1st Edition

Multi-religiosity in Contemporary Sri Lanka Innovation, Shared Spaces, Contestations

    286 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    286 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book presents a collection of original research about every day, innovative, interactive, and multiple religiosities among Sri Lankan Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and devotees of New Religious Movements in post-war Sri Lanka.

    The contributors examine the unique and innovative religiosity that can be observed in Sri Lanka, which reveals a complex reality of mingled, and even simultaneous, cooperation and conflict. The book shows that innovative religious practices and institutions have achieved a new prominence in public life since the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009. Using the analytic framework of ‘innovative religiosity’ to allow researchers to look at this question between and across Sri Lanka’s plural religious landscape in order to escape both the epistemological and ethnographic isolation of studies that limit themselves to one form of religious practice, the chapters also investigate the extent to which inter-religious tolerance is still possible in the wake of Sri Lanka’s religion-involving civil war, and the continuing influence of populist Buddhist nationalism, globalization and geopolitics on Sri Lanka’s post-war governance. The book offers a novel approach to the study of post-conflict societies and furthers the understanding of the status of tolerance between religious practitioners in contexts where both ethnic conflict and multi-religious sites are prominent.

    This book is an important resource for researchers studying Anthropology, Asian Religion, Religion in Context and South Asian Studies.

    Part 1: Three Introductions

    Introductory Essay I. Negotiating with innovative multi-religious spaces, new religious pluralism, and geo-religious powers in post-war Sri Lanka.

    Pathmanesan Sanmugeswaran

    Introductory Essay II. Spaces of protection, healing and liberation.

    Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake

    Introductory Essay III. Innovation and multi-religiosity at Sri Lankan interfaces.

    Mark P. Whitaker

    Part Two: Negotiating with Indigenous Spirits and at Buddhist-Hindu Interfaces

    1. Of Meditation, Militarization, and Grease Yakas: Gendering supernatural and transnational dynamics in post-war public relations

    Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake

    2. The Ghost and the Goat – Religious Innovation in the Yaktovil Healing Tradition and Post-War Othering

    Eva Ambos

    3. Divine Eyes on the Sorrows of Lanka: Post-War Devotion to Pattini-Kannaki

    Malathi de Alwis  

    4. Kuweni & Vijaya Retold: Sri Lanka’s Postwar Iconography as an Affirmation of Inter-Community Mixing

    Neena Mahadev

    Part Three: Pilgrimage and multi-religious sites

    5. Kataragama Pāda Yātra: Pilgrimaging with ethnic “others” in a backdrop of ethnoreligious nationally reconstructed cultural difference as denied resemblances

    Anton Piyarathne

    6. Religious Innovation in the Pilgrimage Industry: Hindu Bodhisattva Worship and Tamil Buddhistness.

    Alex McKinley

    Part Four: Sri Lanka’s New and Old Inter-Religious Movements

    7. Searching for cakti: New gods, Sites and Choices in Postwar Tamil Sri Lanka

    Mark P. Whitaker and Pathmanesan Sanmugeswaran

    8. Emerging Innovative Religiosity and What They Signify

    Selvy Thiruchandran

    9. Beyond Syncretism: Buddhist-Islamic Interface in the Galebandara Cult

    Kalinga Tudor Silva

    10. Militancy in Sinhala Buddhist Nationalism

    H.L Seneviratne

    Part Five: Upcountry Religiosity

    11. Temples and Deities on Plantations

    Sasikumar Balasundaram

    12. Conversions, Fixing Faith, and Material Investments on Sri Lanka’s Tea Plantations

    Mythri Jegathesan

    Part Six. Islamic and Christian arrangements

    13. Sufis in Sri Lanka: A Fieldwork Story

    Dennis McGilvray

    14. Beards, cloth bags and sandals: reflections on the Christian Left in Sri Lanka

    Harini Amarasuriya

    15. Claiming the Mannar Martyrs: Catholicism and Caste in Northern Sri Lanka

    Dominic Esler

    16. Hyper-religiosity, Ethnoreligious Nationalism, Neoliberalism, and Ethnic Violence in Sri Lanka: Pathways for Innovative Religious Responses to Peace with Justice

    Jude Fernando


    Mark P. Whitaker is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Kentucky.

    Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake is a Senior Researcher at the International Center for Ethnic Studies.

    Pathmanesan Sanmugeswaran is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Anthropology at the Open University of Sri Lanka.

    "This volume offers an in-depth and provocative glimpse of the complexity of Sri Lanka's multi-religious heritage and its impacts. Chapters by established and emerging experts in the field...describe the island's deeply pluralistic religious traditions. They also raise questions about the overlapping influences of religious cultures, ethnicity and place and their responsiveness (or not) to external influences."

    -Nishkala Suntharalingam, Asian Affairs, 2023/05/04