural death. Why do we say so? Because most Sri Lankans are Buddhist, who promise, in the first of the five precepts of Buddhism that they will refrain from taking life. But what actually happens? This island which the Buddha visited three times, became formally Buddhist after the arrival of Arhat Mahinda on our shores. From that day onwards, the preaching of the dharma became official.

Rivers of blood will continue on our earth, on this land that is the like our Holy Land according to the sacred teachings of the Buddha, until we eradicate terrorism and militarism. It is only we who can call a halt to this. All politics can do is fan the flames again and again, and drag our people and our country further into sacrifices of more and more blood. It is clear by now that they are not capable of doing anything. We should not allow the Buddha’s preachings, which are two thousand five hundred years in our land, to remain in camouflage.

Let us once more listen to what the Buddha preached, with consciousness, free of the shadows of race and caste and politics. If we were to at least pay attention to these three verses of the Dhammapada, and if we were to strive to put them into action, we will be able to honour these human forms that we have attained through much exertion and we will be able to bring about peace to our island.

The three key paintings in this exhibition are three verses of the Dhammapada that are hidden, as if they are yet to be heard.

Na hi verena verani-sammantidha kudacanam
Averena ca sammanti-esa dhammo sanantano

(In this world hatred never ceases by hatred; it ceases by love alone. This is an eternal law)-Yamaka Vagga, (5).

Sabbe tasanti dandassa-sabbe bhayanti maccuno
Attanam upamam katva-na haneyya na ghataye

(All fear punishment; all fear death, comparing oneself with others, one should neither kill nor cause to kill)–Danda Vagga, (1).

Sabbe tasanti dandassa–sabbesam jivitam piyam
Attanam upamam katva-na haneyya na ghataye

(All fear punishment; to all life is dear. Comparing oneself with others, one should neither kill nor cause to kill)-Danda Vagga, (2).

The Dhammapada constitute the footsteps of Buddhist philosophy, as they are the path of the teachings of the Buddha. Those who travel on the path of the dharma, are those who are suited to attain nirvana. The dharma that was preached by the Buddha is based on material fact. Therefore, there is always a practical meaning to his teachings. The text that accompanies the Dhammapada, the Dhammapadattha-katha contains the description of each verse and sets out the fact on which the verse is based and the person for whom it is intended. The Dhammapada was preached in order to help human beings better understand the problems they face in life, to bring them relief and to guide them on the path to Nirvana.

Dhammapada # 2: Triptych (left panel)
4’*4′, Acrylic on canvass, 2008

Dhammapada # 2: Triptych (centre panel)
4’*4′, Acrylic on canvass, 2008

Dhammapada # 2: Triptych (right panel)
4’*4′, Acrylic on canvass, 2008

“All fear punishment; all fear death. Comparing oneself with others, one should neither kill nor cause to kill.”

Dhammapada # 3: Triptych (left panel)
4’*4′, Acrylic on canvass, 2008

Dhammapada # 3: Triptych (centre panel)
4’*4′, Acrylic on canvass, 2008

Dhammapada # 3: Triptych (right panel)
4’*4′, Acrylic on canvass, 2008

” Life is dear to all”

Gloriosa Lily and Blue Water Lily
Are these flowers innocent any more?
Diptych (left panel) 3’*4′, Acrylic on canvass, 2008

Gloriosa Lily and Blue Water Lily
Are these flowers innocent any more?
Diptych (right panel) 3’*4′, Acrylic on canvass, 2008

Erasing Camouflage (Peace)
Tripych (left panel), 4’*3′, Acrylic on canvass, 2008

Erasing Camouflage (Peace)
Tripych (centre panel), 4’*3′, Acrylic on canvass, 2008

Erasing Camouflage (Peace)
Tripych (right panel), 4’*3′, Acrylic on canvass, 2008

“The cycle of violence and assassinations continue without any end. I was on my way to work, when the riots broke out in the city of Colombo in July 1983. I witnessed the mobs boarded in the bus looking for Tamils. Later on the same day, I walked through the day witnessing the Tamils being abducted, buildings being set on fire, and shops owned by the Tamils being looted by the Sinhalese” says Chandraguptha Thenuwara, who is an anti-war artist.

These pillars are dedicated to the civilians who got caught to the conflict.

This pillar is dedicated to the people who disappeared during the conflict.

Pillars, Installation, Mixed Media,2008

This particular pillar is dedicated to the intellectuals who were killed during the conflict.

Pillars, Installation, Mixed Media,2008

This pillar is dedicated to the security forces and cadres sacrificed their lives for the land.

