Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Kandyan Dancing






Kandyan Dancing most beautiful form of Sri Lankan traditional dancing

The Kandyan dance has become most distinctively Sinhalese and is readily associated with the idea of a National Dance. This development can be explained by the fact that the Kandyan Kingdom was the last of the Sinhala kingdoms to fall under foreign rule (1815). Whilst elsewhere in the Island the Dance sank into indifference encouraged by neglect or began to manifest symptoms of corrupt form and body, in the Kandyan kingdom, the Dance flourished under Royal patronage and, like other crafts, was cared for with great interest. The systematization of the dance forms was possible and the oral tradition had time to spread amongst the villages. The Dance, apart from being kept alive, also maintained a purity which gives it its unique quality. This same purity, however, did not make the Dance an adequate vehicle for theatrical modes of presentation, confrontation and entertainment.

One might also observe that the religious organization and institutionalization of the clergy and their code of conduct prohibits the encouragement of worldly arts such as music & dancing. This same discipline was encouraged amongst the pious laity too. Thus Buddhism remains the religion amongst the great religions that does not encourage either dance or music. In this way the Dance developed away from the devotional system of, for instance, the Indian classical dance forms. However, the close link maintained between the Court and the Clergy made it inevitable that the Sclergy should indirectly condone the encouragement of the Dance by the kings. The Sinhalese tradition was thrown back onto a social factor prior to its Buddhist conscience but developed with it, through it, around it and also by-passed it.


History of kandyan Dancing

The begining Kandyan dancing relates its origins in the ritual known as the Kohomba Kankariya, which is performed to propitiate the deity known as Kohomba to relive the King Panduwasdev from a sickness called Divi Dosha. The ritual broke the spell on a bewitched King.

The same sickness killed King Vijaya cursed by Yaksha princess Kuweni. The Kohomba Kankariya was conducted for 60 days. for the Many dances performed in Kohomba kankariya can be seen in the kandy Perahera

There are 18 main dances in Kandyan Style which display the dancing of Birds and Animals popularly known as “Wannam” which means “the illustration”

For example Mayura Wannama Means the dancing illustration of of the Peacock

Mayura Wannama - The dance of the Peacock
Hanuma Wannama - The dance of the Monkey
Gajaga Wannama - The dance of the Kings Tusker
Kirala Wannama - The dance of the crying Kirala Bird
Ukusa Wannaa - The dance of the Eagle
Sinharaja Wannama - The dance of the Tortoise and Lion
Turanga Wannama - The dance of the Horse
Uraga Wannama - The dance of the Snake
Musaladi Wannama - The dance of the Rabbit
Eeradi Wamnam- The dance of the soldier

Apart from the above wannam several most traditional Kandyan Dancing Styles are as follows.

Ves Dance

The most popular udarata form of dance originated from an ancient purification ritual, the Kohomba Kohomba Kankariya. The dance was propitiatory, never secular, and performed only by males. The elaborate ves costume, particularly the headgear, is considered sacred and is believed to belong to the deity Kohomba.

Naiyandi Dance

Dancers in Naiyandi costume perform during the initial preparations of the Kohomba Kankariya festival, during the lighting of the lamps and the preparation of foods for the demons. The dancer wears a white cloth and white rurban, beadwork decorations on his chest, a waistband, rows of beads around his neck, silver chains, brass shoulder plates, anklets, and jingles. This is a graceful dance, also performed in Maha Visnu (Vishnu) and Kataragama Devales temples on ceremonial occasions.

Uddekki Dance

Uddekki is a very prestigious dance. Its name comes from the uddekki, a small lacquered hand drum in the shape of an hourglass, about seven and half inches (18 centimeters) high, believed to have been given to people by the gods. The two drumskins are believed to have been given by the god Iswara, and the sound by Visnu; the instrument is said to have been constructed according to the instructions of Sakra and was played in the heavenly palace of the gods. It is a very difficult instruments to play. The dancer sings as he plays, tightening the strings to obtain variations of pitch.

Pantheru Dance

The pantheruwa is an instrument dedicated to the goddess Pattini. It resembles a tambourine (without the skin) and has small cymbals attached at intervals around its circumference. The dance is said to have originated in the days of Prince Siddhartha, who became Buddha. The gods were believed to use this instrument to celebrate victories in war, and Sinhala kings employed pantheru dancers to celebrate victories in the battlefield. The costume is similar to that of the uddekki dancer, but the pantheru dancer wears no beaded jacket and substitutes a silk handkerchief at the waist for the elaborate frills of the uddekki dancer.

Kohomba Kankariya

The aesthetics of Kandyan dance and it's rhythmic vigorous movements and foot work can be really appreciated in it's original setting, the "Kohomba Kankariya", a Kandyan ritual dance, performed in honor of the God Kohomba of the Kohomba tree -( Margosa, a tree of medicinal value and to invoke his blessings. There are over 30 ceremonies and over 50 dancers dance and whirl on a magnificently decorated pavilion. Attired in the traditional Kandyan dance costume. The ritual itself lasts for a week and reaches a climax in the final night and the morning after.
No women danced in the original ritual, but today, with the emergence of the theatrical women too participate in the dance, a development which has softened the masculine moves of this dynamic dance form.

The usual instruments used in the Kandyan dancing was Getaberaya the traditional drum of the hill country & a small cymbal like instrument called as 'Thalampota'. Regardless of the changes the country & its culture went through Kandyan dancing still leads the arena as the national dance form of Sri Lanka.

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