The Legends and Rituals of Sri Lanka’s Masked Dances

The Legends and Rituals of Sri Lanka’s Masked Dances

15th Oct 2020

The popular Kandyan dances have brought Sri Lankan traditions to a wider international audience, and revealed the many more mythological legends in this ‘land of a thousand dances’. With the starting point of Galle’s historic mask-carving hub, Ambalangoda, a dramatic voyage linking to exorcism and local demons unravels.

The many varieties of Sri Lankan dance each have their own cultural resonance, and contemporary meaning; ves dance, the most popular of Kandyan dances, with its regal headgear and elaborate traditional costumes, evolved from an ancient purification ritual. Pantheru, on the other hand, are dance rites celebrating triumph in the battlefield. But down in the Sri Lankan low country, things often get far more sinister. Along with traditional comic folk plays like Kolam dances, come Sanni Yakuma, healing liturgies used to liberate people from their sickness — physical or psychological — caused by unscrupulous, hideous demons.

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