Venerating Milk Mothers in Sri Lankan Buddhism

14/03/2018, 15:30 - 16:30


Speaker: Rita Langer (Bristol University)

Chair: Heather Trickey

The milk mothers (kiri-ammas) are associated with Pattini, the only female deity in the Sinhala pantheon, and are often invited in fulfilment of a vow. Everyone of my Buddhist informants in Sri Lanka knew the ritual, had done it at some point or was inviting kiri-ammas regularly (commonly once a year). Shaky family film clips of offerings to kiri-ammas can be found on YouTube, and kiriammas feature in sentimental Sinhala pop songs. Even advertisements (Anchor butter or milk powder) are honing in on the “traditional value” that kiri-ammas represent. Considering their popularity it is very surprising that invitations to milk mothers (kiriammadānas) have been little documented or researched so far. The kiri-ammas associate themselves with the goddess Pattini, but the form that the ritual takes borrows heavily from the monks’ alms giving (use of Pali Buddhist chants, transfer of merit, etc.). This talk (and the short video) will document and explore the way the kiri-ammadāna is situated between other forms of Pattini worship (such as pūjā at the local shrine) and monks’ alms giving.


Rita Langer is Senior Lecturer in Buddhist Studies in the Department of Religion and Theology, Bristol University.  She is the author of Sermon Studies and Buddhism: A Case Study of Sri Lankan Preaching (2013).

Heather Trickey is a Research Associate based in DECIPHer (Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement), a UKCRC Public Health Research Centre of Excellence based at Cardiff, Bristol and Swansea Universities.  Her research focuses on infant feeding policy.

The seminar starts at 3.30pm.  Wine and cake available from 3.20pm


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Religion & Theology Research Seminar Series