Pillars, Installation, Mixed Media,2008

Chandraguptha Thenuwara says “Neither politicians nor people are listening. Sri Lankans are simply keeping quiet and watching as the war rages”.

An art enthusiast taking a closer look at “Dhammapada #2”.

Today, these deaths are reduced to a “News Alerts” SMS or a “Breaking News” story.

Chandraguptha Thenuwara has exhibited widely in Colombo, Moscow, Vienna, London, Melbourne, Liverpool, Falkirk, New Delhi, Dhaka, Fukuoka, New York, Helsinki and Paris.

He is a leading Sri Lankan artists whose work focuses on issues surrounding the impact of war in Sri Lanka.

His public monuments include the Monument to the Disappeared which is erected in Seeduwa and Monument to Neelan Trichelvam at the Kynsey Terrace, Colombo.

He hopes that one day Sri Lanka become a paradise without terror.

He says that “I feel that imperialism is responsible for most of these wars. These are not wars of the people. I don’t believe in war and terror. As an artist, my job is to tell the truth”.

He spent 12 years of his childhood in Ampara, as his father who was transferred there to serve as a Principal due to political convictions.

Black July became a critical turning point in Chndraguptha Thenuwara’s art practice, as he witnessed the Tamils being politically victimised.

Ganeshism: a celebration of Lord Ganesh in art

By Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

Mahen Chanmugam has been painting for over thirty five years, and has devoted the last twelve to portraying Lord Ganesh. His art attempts to present the complex symbolism and iconography surrounding Lord Ganesh in a colourful, contemporary form.

The combination of his elephant-like head and a quick moving vahana (vehicle) represents tremendous wisdom,intelligence and presence of mind

With his paintings, Mahen tries to reach back to the past, while looking forward, balancing the challenges between the spirit of modernism and the need to capture the essence of a traditional art form, undiluted.

Drawing inspirations from the mythology and philosophies of Hinduism, his canvases are saturated with intense colour, evocative of the bright powdery pigments that decorate the entrance to Hindu temples. Bright fluorescent pink cells sit alongside lime-green lotus petals and multicoloured Chakras float across saffron skies, with tiny mirrors shimmering around silvery Ganeshes. His forms are uniquely constructed and set in luminous coloured spaces that defy being tied down to any spatial context. The ever present images of the lotus heart and petals splashed across his life-sized canvases act as an eloquent metaphor for the regeneration of the soul.

He has worked with all types of media, having mastered, then abandoned, oil painting for the brilliant hues, he now works on materials are varied as canvas, wood, sackcloth, and even concrete and stone. He currently lives in Sri Lanka with his fiancee and cats amongst the water monitors in Colombo.

Ganeshism-a celebration of Lord Ganesh in art by Mahen Chanmugam was held at Barefoot Gallery in Colombo from May 15th 2008 to June 01st 2008. The unusual exhibition of paintings has drawn a large number of Ganesh devotees and art lovers.

Mahen Chanmugam lighting the oil lamp

Mahen Chanmugam’s sister Sharmini Boyle lighting the traditional oil lamp

Traditional oil lamp is lit

American Ambassador Robert Blake viewing Ganeshism

Mahen Chanmugam at Barefoot Gallery

“Lord Ganesh is universal, and the philosophy surrounding him is Buddhist as much as it is Hindu. I subscribe to these philosophies, but I was always more compelled to create something rather than represent something” says Mahen Chanmugam (43). He was born in Sri Lanka. His family converted to Christianity three generations ago. His first memories of Ganesh imagery were the dark earthy pigments of the temples he visited with his father as a child.While he has been painting since childhood Mahen has no formal schooling. At the age of 16 he started working in printing, quickly moved on to graphic design and left Sri Lanka to work in Hong Kong and Singapore. As he says, “I have always had this amazing determination that I wanted to be an artist”.

He discovered the existence of Vinayaki in 2007. The earliest evidence of a female Ganesh or Vinayaki is a weathered terracotta plaque from Rairh in Rajhasthan, which dates back to the first century. Mahen says: “It is not widely known, but there are records of Vinayaki’s in 64 Yoginî enclosures or temples. Eighteen of these temples have been indexed in India with one, supposedly, in Sri Lanka. The real statues at temples have mostly been disfigured, but there are references and writing on the subject in various publications. Because there are such few visual examples it is for me as an artist a total liberation from the 32 classic postures and forms-and it gives me a licence to be more interpretive”.

