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The Chetties- One of Sri Lanka’s lesser known minorities

The Chetties- One of Sri Lanka’s lesser known minorities

Sri Lanka’s identity is vast and fluctuating. But not many are aware of how each of the various ethnicities and communities that live alongside each other have contributed to the larger identity of the island. This series focuses on the ethnic minorities that make up just 2% of the country’s population; the Parsi, the Malay, the Portuguese and all the others and what they have contributed in song, dance, food, education and more. The Chetties- Whether it’s a Pulle, Alles, or Perumal, everyone in Colombo knows a Chetty, but while most of us have a vague notion of their being their minority group, they are – more often than not – incorrectly assumed to be a branch of the Sinhalese, Tamil, or Burgher communities. The Chetties can trace their lineage back to the Tana Vaisya trading caste in India, who inhabited areas in and around Coorg and Benares until they were driven to the South of India following the Mogul invasion of the North.

Their presence in Sri Lanka is said to be the result of trade connections that go back centuries. Today, the Chetty community – variably referred to as the Setti, Hetti, Etti, or Situ community – is composed of approximately 150,000 individuals domiciled in the Western and North-Western provinces of the country. It is commonly believed that the earliest ancestors of the Chetty community engaged in trade with Sri Lanka, resulting in mass migration to the island during the colonial periods. However, while it is historical fact that a large number of Chetties moved to Sri Lanka during the Portuguese and Dutch periods of rule, some historical texts indicate that their presence on the island can be traced back much further. Professor H. Ellawala, in his book Social History of Early Ceylon, writes that the arrival of the first Chetties in Sri Lanka occurred shortly after Prince Vijaya first set foot on Lankan soil – according to him, some of the maidens sent to the prince by the King of Madura were of Tana Vaisya, or Setthi, stock.

Over the years, the Chetties’ place in society became so well established that even a traditional Sinhalese nursery rhyme is sung by generations of children at play – “athuru, mithuru, dambadiva thuru, raja kapuru hettiya” – makes a reference to the Chetties and their traditional connection to royalty. More recent records identify the Chetties as a prestigious merchant class, and W. Geiger, in his book Culture in Ceylon in Medieval Times, draws a connection between the Chetties mentioned in the earliest historical texts and the Chetties in medieval society, writing, “a prominent part of the mercantile society in Ceylon was the Setthis… probably they were like the Setthis in the Jatakas, the great bankers, and stood in close proximity to the royal court”. From their origins as a prestigious merchant class to their presence in the island today, the Chetty community has always been a distinctive one, and despite the fact that intermarriages and identification with other ethnicities have seen their numbers dwindle, the Chetties continue – in their own unassuming manner, to form an integral part of Sri Lankan society.

The Last Africans of Sri Lanka- Meeting a lesser known community in rural Sri Lanka

The Last Africans of Sri Lanka- Meeting a lesser known community in rural Sri Lanka

Unknown to most people, even Sri Lankan’s themselves there exists a small community of the Africans who are a unique ethnic group who partially descended to the island in the 16th Century brought in by the Portuguese traders who brought Bantu Slaves to work as labourers and soldiers to fight against the native Kings.

This community traditionally speak a native version of Creole which is based on the Portuguese language. Known as the Kaffir People ( the name they refer their community to, and not concerning the derogatory term used in parts of South Africa), as still found in a small village located in the remote corner of Puttalam in the West of the island.

They are a colourful group of people with a rich musical culture, and even the Sri Lankan songs and dance is known as Baila which is today perceived as quintessentially Sri Lankan is believed to have originated from the Kaffir people.

Now the community is intermarried with the local Sinhalese and Tamil people and have almost all lost their traditional language which is remembered only by a few elders. They still preserve their musical culture in the form of song and dance known as “Manja”.

A rhythmic form of song and dance, using various instruments, and wearing colorful dress, this up beat music adds to the color and diversity of Sri Lanka.

Maintaining an oral history of their families and descendants, it is believed they originate from East Africa from the Great Lakes region.

A visit to their village entails a step into the past, in discovering the lives of these amazing people who have made Sri Lanka their home, and keep their rich traditions and culture alive. Classic Sri Lanka has gained special access to meet and work with this community to bring forth their unique culture to the world. Join Classic Sri Lanka to explore the vast diversity and colourful tapestry that is Sri Lanka.

