The ‘Katina Cheevaraya’ is washed at a spout after the Cheevaraya has been dyed
- The greatest asset of a monk who has received Higher Ordination or Upasampada is the calling for Vas during his lifetime
- Today is the last day when a member of the Sangha could receive the third robe and that is on Il Poya
Today is the last day when a member of the Sangha could receive the third robe and that is on Il Poya.
This is the Katina Cheevaraya
A village during this period after the three months of Vas is a hive of activity with arrangements for the offering of the Katina Cheevaraya.
If one is to hear the throb of drums in the early hours of the morning during the period before Il Poya, then you can rest being assured that the most important period of a monk is been brought to light by his followers. That then is the first indication that “the ritual of Katina” offering has commenced.
The greatest asset of a monk who had received Higher Ordination or Upasampada is the calling for Vas during his lifetime. The offering of Katina Cheevaraya is reported to have commenced during 588 BC in the time of Buddha while he was in Isipathanaramaya, Varanasi, India.
King Rajadhi Rajasinghe during his entire period of Kingship in the Kandyan Kingdom is recorded to have offered Katina Cheevara. It is considered the greatest asset to any man or woman who participates in the Katina ceremonies. Even touching the Cheevaraya or robe brings great merit, it is said eight meritorious acts as enunciated by Gautama Buddha.
The cloth in the past for robes was obtained from the coverings of dead bodies in which they were wrapped. The practice during that period was for the dead to be taken into forests or reserves for the dead wrapped in white cloth and leave them for the wild animals. But some of the cloth had been used by monks for their robes or Cheevaraya.
This then does not mean that the Katina Cheevaraya should be offered to the very monk who had observed Vas or Retreat during the period in a particular Temple
How did Vas originate?
It began with five monks who were on their way to meet Gautama Buddha and just some distance away, they met with the hard rain.
They then spent their time meditating. After the rains they set about their objective to meet the Buddha and told him of their experiences and by travelling in the rain, they would be trampling other lives, both plant and animals.
Buddha then instructed that they should refrain from travelling about during the rainy season and meditate.
He also said that whenever it was possible to address the devotees for their deliverance. Then there were groups, who were antagonistic to Buddha who criticised the travel of his disciples during the rainy season.
This also led to instruct monks that during the rainy season they should curtail their movements. With this, Buddha advised all monks to perform Vas or what is called in other religions as lent, during the rainy season.
On the other hand, the monks who had observed Vas prepare with the devotees for the offering of the Katina robe. Should a monk fail to observe Vas on Esala Poya, then he is entitled to observe Pasu Vas, a day after Nikini Poya, provided the retreats to the Poya or the area which is reserved for monks to hold their ceremonies and rituals. But, that does not entitle the member of the Sangha to receive the Katina Cheevara after Il Poya.
So, Devotees all over the country are preparing to offer the Katina Cheevara to the monks who have been in Vas to offer before Il Poya.
The monks are brought in procession for the ceremonies
The observances began from Esala Poya. During this season the monks retreat to their temples or in the early days to forest caves to meditate, in areas where devotees were living to preach the Dhamma of Buddha for their way of life and deliverance. At Aluvihare temple some of the cave abodes could be seen to this day and they are in good condition.
In temples, during this period devotees had arranged with the monks to listen to sermons, sometimes daily in the evenings. From last Poya day, devotees in the villages or urban communities are preparing to offer the Katina Cheevara before Il Poya to the monks who have been in Vas during the last three months.
Yet, only one Katina Cheevaraya or robe could be offered at one temple, even if several monks have been in Vas during the season. The offering of the robe is by the devotees, but who should be offered the robe is the decision of the congregation of monks.
I thought that it would be worth spending two or three days in visiting these rural temples, like Thalapitiya, Lunuwella and also Hantane Raja Maha Vihare, whose incumbent is the Hewaheta Sangha Nayake Venerable Etulgama Dhammadassi Thera.
They continue to go through the same process of stitching the robe according to the paddy field of King Bimbisara, stitch it on the temple premises, dye the robe and also wash it in a spout and then dry it in normal weather. The temple was full of villagers in their best for the occasion and every one of them was with an Atapirikara to be offered to the monks who have been in retreat or Vas After the cloth for the processing of the Katina Cheevaraya is brought from the place it had been kept overnight, it is then cut according to a plan set about by Buddha. The Katina Cheevaraya is according to the plan of paddy fields of king Bimbisara. But, the cloth at that time was taken from cemeteries, where the practice was to leave the dead in forests. From these covered cloths of dead bodies, the cloth was brought, stitched and then made into a Cheevaraya.
After the Cheevaraya was stitched, it is dyed in a ‘pandu oruwa’ or a receptacle made out of a log for the specific purpose of dying the Cheevaraya.
After the Cheevaraya or robe is dried it is brought with all the pomp and ceremony into the area where it is offered to the monks who have assembled to appoint a monk to receive the Katina Cheevaraya.
The greatest asset of a monk who had received Higher Ordination or Upasampada is the calling for Vas during his lifetime. The Katina Cheevaraya is then offered to the monks by the devotees by holding the open robe. This then does not mean that the Katina Cheevara should be offered to the very monk who had observed Vas or Retreat during the period in particular Temple. After the Cheevaraya or robe is offered to the monks, then they must select a monk from the congregation or even from outside to offer the Katina Cheevaraya.
Once the Katina Cheevaraya is in the hands of the monks in the congregation, The Maha Sangha commences accepting the offering of the Katina robe. But from here the devotees have no say.
The robe is then held by two senior monks and then again it is offered to the congregation of monks. They, in turn, discuss as to whom the Cheevaraya should be offered.
After their decision, the monk in question is offered the robe by the most senior monk, to the recipient.
The recipient monk then goes through a process, and in his stanzas, he says that the Cheevaraya would be with him and he will touch it daily and be the third robe, as allowed by Buddha. The robe is then marked by him with a key, having kept a betel leaf over the key so that a mark would be left to recognise the Katina Cheevaraya over the other robes.
Thus then ends the Katina offering.
The ‘ Cheevaraya ‘ is dried