Although the ayurveda medical system has stated that the symptoms of this illness are burning sensations of the body, very fast movement of the pulse, puffiness of the stomach, constipation, bulging eyes and fainting, this mask has not been designed to depict these symptoms.
Instead the mask has been created with a crown and a pleasant face with two small tusks coming out of the mouth. In the Matara school of exorcists, the deva sanniya mask is fitted to the top of the head. The eighteen sanniyas have been carved in tiny figures as well as painted in pictures.
Although the basic features of the above mentioned masks are found in today's masks, it can be seen that they have been modified by the abilities of the artiste and his own experiences.
Deva Sanni Mask- Matara
Given below are descriptions of masks used by low country shanti karma (curative rituals) artists, as well as some photographs of the same.
On inquiring into the various aspects of sanni masks it can be seen that not all the signs of the illness are shown in the mask. This can be borne out by the face in the bibin (deafness) sanniya, one eye and a snake hood are depicted, in the naga (snake) sanniya a snake hood is fitted to the head, and in the deva sanniya, a deitys face is fitted to the head.
Although a large mask had been created in earlier times to depict the maha kola sanniya with all eighteen sanniyas included, what is used now is a mask with a snake hood on the center of the head and on either side are thirigiththal carvings with the two eyes protruding forward as well as a prominent nose.
What is made clear by the above facts are that some differences have been included in the creation of masks to indicate the symptoms of the illnesses and that the creation of the masks depends on the skills and the erudition of the artistes and thereby variations are visible in the masks.
These masks worn in various performances before the patient displaying the characteristics of the 18 Sanniyas, evoke emotions of wonder, humor and curiosity. What is shown by the masks are the symptoms of the 18 different sanniyas. In all the dances of these rituals, burulla branches are wom when coming before audiences, and it is only by wearing the 18 different masks depiciting the 18 sanniya,that the different characters are shown.
Although difference and variation can be seen in diffrent regions in the dance and the songs and also the masks, the basic features are the same for all regions. In the presentation of the pali dances, in connection with the daha ata (18) sanniya's, masks are identified by name as keta muhunu (carved faces) or keta kéli mubunu made from pieces of wood. The pelapali (processions) in which masks are worn vary according to the various areas and are presented as seven processions, twelve, sixteen, eighteen etc. In some areas though masks are worn, in these processesions, in others, soot and charcoal are applied on the face and false teeth are worn and the ritual is performed in this manner. It is the custom to carry in the procession the religious offerings which are necessary for the ritual.