Ambalangoda is a coastal town located in Galle DistrictSouthern Province of Sri Lanka. Amabalangoda is the town is renowned for the manufacture of wooden masks and puppets and is famous for its ancient devil masks and devil dancers. It is approximately 107 kilometres (66 mi) south of Colombo

The traditional arts of mask making and puppetry cling to their last refuge in Ambalangoda in the South.

‘Raksha’ and ‘Sanni’. The origins of Raksha and Sanni masks run far into history. Rakshas are exotic demons, with bulging eyes and bloodthirsty, protruding tongues. Some are crowned with seven-headed serpents and others have parrot-like beaks of ‘gurulas’ (a race of mythical birds). All have been carved and brilliantly lacquered to produce a striking effect, with something majestic about them despite their demonic nature. These Raksha masks are used in festivals and ceremonies.

Ambalangoda masks are carved out of the light, Balsa-like Kaduru wood. Before the carving begins, the wood is smoke-dried for a week. Then work begins with chisel and mallet. Both in carving and painting, the artisan obeys ancient scriptures, which give stringent guidelines.

Puppetry, or rukada, was not born in Ambalangoda, but it was in this town the craft reached its supreme height in Sri Lanka. Podi Sirina Gurunnanse was a legendary puppeteer of Ambalangoda. It was Gurunnanse who produced the Ehelepola play, based on the tragic story of the aristocratic family. At the peak of his career, he performed before the Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Victoria’s son, when he visited Ceylon in the late 19th century. A cast of 47 puppets was used in the performance, and the royal duke gave Gurunnanse a gold medal and a cash prize of five hundred rupees. 


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