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“In June 1910 he supervised the great pilgrimage to the Buddhist shrine at Kataragama, a holy place for Hindus and Muslims as well. Kataragama was little more, in those days, than a clearing in the jungle. Leonard described it as a kind of Ceylon Lourdes. The festival lasted two weeks and attracted thousands, travelling on foot from all over the island, dragging sick people. The heat was intolerable: one sits in a perpetual sandstorm waiting for the sun to go down and for the mosquitoes to come out and take the place of the eyeflies, wrote Leonard in the official diary. The weather broke and the encampments were inundated. Leonard wrote to the GA strongly suggesting that temporary accommodations should be provided for the pilgrim’s next time around. Leonard was a good sleeper. The only totally sleepless night in his life was during the Kataragama festival, when the terrible screams of a nearby child kept him awake. The child was blind, and the parents had been pitching and pricking him with pins all night so that the god would hear him and cure the blindness. This incident made a lasting impression on Leonard on the account of its mixture of pathos, absurdity, kindness …
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