Invited Speaker

Prof. Anton Piyarathne, The Open University of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka

Anton Piyarathne currently serves as a professor and the head of the department of Social Studies (SSD) of the Open University of Sri Lanka (the OUSL). He teaches Anthropology and Sociology for both undergraduates and postgraduate students in his university. He earned his PhD from the Department of Anthropology of Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia in 2014. Anton has recently published “Constructing Commongrounds: Everyday Lifeworlds Beyond Politicised Ethnicities in Sri Lanka”, which is his third monograph discusses ethnicity and ethnic relationships in Sri Lanka. Apart from ethnicity and ethnic boundary negotiations he has been interested in many areas including identity and politics of Indian Origin Plantation Tamil community, ethnoreligious nationalisms, nation building and citizenship, national integration and disintegration, conflict and peacemaking, religious pluralism and religious syncretism, development and resettlement, social stratification systems and existential realities of everyday social lifeworlds of the different groups in Sri Lanka.

Speech Title: Moorthi’s Dream: An ethnography of dream as the nexus between human and their guardian deity

It is believed that the guardian deity’s role is to protect human and their properties from the various disasters and facilitate for followers to achieve prosperity. The deities communicate with the communities via dreams of holy people. This paper gives an ethnographic description of the nexus between the guardian deity and the human via dreams. Ethnographic research conducted between 2010 and 2012 in the rural village of Pānama highlights how the villagers were protected by the Goddess Pattini during Tsunami and other disastrous situations connected with the war. Moreover, the entire eastern region is operating under broader cosmological order connected to Goddess Pattini and lord Murugan (T .) or God Kataragama (S. ). When Tsunami hit on 26 December 2004 Sri Lanka, the villagers were living with the war, a heavy battle between the Sri Lankan military forces and the LTTE, a manmade disaster. The main dream discussed in the paper suggests how people in Pānama was able to save their lives due to the prewarning given to them by their guardian deity, Goddess Pattini, a few months earlier to the incident and were prepared. The Goddess Pattini has appeared in dreams of a few holy people in the village and warned about a precarious situation in the future. And the entire villagers gathered in the village shrine room, ampitiya devālaya (S. shrine) and performed rituals, a way of preparing for the disaster. Even though, the Tsunami claimed more than 31,000 lives from the eastern coast, the Pānama people who lived in a village which is lower than the sea level was safe as they were prepared.






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