Exploring the Ibbankatuwa Megalithic Burial Site

Exploring the Ibbankatuwa Megalithic Burial Site

There is also evidence to suggest that these bodies were buried with specific rituals, due to the many artefacts found in the premises. 

Artefacts that have been found in the premises range from clay pots, iron, copper, gold objects, beads, and necklaces. Intriguingly, some of the gemstones that have been found on the beads of the necklaces are not found naturally on the island, making it probable to speculate that the ancient people of Sri Lanka engaged in international trade with neighbouring countries. The current excavation site measures around 15 acres, making it one of the more remarkable discoveries in the country. Moreover, the site was only found in the 1980s, making it one of the more recent discoveries in the country that provide us with some insight into the prehistoric civilizations that thrived.

Traditional Dance Forms of Sri Lanka

Traditional Dance Forms of Sri Lanka

The Upcountry or the Kandyan dance form is the most well-known and performed at the annual Perehera in Kandy, as well as many other ceremonial functions in the country.

Below are some forms of up-country dancing.

Magul Bera

The blowing of the Conch Shell is the traditional invocation at the commencement of any significant, celebratory function, and the drums are an integral part of this ritual. It is an ancient Sinhala custom that presents ritual music when seeking the blessings of the Guardian Deities of the Land.

Puja Natuma

The female dancers carrying oil lamps are making an offering (puja) with their dancing skills to the Guardian Deities.


This is a traditional folk dance that uses a Raban which is a large round instrument that is similar to a drum. The hand Raban is a small one-foot diameter instrument that is similar to a tambourine and is played and wielded in a variety of forms of dance by male and female performers. This form of dance includes singing as well.

Mayura Natuma (Peacock Dance)

A dance performed by females. It depicts the graceful movements of the peacock – which according to the legend, is the bird that transports the God Skanda, the War God of Sri Lanka, and he is worshipped by Buddhist and Hindu alike.

Panatheru Natuma

The name of the dance is derived from the instrument used – the Panteru which is an instrument closer in resemblance to the tambourine. The rhythm is provided by the supporting drums, and the dance itself showcases Sinhalese Warriors on their way to battle. The instrument is manipulated with great skill and dexterity who create a series of acrobatic moves.

Kulu Netuma

This is the traditional harvest dance which is performed by girls in rural areas to celebrate the rich harvest. The dance portrays the sequences of reaping to winnowing of the grain. This is a buoyant dance that provides ample opportunities for displaying grace and agility and is danced to the accompaniment of light drum beats as well as the haunting strains of the flute.

Gini Sisila

The fire dance is a South Sri Lankan variant that showcases the power of charms and magic over the fire and the twenty-seven Demons which can trouble mankind. The absolute faith of the fire dancers protects them from the flames, and also includes the act of fire-eating.

Ves Natuma

This is the highest level of Kandyan Dance forms, and it is performed only by the highest-ranking dances. The costume can only be earned by the most senior and skilled dancers and it consists of sixty-four ornaments. Years of hard training is required to achieve the honour of donning this costume, and it is the highest honour a dancer can achieve.

Low-Country Dances

These are highly ritualistic dances that are mainly used to appease evil spirits, and are often called the “Devil Dance”. The use of devil masks is quite common and unique to this dance form. The masks depict many characters such as birds, demons, reptiles etc. There are 18 main dances related to the pahatharata style known as the Daha Ata Sanniya held to exorcise 18 types of diseases from the human body.

The “Devil Dances” are an attempt of treatment to the common belief that certain ailments are caused by unseen hands and that they should be exorcised away for the patient to get cured. If an individual or a family is not doing well or suffering from misfortune, the village folk believe that it’s because that person or the family is being harassed by unseen hands which in most cases is assumed to be a demon or devil. A ‘Thovil’ ceremony or exorcism is the answer to these problems.

The ‘Thovil’ can be a simple ritualistic ceremony performed at home and restricted to family and immediate neighbours or can involve the entire village like the ceremonies known as  ‘gam-maduva’ or the ‘devol-maduva’ which, is closely linked to the worship of gods and deities. The masked dancers take part in at least two of the most well-known ‘Thovil’ ceremonies referred to as the ‘Maha Sohon Samayama’ and the ‘Gara Yakuma’. The mention of ‘Maha Sohona’ frightens the people since he is believed to be the bear headed demon of the graveyards.

