Traditional arts and crafts of Sri Lanka - Traditional Drum Making of Sri Lanka - Traditional Mask Making of Sri Lanka

Traditional arts and crafts of Sri Lanka

The traditional arts and crafts of Sri Lanka plays a inherit part of Sri Lanka’s ancient cultural heritage. There are dancers, drummers, musicians, artists and traditional craftsman who all continues to contribute significantly to Sri Lanka’s vibrant culture. If we lay our eyes on traditional arts and crafts of Sri Lanka there are traditional drum makers, mask makers and traditional brass and metal ware makers who continue to carry on their centuries old craftsmanship and knowledge from one generation to another.

1. Traditional Drum Making

December 28, 2022 | by Krishan

The first thing that comes under traditional arts and craft of Sri Lanka is the Drum Making.Sri Lanka has a widespread development of music and dance that has been greatly influenced and sustained by the production of high quality musical instruments by the gifted crafts people. There are special communities who have specialized their traditional craftsmanship in drum making in Sri Lanka and they are based in some specific parts around the country.

The drums were and still are regarded as the key element of Sri Lankan music. Numerous types of drums have been utilized for a range of functions, including ceremonial and everyday uses. Drums also played a unique role on the battlefield. Religious events commonly included the use of drums; it was believed that the sound of the drums brought good fortune and a sense of seriousness. Additionally, different varieties of drums have been and still are connected to various dance traditions.


While in Traditional Drum Making the entire village plays a role in business of manufacturing these drums. The process of traditional drum making has a few steps. The wood that is chosen to make the drum comes as the first thing the main wood that is chosen to make drums are the Jack fruit or Artocarpus Integrifolia. Other than that Ehela(Neem) tree the kitul or Caryota Urens, the mara or Albizzia Moluccana, the coconut or Coco Nucifera and, occasionally, the suriya or Thespesia Populnea. These varieties of wood are not difficult to obtain. The crafting of most types of drums follows a fairly similar process and uses common techniques. To start with the drum the wood is cut. The process of shaping the drum then starts, with the raw logs being cut into the specific shapes needed for each type of drum. After the cutters and carvers have finished their work, the product is given to the finishers and shavers, who smooth the other layer and hollow out the interior of the drum to create a cavity. The polishers will then add varnish to the drum to give it color and protect the wood.


The drums themselves are then made out of the goat and cattle skin, which is chopped into circles and securely fastened to the drum. A black porous pebble that is solely adhered to the leather's center on each side of the drum will then be ground up by the grinder. There are several types of drums that are produced from the hands of the traditional drum makers of Sri Lanka. The following are the mostly used drum types that are made by the hands of traditional drum makers of Sri Lanka.

  • Davula – belongs to Sabaragamuwa province of Sri Lanka
  • Tammattamma – this plays a major role in Buddhist functions combined with the trumpet or Horanava
  • Geta Beraya or Magul Beraya – This is a typical Kandyan drum
  • Ruhunu Beraya or Yak Beraya – This drum is mostly used in southern coastal area and is used in exorcism rituals.
  • Udekki – This is an hour glass shaped drum used by the dancers participate in annual Kandy Perahera
  • Bummadiya – This is a drum that resembles to a south Indian drum that is made out of clay and iguana skin
  • Rabana – it is a small tambourine type drum used by dancing performers in villages
  • Maddala Drum – this drum has south Indian origins and mainly used to play the rhythms in folk theaters known as Nadagam.
  • Tavil Drum – Tavail or Thavil is a barrel shaped percussion instrument which has origins in Tamil Nadu this is mainly used in Hindu Temples, Folk theaters and Carnatic Music.
  • Dandu Beraya - The Dandu Beraya is a simple drum, carved from a bamboo trunk. The drummer utilizes two sticks made out of Atteriya to play the instrument.


2. Traditional Mask Making

December 02 , 2022 | by Krishan

The second thing that’s comes under the traditional arts and crafts of Sri Lanka is the Mask making. The heritage of masks in Sri Lanka is a distinctive one and masks are often used as a way of entertainment. Traditional masks are often used in healing rituals and religious ceremonies. In traditional mask making there are three types of masks made by local craftsmen they are the Raksha masks that are worn in street processions, Sanni masks used in devil dancing and the Kolam masks that are worn in village folk drama festivals. In present day Sri Lanka masks are used by villagers for thovil and devil dance ceremonies. Other than that these masks are widely used to perform religious items at Peraheras. Masks are categorized as Gods,Humans,Raksha,Yaksha,Animals and composite masks.

