The ritualistic dances of Sri Lanka have attained world fame for their weird mystical beauty. Heavily influenced by India, Sri Lanka's Kandyan dance and kōlam plays have South Indian origins. But over the centuries these have been transformed and now have a distinctly Sri Lankan character.
This dance form flourished under the Kandyan kings and is today
considered the national dance of Sri Lanka.
There are four types: pantheru, naiyaki, udekki
The famous Indian epic Ramayana has provided plenty of
material for the dances, especially Rama's dash to Lanka to save
The best-known costume of male Kandyan dancers is a wide skirt-like
garment. The dancer's bare chest is covered with necklaces of silver
and ivory, and bangles of beaten silver are worn on the arm.
The dancers are accompanied by drummers who beat
out complex rhythms on the geta bera, a Kandyan tapering double-ended
Traditionally, devil dancing is performed to free a person or
place from demons, evil spirits or just plain bad luck caused
by malignant spirits.
The devil dancers themselves belong to a low-caste
community and specialize in this art form.
It is difficult to divide Sri Lankan performing arts into dance and drama, because a kōlam play uses dance and song, and the devil dance has bits of improvised prose dialogue.