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Traditional dances of Sri Lanka



There are different forms of traditional dances in Sri Lanka: Kandyan of the Highlands, Uda Rata Naatam of the southern plains, the Pahatharatanaatam and the Sabaragamuwanaatam. They differ in the movements, gestures, costumes and the accompanying percussion.


The Kandyan is the official dance of Sri Lanka and as a traveller, you will DEFINITELY hear about it at least once. Unlike the Indian Bharatanatyam or Kathakali, Kandyan dances do not use just facial expressions and do not recall divine themes. This dance uses full body movements and can often be profane particularly when it comes to the eighteen vannama, which mimic animal behaviour. For example, the gajaga vannama mimics the elephant and the mayura vannama is dedicated to the peacock.


The kolam, or Dance of Devils, hailing from southern India, is quite theatrical. The dancers are exclusively male and are attired in scary masks. The dance is set to the frantic beat of the yak bera (devil’s drum) and the dancers portray a night-time exorcism at the house of the possessed.





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