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The Katina Chivara is marked with three dots placed in a corner of the robe. The dots are made by placing a betel leaf and twisting with the finger to extract the juice. The Katina Chivara is prepared and presented within twelve hours, he informed. It is believed that the devotee who offers the Katina Chivara receives great merit as well as the monk who receives it

The three months of Vassana (rains retreat) season for bhikkhus began the day after the Easala full moon Poya on July 9 and ends on Vap full moon Poya day on October 5 this year. Pera Vas is when the bhikkhus start their retreat, the day after the Esala Poya. Pasu vas is observed by bhikkhus one month later in August on Nikini Poya. Monks who observe Pasu Vas cannot accept the Katina Chivara.

In the Buddha’s time, even during the rainy season monks walked about on their pindapatha (begging of alms) and to conduct Dhamma discussions for the benefit of devotees. People were not happy about this as they observed tiny insects that come out of the earth and plants that sprout during the rainy seasons get trampled on and die. The Buddha was informed of this and he made a Vinaya rule permitting monks to spend the rainy season (Vassana) of three months, in one place as it was difficult to journey during the rains.

With the end of the Vas season, until Ill full moon Poya day on November 3, Katina Chivara (robe) ceremonies are conducted in all the viharas. The period is known as the Katina Chivara month. The practice of observing vas is still continued in Sri Lanka and other Theravada Buddhist countries such as Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and even in some Buddhist viharas in the west.

Explaining the vas season and the Katina Chivara Pinkama at the Malwatta Ubhayamaha Vihara most Ven. Dimbulkumbure Sri Saranankara Wimaladhamma Maha Anunayaka Thera of the Malwatu Maha Viharaya said all the upasampada (higher ordained) monks in the Malwatu Maha Viharaya have to observe the vas season in their respective viharas (abodes). “In the event a monk has to go out for some important task during the vas season he should get permission to do so and return on the sixth day as he is permitted to be away only seven days. The monk who leaves and returns is not entitled to receive the Katina Chivara.

The Thera explained that the Vassana season begins with the Vas Aradhana a request by the devotees to the monks to observe the vas season in their temple. The request is made by offering a Dahat Vittiya, (a tray of betel leaves). Monks who are willing to stay in the temple will speak a Vakya (sentence) agreeing to stay at the particular temple during the Vas season of three months. A close connection with devotees is made during this time, who provide the monks with ‘Sivpasa Upasthana’ (alms, medicine etc…), listen to Dhamma discourses and obtain advice from the monks.

The practice at the Malwatu Maha Vihara is to sound a gong on the day after the Esala full moon Poya, when all the monks assemble at the ‘Poyage’. They observe religious ceremonies        are ready themselves for the Vas season, commencing in July and ending in October, with the reception of the Katina Chivara Pooja.

Once the Vassana is over the Katina Chivara Pinkam in the temples begin. Each temple decides when they should conduct the Pinkama during the Katina Chivara month. Early morning on the day of the Katina Pinkama a white cloth is brought by a devotee in procession with others participating in this meritorious deed and handed over to the monks, to make a Chivara (robe). “This is cut into five pieces, stitched, washed and dyed to make a robe. The robe is stitched to resemble a paddy field with niyaras (ridges). Since it is a patched robe, no one will want to steal and is aimed at ridding of Tanha (craving).
We visited the Malwatu Maha Vihara to observe the Katina ritual. There are three Viharas within Malwatu Maha Vihara itself and three Katina Cheevra Vastra (white cloth) stitched to make robes were taken on three trays by devotees under a white canopy, each held by four devotees, in procession with drummers and flag bearers to the well near the Kandy lake, in front of the Vihara. Each Chivara Vastra was rinsed and folded neatly while the hewisi drummers kept drumming. The three pieces of white cloth were taken to the Malwatu Maha Vihara in procession to be dyed.

The Malwatu Maha Vihara Katina pinkama was organized by the Sri Sangharaja Gunanusmarana Sangamaya and the Katina Committee under the guidance of most Ven. Upadhyaya Agga Maha Panditha Aluthgama Sri Dhammarakkitha Thera who will be 102 years in November. The most venerable Thera walked up to the well and returned to the Malwatu Maha Vihara to mix the dyes and place the robes in the Pandu Oruwa. The process is known as Pandu Gahanawa. The dyed robes were taken again in procession to the hall to be handed over to three monks. Addressing the devotees, the Maha Thera said that he has dyed 195 Katina Chivara and conducted Katina Pooja at the Malwatu Vihara on 74 occasions. Afterwards alms and Pirikara were offered to a large number of monks. The most Anunayaka of the Malwathu Chapter Ven. Dimbulkumbure Sri Saranankara Vimaladhamma Mahathera delivered a discourse followed by chanting of pirith accompanied by all monks presents. The three monks receiving the Katina Chivara were selected after discussion amongst the monks who observed the Vas season. The Anunayaka Mahathera then announced their names and another ritual was performed to offer these three robes. Finally the devotees were addressed by Ven. Walpola Medhanandha Thera who delivered the Katina Chivara Dhamma Desana (discourse) explaining the merits of offering a Katina Chivara.

In India during the Buddha’s time the Katina Chivara were taken from cloth used to wrap corpses. Therefore the cloth had to be washed and cleaned. It is this custom which is still followed even today.

The Most Ven Anunayake Mahathera explained how the cloth is stained. The dyes are mixed and the white cloth is immersed in the Pandu Oruwa. During the Buddha’s time and even later the monks in the village temples boiled the bark of the trees and the liquid was used to stain the cloth. Perhaps even now in some villages, this practice may be still followed.

Once the robe is made ready there is always a Dhamma discourse. Thereafter the robe is presented to the monk. As only the upasampada (higher obtained) monks are permitted to be present at this Pooja, the Samanera monks (novices) are requested to leave the alms hall. There is also a Kapruka, the heavenly wish conferring tree. It is a branch of a jak tree kept for the devotees to place their offerings (pirikara) robes, soap, razors, medicine and other such items needed by the monks. At present in some temples the kapruka is replaced by a table to place the items.

The Anunayaka Mahathera explained that although many monks observe Vas only one monk will receive the Katina Chivara. The monks discuss amongst themselves and decide on who should receive the Katina Chivara. This Katina Chivara pooja is done only once a year.

The monk who received the Katina Chivara has five privileges but only for five months. He does not have to inform anyone when he leaves the temple, he can possess any number of robes, all the sangika prikara can be kept for himself (other have to distribute). He can request for prikara, he can wear the andana and one other robe (other monks have to wear the Thunsivura – three robes – andana, thani pota sivura and depota sivura). A monk’s seniority is judged by the number of vas seasons he has spent after Upasampada, explained the Anunayaka Thera.

“The Katina Chivara is marked with three dots placed in a corner of the robe. The dots are made by placing a betel leaf and twisting with the finger to extract the juice. The Katina Chivara is prepared and presented within twelve hours, he informed. It is believed that the devotee who offers the Katina Chivara receives great merit as well as the monk who receives it.

The offering of the Katina Chivara commenced when thirty monks who were at Saketa during their vas (rains retreat) decided to visit the Buddha in Jetavanarama at Savasthi after the Vas Pavarana (ending of Vas). It rained heavily and when they arrived at Jetavanarama the Buddha observed that they were drenched, still in their wet robes. Realizing the difficulty the monks faced, the Buddha recommended an additional robe other than the three robes (thun Sivura) already used.