Saturday, 5 December 2009

Kandyan Arts and Craft

Kandyan Art is a distinct school among the indigenous arts and crafts of Sri Lanka. Closely associated with the Buddhist temples, Kandyan Art encompasses frescoes, wall paintings, lacquer wood painting, wood carving, stone carving, metal work, jewellery, furniture, Kandyan architecture and much more. What is presented below is only a small glimpse of the vast wealth of Kandyan Arts and Crafts.

Kandyan Arts
Hindagala temple is picturesquely situated on a rock close to the University Campus at Peradeniya along the Galaha Road. It has rock inscriptions dating back to the 6th century that speaks of the history of this temple. Amidst the ruined temple paintings of the 6th century are found paintings on the walls of the temple belonging to different periods of recent history.

Kandyan arts association

The Kandyan Art Association is almost at the rear end of the Maligawa – Temple of the Tooth Relic and could be reached by walking along the lake road from the Ulpenge situated at the Southern entrance.

The Cultural Centre built to commemorate the centenary provides Dance Shows every evening starting from 5.30 p.m. These dances are performed by traditional families and products of Dancing Institutions. Hence traditional Kandyan and Sabaragamuwa dances are performed. It is something that should be viewed by any visitor. This centre could be reached by driving round the lake from the Queens Hotel junction. The location gives a beautiful view of the lake, its island – Jalatilaka Mandapaya used by Royalty for water sport and relaxation and the surrounding hills.

The sales centre with traditional handicrafts is open from 9 a.m. – 5.30 p.m. daily. All products are obtained from traditional crafts people who are also members of this Association. During this Perahera season an Exhibition and sale will be held from July 27 till the end of the season.

Arts and Crafts form a rich mosaic in the cultural fabric of the Kandyan Society. The Artificer, Dancer, Weaver, Wood Carver, Artist and the Musician were held in high esteem. The contributed to the economic life of society second only to Agriculture. The ancient Artists and Craftsmen all over Asia had been well organized into guilds. A similar system prevailed in Sri Lanka as well from early times. The Knowledge practices and out forms were passed down from generation to generation. Even marriages were within the same group so that the craft was closely guarded.

The artists and craftsmen had the patronage of the king. The best were permanently employed in the royal household and were gifted with land in return for their services. All Royal requirements including, jewellery, ornaments utensils were turned out by them. Gifts given to other Heads of state on Delegations were all turned out by these craftsmen. Jewellery and ornaments required by the nobility too were turned out by the traditional Craftsmen. These items were also equally beautiful and high in quality.

The Kandyan Dancer is symbolic with the culture of the people. They performed in the Temple, Religions Festivals especially the Annual pageant (Perahera) and at customary festivals such as weddings etc. There are different types of dances performed by these artists and all of them are represented in the Perahera. The Drummers form another group. They are also distinguished by the different types drums they use. Kandyan Dancing and Drumming are unique. They differe from those practiced in there are as of the country.

The paintings done by the artists of the Kandyan period are also destructive in style, and character. Temple paintings are still preserved and the style lives on. The royal patronage was useful form the development and sustenance of the arts and Crafts. However with the car guest of the Kandyan Kingdom by the British there was a decline in the cultural life of the people. The effects of subjugation were felt for and wide and naturally these activities too were affected. Without a Royal household many lost their livelihood even guides and groups drifted. Only a few families continued their crafts in the backwoods. It was in such a climate that the Govt. Agent of the Central Province Sir, J.F.Dickson revived the dying crafts forming the Kandyan art Association in 1882. Initially all activities were centred in the Kandy Kachcheri. But in 1904 the Association moved into the palle vahala the quarters used by the Ladies of the Royal Household. There after it was shifted to its present location in 1924. Their building was used as a military hospital during British times.

The Association was incorporated as a trust 1919 with the objective of preserving the Kandyan arts & crafts. Although formally organized in 1882 records show that this organization had existed since the 1830s. The affairs of the Association are managed by a committee chaired by the Govt. agent (Ex officio) Nineteen prominent citizens of the District are members of the committee. The GA, Additional Govt. Agent and the Administrative officer of the Kachcheri form the board of trustees.

The objectives of the Association according to its constitution are: -

a) To provide opportunities for the Kandyan craftsmen to market their wares, provided that the craftsmanship is of a sufficiently high standard.

b) To foster in the minds of Kandyan Craftsmen that their trade can provide them with an economic return, thereby induce others to take to skilled occupations.

c) To preserve, foster, and propagate the art and technique of the Kandyan crafts and as for as possible to pass down to posterity these particular Kandyan art forms in a pure and indigenous state.

d) To explore and exploit the possibilities of utilizing these art forms to turn out modern commodities without distorting the form.

e) To make know to other provinces and other lands the beauty of the Kandyan art forms not only for commercial purposes but also form a cultural print of view.

The present Kandyan art association complex comprises a trade center, cultural center and a restaurant (Avanhala). The Cultural center built to commemorate the centenary consists of a large stage, a two tyred audience hall with a sealing capacity of 1000 seats. It was designed by an internationally recognized architect and a citizen of Kandy Ms. Minette de silva (the daughter of former state councilor for kandy George E.De silva and the sister of former MP, Mayor and Ambassador Fred E.De silva). Minette wanted to have an open Air theater but due to the climatic conditions in Kandy a roof was designed later. Although the Association managed with its own finances the state assisted the construction of the cultural center building complex. It was meant to be used as a training center for the arts. Reputed craftsmen in brassware, lacquer work, Dumbara mats, weaving and handloom work are given the opportunity to practice their crafts in these premises. The Association has plans to build small cottages on the land to house these craftsmen.

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