Cultural Preservation

Department of Fine Arts

Basic introduction of four main traditions

Kohomba Kankariya

Kohomba Kankariya or the Kohomba Yak Kankariya is the main ritual or the Shanthi Karma,which is performed in the Kandyan dance tradition to invoke blessings from the deities or gods known as the New Kohomba, the old Kohomba, the great Kohomba. Moreover the Black prince (Kalu Kumara), Ambarapati (Pattini), God Weeramunda, God Kadawara, Kudaguru, Mahaguru,and the group of 36 ancestors of veddhasor Adivasi are also included here. Kohomba Kankariya is traditionally associated with the circle of harvesting in the country. After gathering the bountiful harvest from the paddy cultivation, people worship deities and gods by offering the first portion of the harvest to gods in order to express their gratitude to gods for giving them a bountiful harvest. In order to bring prosperity to the village, to prevent the spread of diseases, to cure a person from an illness and to get prosperity in animal breeding are the other reasons to hold this ritualistic performance. This ritualistic performance is associated with variety of folk and popular Buddhist practices. It is said that in the past, the kohomba Yak Kankariya was performed for about Seven days, but today it is limited to one day.

Historical Background of the Kohomba Kankariya

There is a myth of the origin of the Kohomba Yak Kankariya, which goes back to the arrival of prince Vijaya to Sri lanka from Lata Rata.During the time of Vijaya’s arrival, the country was ruled by the Yakkhas.Kuweni is the daughter of the king of Yakkhas, and it is believed that she had cast a spell on Vijaya in order to seduce him. Even though Vijaya marries kuweni and becomes the king by a coup, his peers pressurize him to legitimize his position as a king by marrying a queen from Madu rata.Betrayed, kuweni curses Vijaya and his descendants and leaves the palace with her children. Kuveni is kiiled by the yakkhas but the children manage to survive.

The curse inflicted by kuveni is known as the “Divi Dosha” in which, Kuweni appears in Vijaya’sdreams as a leopard and tries to kill him, but he manages to escape by the help of gods. After Vijaya, his successor Panduwasdeva was too afflicted with the curse and becomes seriously ill. The Sakra(king of Gods) decides that the affliction could only be cured by a prince born out of a water-lily.

The king of Malaya,who is believed to have been born out of a water lily, is strategically brought to Sri Lanka by God Rahuin order to perform the ritual. Accordingly, to trick Malayato come to Sri Lanka, god Rahu assumes the figure of a wild boar and starts ravaging the royal garden whereupon, the boar is chased all the way to Sri Lanka by Malaya.God Sakrathen explains the incident and Malayaagrees to perform the ritual to cure king Panduwasdeva.After king Panduwasdeva recovers, Malayaassigns Kohomba,a local prince, who later assumes the form of a deity, to perform the ritual in future. The Kohomba Kankariya has been performed in various parts of the country in order to ward off evil influences and bring prosperity to the country.

This legendary mythical story is described in the well known Buddhist chronicles known as the "Deepavansaya as well as in the Mahavansaya". But the healing of the king Panduvasdevais not mentioned or found in any written records until the 15th century. However, the myth of the kuveni and the myth of the king Malayaare recited or sung in the Kuveni Asna and in the great invocation called the Maha Yathikawa which is the collection of five stories (Katha Paha) performed during the Kohomba Kankariya.

According to some records, the Kohomba Yak Kankariya is originated in the Kotteperiod in Moreover, the King Parakramabahuthe 6th has been the 1st patron of the Kohomba Yak Kankariya.

Structure of the Kohomba Yak Kankariya

Kohomba Kankariya is a combination of a set of rituals that are performed three months prior to to the main ritual. Some rituals and events are held prior to the main ceremony. These are;

  1. Planting the Kappa- After selecting the proper place for the ceremony, a branch of a jack tree is planted in the selected place. This branch is cut at an auspicious time. This ritual is conducted three months before the main ritual.

  2. Akyala Wen Kireema- The first portion of the paddy harvest is reserved on behalf of the gods, and offered during the ritual. A section of the paddy field is reserved especially to obtain the harvest for gods.

  3. Pol Bulate Yama- Goods such as coconuts, fruits, other decorative items and supplies are collected from the village for the main ritual.

  4. Maduwa Sekaseema- Constructing the hall or hut for the ritual is known as aduwa sekaseema.This task is conducted by the villagers. Three to four days prior to the main ritual, they finish the task of constructing the main hut. Another small hut is made to keep all the goods that are used during the kankariya. This hut is known as the Gabadawaor the store room.
Some activities and rituals are conducted the day before the performance. These are:

  1. Decorating the Hut or Maduwa- The hut and the alter is decorated using coconut leaves, banana leaves and other ornaments. After that the entire hut is offered for gods. This ritual is known as madu-pe-kireema.After the ritual, as a custom, women are not allowed to enter the hut.

  2. In order to get water for the ritual, a well is dug. It is then offered to gods. This ritual is known as Thota pe-kireema.

  3. The coconut flowers, coconut leaves and coconuts necessary for the entire ritual is obtained from a selected coconut tree. The ritual of offering the tree to god is traditionally known as Ruk pe-kireema.

  4. Then the collected rice is prepared. This is known as Wee Keteema.
The morning rituals are conducted on the day scheduled to perform the main ritual.

Morning Ceremonies

  1. Inviting the gods to the altar is the first ritual performed in the morning. Statues of gods are carried in a procession to the altar. This is called Deviyan Vedamaveema.