Art enthusiasts viewing the various forms of Lord Ganesh

Sometimes paintings can inherit memories

Dance of creation- Acrylic on canvass 120*90cm

Vinayaki in Pink- Acrylic on canvass 46*35cm

Vinayaki in Silver- Acrylic on wood 82*95cm
Vinayaki in Blue-Acrylic on canvass 46*35cm

Vinayaki is a feminine form of Ganesh. Sri Kumara a text dating back to the sixth century invokes Vinayaki in the following words:

“Prostrations to the Goddess Vinayaki, who is an elephant above the neck and below is a youthful female”.

She is commonly believed to be the Shakthi of Ganesh/Vinayaka or thecreativeness of the God. According to J.Herbert (1930), the Gnaesh Shakthi is represented sometimes as a twin figure, one is Buddhi (supra mental power of understanding), the other is Siddhi (higher cleverness and superhuman power both) or Riddhi (perfection); these goddesses are represented with nprmal human bodies, but in esoteric situations, the Shakthi is named Vinayaki/Ganeshani, andis represented with an elephant head and a woman body.

The earliest evidence of female Ganesh or Vinayaki is w weathered terracotta plaque from Rairh in Rajasthan, which dates back to the first century. These feminine Ganesh forms have been discovered in 64 Yogini enclosures or temples. Eighteen such Yogini temples have been indexed in India with one supposedly in Sri Lanka.

Musician Series 1
Acrylic on canvass 152cm*125cm

Then on the horizon, I saw you arrive riding a rat in 4 wheel drive and on the wet sky in Sanskrit and sandalwood another of your 51 names were inscribed

Vinayaki in Abhaya
Acrylic on canvass 95cm*60cm

The names of lord Ganesh reflect all the qualities, all the powers of this beloved God. Devotees believe that these powers have no limitation

Ambassador Robert Blake and Nazreen Sansoni at the venue

Lord Ganesh has as many names as the letters in the Sanskrit alphabet

Acrylic on canvass 60cm*45cm

Acrylic on fibre glass 100cm*60cm

Acrylic on canvass 120cm*90cm

There are various anecdotes which explain how Ganesh broke off one of his tusks. Devotees sometimes say that his single tusk indicates his ability to overcome all forms of dualism. One such anecdote relates that Parashurama, an avatar of Vishnu went to pay a visit to Shiva but along the way he was blocked by Ganesha. Parashurama hurled himself at Ganesha with his axe and Ganesha (knowing that this axe was given to him by Shiva) allowed himself out of respect to be struck an lost his tusk as a result

Every year, the fourth day after the no-moon day (Amaavasya) in the month of Bhadrapada (September according to the English calendar) is celebrated as the birthday of Lord Ganesha. This day is known as Vinayaka Chaturdhi or Vinayaka Chavithi

Offerings of flowers and rice accompany the 21 names of Lord Ganesh

Never look at the moon on Lord Ganesh’s birthday

Eight times at your feet, I fell

Acrylic on canvass 46cm*35cm

Path to release 2
Acrylic on canvass 152cm*125cm

Om Ganeshaya Namana

My sins are simple;
My crimes eventful

Ganesha is identified with the mantra Aum. The term Omkarasavarupa (Aum is his form), when identified with Ganesha refers to the notion that he personifies the primal sound

Dance of creation is being photographed

Eight times rang the temple bell ~ In response to the 2002 bombings on the Indonesian island Bali, Mahen painted Lord Ganesh dressed in the school colours of his old Christian school uniform, the deity’s hands displaying the V-sign in a bid for peace.

The eight incarnations of Lord Ganesh are given in the Mudgala Purana written in 16th century.
They are:


Lord of the curved trunk
Destroyer of Matsara
Demon of jealousy

2. Ekdanta

Lord with only one tusk
Destroyer of Mada
Demon of drunkenness


My Lord with a big belly
Destroyer of Moha
Demon of illusion


Lord of the elephant face
Destroyer of Lobha
Demon of greed


Lord of the big belly
Vanquisher of Krodha
Demon of anger


The misshapen
Destroyer of Kama
Demon of desire


Lord o all obstacles
Destroyer of Mama
Demon of ego

8. Dhoomravarna

Destroyer of Ahamkara
Demon of self-infatuation


Related: A Photo Journal of Lord Ganesh

“He has sweetly graced me, with joyous compassion”

Sri Ganesha Saranam ~ on Saxophone by Kadri Gopalnath

Pictorial: ‘Honouring the courage of all who have dared to rebuild’

By Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

Anoma Rajakaruna shares her photos of people in black and white. Anoma has captured many expressions and many environments. Every photograph speaks differently. As a film-maker, photographer and poet ,Anoma has well captured the many moods of men, women and children around the Island. The exhibition is divided as My story, her story, his story and their stories comprising 34 photographs.