The performer disguises himself as a ferocious bear and wears a mask and a dress to resemble one. Often the ‘Thovil’ ceremony involves the ‘sanni’ dances where all the dancers wear masks. The ‘daha ata sanniya’ refers to eighteen ailments where a demon is responsible for each one of them.

The simple version of the devil dance ritual usually starts in the morning with the building of the stage for the performance along with the decorations and preparation of the costumes. The performers build an intricate stage before which the dancing commences. The stage area consists of a wall made of freshly cut natural materials such as coconut palms and banana tree trunks etc. Depending on the region and the available materials the stage may also be coated with clay mud. The dances are accompanied by a group of traditional drummers, which also herald the beginning of the ritual. The distinctive sound ensures all neighbours turn up to take part and witness the ceremony. The full-ritual usually lasts until the next morning. Dances can, however, also go on for multiple days.

Sabaragamuwa Dance Form

These dances are performed in the Ratnapura region which is known as Sabaragamuwa, and mainly relates to the worship of the deity Saman who is revered by the people of this region. There are 32 different dances in this style.

Discovering Traditional Drum Making in Rural Sri Lanka

Discovering Traditional Drum Making in Rural Sri Lanka

The entire village plays a role in the business of manufacturing these drums. To start work on the drums wood is cut, mainly from the Jack Fruit tree. Some other woods used are from Ehela (neem) and coconut trees. The artisans use the wood which, is most readily available at the time. The carving of the shape of the drum thereafter begins, where the raw logs are carved to the required shape of each of the drum types. After the cutters and carvers have done their job, the product goes to the finishers and shavers – who smoothen the other layer and scoop out the insides of the drum to form a hollow cavity after which the polishers will apply varnish to give the drum colour and protect the wood. Thereafter the goat and cattle skin is used for the drums itself, where the skins are cut into circles and tightly bound onto the drum. Afterwards, the grinder will grind up a black porous rock which is pasted only to the centre of the leather on each side of the drum.


Some of the most popular drums used are mentioned below.


This hill country drum is called the Geta Beraya (a drum with a knot) according to its shape. This is the main drum used to accompany dance sequences in all Kandyan rituals. The two faces of the drum are described as ‘left’ and ‘right’. The right side is covered with the hide of a monkey or monitor lizard and the left side is covered with cattle hide, which is used to provide a finer sound. Since the drum is usually played at open-air venues, the sound carries to quite a distance. This drum is turned out of wood from Ehela, Jak, Kohomba and Milla trees. Various parts of the drum have separate names and are played by tying around the waist.


This low-country drum is also called the Ruhunu Beraya, Yak Beraya or the Goshaka Beraya. It is used in the southern coastal areas known as the Pahatha Rata’. The Yak Beraya is the main drum used to accompany dance sequences in this region of Sri Lanka. This cylindrical drum is covered with the stomach lining of cattle and turned out of wood from Kitul, Coconut, Kohomba, Ehela and Milla trees. The drummer plays the instrument by hand whilst tied around the waist. Some players decorate the trunks of their drums with various motifs or fix stainless steel bars around the body.


The Thammattama consists of two separate pieces. It is called the Pokuru Beraya and is also referred to as the cluster of drums. This twinset of drums is of different sizes. As this is a twinset, it is termed `Ubhayatala’. The top side is covered with cattle hide, and the body is made out of wood from Milla, Kohomba, Jak and Ehela trees. The left side produces low pitched tones while the right produces high pitched tones. These drums are played with two special sticks fashioned out of Kirindi. The Thammattama is an essential instrument during religious services at Buddhist temples and shrines.

Exploring a Forgotten Kingdom

Exploring a Forgotten Kingdom

When thinking about an ancient Kingdom in Sri Lanka, many think of UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. But little do many visitors who visit this island know there exist a historic kingdom and its remnants lying in suburban Colombo. A visit to ColomboIMG_5108 usually involves a tour of the city, its colonial past and busy markets and streets. Yet around 30 minutes out of the city you will come across several ancient archaeological sites of one of Sri Lanka’s last kingdoms – the Kingdom of Kotte.

Kotte stood in the vicinity of our current suburban-capital of Colombo for over 2 centuries. During its height, the kingdom was one of the most powerful on the island. In the year 1419, Parkramabahu VI succeeded in subjugating the Jaffna Kingdom and ruled over a united Sri Lanka and he was the last native king to do so.

