Traditional Arts and Crafts
The story of Sri Lanka’s arts and crafts comes from within one of the oldest civilizations in the world. It dates back to thousands of years and is firmly rooted in authentic culture. Its colours, sounds, rhythm, and shapes run through the course of history. From the art of puppetry to drum-making, the island’s artistic flair never fails to amaze those who encounter it. Sri Lankan art history that emerged with the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka is the most dominant. From cave paintings to rock sculptures, the ancient kingdoms of the nation provide stunning evidence of skillful artistry from bygone eras. Sigiriya frescoes, Dambulla cave paintings and sculptures, and stone carvings of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa have earned their reputation worldwide. The Kandyan dancers, the folklore masks, handloom fabric, Beeralu lace making, and lacquer work in Sri Lanka are unique to the island. Sri Lanka also holds one of the most popular literature events – the Galle literary festival.
Where you can experience
Explore the destinations where this unique experience comes to life, from hidden gems to iconic locales.
This folk art steeped in rural Sri Lanka is an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity recognised by UNESCO. Southern Sri Lankan towns and the Puppet Art Museum are famous places to see shows.
These sinister-looking masks play a role in village exorcisms, dances, plays, and rituals. The masks are carved from wood and painted in vivid colours. Ambalangoda is the most famous town for mask-making.
Mentioned at the beginning of Sri Lanka’s recorded history, handloom weaving is a cultural heritage. Dumbara Valley of Kandy has the most famous weavers, but you can find products across the country.
A legacy handed down from Portuguese and Dutch women, during colonial times, this intricate art takes place in small home workshops mainly on the southwest and southern coasts. It is notably mesmerising.
Sri Lanka’s traditional drum is called ‘Beraya.’ Fashioned out of the wood of the jack tree and with animal hide, it is integral for folk dances. Kurunegala, Kandy, and Hikkaduwa are famous for this art.
This Kandyan art form called Laaksha has been decorating wooden objects for centuries. The Lac resin secreted from tree barks infested with the Lac beetle is mixed with colours to create the varnish designs.
Tips to remember
- Have your translator by your side for valuable explanations.
- Take part in activities only after demonstrations.
- When visiting temples wear modest clothes.
- Ask permission first before photographing artists.
- If you have questions, do not hesitate to ask.
- Ask your tour guide’s help, when purchasing items.
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