Banking on bali
Manoj Pushpa Kumara Jinadasa teaches mass communication at the
University of Kelaniya with emphasis in various dimensions of
communication. His major interests lie in media psychology, a new
discipline of mass communication.
His latest research deals with the traditional bali rituals, which
Jinadasa emphasizes, paved way to media psychology. The books are Bali
Sannivedanaya, Bali Ambum Kavi potha I and Bali Ambum Kavi Potha-II.
Jinadasa touches the traditional psychological strategies of folklore
“Bali is a ritual form in folklore. Though there are some books and
research on bali they are highly concentrated on the discipline of
dance, drama and folklore. So I have here carried out the research on
the perspective of communication.” Manoj Jinadasa explained his effort.
A study of mass communication differs from others in analyzing the
artifacts or elements from the viewpoint of communication. Jinadasa’s
focus is to reveal various interpretational meanings as well as the
effects of this ritual.
“In this book my concentration was to reveal what are the
psychological, communicational and linguistic interpretations in
addition to performing interpretation in bali. Baliya, as a ritual form,
has prevailed in our society. Even today to be cured from chronic
diseases like cancer and sexually transmitted diseases we obtain utmost
help from a bali performer.”
The performers offer treatment more than medicine. Baliya has a long
history. Though it has a basic relationship with Indian rituals, they
have been changed or restructured in terms of the Sri Lankan cultural
and social structure.
There are various dimensions of communication in bali which are
mainly visual and audio perceptions and social communication. The
patient, or the athuraya, is totally being marginalized because of the
Manoj Pushpa Kumara Jinadasa
In order to uplift his/her mentality, the villagers are invited for a
baliya. That’s where the social communication takes place. Generally a
baliya starts at around 6 in the evening and continue till the next day.
“With these perceptions, the performer, or the bali edura, is trying
to cure the athuraya. The latter is in front of a bali figure – it could
be of a god or a devil made out of clay or painted on clothing - and is
under therapeutic communication.” Jinadasa said.
This therapy could mean music, visual, social, indigenous medicine or
even smell. Both material and spiritual medication is there and that is
the difference between Western medicine.
In bali it is communicated to the patient that h/she is possessed.
Ultimately the bali performer is going to eradicate this from the
patient. This is the traditional health communication. The last event of
Bali performance is the most interesting part which is called molangara
There is a winnowing fan full of fruits which is given to the
patient, and h/she is asked to throw the fruits towards the bali figure.
It is the climax of the bali. The bali performer tries to make the
patient understand that this devil is nothing; it is merely a picture.
So you have created all these fear, sadness and illness yourself. Thus
this method becomes scientific.
In Jinadasa’s fourth book Sannivedana Ahyanaya (Understanding Media
and Communication) he discusses the development of communication. He
believes traditional rituals could be amalgamated with new media hence
it could be used for development or other communication purposes.
“In this book I am trying to propose a model for development
communication based on traditional forms of communication like folk
lyrics, folk drumming, folk drama, small group communication and kavi
kolaya (a paper with poems).
These aspects have a great deal of potential in rural development.
The main problem in rural development communication is how the project
objective promulgates through the community.” Jinadasa said. Before the
development project is introduced the target group should be
familiarized with it, in order to get their participation for the
project. Before applying the project, through the application and at the
end of the project ‘communication’ is there.
“What I suggest as a model is that these traditional methods of
communication are not foreign for us. They are easy to understand and
close to us and the signs in them are very familiar to us. There is high
creativity in them so we can put our target message into these
traditional structures.” Jinadasa added.
The laboratory for this kind of experiments is the society itself and
any communicator should be a researcher. Before textualizing a message
every media person should have a pertinent knowledge on the topic.
Media is the only solution for the society, which means the
believable helping hand for the well being of the public. Media has the
capability of making mutual understanding. If we expect this island to
become the miracle of Asia, media and communication is the bridge maker
in realizing these all dreams.