Withstanding internal conspiracies and breakaway fiefdoms, the Kotte Kingdom continued to be IMG_4972the island’s major power for over hundred years, but the arrival of the Portuguese invaders in 1505 soon led to the kingdom’s collapse. The once mighty and powerful city was looted by both the Portuguese and rival local kingdoms. The decline of the Kingdom was quite sudden, and it virtually disappeared into history.

Due to the kingdom being sacked and virtually erased from memory, Kotte does not hold an exalted place as a historic site compared to Anuradhapura or Polonnaruwa. But taking aside the complexities of historical judgment, searching for remnants of a lost Kingdom in a modern suburb makes for a great day out during your stay in Colombo.

But this tour would not be like walking among revered antiquities as in most cases you might find historical stupas with homeless people sleeping next to them or ancient ramparts with clotheslines running across from the homes right in between them with day to day life carrying on as normal in suburbia.

A visit to the Archeological Museum in Kotte though seldom visited will help to get an idea of where the sites are located.

The Alakesvara Palace Compound is thought to be where the remnants of the foundations of the Royal Palace of which sadly very little remains. But making your way through the wire fence and moving over stone blocks and clearing some long weeds you will see the remnants of a tank and you will feel like a real-life archaeologist exploring a lost kingdom.

Weherakada Ruins are an impressive structure which you will find after bouncing along maze-like lakes in Kotte which are two well-preserved stupas which overlook the lake Diyawanna Oya. With a height of 10 feet, they are made of Kabok stones. From the structure, it does not seem to be a temple but it is believed to be the mausoleum of King Parakramabahu IV.

The Kabok Tunnel has evidence of an ancient tunnel complex which are believed to run down towards several parts of Colombo. This complex was believed to have been built by a princess whose father was held as a prisoner by the Portuguese in Colombo.

Your ancient city tour can end with a visit to the Kotte Raja Maha Viharaya. Originally built by King Parakramabahu VI this quiet and shaded temple is home to some well-preserved 15th-century frescoes. The kings of Kotte along with the Portuguese are well depicted on these walls.

The story of this forgotten kingdom can be brought to life by your excellent host from Classic Sri Lanka, we will enthral and showcase a new and unique facet to your stay in Colombo. Two ancient stupas in a clearing overlooking a man-made reservoir. Hemi-spherical red kabook mounds that have weathered the elements for centuries – an out of the way clearing in Anuradhapura you might think, or perhaps somewhere in the plains beyond Kurunegala? Not quite. This is actually suburban Colombo.

The Veddah’s of Sri Lanka

The Veddah’s of Sri Lanka

The last of a disappearing race, they are a people who date back well beyond the arrival of the Kings from India in the 5th Century BC. They are the indigenous people of Sri Lanka. Archaeological and anthropological studies have revealed that they date as far back as the stone-age.Veddah with Bow & Arrow

Over the years the Veddahs began to conform to their colonizers, and adapt the customs and practices of the Sinhalese and the Tamil settlers such as subsistence farming.

The remaining Veddahs live in reservations in the jungles of Sri Lanka and still practice some of their traditional ways of life such as honey gathering and hunting which they are permitted to carry out.

Majority of the Veddahs live in the South Central jungles of Mahiyanganaya. Others are scattered in regions nearby such as Rathugala which is close to Gal Oya National Park. Some Veddahs live along the East Coast of Vakarai and have adopted most of the customs and language of the Tamil people in the area.

DSCF4912The Veddhas are a Paleo community and live off the hunting and gathering they carry out in the jungles and wilds they live in. One of their staple food is wild honey, which they collect by climbing trees where the beehives are, and using smoke from burning dried leaves to ward off the bees. The honey is used to preserve the meat they hunt. In the modern age, they also carry out basic subsistence farming to supplement their hunting, such as corn and millet.

The traditional tool for hunting is bow and arrow which is used with great skill and precision, along with the hand axe which every Veddah uses for protection against dangerous animals in the jungle such as the Sloth Bear who is well documented to attack and maul people walking in the forest.IMG_20200222_161455

Ancient song and dance is still practised today and passed on to their younger generations as oral traditions. They are people with a close connection to nature, and their ritualistic songs communicate with the elements. They have their own language, which is different from the widely-spoken Sinhalese, and it is passed down from generation to generation.

