Ganadeviyo, Uppalavanna, Ganesha Vishnu in Buddhism

That Buddhism is a school that rose rebelling against Vedic Karma Kanda is a known fact.

Vishnu As Upplavana, Buddhism.jpg; Vishnu As Upplavana, Buddhism.

Kataragama Deviyo Murugan .jpg Kataragama Deviyo Murugan .Lanka.

What is not known is that though Buddhism denies Idol worship and engages in NireswaraVada, denial of personal  God, Buddhism has declared Buddha and has Idols of Buddha being worshiped.

Not only that.

Buddhism has Hindu Gods being worshiped as Buddhist Gods.

I had already posted an article that Skanda is considered as the protector of Chinese Buddhism!

Now it seems that some more Hindu Gods, Ganesha Muruga and Vishnu are also included in this list of Hindu Gods being worshiped as Buddhist Gods in Sri Lanka.

Ganesha. The elephant-shaped god Ganesha, regarded as the god of wisdom and the remover of obstacles, is also very popular among the Buddhists under the names Ganapati or Gana-deviyo. He is worshipped as the chief of obstacles (Vighnesvara) because it is believed that he is responsible for creating and removing obstracles. He does this through troops of inferior deities or demi-gods considered as attendants of Siva, present almost everywhere, who are under his command. It is in this sense that he is called Gana-pati (chief of hosts), which is the epithet popular among the Buddhists. The devalayas dedicated to him are mostly run by the Hindus. The Buddhists worship him either through his statues, found in many Buddhists temples, or by visiting the Hindu kovils dedicated to him. As the god of wisdom and of learning, he is propitiated at the time a child first reads the alphabet. As the chief of obstacles, as their creator as well as remover, the Hindus begin their devala-ritual by making the first offering to him…

Vishnu. The important Hindu god Vishnu has also assumed a special Buddhist significance in the island. He is identified with the god Uppalavanna of the Mahavamsa, to whom Sakka, the king of the gods, is said to have entrusted the guardianship of Sri Lanka at the request of the Buddha before his passing away. This god is said to have arrived in the island to fulfill this mission. The name Uppalavanna means “the color of the blue water-lily.” As Vishnu is of the same color, Uppalavanna became identified with Vishnu, and in the wake of the Mahavamsa tradition, he became, as Vishnu, the protector of the Buddha-sasana in Sri Lanka. The calculated omission of the name Vishnu in the Mahavamsa in this connection may be viewed as an attempt at total localization of the divinity with a view to harmonize him with the cultural fabric of the island. His main shrine is at Devinuwara (Dondra), at the southern tip of the island, where an annual Esala (July-August) festival is held in his honor. If the identification is correct his cult can be traced to the earliest phase of the history of the island and has been popular up to the present day.

Pattini. Goddess Pattini, referred to above (see p.59), is prominent as the most popular female Buddhist divinity; she has her devalayas scattered throughout the country. Her cult goes back at least to the second century A.C. The then ruler, King Gajabahu, is said to have introduced the worship of this divinity into the island from South India.The legend about her life is told in the Tamil poem Silappadikaram. According to the myths current in the island about her, she had seven incarnations, being born seven times from water, the tusk of an elephant, a flower, a rock, a fire (or peak), cloth, and a mango. Hence she is designated as sat-pattini, sat meaning seven.

Kataragama. Devalayas dedicated to the different deities are scattered all over the island. God Kataragama (Skanda) in southern Sri Lanka is by far the most popular, as he is considered to be the most powerful deity capable of granting the requests of the worshipper. It is for this reason that he has acquired territorial rights throughout the island. Devalayas dedicated to him are found in many places in the island, some of which are maintained by the Hindus.

It is customary for many Sri Lankan Buddhists to visit a devalaya of one of the deities and make a vow that if the problem at hand (i.e., illness, enemies, etc.) is solved, they will make an offering to the deity concerned. Offerings are made even without such a special request. Whatever the case may be, this practice has become a ritual of propitiation through the kapuralas.

The main duties of the kapuralas are to look after the devalayas in their charge, to perform the prescribed rituals, and to offer in the inner shrine the offerings brought by devotees. The kapuralais given a fee for his services. Once the ritual is over, a part of the offerings is given back to the devotee for him to take home and partake of as having a sacramental value. The offerings normally consist of milk-rice, coconuts, betel, camphor, joss-sticks, fruits, along with flowers, garlands, flags, etc. All these are arranged in an orderly manner in a basket or tray and handed over respectfully to the kapurala, who takes it inside and offers it at the statue of the main deity inside the inner room. The devotees wait outside with clasped hands while the kapurala makes his pleadings on their behalf.

The statement he recites, called yatikava in Sinhala, is a panegyric of the deity concerned and it constitutes a humble and respectful request to bring succour to the devotee in his particular predicament. After this the kapurala emerges from the inner shrine room and blesses the devotees by using his thumb to place on their forehead a mark of a paste made from saffron, sandalwood, and other ingredients. This mark, the symbol of sanctification, is known as the tilaka.

This form of ritualistic propitiation of deities is a clear adaptation of the Hindu system where the very same method is followed, though more elaborately.

One thought on “Ganadeviyo, Uppalavanna, Ganesha Vishnu in Buddhism

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