The handicrafts of Sri Lanka



                               The handicrafts of Sri Lanka
                              ...
The handicrafts of Sri Lanka


National Museum.
  "The best of the higher craftsmen (gold and silversmiths, painters and i...
The handicrafts of Sri Lanka


hinges, window-bolts, door-handles which are of attractive designs and shapes displaying
ex...
The handicrafts of Sri Lanka


  In the light of the observations made in this article, it is correct to conclude that Sri...
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The Handicrafts Of Sri Lanka By Yapa Wijeratne

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An essay on the handicrafts of Sri Lanka today which include the adaptations of the traditional and contemporary, ranging from gold, silver, bronze to wood, rush, weed and bamboo.

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The Handicrafts Of Sri Lanka By Yapa Wijeratne

  1. 1. The handicrafts of Sri Lanka The handicrafts of Sri Lanka -Yapa Wijeratne The handicrafts of Sri Lanka today include the adaptations of the traditional and contemporary, ranging from gold, silver, bronze to wood, rush, weed and bamboo. The people of Sri Lanka have inherited a great culture and a civilization. Archaeological evidence exists to prove that Sri Lanka has been populated for over 3,000 years. There is also confirmed archaeological evidence to say that in about 800 BC, the Sinhalese had settled down in the citadel area in Anuradhapura with a highly developed culture. Buddhism has not only moulded the lives and thoughts of the people but also has served as the chief source of inspiration to the cultural and social achievements of the nation. During this long and eventful history, the island was subject to numerous foreign invasions, especially by the Pallavas, Cholus and Pandyans from South India; and from about the sixteenth century onwards by three European nations, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British. All these factors have their impact on the life and thought of our people. Today, Sri Lanka is composed of four major ethnic groups (namely the Sinhalese, the Tamils, the Muslims and those of Dutch descent) as well as adherents of four great religions; Buddhism, Hinduism, Mohammedanism and Christianity. The National Museums in Sri Lanka provide a common meeting point of these diverse ethnic groups, and a favourable environment for the inte-gration of the different sections of the community. The handicrafts of Sri Lanka today include the adaptations of the traditional and contemporary. At one end, the crafts are a handed-down tradition; at the other, are contemporary works reflecting individual modes. Sri Lankan crafts compromise a range items from gold, silver, bronze to wood, rush, weed and bamboo, from collectors' pieces and giftware t6 handicrafted items of simple utility and use. After foreign domination when the Sinhala Kings ruled Sri Lanka, craftsmen at the completion of a large underfaking were rewarded usually with rice, cloth, cattle, gold, silver and land, These artificers were recognised and favoured by the Kings. When Gangarama Vihare was built by King Kirthi Sri Raja Sinha, he is said to have gifted an entire costume of royal dresses to the craftsmen who were engaged as a token of his favour. The foreman in charge of the construction of the Audience Hall at Kandy was Devendra Mulacariya and the most famous painter of the late eighteenth century was Devaragampola Silvatenne Unanse of Acari who painted the murals of Degaldoruwa, Ridi Vihare etc. during the reign of King Kirthi Sri Raja Sinha. It has been pointed out that some of these craftsmen were South Indians. This could be so, especially during the period of the Nayakkar administration of the Kandyan Court when South Indian Tamil artificers worked for the Kings. There are many good examples of decorative art of the Kandy period preserved in our Yapa Wijeratne
  2. 2. The handicrafts of Sri Lanka National Museum. "The best of the higher craftsmen (gold and silversmiths, painters and ivory carvers) working immediately for the King found a close, largely hereditary corporation of craftsmen called the Pattal-hatara (four work-shops); these men worked only for the King unless by his express permission (though, ofcourse, their sons or pupils might do otherwise); they were liable to be continually engaged in Kandy, while the Kottal-badda men were divided into relays, serving by tums in Kandy, for periods of two months. The Kottal-badda men in each distnct were under a Foreman. (Mulacariya) belonging to the Pattal-hatara. Four other Foremen, one from each Pattala, were in constance attendance at the palace." (according to Ananda Coomaraswamy) Wood carvings There are numerous delicate carvings on wood, such as pillar capitals Pekada door-ways and doors, wooden door-bolts (agul), carved plank beds and carved and pierced bedheads, sweetmeat moulds, circular and rectangular jewellery boxes kitchen utensils such as spoon racks. (Bandi-ana), wooden spoons, water dippers or kenessi, and gameboards or Olinda- Poru.Other wooden objects such as the plough (Nagula), the Poruva (scraper), the laha or Kuruniya measures and also the wooden clappers "(so-kade) hung from the necks of buffaloes are some of the other wooden objects available. Ivory Ivory of Sri Lanka is greatly prized because of their destiny of texture and delicacy of tint. The ivory carvings consist of Buddha statuettes, reliquaries, fan-handles, combs, doorplaques, doorjambs and flutes. The Buddha statuettes take the typical form of this period Buddha statues, with a rigid profile, folds of the civara depicted by closely-set wary, longitudinal folds, high flame like "siraspata", and the right hand raised in Abhaya-mudra. The Fan-handles (Vatapat) used by the Buddhist High (Nayaka) priests to