Anoma Rajakaruna’s exhibition of photographs was inaugurated on July 16th 2008 at Alliance Francaise in Colombo by the Ambassador for France in Sri Lanka and Maldives Michel Lummaux. The exhibition will remain open to the public from July 18th-24th 2008 , and the exhibition will be held at Alliance Francaise in Kandy from August 8th-14th 2008.

Anoma Rajakaruna’s “My Story”, was also displayed at the exhibition:

‘Honouring the courage of all these women, men and children who have dared to rebuild their lives in Sri Lanka’

As a child I walked down the main street of my home town Panadura,
In Southern Sri Lanka, with my mother.

We walked the familiar route doing so many things together,

Going to the railway station to catch a train, going to the fisheries harbour to buy fish,
Going to the weekly fair to get seasonal fruits,
Going to the beach on Sundays to make sand castles,
Going to the library to return a book,
Going shopping to buy a new pair of shoes or
Going to the temple at the end of the street to meet a Buddhist monk, who is a scholar.

On these walks we would drop in at the corner shop or the adjoining pharmacy to say hello to some of our friends.

I remember, Uncle Joe from the pharmacy and a few others from the nearby shops with whom we communicated in a mixture of languages: Sinhalese, a little bit of Tamil and English.
We belonged to different ethnic groups and spoke different languages.

Yet we were friends.

Then a day dawned in July 1983, which changed this familiar routine and landscape completely.
I was in school.

The Hindu temple across the road went up in flames.

Thereafter every building owned by a Tamil in town was caught up in black smoke and red flames.

My teenage self was surrounded by smoke, flames, charred door frames and lifeless half burnt houses.

Days, weeks, months and years passed thereafter.

There was no trace of Uncle Joe and his friends.

The landscape of main street in Panadura had changed.

I grew up.

I met new friends. They were Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers and Malays.

I started traveling. I went to places away from home all across Sri Lanka.

One day, I met a woman in Polonnaruwa who lost all her seven sons.

Two years after that, I met a sculptor in Nikaweratiya. He sculptured statues of Buddha.

I met a woman in Madhu who lost the place she called home 16 times and now lives out of suitcase.

I met people who didn’t have a place called home.

I met people who didn’t like to talk about their original homes because it brought back sad memories.

I met children who were born in temporary shelters.

Some of them have lived in such “temporary” places for a very long time.

Most of them were Tamils.

I have listened to their stories and to many other similar stories.

I have documented their lives during the last 17 years.

It’s 25 years after July 1983.

It’s time for me to share their stores with you.

I never met Uncle Joe again.

“July: Life after 25 years” is my search for him and others who were swept away from their homes and families into strange and often threatening and terrifying new environments and social contexts.

It is also my way of honouring the courage of all these women, men and children who have dared to rebuild their lives in Sri Lanka.

The Ambassador for France in Sri Lanka and Maldives Michel Lummaux naugurates the exhibition

Sunila Abeysekera lighting the oil lamp

Anoma Rajakaruna lights the oil lamp alongwith Iyammah

25 oil lamps were lit by the special invitees to commemorate the Black July

People from all walks of life gathered to witness the moments of the suffering of people around the country.

Professor Chithra Maunaguru taking a closer look at their story

There will be no school next month.
It’s monsoon time soon.
“What is a class room?” they asked me
You mean there are walls and roofs even in school?

Puthumurippu Vigneswara College, Kilinochchi

Ines Lummaux, wife of the Ambassador for France in Sri Lanka and Maldives having a closer look at their story

She lost a place she called home 16 times. She lost most of her belonging in transition. Now everything she calls her own fit in a suitcase. She doesn’t want to lose anything that is inside that. So she keeps the key to her suitcase close to her body all the time.


She was seventy years old, when I met her for the first time in 1997.
She lives with her husband in a small mud hut.
She is waiting…..
Sitting near a small window, looking out into the endless dry zone landscape.
She waits for her sons to return home.
All seven of the, who disappeared into the fire and smoke that started in July 1983.


He was a writer.
All his writing became a pile of ashes in a few hours in July 1983.
He ran away to save his life.
Years passed, but he never write again.
Instead, he prayed in front of his Hindu Gods and started sculpting.
I met him nine years ago.
He sculpts Buddha statues.
Statutes of many sizes to fill the empty shrine rooms in poor Buddhist temples.


