Patni; Kannaki Amman

Pattini, currently the most prominent, widely venerated female spirit in Sri Lanka, presides over marriage, chastity, and fidelity. Veneration of Pattini dates back to at least the second century CE. and is believed to have originated in Southern India. Since the fourteenth century, she is considered among the spiritual guardians of Sri Lanka.

Pattini transcends religious boundaries: she is a Hindu and Buddhist goddess and has many Muslim devotees, too. Her myth is retold in the Tamil poem “Silappadikaram” but variations exist. Her myth emphasizes the sacred nature of marriage bonds. Although Pattini never complains, it is implicit that her husband’s bad luck and eventual death stem from his disloyalty and infidelity. His actions prevent Pattini from becoming a mother: first he neglects her sexually, and then he dies before she can conceive.

Pattini was once a mortal woman named Kannaki whose husband Kovalan spent all his time, attention, and money on a courtesan. When the money ran out, the courtesan kicked him out. His family refused to help. His friends proved false. Only Kannaki was loyal. Traveling to the city of Madurai to make a fresh start, she gave Kovalan a gold anklet to sell in the market. The goldsmith to whom he brought the anklet was a corrupt thief. He had stolen an anklet that resembled Kannaki’s anklet from the queen. He decided to pin the theft on Kovalan, who was arrested. Kovalan proclaimed his innocence, but the king had him executed on the spot.

When Kannaki found out, she went to the palace and, displaying the matching anklet as proof of Kovalan’s innocence, demanded justice. Nothing offered satisfied her. What she wanted was her husband (or, as with Isis, her opportunity to have his child).

Kannaki transformed into Pattini, wrathful goddess. The power she radiated was so incredible that the king dropped dead instantly. In rage and fury, Pattini ripped off one of her breasts and flung it into the city square, which instantly burst into flames. Everyone who witnessed her husband’s arrest and death was burned alive. Survivors later saw Pattini climbing a hill from whence she entered a chariot that carried her off into the sky. They immediately began worshipping her.

• Pattini is invoked to ward off plagues, malicious spirits, and evil influences.

• She heals and prevents contagious illnesses, including measles and chicken pox.

• She bestows prosperity and personal fertility.

It is traditional to make offerings to Pattini after one’s wish is fulfilled, not before. When petitioning, tell her clearly and explicitly when offerings will be made: after full recovery from illness or after a baby is born, not just conception confirmed, for example.

Unfavoured people: Pattini despises liars and has no sympathy for women who cheat on their husbands or women who sleep with married men.


Pattini is portrayed holding one breast aloft or as a glamorous, bejeweled goddess.


Ankle bracelet

Number: 7


Vengai (Pterocarpus marsupium)


Incense, fresh fruit


Isis; Ma Zu


Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by :Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.