Tips and useful information to help buy colorful masks during your travel in Sri Lanka
Coastal Sri Lanka has a tradition of wood carved masks. These are used for religious, exorcist, spiritual and theatrical reasons. Most masks display animal or demon imagery and are used to either drive away bad influences or portray evil forces such as in Kolam, the traditional Sri Lankan theatre.
Devil masks are historical and based on popular myths, and so have a place in Sri Lanka’s folklore. These masks are used to avert the evil eye (gara yakka mask) or heal people of their ailments. Other masks like the sanni masks are used to drive away negative forces as part of a ritual. Sanni masks show great craftsmanship, as the wearer is required to dance, sing and speak dialogue in loud voices. However, they are not religiously significant in any way. Masks that depict human faces are more recent and these designs are not historically significant.
Woodcarvers in Ambalangoda are especially skilled at their work where Kaduru wood is used for its flexibility and durability. In a matter of a few hours, a grinning demon head appears from a simple block of kaduru wood. For tourists, woodcarvers also produce elephants and statues of the Buddha. Ambalangoda has gained popularity recently, making the area a tourist must-see.
Unfortunately for your pocket, great popularity sometimes comes with inflated prices!