Arts of Sri Lanka
Owing to its long, rich history,
Sri Lanka endows exquisite arts evolving through the course of
time which has refined its culture to be unique and precious
heritage of the nation. Sri Lanka. Its pivotal position on the
ancient Silk Route made Sri Lanka a crossroad of cultural and
trade exchange of the West and the East. India and China's record
ha proved the cultural, political and trade exuberance of this
In many ways Sri Lankan arts is
an inspiration of its long and lasting Buddhist tradition which in
turn absorbed and adopted countless regional and local tradition
for thousand of years, evolving to be a unique variant of Sri
Lankan arts. Unsurprising, most of Sri Lankan arts originated
religious beliefs, represented in many artistic forms such as
painting, sculpture, architecture, and so on.
Indian culture has also given
dominant and deep mark in Sri Lankan arts. Indian culture here
means the Indian Buddhist culture introduced along with Buddhism
into Sri Lanka in the 3rd century B.C and becoming the core of Sri
Lankan culture ever since. Nonetheless, Indian culture has not
restrained the formation of a distinctively Sri Lankan tradition
to express in its own ways. Sri Lankan artistic style varied from
kingdom to kingdom along its historic lines, each of which has
successively added some characteristic elements to Sri Lankan
arts, becoming the completely priceless inheritance we can see
of Sri Lanka
Concept of dancing in Sri Lanka
originated in fear of natural power which people regarded as the
supernatural building. Dance was then initiated in Sri Lanka
during the 4th century B.C for the purpose of expelling natural
disasters, sickness and so on. At the end of Polonnaruwa period
(15th century A.D.), South Indian influence came into Sri Lanka
and was adopted in Sri Lanka folk dancing. In the course of time,
a dancing form was developed and varied from each other according
to regional and local traditions. Nowadays, there are three
principal dancing forms that can be seen in Sri Lanka:
This form of dance has developed from the period of Kandyan kings
and today is regarded as the national dance of Sri Lanka. The
dance imitates movements of animals as there are dancing of
elephant and peacock, for example, and also depicts scenes of
Ramayana epic or stories of kings and heroes. The costumes of
Kandyan dancers are striking; male dancers wear a skirt-like
garment with their bare chests decorated with exquisitely silver
regalia and spectacular headgear; silver bangles are also worn on
the arms and ankles. The performance is companied with hectic
rhythms of drums called "gata beraya".
Low country dance:
Dances in low country is highly ritualistic. This form of dance is
performed to appease evil spirits which cause sickness. The
dancers wear masks depicting many characters varied in forms of
bird, demons, reptiles, etc.
The dances are usually performed in Ratnapura, relating to the
worshipping of God Saman much revered by local people.
of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has an extensive
variety of handicrafts which represent the richly craftsmanship
tradition tracing back as long as the nation's existence. Tourists
can find the excellent collection of Sri Lankan handicrafts in
shops and stores throughout the country.
Mask: Mask is a
facial decorative wear used in Sri Lankan dancing. In early times,
the masks were used in rituals, dramas, and curing sickness. It is
believed that mask provide curative power for physiological
problems. Most masks are made forma light wood called kaduru and
craved into various characters.
Pottery: Pottery is
one of the oldest crafts in Sri Lanka and is still a daily utensil
of a particular social group of 70% which retain using clay pot
and fans for cooking. In addition to pots, the more intricate
products likes terracotta figures, carved vases, etc are made as
well for souvenirs.
making is in fact the Indonesian art, but has developed in Sri
Lanka into its unique style. Tourists can find a wide variety of
batiks sold throughout the island. Some of the best and most
original are the batik pictures made in Kandy and Fresco Batiks on
the Peradeniya road outside Kandy.
Jewelry: Sri Lanka
produces excellent jewelry which considerably benefits its own
economy. There are two traditions of jewelry making: Galle tradition
and Kandyan tradition. The Galle tradition is
characterized by its precious stones while the Kandyan tradition
is featured by its intricate metal work, especially silver work.
of Sri Lanka
Architecture in Sri Lanka is
closely based on religious beliefs like most other forms of Sri
Lankan arts, and undoubtedly, Buddhism is one of the most
influential elements, making Sri Lankan architecture is unique.