If you would like to visit these enigmatic people, a very special experience can be arranged in either Mahiyanganya, in the region of Dambana or at Rathugala in the region of Gal Oya, where both of these tribes welcome visitors to see their way of life. A walk in the jungle with the Veddahs will reveal the incredible harmony between man and nature, and the nature of these communities and experience firsthand their ways of life.

Unique experiences can also be arranged to venture deeper into the jungle with the trip in search of wild bees honey, or an exclusive private dinner with the Veddah-chief where you can converse with him on the history of his people, their ways of life and philosophy of life, and the challenges of preserving them in the modern world.

The real treasure of Sri Lanka is its people, and the Veddahs are part of a vibrant kaleidoscope of communities which make Sri Lanka an island like no other.

Angampora -An ancient martial art facing a revival

Angampora -An ancient martial art facing a revival

IMG_0984Sri Lanka is an ancient land which dates back even beyond the arrival of the first Sinhalese King Vijaya 3,500 years ago. The fighting arts of the island date well beyond this period and literally translates “fighting with the body”. The origin story of this ancient art has many versions and has never been documented but passed down from generation to generation, from master to pupil. However, some ancient chronicles do shed some light into this ancient practice.

The ancient Indian saga of the Ramayana gives an insight which leads us to believe that Angampora dates back beyond 5,000 years ago to the time of the mythical king of Lanka, Ravana.

Legend states that Ravana himself was a masterful practitioner of the deadly art and used it in the battle against Prince Rama. Another legend states that the art was perfected by the Yaksha or Yakkha tribe and used as self-defence to protect the island from foreign invaders.

Whatever the origins maybe the art is a holistic fighting form which incorporates, Hand to Hand Combat (Angam), Weapons (Ilangam) and Mysticism (Maya), all of these three elements combine to be referred to as Angam Satan Kala (Fighting art of Angam).

Besides the fighting forms, practitioners of this art also learn the arts of healing and natural medicine techniques, meditation techniques as well as astrology, making this more than a mere fighting art, but rather a way of life.

The art was widely used in the golden age of the Kings and helped to protect the island from foreign invaders. Famously Sri Lanka’s most loved ruler King Duttugemunu, had 10 great warriors by his side known as the “Dasa Maha Yodhaya’s” or 10 giants, they were believed to be masters of Angampora, and are akin to the knights of the round table in Arthurian legend.

Practice thrived during Sri Lanka’s medieval period when Bhuvanekabahu VI of Kotte’s successful campaign to conquer the Jaffna Kingdom included fighters who excelled in this art. Descendants of a heroine named Menike or Disapathiniya who lived around this time is credited with the art form’s survival in the ensuing centuries: dressed in male attire, she is said to have defeated the killer of her father in a fight inside a deep pit known as ura linda (pig’s pit), during a historic fight.

The practice of this art helped to combat the colonial powers to Sri Lanka, with many successful battles and skirmishes won against the Portuguese, Dutch and later British forces. One of the most famous battles was at Mulleriyawa, which is modern-day Colombo suburbs, wherein the mid-16th Century many Angam practitioners were able to defeat the Portuguese.

During the time of British colonial occupation, the practice was banned by a special announcement in 1817, and this art was relegated to mystery and legend. Any caught practising the art were shot on the knees so they can never do so again. Despite the cruel practices of the colonials, the art did not die but rather was practised in secret. With this ban, the fighting art was hidden in many forms of traditional dance. These dances hid many techniques such as footwork, striking forms within the dance itself.

With the onset of Independence from British Colonial Rule, these practitioners were once again able to hone and develop this ancient art form once again. But despite being free from Britain, the art was yet known only more by legend and still practised in small pockets of communities who kept this art alive, passing it on from generation to generation. Many Sri Lankans themselves do not truly know or have witnessed this art, which is taught to only a select few, and this too is practised with many traditions and only the truly worthy are allowed to learn this art form.

Currently, there are few schools which practice this art form in the island, steeped in tradition, the art is kept alive by these dedicated families of practitioners who helped to preserve these invaluable traditions which our island can truly be proud of.

Classic Sri Lanka, has the privilege of working with two of these ancient schools, one located in the outskirts of Colombo and the other in the remote region of the North Central Province, whereby we are proud to showcase the art and its rich history and traditions to our clientele.

A Legend of a Millennia – King Ravana

A Legend of a Millennia – King Ravana

Valmiki, the Indian Sanskrit poet wrote an epic legend called Ramayanaya around 5th Century BCE. The legendary storyline has two different cultural views on the great battle between Rama and Ravana.

