Arts and crafts are an integral part of Sri Lanka’s ancient cultural heritage. Traditional Sri Lankan crafts are vital industries in many parts of the island that include wood carving, mask making, drum making, mat weaving, handlooms, lac-work, rush and read products etc.
During the Kandyan Kingdom arts and crafts received royal patronage, which included the formation of guilds, standardization of payments and even the imposition of penalties for bad work. The traditional skills have been preserved with its purity, resulting in the continuance of characteristic identity of Sri Lanka handicrafts.
The Sri Lankan dancer, drummer, musician, artist and the craftsman all continue to contribute significantly to Sri Lanka’s vibrant culture and a visitor can easily experience the mesmerizing beauty of the traditional Kandyan Dance whilst on holiday, purchase authentic arts and crafts and explore the colorful and intricate murals in historic temple walls.
Jewellery has always been embedded into the culture and heritage of Sri Lanka. In the ancient times, silver, gold and gem adorned bangles, necklaces and rings among other ornaments were considered a mark of royalty and privilege. The Kandyan jewelry was made mainly with silver and gold having intricately carved traditional patterns and motifs.
Masks are deeply connected to Sri Lankan folk-lore, and takes on a functional role where they are used in healing rites and rituals known popularly as devil dances.
Lac -work is a unique Sri Lankan handicraft from the Kandyan provinces. Lac is a resin secreted from the bark of certain trees that have been infested with the lac beetle. Ornaments, walking sticks, book-ends, ash trays letter-openers, wooden handles etc are decorated with Lac – work.
A unique Sri Lankan handicraft in the form of a mats are mainly produced in a village called Henawala in the Dumbara valley of Kandy, hence the name given and woven by a class of people called Kinnara. They extract fiber of a plant somewhat similar to Jute and weave it in a horizontal loom. For centuries, Dumbara valley of the Kandy district has been famous for its production of mats with Distinctive design and colour schemes.
Reed and rush ware products are made of materials processed of talipot, coconut and palmyrah leaves, cane and bamboo. Among the handcrafted products are table mats, cane furniture, mats, bags, purses, baskets, hats, boxes, lamp shades, kitchen and household articles and screens.
The culmination of Sri Lankan woodcarving tradition, expertise and perfection is embodied in the Embekke Devale and Lankatilaka Temple in Kandy. These are fine examples for both timber architecture and art in Sri Lanka. A wide range of handicraft items made of wood combining utility and beauty and are freely available for purchase in Kandy and elsewhere.