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height 75 cm, wide 51 cm, deep 20 cm, Made from the light wood of the kaduru tree, Made in Ambalangoda ca 1975 (SW Sri Lanka). Weight 3,2 kg

The object is sent by registered mail

The mask is in excellent condition ( small unobtrusive crack in the teeth of the lower demon - restored on the inner side with a cramp)

The mask consists of 5 lose bodies which can be joined together: 1 body, 2 ears, 2 side panels withe the 18 Sani's)

About this object

History of use

Worn during curing ritual of the Sanni Yakuma ceremony, part of the Tovil series of dramas performed by Sinhalese ritual specialists and dancers. The Sanni Yakuma is intended to combat diseases and afflictions caused by the Sanni group of demons. These consist of 18 or more apparitions of the chief demon, Maha-kola-sanni. The officiating healer honours Buddha, then appeases the demons with offerings, dancing, and chanting. This mask is Maha-kola-sanni-yaka, representing all 18 sanni demons. Traditionally masks of this type were worn, this mask is not designed to be worn but hung from a tree or on the wall during the ritual.

Cultural context


Iconographic meaning

The series of masks represent the eighteen Sanni demons, symbolizing the manifestations of a wide array of afflictions. Visible clues to these afflictions often appear on the features, and colours used on the masks. Hence, Kana Sanni has one eye closed, indicating blindness; Gona Sanni has its mouth open indicating dumbness; Kora Sanni with its badly twisted face indicates severe stroke. Red is the colour of demons, as are dark green and black, and yellow symbolizes certain diseases.
Physical description
Maha Kola Sanni Yakka mask (which incorporates 18 sanni masks into one) depicting a central figure wearing a headdress composed of five snakes and with long fang-like teeth holding an orange creature and standing on a dark red-brown smiling head . The top figure has two detachable disc-shaped earpieces with a floral motif. The central figure is flanked by two detachable segments composed of two columns of four multicoloured heads and the topmost column of one yellow head. At the top is a cobra whose body extends over the heads and down the outer side to the floral design element at the bottom. A label on the reverse of one of the side attachments reads,

Shipping costs

Netherlands 8.05
Belgium 20.80
France 20.80
Germany 20.80
Selected European countries ? 20.80
World 35.60

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You can pick up this lot from the seller: Goes, Netherlands.

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For more info about this lot, see the following Catawiki catalogue item(s):

Catawiki number: 3966847
Manufacturer/publisher: Gemaakt in Ambalangado - Sri Lanka
Item: Ritueel masker om duivels uit te drijven
Year: 1975
Dimensions: H 75 cm, B 51 cm, D 20 cm
Theme: Ritueel masker om duivels uit te drijven
Country: Sri Lanka
Type: Aziatica
Color: Meerkleurig
This text has been translated automatically from Dutch.
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Sanni Yakuma
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sanni yakuma, sometimes known as Daha ata sanniya is a traditional Sinhalese exorcism ritual. The ritual consists of 18 dances, each depicting a particular illness or ailment affecting humans. These 18 dances are the main dances of the Pahatharata, or low country, dancing form, which is one of the three main dancing forms of Sri Lanka. The ritual calls the demons who are thought to affect the patient, who are then told not to trouble humans and banished


It was believed that illnesses were brought on humans by demons. According to folklore, the 18 demons who are depicted in the Sanni Yakuma originated during the time of the Buddha. The story goes that the king of Licchavis of Vaishali suspected his queen of committing adultery and had her killed. However, she gave birth when she was executed and her child became the Kola Sanniya, who grew up "feeding on his mother's corpse". The Kola Sanni demon destroyed the city, seeking vengeance on his father, the king. He created eighteen lumps of poison and charmed them, thereby turning them into demons who assisted him in his destruction of the city. They killed the king, and continued to wreak havoc in the city, "killing and eating thousands" daily, until finally being tamed by the Buddha and agreed to stop harming humans.

