About this object

History of use

Mask represents Bihiri Sanni, demon responsible for deafness, or may represent a small version of Maha-kola-sanni, chief of the Sanni demons. Worn during curing ritual of the Sanni Yakuma ceremony, part of the Tovil series of dramas performed by Sinhalese ritual specialists and dancers to combat disease and afflictions caused by the Sanni group of demons. Tovil financed by patient's family. Officiating healer honours Buddha, appeals to mercy of the gods, appeases demons with offerings, dancing drumming and chanting.

Cultural context


Iconographic meaning

Cobra lacks ears and symbolizes deafness.

Physical description

Mask depicting Bihiri Sanniya (who represents deafness) with a dark green and black face, black eyebrows, bulging eyes with red rims and a crescent-shaped slit under each, a wide nose, simplified ears with pointed lobes, and pursed red lips. A cobra sits atop the centre of the head with its hood extended and its tail curving down beside the mask's right ear. There is a small hole drilled below each ear. A typewritten label on the reverse reads, "BIHIRI SANNI: Deafness," and "14" handwritten in blue ink. A metal eye hook is inserted on the reverse at the top centre.