Asia Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO (ACCU)
Asia-Pacific Database on Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH)

Home | Performing Arts
Performing Arts
 
Sri Lanka

Sokari


SriLanka_A05_Sokari

(from left)
- Sokari
- Kandyan Dancers
- Edge of paddy fields where Sokari is performed.


Sokari is the name of the female lead role in the drama. A group of half a dozen or so of artists perform Sokari on the rice threshing floor of paddy fields usually after the harvest. Most, though not all, actors wear masks. Female roles in the drama are played by males, because there is taboo for women to act.


Reasons for selection

Sokari is a form of folk play, prevalent in the central hinterland, the Kandyan areas. Unlike the littoral, the upcountry regions remained outside the pale of European influence until after the 19th century. Thus the most original forms of Sinhala folk art are encapsulated in the Sokari.


Area where performed

Traditionally the drama is performed in the central highlands and the districts bordering the low country areas.


Essential elements of the performing art

Theatre


Detailed explanation

The origins of Sokari point to a close connection with the contemporary Indian traditions. The two lead characters in the play are portrayed as belonging to an Indian family who chose to settle down in the Kandyan Kingdom. Their travails in the host environment form the central theme of the play.

The drama is usually performed in the threshing floor after the main ( maha ) harvest in April and May. After reaping the fruits of the season's hard work, everyone in the village is in the mood to enjoy light banter and hilarious jokes. Sokari provides well-scripted comedy within the aesthetic limits of a village community. It is performed from dusk to dawn by groups of artists who live in the neighborhood.

Sokari is intimately linked with the fertility cult. It helps farmers to cushion the shock of a bad harvest and instills in them the promise of a bumper harvest in the next season. The theme is epitomised in the final scene of the play in which the beautiful actress Sokari gives birth to a child thus ending the long years of her barren life.

It also affords an opportunity to the villagers to laugh at themselves. In the play, for instance, when the master of the house is indisposed, the servant boy tries to befriend his wife. The village medicine man demands sexual favours from Sokari before treating her husband. At the end of the drama everybody returns home in a cheerful mood.


Publication and textual documentation

Ancient documents based on the script written on ola leaf are available at Peradeniya University Library.


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
Rector
Sri Palee Campus of the University of Colombo
Address: Wewala, Horana, Sri Lanka