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“Pic of the Week”, Sept. 6, 2013. Masked Dancers, Kandy Cultural Show, Sri Lanka

2013-036-Sept 6b – Copy

One of the great joys of traveling is seeing the art, costumes and traditions of different people.   Something everyone going to Kandy (in the low Hill Country of central Sri Lanka) should experience is one of its “cultural shows”.  These shows feature traditional music (mostly drummers), dancers, acrobats, and a variety of clothing styles from different regions of Sri Lanka.  The show usually ends with a fire walker traversing a bed of hot coals with bare feet, an amazing sight! (the key is to have thick callused soles and to move quickly)

Several of the dances in this “cultural show” feature the traditional masks of Sri Lanka, which represent various mythological characters.  These dancers convey a folk-story with their mask, clothes and movements.  Their outfits are very colorful and the hand carved masks are true works of art, beautifully detailed and painted (and smaller versions of which are sold as souvenirs in shops around the country).

This week’s highlighted photos are of two masked dancers at the Kandy Cultural Show, featuring the following masks:

1) “Naga Raksha“, the mask of the cobras, a symbol of protection from evil and sicknesses.  In Sri Lankan mythology, the island was once ruled by the Rakshas who could assume different forms.  All Raksha masks incorporate serpents but this particular mask has an impressive display of cobras, including some coming from its nostrils.

2) “Gurulu Raksha” is a south Sri Lankan mask symbolizing the fight between a cobra and a mythical bird (which is devouring the snake).  This dance is used to exorcise demons from the possessed and is still believed to be an effective psychiatric treatment in parts of Sri Lanka.

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