Udappu fishing village, Chilaw District, Sri Lanka

A medium in trance represents Draupadi

Draupadi's Vengeance

As the recitation of the story on the 18th day reached its climax, the two warriors, representing Duryodhana and Bhima (another of the Pandava brothers), began to pantomime a fight with their clubs. Duryodhana fell. He was laid on a white cloth spread over the sand and covered with another.

Heralded by drummers, a yellow-robed medium, who had been consecrated to represent Draupadi, approached carrying a knife. He stood and chanted over the fallen warrior.

The white cloth covering him was lifted and held upright, encircling the warrior and the medium, shielding them from view as Draupadi wounded Duryodhana—I was horrified to learn that the warrior's breast was actually cut to draw blood.

The vengeance of Draupadi thus fulfilled, a powder was put on the cut. The man in the role of Duryodhana—now in a faint or trance—was lifted up and taken round the temple and then laid down to expose his wound to the sea wind.

He was then taken in through the main doors, led by the flag bearers. Bells rang out, and the crowds thronged towards the temple, shouting in a frenzy their praise of Vishnu: "Govinda! Haro hara!" Within the temple, the man was revived.