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Sri Lanka

Kohomba Yak Kankariya

Kohomba Kan Kariya

Exploits of the God Kohomba


Medley of dances are performed to depict a traditional story based on invoking divine intervention to ward off a series of maledictory effects.

Reasons for selection

Kohomba Yak Kankariya incorporates practically all dance forms traditionally associated with the central highlands. Therefore, its performances afford rare opportunities to watch and enjoy the various forms of typical Kandyan dancing in one place and in one night session.

Area where performed

Originally performed in the central part of the country. Of late, however, performances have been staged in the main cities of the Low-country.

Essential elements of the performing art

Dance, Music, Theatre

Detailed explanation

This performance provides an interesting example of transmutation of a legend to provide mental and physical relief to a society in times of adversity. The original legend was woven around a story of exorcising a curse which debilitated an ancient Sinhala King. But over time it has been transformed into a ritual which purportedly wards off evil influences of demons and spirits, cures cattle diseases and ensures an abundant harvest of food grains, so on and so forth.

Originally the performance of this ritual was confined to the villages in the central highlands. Recently several performances were held in the low-country areas and in major cities. The latter, however, are aimed at appreciating the artistic value embodied in the performance rather than its ritual efficiency.

In the traditional Kandyan provinces, the village elders select an auspicious day for staging this ritual, particularly following a severe drought, flood or a spate of contagious diseases. A central place in the village is selected for the venue at which the villagers construct several temporary huts for the performing artists and the audience. Meticulous care is taken to arrange the ritual proceedings in perfect order. It is commonly held that any flaw in the arrangements will produce diametrically opposite results to the entire village.

The roots of the ritual are embodied in the ancient Sinhalese Mythology. According to tradition an ancient King, Panduwas Dev, was afflicted with a strange disease and his courtiers arranged a ritual to propitiate the deity Kohomba as a means of bringing relief to the King. When the King was completely ridden of the affliction at the end of the ritual, the people in the outlying villages also began to adopt this practice in times of adversity.

Publication and textual documentation

not yet available

Audio documentation

not yet available

Visual documentation

not yet available

Institution/organisation involved in preservation and promotion

does not exist

Data provider

Dr. R. A. Ariyaratne
Sri Palee Campus of the University of Colombo
Address: Wewala, Horana, Sri Lanka