A 2 hour drive down south of Colombo lies the heartland of Sri Lankan handicrafts, known as Ambalangoda. Just one of the few remaining towns dedicated to manufacturing the dying craft of traditional Sri Lankan masks and puppets, it serves to be one of the major hubs where Sri Lankan culture is expressed in its most unhindered form.

Top Reason to Visit

Being heavily associated to traditional handicraft manufacturing, along with one of the oldest forms of mask dancing in the country, the Kolam and Sanni Yakuma dances, the main reason to visit Ambalangoda is due to its rich culture and way of life that has not undergone the rigours of time, making it ideal to delve into the cultural heritage of the country.

While You're There

All eyes on you:

Being one of the last towns that still manufacture all 120 traditional masks, the Ambalangoda Mask Museum, provides a great array of them staring down with their bulging eyes, and their grotesque expressions. Although quite frightening at first glance, the reason for the use of the mask is attributed to the healing of individuals with an elaborate dance, still practiced today.

Unique healing ways:

These traditional masks have a major purpose in local society, as it is used for various healing rituals, namely through traditional forms of dancing. From time immemorial the traditional Kolam and Sanni Yakuma dances utilizes masks that personify the demon himself, which are in turn worn, while performing an elaborate dance to quell the sickness of individuals.

The reflection of the moon:

Just outside the main town area, lies vast mines that possess moonstones. The mysterious gem, captivating as a full moon gleaming in the night sky, is considered sacred and has appeared in jewelry for centuries. A mesmerizing interplay of light, known as schiller or adularescence, causes a silvery-white sheen to glide like veils of mist across the milky surface of the moonstone. Some believe that this moving light is evidence of a living spirit that dwells within the gem. Gemologists, however attribute the shimmering phenomenon to the presence of albite crystals embedded in feldspar.

Insider Advice

Travel: The city has only a few attractions when compared to neighbouring Galle and Hikkaduwa, and the attractions are quite close to each other, with the exception of the moonstone mines. Should you choose to travel around there are plenty of buses and tuk-tuks. Just make sure you research on the distance beforehand when taking a tuk-tuk since you might have to haggle if they do not possess meters.

Weather: The months from January to March is considered to have the ideal weather, since there are fewer showers and clearer skies, making it the perfect time to visit.

Money: It is important to carry cash in hand with small notes like LKR 20s, 50s and 100s, since many shops do not accept credit and debit cards.

Clothing: Ambalangoda is a conservative town deeply rooted in tradition, therefore making it important to dress conservatively to respect the conservative culture.

Safety: The city is normally very safe and is generally not very crowded, however, there is no harm in being cautious about your belongings.

Meals and refreshments: There are a number of local eateries to choose from, if looking for the typical local cuisine.

Ambalangoda may be overshadowed by its neighbouring town of Hikkaduwa, however, it certainly does have a major significance to Sri Lankan culture with the traditional masks, dances, and other handicrafts thus making it all the more enticing to visit it.

Title image by: KNOWSL
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