Although Sri Lanka has been colonized by Dutch, Portuguese and British these traditional mask culture has been there without wiping out. When it comes to traditional mask making Ambalangoda is the most famous town for it. The technique of mask making is passed down from one generation to another to preserve this amazing craft skill. Historians says that mask making in Sri Lanka dates back to the twelfth and thirteen century according to the early literature forms in Sri Lanka.


When producing any mask, first, the sticky fluid from the felt tree trunks is drained and the trunks are dried out in the hot sun. After that, it is measured and cut into the necessary number of pieces for the different masks. Then, using chisels and a mallet, the carver gives the piece of trunk the basic shape of the mask. In old manuscripts, these carving measurements are provided. To let the smoke to season the wood, the mask is then left on a hearth stall (Dum Messa) for six or seven days. This is a crucial step and a still-used traditional technique for protecting masks from insect attack. The mask is then removed from the smoking section, and using various chisels and a mallet, the face is gradually sculpted to create the desired expression.


Motadelia leaves and the breadfruit tree's Delsavaran are used to smooth out a mask before it is painted. Each mask's surface is initially painted with bright yellow, which is the dominant color. From this point on, colors are applied in accordance with old writings created by our ancestors. To ensure the longevity of colors, "Dorana oil" is added to color mixtures. Each mask has its own distinct colors that show its distinguishing qualities.


Because each mask has a distinct function that connects to a folktale, the expressions on them vary from one to another. Masks frequently have hidden expressions. In order to represent such specific expressions, the carver must mentally adopt the role of the mask. Because of this, carving masks requires more than just chisels and mallets. It ought to have a strong traditional and philosophical foundation.


3. Traditional Brass and Metal ware making of Sri Lanka

December 02, 2022 | by Krishan

The next thing that’s comes under the traditional arts and crafts of Sri Lanka is Brass and Metal wear making. This is also a traditional way of living by creating high quality brass and metal wear for people. These people who make the metal ware and brass ware are called Lokuru or Achari in Sinhala in English they are called as Blacksmith.

Iron smelting and steel tempering were reportedly activities in ancient times in several villages close to Balangoda, in the southern provinces, and at Kandy, which is located in the country's center. Although there was a small amount of material processed, the product's quality was what was deemed excellent. It is thought that steel produced in Sri Lanka at one point was sent to Damascus where swords were made because it was of such high quality. The use of metal goods in the twelfth century has been proven by archaeological discoveries at Polonnaruwa, in the east-central region. Some of the artifacts discovered at the site include surgical implements made of steel and copper, including scissors, scalpels, pincers, and needles.


The traditional craftsmen who does brass and metal wear are scattered most parts of the country. These areas are Batticaloa District, Colombo District, Galle District, Kandy and Matale Districts,Gampaha District and Hambantota District.other than that there are brass and metal ware workers in Jaffna,Mannar, Puttlam and Polonnaruwa districts.


These traditional brass and metal ware workers use Brass, Bronz, Copper and Niello to crate their items. These items are mostly consists of Knives, Arecanut slicers, Betel pounders, locks and Bolts, Door hinges, Lamps of small and big sizes apart from these they also create motifs of birds and animals such as Eth kanda lihiniya,Hansa,Kukul Pahana, Sinha or Simha, Naga and Fox. As such the traditional arts and crafts men of Sri Lanka has contributed a lot to bring foreign currency to Sri Lanka by wowing the tourists who visit to Sri Lanka.


4. Handlooms of Sri Lanka

December 28, 2022 | by Krishan

Up next in traditional arts and crafts of Sri Lanka is the Handloom. In Sri Lanka, handloom textiles are manufactured in a modest sector that provides employment for rural women. Household textiles including bed sheets and towels, materials for furniture upholstery, curtains, cushion covers, saris, and sarongs are all manufactured using handlooms. These days, writing pads, books, journals, and albums are all covered with this hand-made textile material. Both locals and visitors have taken a liking to the hand-woven silk and cotton fabrics with their vivid hues. The merging of traditional patterns with contemporary trends in contemporary materials weaved in innovative processing methods has allowed Sri Lankan handlooms of export quality to compete on the global market.

