Encirclement in Religious Practice & Deadly War Strike

Michael Roberts, inspired by interaction & dialogue with Douglas Farrer of the National University of Singapore in the years 2009 to 2014**

VISIT 2012 “Encompassing Empowerment in Ritual, War & Assassination: Tantric Principles in Tamil Tiger Instrumentalities,” in Social Analysis, sp. issue on War Magic ed. by D. S. Farrer, 2014 ……………………………… https://www.berghahnjournals.com/view/journals/social-analysis/58/1/sa580105.xml

a groom ties the THALI round the bride’s neck…. https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/862931978596501453/

ABSTRACT: This study highlights the Tantric threads within the transcendental religions of Asia that reveal the commanding role of encirclement as a mystical force. The cyanide capsule (kuppi) around the neck of every Tamil Tiger fighter was not only a tool of instrumental rationality as a binding force, but also a modality similar to a thāli (marriage bond necklace) and to participation in a velvi (religious animal sacrifice). It was thus embedded within Tamil cultural practice. Alongside the LTTE’s politics of homage to its māvīrar (dead heroes), the kuppi sits beside numerous incidents in LTTE acts of mobilization or military actions where key functionaries approached deities in thanks or in preparation for the kill. These practices highlight the inventive potential of liminal moments/spaces. We see this as modernized ‘war magic’—a hybrid re-enchantment energizing a specific religious worldview.


A Tamil Tiger fighter  at relaxation in camp in 1991 — photo taken by embedded reporter Shyam Tekwani … a young Tiger lad heads for guard duty with vipoothi and kuppi for protection or as aids

At  a formal induction ceremony after training a batch of young female Tigresses are anointed with a kuppi (cyanide capsule in container) 

Pirapaharan pays homage to the Black Tigers on 5 July 2005 commemorating the first Black Tiger strike in a truck laden with explosives on a SL Army camp at Nelliyadi carried out by Miller on 5th July 1987 …. Note Millers’s encirclement with flowers in keeping with a whole genre of Arati that are intended to remove unwanted negatives from a person or place. 

Pirapaharan shares a last meal with Black Tigers before the team sets off on a suicidal mission




A maveerar shed at Jaffna Campus Tirunelvely in 2004 (pix by Roberts) …. and one of the background motifs adorning  photos of female mavirar — motifs which Prof K. Sivathamby read as messages stressing “abundance” when I consulted him in Wellawatte in late 2004

Black Tigers pay homage to their fallen at Sampur, Muttur East 5 July 2003

Gravestones are encompassed by garlands as kinfolk pay homage to their mavirar kin



  A  kinsman  pays homage to a mavirar at Kopay tuyilam illam

  Mavirar Nal at Chicago in 2004 depicting the sacrifices called for in securing the “traditional homelands” for the SL Tamils 









Loyalty to the LTTE’s goals were pledged by the Tamil people at the Pongu Thamil” rallies in March 2002 organised by the LTTE in several areas under SL government ‘rule








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** Doug Farrer was/is also a martial arts practitioner and has since moved from Singapore to Guam and thence to Ottawa in Canada. He has published a host of books since our paths parted: including, by way of illustration, Dreamwork, Art Worlds and Miracles in Malaysia

His earlier works include “Efficacy and Entertainment in Martial Arts Studies: Anthropological Perspectives” (2014?) and Becoming-animal in the Chinese Martial Arts, 2013

AND NOTE = Farrer 2008 “The Healing Arts of the Malay Mystic,” Visual Anthropology Review, vol. 24/1: 29- 46. 



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One response to “Encirclement in Religious Practice & Deadly War Strike

  1. Janaka Perera

    This is a typical Nazi/Fascist salute seen in the last two photos. Italian Fascists copied this from the ancient Roman salute
    German Nazis in turn copied it from the Italians

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