No jewelry to pawn.
No guarantors for a bank loan.
So how can they afford cattle?
They take the place of the cattle, digging a well.
So that tomorrow their children will have water to drink.


No jewelry to pawn.
No guarantors for a bank loan.
So how can they afford cattle?
They take the place of the cattle, digging a well.
So that tomorrow their children will have water to drink.


She had to pawn the piece of jewelry that had survived nearly 17 years in displacement to get a pair of cattle to run the mill.
They have plenty of sesame this season.
It will make a lot of oil, but it will not be enough to redeem her 22 k gold “Thali”, her marriage necklace.


A new day is dawning.
It’s time to dig out a few coconut husks before tide rises.
She buries coconut husks to dig them up later and make coir.
She uses the coir to make brooms, the only skill she learnt in temporary shelters.


Mothers in front of the Human Rights Commission in Jaffna

The exhibition has drawn a large number of people from all communities

It’s difficult to survive in a fishing community, when ther’s no proper price for the catch.
a kiol of fish can be sold for as little as thirty rupees at times.
The sea cucmber is a far better catch.
So, her husband has taken a risk.
He dives deep for sea cucmber without proper gear.
She dries his catch and lives in uncertainty until he returns.


He was born in a house without doors.
His parents survived.
Yet, will he be able to survive too?
Unexploded landmines are everywhere.
A fishing net prevents him from wandering out whenever his mother goes out to fetch water or firewood.


She has stopped counting the number of times she has had to move house.
Yet, she remembers the first time she lost the place called home.
It was in 1983.


South or North, the loss of a child is the worst loss for a mother.
She didn’t cry the day she lost her roof.
Yet, she cries the day she lost her daughter

Their mother talks about beautiful sunsets she has seen as a child.
but, all they have seen is sun rises.
Their father talks about his home and beautiful Uswetakeiyawa beach on the West coast.
But, all their lives these children have played only on the East coast.
“Will we be able to go for a swim in the Western sea one day soon?
They asked me.



As children, they used to do everything together.
Even as adults, they did a few things together.
Then, they got married.
One husband survived 1983 and the other did not.
These two sisters wait together in the hope that one day they might be able to return to their ancestral home in the South.


She was a farmer from Welimada, where her family cultivated cabbages, carrots and potatoes.
They ran for their lives leaving everything behind in 1983.
Five to six times she changed from one temporary shelter to another.
I met her and eight other female labourers when they were harvesting onions for a pittance of a daily wage.



Anoma’s childhood memories are warm and cherishing

She was three years old when she lost her first home.
She was twenty three when she lost her leg.
She married, had two children.
she had many hopes.
“For now, all I hope for is a land without mines for my children”.



She lost her parents during the riots.
She got married to a relative in Jaffna and was three months pregnant when she was raped.
She lost the child as well as her memory.
She talks to herself and talks to Durga.
She was going to name a baby Durga if she was a girl.

“Here they come again son.
run, run….. run faster
Why are you looking at me, look at them”.
I met her at a shelter for the mentally and physically handicapped.

“It’s time for me to share their stories with you. This is my way of honouring these people,” she says Anoma Rajakaruna

One girl was caught up in a landmine.
The other is trying to unearth the mines for a living.

Paranthan and Mankulam

She had to attend quite a few schools and miss many schools terms before she could pass her O/L exam.
Then her mother managed to save some money to send her to typing and shorthand classes in Jaffna.
She found a job as a typist and worked for a few years.
She saved money, and earned her own dowry.
Her husband was very charming man until a mine blast on her face when she was weeding her own backyard.
Her mother struggles to earn enough to feed her and her small child.
I met them in 2002.


“My Story”, display at the exhibition

“My Story”

Each photograph tells a bigger story behind the people

After the horror, the hope continues

CountrywideTelegram campaign against media suppression

By Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

Sri Lankan journalists, rights group activists and members of the civil society are seen sending telegrams at the Central Mail Exchange in Colombo,to the President urging for the protection of the journalists, while wearing a black face mask saying “Stop Media Suppression” in all three languages. The countrywide telegram campaign against media suppression was organised by the Sri Lanka Working Journalists on July 7th 2008

Journalists and rights group activists at the Central Mail Exchange

Journalists are filling forms to send telegrams

The Treasurer of Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association, Vinitha M.Gamage reads through her telegram message

The Islandwide telegram campaign was held in other area,except Jaffna and Vanni according to the President of Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association, Sanath Balasuriya