  2. Then food or alms are offered to gods. This ritual is known as Murutan Pideema.

  3. After the Murutan Pideema, Nanumura manglyayaor the ritual of bathing the ornaments of the god is conducted by the chief dancer known as Yakdessa.

  4. Then rice is offered to the god Kohombaand the god kadawara.Offering rice to god Kohombais called Pe bath Pideemawhere as offering rice to god kadawara is called kadawara gotuwa deema.

  5. All morning rituals are concluded after chanting verses in the name of the god Kohomba.

Evening Rituals

After the conclusion of morning rituals, the evening rituals are performed by the dancers.

  1. Wedi Yakun Neteema- Dance items known as Yak Anuma, Hath Padaya, Palawela danayaand Kadawara Pideemaare performed by the artists. For these, the artists do not wear the complete costume.

  2. Wedi Pettiya Nateema- In this dance, the activities of the adivasis are imitated by the danceres.

  3. Vane Yakkama- This dance idem performed around the mortar, and called Vane yakkama.

  4. Ruk Pa Yakum Pideema- This is a dance performed as an offering to the Sun god.

  5. Kande Deviyan Pideema-A god of the adivasis known as Kande Deviyanis worshipped in this dance item.
The main Ritualistic performance is commenced after 8.00 pm. The list of dance, drum and singing items performed in the ritual are as follows :
This performance generally starts around 6.p.m.

  1. Hangala Yadeema- Preparing costumes

  2. Aile Kata Kapeema- Opening the altar

  3. Maha Yathikawa- The great invocation

  4. Magul Bera- Traditional drum beating

  5. Atya Bera- Drumming dialogues

  6. Yak Enuma- Dance item

  7. Aile Yadeema- Reciting a song

  8. Asne Neteema- Performing the Kuweni Asnawith song

  9. Yak Tun Padaya- Performing a specific dance with drumming

  10. Guruge Malawa- Imitating the characher called Guru,who is from india; contains comic episodes

  11. Hath Padaya Netuma- Performing the traditional dance item with seven drum beat circles

  12. Mal Yahan Kavi- Reciting poems to invite gods to altar

  13. Dana Paha- Reciting songs on five types of (song)

  14. Kata Paha(Song) - Reciting songs on five types of stories

  15. Dunu Malappuwa- A dance with a bow

  16. Kol Paduwa- A dance with a divine ornaments

  17. Avanduma- A classical dance

  18. Madu Poray- A dance with a song; describes the caste discrimination in India and Sri Lanka

  19. Mal Hath Padaya- A classical dance form with seven episodes

  20. Aluyam Kadawara Deema- Offering morning arms to the god kadawara

  21. Performing Several Dramatic Performances - Ura yakkama( enacts the behavior of a Wild boar ), Naya yakkama(depicts the activities of gypsies), Wedi Yakkama(depicts the behaviour of adivasis), Boru yakama& Dharsana yakkama(describe the information on artists and some decorations)

  22. Kohomba Hella- Reciting the original story of the Kohomba along with dance, and drumming with songs.

  23. Gabada Kollaya(Robbering the store room) - A dancer enters the store room and sets it on fire. Then the audience gets permission to enter the ceremonial "Maduwa" after the ritual.

  24. Muwamala Wideema- Shooting the Banana flower at the altar.

  25. Kapa Galaweem- Signaling the conclusion.

  26. Hamara Padaya- The concluding step performed by the chief dancer.

The costume of the Kohomba KankariyaPerformance

The costume worn by the artist to perform the Kohomba Kankariya is known as Wes Anduma.This is the main costume in the Kandyan dance tradition. The costume consists of 64 items or parts. This costume is believed to have belonged to god Kohomba.These are:

Sikabandhanaya It is worn as the headgear
Nethimalaya The forehead part, which is fringed with silver bo-leaves
Paimpatha The seven silver spokes rising like rays above the headgear
Jatawa and Jata Patiya
A cone-shaped ornament worn on the dancer's head is called the jatawaand the ribbon, 45 inches long, which trails from behind the jatawais known as Jata Patiya.
Thodupath Intricately designed, large mango-shaped silver ear plates worn on ears
Urabhahu (Devuramalaya) Shoulder covers
Bandhiwalalu used as armlets.
Karapatiya Intricately woven, neck covermade of colored beads.
Avulheraya The chest cover of the dancer, decorated with floral designs using with colored beads.
Kaimetta Two-inch plates on dancers’ wrists.
Hangala The entire clothing of the dancer
Ulludaya Intricately pleated white cloth worn from waist to ankle, and three and half yards in length.
Pothpota Another cloth worn round the waist. This cloth is folded to a width of two inches and flounced at the end, to form layers of frills called Neriya.
Bubulu Patiya A silver belt with a decorated clasp worn over the cloth
Ina Hadaya An elephant trunk shaped velvet cloth decorated with silver bosses and worn from center of the Bubulupatiyadown to the knees.
Silambu An ornament, round and filled with bells worn on anklets of the dancer.
The dancer should be well trained in wearing the costume properly.

Musical Instrument used in the Kankariya

The Gata berayaor the Kandyandrum is used as the main percussion instrument in this ritual. six to eight drums are played at a time, and this is a special feature of this performance. Different types of rhythm patterns and creative drum performances are performed by the artists.

Instrument with Orchestra

Dancing Schools Related to the Kohomba Yak Kankariya are:

Kandyand suburb area

Video Gallery

Rituals and Events held Prior to the Main Ceremony

Rituals conducted the day before the performance

Morning Ceremonies

Evening Rituals

Documentary film on Drum Makers

Interviews with Artists