denote their ecceciastial rank of high quality. The ivory combs (Panava) which are usually carved on both sides and perforated are of usual interest. They consist of a rectangular or squarish frame (Pana-katuwa) bearing teeth on its upper and lower margins. The frame has usually, a border of kundirakkan (geometrical designs) decoration fringed by a row of Arimbuwa (small circles). It is the central part of the frame that is most decorative. The Kandy period has also provided many examples of decorative work, using iron, brass, copper, bronze, gold and silver. The usual objects provided by ordinary smiths are mostly agricultural implements such as uclalu (mammoties), keti (bill-hooks), Dekati (sickles) and Pihiya (knives). The ornate Kandyan knives usually have carved handles of ivory, horn or even of crystal and inlaid with brass, silver or gold. The blade also shows inlay work of brass or silver, beautifully ornamented with traditional patterns. The Killota or lime-boxes which may be of copper, brass or of silver also show fine workmanship especially around the hinges and also along the periphery of the lids. Palanquin fittings are of damascend iron. There are many examples of iron and brass locks and key plates, Yapa Wijeratne
  3. 3. The handicrafts of Sri Lanka hinges, window-bolts, door-handles which are of attractive designs and shapes displaying exquisite workmanship. Some of these show also damascene work. Many of the brass tobacco boxes and brass trays show much ornamentation including figures of animals such as lions, inter-locked geese etc. and elaborate floral designs. There are a number of trays which depict the Kandy Perahera with the "Maligawa" tusker carrying. the Sacred Tooth Relic on its back. Typical Sinhalese items of brassware are the Bulattattuwa (Betel tray) and Serak-kalaya (a low stand for plate or leaf of rice). Another craft at which the Kandyan craftsmen excelled was lacquer-work. This included wood turning and ornamentation and in Matale the ornamentation is carried out by employing chiefly the thumb nail Niyapoten-vada. The colours used are red, yellow, green and black and the usual decoration consists of bands of different sizes which have been tastefully used to produce work of elegance and beauty. Lace work has been used to decorate a variety of objects such as bed legs, window bars, betel stands, jewellery-boxes, powder horns, flutes, palm-leaf covers, spear handles, walking sticks etc. The Kandyan architectural earthernware consists mainly of tiles of various shapes and sizes. The oldest tiles are flat and oblong. The other flat tiles are pointed at the lower end and these with squares are arranged on patterns or in alternate rows giving great variety. These flat tiles are usually most ornamented with very simple parallel incised lines. The Kandyan caves tiles are the most decorative, usually taking the form of bo-leaves with the line of geese figures embossed on both surfaces. The eastern finials on-Ambalamas, Devales and Vihara roofs are also striking. There are also several other items of pottery such as the Kalagediya the Bummadiya etc. which are also printed with floral motifs. Frescoes and paintings Although one cannot doubt that the ancient Sinhalese excelled in paintings as they so convincingly did in sculpture and architecture the earliest discovered paintings in Sri Lanka are frescoes which adorn the pockets of the rock fortress at Sigiriya, executed during the reign of King Kasappa 1 (477 - 495 AD). Much of the eighteenth century paintings are available in a few vihares such as Delgaldoruva, Lankatilleke, Danagirigala, Dodantale, Ganegoda, Ridi Vihare, Kelaniya etc. where their walls are covered with mostly Jataka paintings in a continuous narration, set in panels, each with an explanation. Another feature that characterises these murals is the frequent repetition ol the chief character or characters ir different situations as the story is narrated in this fashion. Kandyan paintings show the use of two colours, yellow and red and much line work to produce an overall decorative effect Apart from the Jataka stories some of the other subjects dealt with in these Vihara paintings are the - Sat-satiya, Suvisi- vivarana - Arahats, Deities. Kings and other patrons. The ceilings of most Viharas are colourful and elaborately painted with geometric patterns and floral motifs. Interesting combinations of animal or human figures such as the Hunsa puttuwa (interlocked geese), Hansacakra (Swan wheel), Panchanarighata (five-women-vase), Navanarikunjara (nine-women-elephant) etc. are also evident especially on the ceiling. Yapa Wijeratne
  4. 4. The handicrafts of Sri Lanka In the light of the observations made in this article, it is correct to conclude that Sri Lanka is a happy meeting point of the East and the West. The greatest impact has come from India, more so by Sri Lanka's close geographic proximity to the sub-continent. Broadly, the ancient Sinhalese sculpture, painting and architecture are a part of the great art of India, the basic conceptions and techniques being very similar. Although some are prone to consider the art of the ancient Sinhalese as a provincial manifestation of the great traditions of India yet a certain individuality which characterises our art is discernible. Simplicity which characterises our art is discernible. Simplicity, clarity and overall restraint in composition are the keynotes of our ancient art and architecture. They present an unostentatious and austere appearance with harmonious proportions and a strong dependence on form. There is evident an avoidance of elaborate ornamentation. When ornamentation is used it is unobtrusive and restrained and executed with an eye for taste. Sinhala art, therefore, is single, elegant and austere. Yapa Wijeratne

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