Dance and Magic Drama in Ceylon

Dance and Magic Drama in Ceylon

Dance and Magic Drama in Ceylon

Dance and Magic Drama in Ceylon

Excerpt

During my first short visit to Malabar in the early spring of 1935 I was roused one day from a brief siesta on the raised loggia in front of my peasant house by the noise of a car pulling up with a screech outside the stile which served as a front gate. It was a police officer (or was he a philosopher?) who had taken the trouble to come quite a distance in a jolty car to give me some good advice and find out a little about my movements. I tried not to show my dismay at this dusty incursion, and we settled down to talk. He had read, he said, in some newspaper that I intended to 'do' all India in a year and to write a book about all the dancing. I hastened to reassure him, and if he should chance to have come across my book The Other Mind, he will perhaps realize that I do not regard it as possible to make a complete study of anything in a year, or even in many years. He may of course attribute my slow pace to his admonition; it is even possible he will think I have overdone it by spending seventeen years over an introductory study of life and dance in one province alone of the great sub-continent of India.

Some fruits ripen more slowly than others, and my long sojourn on Bali with Walter Spies, most gifted and most beloved of all Europeans who have elected to make Bali their home, was a stage in the ripening. I might plead that the present volume is also part of the same Indian opus; for in spite of the apparent accessibility and even modernity of present-day Ceylon, it is I think just as fascinating as India. There are the magic drama and other rituals in the mountains round Kandy, the last royal city of Ceylon, where every rock is stamped with a heroic memory out of a mythical past; and the exorcistic balis and devol maduwas of the south coast, which have progressed so discreetly that every precious superstition remains intact . . .

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