Puppetry (Rukada) art of Sri Lanka - Rukada art of Sri Lanka - Ambalangoda Rukada - Ambalangoda puppetry - Puppetry art of Sri Lanka

Puppetry (Rukada) art of Sri Lanka

It is impossible to say where or when puppetry first appeared. However, we can speculate that it might have begun with the rise of civilization. There are many languages that refer to puppetry. For instance, it is referred to as a "muppet" in American English, a "puppet" in Latin, a "pupee" in French, a "poppen" in Dutch, and a "puppet" in French. However, its straightforward meaning is "doll." These puppets were once employed by mankind to hunt animals. These were employed to frighten larger animals away from them. In Sri Lanka it is called as Rukada.

Puppetry (Rukada) art is a type of drama performed using puppets with strings. The Rukada or puppetry art is most famous in Ambalangoda, Balapitiya and Mirissa coastal towns in down south Sri Lanka.This puppetry art has been around in Sri Lanka from around 1830’s. The Puppetry art of Sri Lanka is also a traditional art that belongs to group of families and the art is passed from one generation to another. “Surathan Baalaya” and “Podineris Gurunanase” have been identified as the first Puppetries in Sri Lanka. The Puppetry (Rukada) art of Sri Lanka has been recognized as an intangible heritage object by UNESCO.When we look at the Puppetry art in worldwide wa can see there are several kind of puppets used such as “string puppets”, “rod puppets”, “glove puppets”, “shadow puppets”, “mask puppets”, “finger puppets”, “black theatre puppets”, “micro puppets”, “two dimension puppets”, “mammoth puppets” and “electronic puppets”. Among these, string puppetry is popular in Sri Lanka.

Most of the Puppetry drama is based on folklore, Buddhist stories, and ancient literature and about historical events. In this Puppetry art the artists make their own wooden puppets and prepare handwritten scripts and dialogues and songs. These dialogues are recite while manipulating the puppets and small band supplies the music according to the scene in the background. Through the medium of puppet drama, worldviews and core values essential for peaceful communal co-existence come alive for young people to easily comprehend; the practice is therefore an effective way of conveying messages crucial for maintaining cohesiveness among community members. It also allows community members to laugh and have fun together, helping them socialize. Museums play a key role in contributing to the dissemination of related knowledge, as does the traditional practice of holding performances during festive times in May and June at temple premises, traditional community centers in Sri Lankan culture.


The Kaduru or Ruk Atththana wood are used in making puppets in Sri Lanka. The method that is used to create puppets are the traditional wood carving and standard measurements are used in creating them. Generally a Sri Lankan puppet has a height of a 10 years old child and weighs less than a newborn baby. When coloring the images made of wood, colors suitable for each character are used. Sri Lankans are using human hair, natural colors, and Kaduru wood to create the structure of the puppets. The puppets’ outfits are a unique feature of Sri Lankan puppetry because they are entirely handmade. A raised stage is used to perform the puppet show and it has three parts so that the parts on both sides take an angular shape.



If you like to explore the Puppetry (Rukada) art in Sri Lanka you can visit the Puppet Art Museum in Dehiwala City or you can visit the Ambalangoda city to visit “Puppeteers of Lanka.



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