Each of these demons are believed to affect humans in the form of an illnesses, and the Sanni Yakuma ritual summons these demons and banishes them back to the demon world after bringing them under control. Although it is unclear when the ritual began, it has been performed in the southern and western parts of the country since ancient times.


The name of the ritual comes from the Sinhala word sanniya meaning disease or ailment, and yakuma meaning demon ritual. In Sri Lankan culture, exorcism rituals are known as tovil. The Sanni Yakuma is possibly the best known exorcism ritual in the country. It is a mix of traditional beliefs regarding spirits with Buddhism. Before performing the healing ritual, the lead performer known as the yakadura determines whether the patient is affected by a demon, and schedules the ritual for an auspicious day and time. It has two main stages, namely the Ata Paliya and Daha Ata Sanniya.[ The dancers are dressed in colourful attire and masks, and perform swift and complex dance steps and spins accompanied by rhythmical drum beats. Rather comic and somewhat obscene dialogues take place between the drummer and the demon on stage, in which the demon is humiliated. For example, Moore and Myerhoff (1977) describe the following dialogue translated from Sinhala:

Drummer: Where are you off to?

Demon: I am off to Maradana by a first class express bus.
Drummer: ...What was it I saw you doing only yesterday? You pissed near the sacred bodhi tree, then shitted on the temple grounds after which you stole a monk's robes. What else have you done? ...
Demon: You peretaya!
Drummer: Aah – you are only a mad demon – beneath contempt.

Ata Paliya

Ata Paliya is the name given to the eight dances in the first stage of the ritual. Before the dances begin, the Yakadura prepares some offerings for the demons, which will be given to them by the patient. The Ata Paliya depicts eight palis who bless the patient. This includes the Suniyan Yakshaniya who appears thrice as a beautiful damsel, a pregnant woman and a woman carrying a baby. This is followed by Maruwa (death) and demons called Kalu Yaka, Vatha Kumara and Kalu Kumara. The other palis are known as Anguru Dummala Paliya, Kalaspaliya and Salupaliya.

Daha Ata Sanniya

Although the Daha Ata Sanniya is part of the Sanni Yakuma, the name is sometimes used to refer to the ritual itself. This is the stage when the sanni demons make their appearance one after the other. The demons who first appear frightening when they enter the stage in frenzied dances are then shown as comic figures through enactments, with them being humiliated and forced to do various things. The Kola Sanni demon enters last, who is depicted as a non Buddhist demon. In the end, he is made to obtain the permission of the Buddha and accept offerings from humans, and agrees to stop troubling them. In the end, the dancer appears before the patient after removing the mask.

Although there are only eighteen demons, there is a variety of sanni masks that differ from place to place. However, the eighteen most commons masks (and names of the demons) are as follows:

Demon Associated ailment
Amukku Sanniya Vomiting and stomach diseases
Abutha Sanniya Non–spirit related insanity
Butha Sanniya Spirit related insanity
Bihiri Sanniya Deafness
Deva Sanniya Epidemic diseases
Gedi Sanniya Boild and skin diseases
Gini Jala Sanniya Malaria and other high fevers
Golu Sanniya Dumbness
Gulma Sanniya Parasitic worms and stomach diseases
Jala Sanniya Cholera and chills
Kana Sanniya Blindness
Kora Sanniya Lameness and paralysis
Maru Sanniya Delirium and death
Naga Sanniya Bad dreams about snakes
Pissu Sanniya Temporary insanity
Pith Sanniya Bilious diseases
Slesma Sanniya Phlegm and epilepsy
Vatha Sanniya Flatulence and rheumatism
Current status

The Sanni Yakuma is still performed today, though more often as a cultural spectacle than an exorcism ritual. However, it is not widely performed because of the high costs involved and also because of its long duration.

^ However, this story is given differently in Buddhist sources, and describes the Buddha saving the city from a plague through the chanting of the Ratana Sutta.