Hinduism has been part and parcel of Sri Lankan life for many undereds of years. Over the years, popular Buddhism has absorbed a number of Hindu customs together with a galaxy of local gods. There is hardly any Sinhalese Buddhist who can deny of his or her reverence to one or two of Hindu gods or deities.
The awesome of these deities is the god Skandha or Katharagama whose shrine is in the deep south. Katharagama is a terrifying figure, and he exacts a heavy price from those whose petitions He grants.
Those who have been cured of grave illnesses, or whose prayers for children have been answered, must redeem their vows with an offering of pain. Sometimes they have to walk across burning coals, but the most common penitence is to be dragged around the streets swinging from a bar to which they are attached by savage iron hooks struck into the flesh of their backs.