5. Beeralu Lace weaving of Sri Lanka

December 28, 2022 | by Krishan

Next in line in traditional arts and crafts in Sri Lanka is Beeralu lace weaving.In Sri Lanka, creating lace is not a traditional craft. Since the Portuguese first brought lace-making to Sri Lanka in the 16th century, it has grown into a reputable home industry, primarily along the country's southwestern coast. Observing how the hands skillfully manipulate the instruments to produce elaborate designs is in fact extremely intriguing. These lace-making techniques, which are virtually entirely practiced by women, are used as trimmings on dresses, curtains, tablecloths, clothing, and covers for pillows, cushions, and chairs.

6. Lacquer work (Laksha) of Sri Lanka

December 28, 2022 | by Krishan

The next popular traditional arts and craft in Sri Lanka is the Lacqure work.The Kandyan provinces of Sri Lanka are known for their lacquer work. A wax imported from India that is generated from a kind of insects serves as the foundation for traditional lacquer ware. While some people still utilize traditional methods, others prefer to use new equipment and techniques that have become available over time for creating these intricate and beautiful designs. On the entire island, lacquer work can be seen on walking sticks, flag and hand fan handles, bowls, vases, containers, and decorative items.

7. Pottery work of Sri Lanka

December 28, 2022 | by Krishan

Pottery is One of Sri Lanka's oldest traditional arts and craft. Sri Lankan pottery has existed ever since the Aryan Sinhalese culture of Sri Lanka first emerged. The potter in Sri Lanka creates pottery by turning a small wheel and hand-shaping a lump of clay, which is then baked in a traditional brick kiln to solidify it. The majority of the articles are simple, undecorated cutlery. Wet clay is currently being dyed in designs and glassed as a result of the rising demand for decorative pottery. The little village of Molagoda, which is located along the Colombo-Kandy road, is one of the most well-known locations for clay pottery.

8. Wood Craving of Sri Lanka

December 28, 2022 | by Krishan

Wood carving is another traditional arts & craft in Sri Lanka that has been practiced for many years. At the Embekke Devale in Kandy and the Lankatilaka Temple, Sri Lanka's woodcarving tradition is on display. In Sri Lanka, it is common to see three-dimensional sculptures of Buddha and ebony elephants. There are several collections of wood-carved goods sold in Sri Lanka, including toys, lacquer goods, decorations and jewelry, figures, and sculptures. Both locals and visitors from other countries like purchasing carved wooden furniture and household items. Visit any wood store in Moratuwa to buy or even get your own personalized wood carving or set of furniture.

9. Batik works of Sri Lanka

December 28, 2022 | by Krishan

Batik works are another traditional arts and craft in Sri Lanka, With its roots tracing back to Indonesia, the creation of Batiks have earned a title role in the definition of Sri Lankan handicrafts. Its intriguing designs and combinations of hues offer an in-depth look into the picturesque landscapes, flora and Kandyan era designs from which most design inspirations are sparked. Each stage of the production process of the Sri Lankan Batik is done by hand and it is fabricated entirely on pure cotton or silk fabric. Mostly used in sheets, paintings, wall hangings and decorative items, Batiks have also taken over the fashion industry, resulting in various looks with Batik fabrics.

10. Mat weaving in Sri Lanka

December 28, 2022 | by Krishan

Another time tested arts and craft in Sri Lanka is mat weaving .In Sri Lanka, rural women had long performed mat weaving at home while their husbands were abroad working in paddy fields or chena cultivation. Mat weaving is now a well-known cottage industry with established retail locations all over Sri Lanka. Hana, a hemp plant that grows wild in Sri Lanka's marshlands, produces a fiber similar to jute that is treated, colored, and woven into patterns.To meet modern demands, Sri Lanka's modern mat weavers have made advances in the production of pillow covers, handbags, shopping bags, letter holders, fans, screens, etc. The Kandy district's Dumbara valley has long been renowned for producing mats with distinctive designs and colour schemes.

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