Take for example, the website: http://karava.org/religious/the_pattini_cult, that claims Gajabahu as a “Karava king” and faults “historians with other motives” for misidentifying him as Gajabahu I rather than Gajabahu II who ruled in the 12th century – Obeyesekere noted that the 12th century was “palpably too late a date” to associate with the writing of the Silappadikaram (1984: 363). It also ascribes the events mentioned in the Rajavaliya to the Silappadikaram. Ironically, the website offers fodder for Obeyesekere’s thesis by noting that the Karavas (who originated from Kerala) still retain clan names such as Pattini-Hennadige while some ancestral Karava homes are referred to as Pattini Gederas.
The programme note for the evocative dance drama, Mekala, adapted from the epics Manimekhalai and Silappadikaram by renowned choreographer Arunthathy Sri Ranganathan, in October 2013, emphatically noted: “The introduction of Pathini cult by King Gajabahu II in Sri Lanka cannot be a myth.”
Balasukumar (2009) while reiterating the Rajavaliya narrative to explain provenance of devotion to Pattini among Sinhala Buddhists, nonetheless offers an alternative theory regarding devotion among Tamil Hindus. According to him, when poet Ilango Adigal wrote
the Silappadikaram in 2nd century AD, he incorporated much older stories that had been recounted by Tamil natives (a similar argument is also made by Satkunam 1976). During this time, Lanka was part of India and when it separated from India due to geological changes, the story about Kannaki as well as devotion to her remained in Lanka. Seneviratne (2003) seems to be the only scholar who implicitly addresses some of the doubts raised by Obeyesekere by suggesting the possibility of Sinhala texts such as the Pantis Kolmura evolving from a folk tradition that existed in South India during the medieval period, as they reflect a mixture of Sinhala and Tamil traditions.
Under Portuguese rule the ancient Pattini Déváles in the western coast of the Kotte kingdom had been replaced by St. Anne’s churches whilst St. Marys’ replaced Máriamman Kóvils. Some of the St. Anne’s churches coming from Portuguese times are at Wattala, Bolawalána Negombo, Palangaturai and Talawila. St Anne’s Kochchkade north of Negombo is significant as it is located in Palangaturai, the harbour named in honour of Palanga, the consort of goddess Pattini.
However, what is undisputed is that devotion to Kannaki-Pattini, while declining somewhat over the centuries, continues to flourish in the Eastern Province and to a lesser extent in the Northern, North Western, North Central, Central, Uva, Sabaragamuwa and Western Provinces of Sri Lanka. Her kovils and devales have survived despite being plundered and burnt by Portuguese and Dutch colonists and many of her devotees being excoriated and/or converted by Christian missionaries of various denominations.
Both Buddhist and Hindu devotees we met mentioned that the revered Catholic shrine to the Virgin Mary at Madhu was originally a Kannaki-Pattini shrine.
This belief is confirmed by Ragupathy (1987) as well as British civil servant, R.W. Ievers’ Manual of the North-Central Province, Ceylon (1899): “At the present day the offerings are generally taken to St. Mary’s Church at Madu, which is considered by the Buddhist and a great many of the Tamil pilgrims, who resort there, as the Temple of Pattini Amma (Amman Kovil).” Obeyesekere notes that he interviewed Buddhists “who visit the Madhu shrine during the annual festival, and they simply believe they are worshipping the goddess Pattini” (1984: 480).
Devotees had also pointed out the Saint Sebastian Church near Colombo as also being a former shrine to Pattini (Ibid) while http://karava.org/religious/the_pattini_cult makes the following claim: