Ambalangoda

The “real” soul of a country.

Ambalangoda is a small town located on Sri Lanka’s southwestern coast. With a population of only a little over 21,000, Ambalangoda does not stand out as a major tourist destination. If you are a traveler who appreciates visiting the “real” soul of a country, Ambalangoda will welcome you with its friendly locals, traditional craftsmen, and scenic backdrop.

Ambalangoda masksIf you have heard of Ambalangoda, chances are you are familiar with traditional Sri Lankan masks. Ambalangoda is home to the Karava people who take great pride in their masked plays and rituals that they have been performing for hundreds of years. The masks used in these customs are world-renown and are a favorite of collectors and museums all over the world. The masks are still made in the traditional methods by carving their shapes out of the local Kaduru trees. Artisans then smoke the mask for an entire week to ensure that bugs will no longer be attracted to the Kaduru trees sticky smell. Lastly, the masks are painted with different colors and expressions that decide whether the mask will represent a God, Demon, or animal. The masks were often used during ancient healing rituals to call the demons responsible for specific ailments and ask them to leave the afflicted person’s body.

Ambalangoda still has a working traditional mask workshop that allows visitors to see how the masks are made. There is also a museum that displays ancient traditional masks and a library that houses all relevant literature available on the customs of the Karava people. For those looking to get more from their Sri Lankan vacation than a nice tan, Ambalangoda provides an authentic and interesting look into a fascinating culture and people.

Written by Jessica Galbraith

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