Traditional Rituals and Customs
play an important role in Sri Lankan society; and are being handed
over from generation to generation over the rich and long history of
the country. Most of these customs and rituals are connected with
the day to day lives of the people in the social and religious
The traditional dance forms are based on Sri Lankan folklore and are
associated with various rituals and ceremonies spanning over ages.
All these rituals are connected to the agricultural civilization of
the Sri Lankan society.
"Bali Thovil" or "Devil dancing" is a ritualistic healing ceremony
dedicated to the deities of the planets to keep off their evil
influences. Devil dancing is a carefully crafted ritual with a
history reaching far back into Sri Lanka's pre-Buddhist era.
The three types of classical dances described above also are
dedicated to certain gods and goddesses to invoke their blessings to
the lives of the people.
"Gam Maduwa" in Sabaragamu dancing is dedicated to Goddess Paththini
to invoke her blessings and ward off infectious disease. "Kohma
Kankariya" in Kandyan dancing is performed to propitiate the deity
known as Kohomba. History has its origination story.
The "Daha Ata Sanniya" is held to exorcise 18 types of diseases from
the human body.
Pahatharata – the Low country dancing has the masked dance rituals.
These ritual masks are carved to represent particular demons;
beautiful and mysterious.
Representing specific demons and the maladies they inflict upon man,
the masks allow the edura or exorcist/shaman to embody, demons which
normally exist only on a supernatural plane.
Masks used in these rituals provide wonderful insight into the core
of traditional Sinhalese beliefs regarding health.
Especially the rural people, whose livelihood is paddy cultivation,
have several rituals they perform in farming, in Buddhist
ceremonies, national festivals and so on.
Deity Worship is also much popular in rural areas where the
Buddhists pay homage to the four deities regarded as the guardians
of the Buddha-Sasana – Buddhism - in the island: Vishnu, Saman,
Kataragama, and Vibhishana.