Guardian Deity, Borella
Image below is of a poster advertising the temple of the village guardian (Gambara) deity referred to as the “Suniyam” God. Not sure about the meaning of the “Siddha” in the title. Click on the image for more translations of the lettering. The village guardian title seems ironic since the temple is located in Borella – a crazy busy – some might say “rougher” part of Colombo City.
This deity is part of a larger pantheon of gods who are battered to resolve modern obstacles such as passing exams, securing jobs, getting visas, safe travel, success in business , etc. The typical stuff that people the world over ask from their gods.
According to Lanka Library’s extensive post on Sri Lankan deities and rituals, this particular deity is described as
Siddha Suniyam god is protector of all villages & houses in Sri Lanka who is traveling village to village in mid night on white cloths. This god’ travelling can be know from sudden Jasmine smell & sametime dogs are barks. He give punishments to bad people while helps to good ones and Buddhists. This god stay in two ways as god and curel devil. Suniyam god is very curel god who gives vast punishments for bad people. In his human past life, he was person who protect law in society when Sakanda Kumara’s human life. Siddha Suniyam means this god need to be invited when use mantra science & related works, he gives permission to work mantra. Suniyam god stay under rules of the Kataragama god. It is popular he have white horse & wife too.
(Typos/text in the quote are from the Lanka Library post)
Some may validly point to these practices of appealing to a pantheon of gods as long standing Hindu influence or the persistence of pre Buddhist belief systems. Certainly makes Gananath Obeyesekere’s research into such practices very interesting reading (specifically Buddhism Transformed: Religious Change in Sri Lanka). A crude summery (aided by fuzzy recollections) is that the rise of deity worship is related to opaqueness/unreliability of social/economic institutions. For those looking to find out more (but don’t want to read the whole text), there’s a lengthy review on findarticles.com.
These practices are rarely questioned or openly discussed in day to day life — no more than you would discuss the blueness of the sky. They manifest themselves in a familiar Hindu religious art style such as in the photograph in this post.
I am interested in “collecting” images of this type of Buddhist Hindu religious art found in public such as the image of the patron god Dadimunda. If you know of similar images on line please add the line in the comment box below.