Being the main area in Sri Lanka for traditional mask carving, Ambalangoda has gained a name for carving some of the island’s most interesting masks and liveliest of puppets. Today to honour the age old tradition, the town boasts a special Masks Museum.
The museum was established in 1987 in order to promote and protect the country’s traditional mask carving styles which incidentally complement the traditional drum and dance culture as well as the island’s exorcism traditions. It was established with the aid of the German government and with the cooperation of the Ariyapala Gurunanse family; a family well known for dominating the industry for well over 250 years.
The items on display also include some of the famous ‘false faces’ used in traditional ceremonies. The three main types of masks exhibited include the ‘Sanni’ depicting demon like expressions which are generally used is local exorcism ceremonies, the more lively and at most times humorous faces of humans and animals which are mainly used in folk theatre or the ‘Kolam’ dance, and the ‘Raksha’ type used in festivals and processions.
All these false faces are hand carved and hand painted. Each type has its own style and colour scheme. The ones used for folk theatre are colourful and vibrant and the other two types are usually faces of devils with fanglike teeth, bulging eyes and bloodthirsty mouths! If one is to consider them character wise they symbolize the various gods, goddesses, demons, heroes and other traditional characters of folklore.
By exploring this museum one will also get a better idea of the culture of the country as well as the legends and mysteries behind the Kolam dance and the psychology behind the local exorcism rituals. Those visiting the museum can also view the workshops and the mask shop.
Visitors to the southern coastal area of the Island are afforded a range of lodging options and Sri Lanka beach hotels are usually the most sought after type of accommodation. For those seeking some of the best and easily accessible beaches ideal options would be to choose Ambalangoda and Beruwala hotels. For a luxurious beach holiday with easy access to some of the most interesting attractions in the area one can stay at The Palm Beruwala.