According to Ramayanaya, Ravana is called as the Demon King of Lanka and said to have ruled the country over 5000 years ago. The Indian text depicts the king as a villain and tyrant who cruelly kidnaped Rama’s wife Sita as an act of vengeance from Rama and his brother Lakshman for cutting off his sister Surpanakha’s nose.

Although he’s shown as a vicious figure, Ravana is portrayed in Lankan myth as a Noble king, a devout follower of Lord Shiva, a mighty warrior and an intelligent scholar.

As the Hindu mythology reads, Ravana is a son of a sage. Lanka was an idyllic city built by celestial architect, Vishwakarma and was the home of Kuwera, the treasurer of Gods. Ravana was a great ruler who bloomed the country, and he has said to have ruled Lanka a several hundred years before the Ramayana took place.

Legend states that Ravana was a great scholar, a master of Ayurveda medicine and an Inventor. The story tells about a certain flying machine he possessed, called, Dadumonara – a golden peacock. Thotupola Mountain in Horton Place National Park was believed to be one of the landing places of this magical machine. Apart from that, he’s also mentioned in several Hindu literature as a ‘Ten-Headed person’, which is given said to mean his immeasurable intelligence.

However some folklore, historians and archaeologists believe that the legendary character of Ravana was in fact associated around a real king who once ruled Sri Lanka from 2554 to 2517 BCE.

The Mysterious Rumassala Mountain

The Rumassala Mountain, located in the Southern of Sri Lanka, is where unique rare herbs grow, none like anywhere else in the country. Legend says that a part of this mountain was allegedly brought to Sri Lanka by Hanuman-the monkey king from the Himalayan Mountain range, to treat the fatal injuries of Rama, during the great battle. The herbs were left there and the plants grew into the Lankan soil with time.

The Adam’s Bridge

A trail of limestone shoals between Rameswaram Island and off the south eastern coast of Tamil Nadu, India plays a huge role in the legend of Ramayanaya. This bridge is believed to be created by the Monkey king Hanuman to make a path for Rama and his army to enter Lanka. Investigations by the ‘Indian National Remote Sensing Agency’ has discovered that these shoals were man-made and was created over 5000 years ago.

Though this legend was never proved, there are many instances of sites and beliefs that stir up doubt. The location of Seetha Eliya next to the Seetha Amman Kovil is also a part of the legendary storyline. The famous stream here is said to be where Sita used to bathe while held captive.

In Hasalaka, there is a site called Seetha kotuwa, which is said to be the place where Seetha was held captive.

The Ravana Cave

This Cave has a series of secret passageways that lead to various places which are said to have provided quick transport through hills during the time. Studies regarding the cave shows various evidence of its man-made influence as well. Located in between Bandarawella and Ella, this tunnel may contain some truth regarding the legend after all.

Travel to Sri Lanka this holiday and unveil the Ravana mystery by yourself!            

Masks of the South- By Rajiv Welikala

Masks of the South- By Rajiv Welikala

Ambalangoda has always been the center for the manufacture of traditional masks in Sri Lanka. Used in a variety of dance forms from the devil dances, to the entertaining Kolam or comedy performances. Masks are used in varying degrees in Sri Lankan culture and an intricate part of the nation’s folk lore. We visited the Ariyapala and Sons mask museum to learn more about this traditional art.

The museum is well maintained and showcases a vast variety of unique masks from the fearsome Mahasohon (a name of a demon with a bears head) Mask fully dressed on a dummy to the bizarre Kolam masks with their misshapen faces. The carvings and final touches on these masks are truly intricate and only a skilled hand can create such amazing works of art. One of the most stunning pieces on display are the giant masks depicting the King and Queen. Not only does it take great skill to create such a masterpiece but only true dance masters could perform with such heavy props.

Up in the main showroom we were entertained to a puppet dance, all carried out manually by a skilled master puppeteer who manipulated the strings to the rhythm of the music. Down at the workshop one gets to see the transformation of a bare block of wood into the intricate complete work of art. These artisans are a last of their kind who struggle to maintain their traditions and skills in an era of modern technology.

We were humbled to have witnessed this dying art which showcases a side of Sri Lanka which needs to be preserved in order to maintain its identity as an art form for the world to see.

Words and Photos by Rajiv Welikala