Sri Lanka; small but when it comes to culture, we are truly unmatched. Different parts of this island nation has mastered different types of arts for the last thousand years or so, and the Southern part of the island has many arts and history contained. For example the Southern dance style, the Southern musical instruments, even the way they fish is an art that no other part in the island follows. Travelling south from Colombo you will find the city of Ambalangoda- the city of masks. Here in this video you will find a very special stories behind these masks revealed.

 The history of Sri Lankan masks actually dates as far back as the 15th century, with strong links to devil-worship. For anyone interested in the art of Sri Lankan mask carving and mask dances, a trip to Ambalangoda is a must. There you will find the Mask Museum: a museum, workshop and library dedicated to everything mask related.

 Mask of Sri Lanka suggest dramatic and varying meanings to the visual image, hopes and imagination arising from the beliefs and fears of the rural folk. These are consider to be part of religion, ritual dramas and folk theatre with ritual overtones. 
The Sri Lankan masks or “Ves Muhunu” meaning “character face” is used in three (3) distinct situations: Ritual masks in God and Demon rituals, theatre mask enhance the theatrical, visual and the symbolical effect of the character and carnival, festive or ceremonial masks. Mask such as the “Gara” are used in all three contexts. Behind the carving of many masks is a traditional tale, an age old belief structure. 

In Sri Lanka, we mainly use masks for mask dances, while hanging masks in the household to cast off the evil eye is also popular. There are three types of mask dances: Raksha (Demon), Kolam (Folktale) and Sanni (Devil Dance). Lay people use the Kolam masks for storytelling dances while the Raksha masks are used to ward off evil or as an aid in festivals. The Sanni masks are mainly used in healing ceremonies and worn by an edura (a sort of Sri Lankan artist/exorcist). Apparently, there are eighteen different Sanni masks, each specializing in curing specific illnesses.

While the production of handcrafted masks using traditional methods and the performing of devil dances to cure ailments have both greatly diminished in recent years, the making of synthetic masks and the enactment of devil dances for outsiders is still popular in the southern coastal region. Besides, surely it’s reassuring to know that whether you’re seeking protection from snakes or fire, or suffering from nightmares, nausea, epilepsy or blindness, there’s always a Sri Lankan mask cure for all your problems.

Masks used in Rituals 

In an Island famous for worshiping demons believed to be living in trees and mountains, devil masks are in popular usage for ungodly practices. Masks used in different dramatic rituals in Sri Lanka can be classified as mythological, animal-spirit, demonic and human figures. Oldest of them are animal and demonic. The significance and designs of mythological masks are associated with iconography of the folk religions of the historical period. On the other hand, the significance and design of the human masks have been evolved in recent time.

The authentic masks and masking traditions of Sri Lanka are extraordinary cultural phenomenon. There's a significant contribution Sri Lanka has made to the Asian cultural spectrum. It is indeed a puzzle as to how the Sri Lankan masks have a short history in an ancient civilization that has to date traces of hunter-gatherer type of society. The present-day Veddas, who are considered to be the primeval ancestors of the Sinhalas, have preserved various ritual ceremonies and ritual practices involving facial, mime and body painting. Some of these practices are directly connected with ancestor worship as evidence from the na-Yaku cult. These attempts at invoking the supernatural, are evident in other part of the world were hunter •gatherer societies still exists. 

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