Ambalangoda, found at a distance of 86 km from Colombo is surprisingly not famous for its crystal clear waters or its breathtaking beaches but renowned for devil dancing, mask making and puppet shows and depicts art forms gradually fading away from the fabric of Sri Lankan society.
A large number of curious tourists visit this intriguing town of Ambalangoda to experience unique art forms which were very much part of the Sri Lankan cultural fabric decades before the invention of modern entertainment apparatus.
The town is made famous for devil dancing employing masks; mask making, puppet shows showcasing important aspects of the local culture. Ambalangoda is rather underdeveloped by Sri Lankan standards but in order to get a taste of what Ambalangoda has to offer one should allocate a good part of the day, ideally with a Tuk Tuk which can scavenge its way through rough terrain effortlessly. A Tuk Tuk is a low cost but happy go lucky, smile emanating mode of three wheeler transportation very popular in Sri Lanka.
Once in Ambalangoda you can see are a few mask museums by the road where you can purchase masks which could be a handy take home gifts or a likeable keepsake. Also, one can see the tedious process of mask making where the skill is handed down from generation to generation. Wesuggest you visit Ariyapala Mask Museum which is the preferred place to get a firsthand knowledge about various types of masks available and their significance to the Sri Lankan culture. Another famous trait of Ambalangoda is devil dancing where Masks are employed extensively to depict various demonic characters. If you are lucky,as you tread along the winding by roads you can watch one of these performances, live. Legend has it that exorcism is closely knit with devil dancing and Ambalangoda is very much ingenious for this.It may be possible to watch a performance of folk theatre (Kolanm) by local artists.
Ambalangoda is also made famous for Puppets. In Sinhalese it is coined as“Rukada” to signify a ‘puppet’. The carving of puppets is an ingenious skill confinedto distinct set craftsmen. Puppetry is used for the purpose to portraying variety of folk-drama locally known as “Nadagama”. It is believed that the word “Nadagama originated from South India and have been adopted in Sinhalese to mean the same. A kind of theatrical which has influenced the traditional puppet plays in its form, style and presentation.
Those who are on the lookout for ancient traditions, art s and crafts, lifestyles of Sri Lanka which is slowly but surely going out of vogue should also consider visiting Ambalagoda and include it a must see place in their tour itinerary.