Not only Buddhism, Hinduism is another important influence on Sri
Lankan architecture represented as the Hindu temples and shrines
of the Hindu Tamils. Since Sri Lanka has been occupied by three
generations of colonization, beginning with the Portuguese,
followed by the Dutch and finally the British, the architecture in
Sri Lanka has been developed and influenced by those three culture
though the course of time. The colonial legacy as seen in ancient
colonial buildings in the country even enhances the charm of Sri
Lanka. So to say that, Sri Lanka is a place where different
cultures have intertwined together, creating harmony and at the
same time the uniqueness of Sri Lanka.
One of the most dominant
characters of Buddhist architecture is the dagoba (stupa) dotting
everywhere on the Island. In a shape of dome, often painted in
white, the dagoba enshrines the Buddha's relics such as hair and
tooth; it is usually constructed with bricks which are covered
with plaster. This form of structure is firstly introduced into
Sri Lanka at the same period of Buddhism's introduction into the
island. The tradition of building the stupas to enshrine the
Buddha's relics originated during the reign of Emperor Asoka of
India who sent Buddhist missionary, Mahinda, his son to Sri Lanka;
it then spread out, there emerged numerous dagobas on the island.
The early simple shape of the dagoba developed to six significant
shapes that can be seen nowadays: bubble shape, bell shape, pot
shape, the heap of paddy shape, and amalaka shape.
The vatadage is also predominant architectural heritage of
Buddhism in Sri Lanka; it is a circular relic house enclosing a
small dagoba with wooden roof and Buddha images on the four
cardinal directions. Traces of this structure can be seen in
Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa today, but the wooden parts
disappeared long ago.
Hindu temples are called kovils
in Sri Lanka; most of them are dedicated to God Shiva. Hindu
temple basically consists of a prayer hall and shrine room. The
central edifice of the Hindu temple is sikhara, usually in dome or
pyramid shape which is elaborately decorated with sculptures and
brightly colored. In the temple's grounds, there is space for
worshippers to take a ritual walk clockwise around the prayer hall
and the shrine room.
Sri Lanka's architectural styles
were obviously influenced by the European architecture during the
alternative occupations of the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the
British. The legacy form the Portuguese is the tiled-roof building
with its verandah, the Catholic churches as well as the forts.
Under the Dutch rule, the Portuguese forts were changed into Dutch
style; the historic fort in Galle is excellent one of the Dutch
legacy. The British followed the tradition by changing also the
Dutch forts into their clerical and secular architectural styles.
The building in the hill stations such as Nuwara Eliya is one of
the dominant British legacies.
and painting of Sri Lanka
It is Buddhism again which
profoundly rooted in arts of sculpting and painting in Sri Lanka.
For sculpture, most of works are dominated by the Buddha images.
In early times, the statues of Buddha were often carved from the
living rock of limestone cliffs. Over the centuries, other kind of
materials have also been adopted for sculpting the statutes of
Buddha such as jade, rock, crystal, marble, emerald, ivory, coral,
wood, and metal. The Buddha is represented in three main poses:
standing, meditating, and reclining. The ornamental sculptures on
the staircases of Buddhist shrines and palaces reveal exquisite
skill of Sri Lankan sculptors and also symbolize religious belief
among the Sinhalese Buddhists.
Similar to sculptures, Sri Lankan
painting closely attaches to Buddhist belief. Themes in Sri Lankan
painting are all related to Buddha: Buddha's life and tales of
former lives of the Buddha, for example. The excellent painting
works can be seen on walls in several Buddhist monasteries and
shrines. There are two different styles of painting in Sri Lanka: classical
style and Kandyan style. The Classical style is
vigorous, complex and expressive whereas the Kandyan style holds
it simplicity and continuity of expression.