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 probably Ginijala Sanni, whose symptoms include shivering and high fever.

Cultural context


Iconographic meaning

Distinctive elements associated with fever and shivering include a dark red colour, and painted lines on the forehead representing furrows. There are also painted lines on the cheeks in the form of flames indicating fever.

Physical description

Mask depicting Ginijala Sanniya (who represents fever and shivering) which has a dark red face with bulging eyes with crescent-shaped slits under each, eyebrows in white on black, a small nose with flared nostrils, and a grimacing mouth with red lips and white teeth bordered in black. There are three horizontal white lines at the centre of the forehead, and two diagonal white lines on each cheek. A thin strip of green and brown fabric is strung through three holes at the edges of the mask: one at the top of the head, and two either side of the mask. Label on reverse of mask reads, "GINIJALA SANNI: Fever & shivering, " in typewritten characters, and "24" handwritten in blue ink.