Pirit a ceremony among the Buddhists of Ceylon, which consists in reading certain portions of the Bana, for the purpose of appeasing the daemons called Yakas, from whom all the afflictions of men are supposed to proceed. This ceremony, which is the only one that professes to be sanctioned by Gotama Buddha, is thus described by Mr. Spence Hardy in his Eastern Monachism:
"About sunset numbers of persons arrived from different quarters, the greater proportion of whom were women, bringing with them coconut- shells and oil, to be presented as offerings. As darkness came on the shells were placed in niches in the wall of the court by which the wihara is surrounded; and by the aid of the oil and a little cotton they were soon converted into lamps. The wall around the bótree was similarly illuminated: as many of the people had brought torches, composed of cotton and resinous substances, the whole of the sacred enclosure was in a blaze of light. The gay attire and merry countenances of the various groups that were seen in every direction gave evidence that, however solemn the professed object for which they were assembled together, it was regarded by all as a time of relaxation and festivity. Indeed, the grand cause of the popularity of this and similar gatherings is that they are the only occasion, marriage festivals excepted, upon which the young people can see and be seen, or upon which they can throw off the reserve and restraint it is their custom to observe in the ordinary routine of society intercourse. The service continues during the seven days, a preparatory ceremony being held on the evening of the second day. The edifice in which it is conducted is the same as that in which the Bana is read upon other occasions. A relic of Buaha, enclosed in a casket, is placed upon the platform erected for the purpose; and the presence of this relic is supposed to give the same efficacy to the proceedings as if the great sage were personally there. For the priests who are to officiate another platform is prepared; and at the conclusion of the preparatory service a sacred thread, called the pirit nula, is fastened round the interior of the building, the end of which, after being fastened to the reading-platform, is placed near the relic. At such times as the whole of the priests who are present are engaged in chanting the chorus the cord is untwined, and each priest takes hold of it, thus making the communication complete between each of the officiating priests, the relic, and the interior walls of the building. From the commencement of the service on the morning of the second day, until its conclusion on the evening of the seventh day the reading-platform is never to be vacated day or night. For this reason, when the two officiating priests are to be relieved by others, one continues sitting and reading while the other gives his seat to his successor, and the second priest does not effect his exchange until the new one has commenced rending. In the same way, from the morning of the second day till the morning of the seventh day, the reading is continued day and night, without intermission. Not fewer than twelve, and in general twenty-four, priests are in attendance, two of whom are constantly officiating. As they are relieved every two hours, each priest has to officiate two hours out of the twenty-four. In addition to this, all the priests engaged in the ceremony are collected three times in each day: viz. at sunrise, at mid-day, and at sunset, when they chant in chorus the three principal discourses of the pirit, called respectively Mangala, Ratana, and Karaniya, with a short selection of verses from other sources. After this the reading is continued till the series of discourses have been read through, when they are begun again, no other than those in the first series being read until the sixth day, when a new series is commenced. On the morning of the seventh day a grand procession is formed of armed and unarmned men, and a person is appointed to officiate as the dewad-utaya, or messenger of the gods. This company, with a few of the priests, proceeds to some place where the gods are supposed to reside, inviting them to attend prior to the conclusion of the service, that they may partake-of its benefits. Until the messenger and his associates return the officiating priests remain seated, but the reading is suspended. At the festival I attended the messenger was introduced with great slate, and sulfur was burned before him to make his appearance the more supernatural. One of the priests having proclaimed that the various orders of gods and daemons were invited to be present, the messenger replied that he had been deputed by such and such deities, repeating their names, to say that they would attend. The threefold protective formulary, which forms parts of the recitation, was spoken by all present in grand chorus. In the midst of much that is superstitious in practice or utterly erroneous in doctrine, there is some advice repeated of an excellent tendency; but the whole ceremony being conducted in a language that the people do not understand, no beneficial result can be produced by its performance." Such is the ceremony attending the reading of the ritual of priestly exorcism. This ritual is called Pinruwana pota., It is written in the Pali language, and consists of extracts from the sacred books, the recital of which, accompanied with certain attendant ceremonies, is intended to ward off evil and to bring prosperity.