Photographer Sharni Jayawardena and Socio-Cultural Anthropologist Malathi de Alwis are conducting an exhibition and launching a website to share what they have documented about these wonderful, syncretistic forms of devotion as a significant number of Sri Lankans are unaware that she is a shared deity, perhaps an indication of the extent to which the two main ethnic communities on our small island have become alienated.
The exhibition will be held on February 22 and 23 at the Harold Peiris Gallery at the Lionel Wendt Art Centre, Colombo. It will then move to Jaffna and Batticaloa and anywhere else where invitations are extended. The exhibition will be hosted in Delhi and New York City, later this year.
Do make it to at least one of the venues of this exhibition as you will be treated to a display of stunning photographs and descriptions of fascinating rituals that many of you may have never seen or are unaware of.
Though the goddess is revered by many Hindus and Buddhists, the rituals and practices of veneration vary between the two religions as well as regionally. De Alwis and Jayawardena have spent several years travelling the length and breadth of this island to capture this diversity and vibrancy.
Pattini-Kannaki, the fearless protagonist of the South Indian epic Silappadikaram (The Tale of an Anklet), is also a fascinating and complex example of womanhood. On the one hand, she remains the chaste and loyal wife of Kovalan, despite his unfaithfulness and betrayal. But on the other hand, she is the outraged and vengeful widow who tears out her left breast and sets alight an entire city in her determination to redress injustice.