"Who are you, dear traveller? Historian, incurable
romantic, nature lover, surf rider, shopaholic or pilgrim? Whoever
you are, welcome to the theatre of inspiration - Karnataka,
India, where you can play any role you like......." This is
how the Karnataka Tourist Board, invites prospective visitors to
a holiday that can take you back in time to the magnificent past
of temples and historical monuments, or to discover wildlife treasures
or relax in one of the cool hill stations.
With Sri Lankan
Airlines flying to Bangalore, the Karnataka state's capital four
times a week, holidaying there comes easily within a Sri Lankan
tourist's reach. Since flights were launched in mid-July, a number
of incentives and packages have been offered by travel agents. "Bangalore
- here we come," is the package that Sri Lankan Airlines has
offered to passengers flying Bangalore-Colombo-Bangalore. Besides
a four-days and three-nights stay at a five star hotel, you get
free airport transfers. The offer is open until end October.
bridge to India and the passenger ships that are scheduled to operate
shortly between the two countries would also make travel much easier
in the future.
a rich and varied history that dates back to the 3rd century BC
that saw a succession of Hindu rulers. In the 18th Century, the
state was taken over by a Hyder Ali, a Muslim ruler and later by
the British. Even after independence, the state was called Mysore
until 1973 when its name was changed to Karnataka, meaning lofty
land as it lies on a high plateau. Located on India's southwest
coast, the state is the sixth largest in India.
a home to around 52 million people, the local language being Kannada.
However, English is widely spoken in the main cities. The garden
city of Bangalore is also known as the silicon valley of India and
the fastest growing city in the world. Silk textile manufacturing
and sandalwood oil processing are some of the interesting industries.
More lately there has been an influx of visitors to Puttaparthi,
the Sai Baba centre that lies on the outskirts of the city.
as your base, there are a wide variety of tourist destinations to
choose from. Most of them are relatively unknown and that is their
Because of the scores of exquisitely sculptured temples, Karnataka
is often known as the cradle of stone architecture. 186 kms from
Bangalore is the Hassan district, a good transit point where lies
an ancient temple trail that can be linked to the Hoysala period
of the 12th Century.
were a mighty race that created history from the 11th to the 14th
centuries. Great patrons of art, architecture and dance forms, the
kings commissioned some of the most awe-inspiring temples in the
region. Regular bus services are available to the district. Alternatively
you can hire a smaller vehicle for private use.
A must see in Hassan are the temples in Belur, Halebid and
Shravanabelgola. The main temple in Belur is the star-shaped Channakeshava
temple built on a raised platform. To the East, North and South
are finely carved doorways that reveal yet again fine carvings of
gods and goddesses on pillars, ceilings and doorways. The walls
are decorated with endless rows of carvings, drawing attention to
the patience and skill exhibited by the artists of the period in
fashioning the elephants, the miniature turrets, human figures and
gods. Equally captivating are the 38 bracket figures that decorate
the pillars supporting the caves of the temple.
Not far away is Halebid that was once the capital of the Hoysala
kings. As you approach the temple, a huge Nandi (cow) statue, carved
from the same black stone in which the entire temple is carved greets
you. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple, again on a star-shaped
foundation, characterised by wall to wall carvings depicts the legends
of Mahabharatha and Ramayana in stone. Just outside the temple is
a museum of Hoysala Art.
Located between the two hills of Chandragiri and Indragiri
lies the picturesque spot Shravanabelgola that dominates the countryside
as far as you can see. Legend goes that Chandragupta Maurya, the
grandfather of Ashoka retired to the solitude of these hills after
renouncing his kingdom.
is a renowned centre of Jain pilgrimage. Standing 57 feet tall on
the hill is the gigantic statue of Gommeteshvara, considered one
of the tallest monoliths in the world. A flight of 500 steps, cut
into the rock's surface elevates you to the foot of the statue that
was built in the 10th century. For all Hindus, this climb up the
hill is a special trip that they look upon with great reverence.
The statue tells the story of Gommata or Bhubali, the Jain prince
who renounced the world after his victory in war and was known for
his great moral strength and saintly character. Once in every twelve
years during a certain planetary alignment, the most celebrated
festival - the anointing ceremony of Bahubali takes place. During
the ceremony priests scale the giant scaffolding, especially erected
for the occasion and pour over the unclothed standing idol, hundreds
of pots of sacred water, ghee, milk, jewels, gold and silver coins.
This tradition has been carried over since the 10th Century.
Next week: Mysore
By Naomi Gunasekara
Beeralu-fringed and surrounded by trees full of yellow
and white araliya blossoms, the tranquil abode facing the sea suggested
the unassuming, down-to-earth nature of the man who stood at the
doorstep. Dressed in a batik shirt of earthy shades and a sarong
of similar hue, he greeted us with a warm smile.
musician and teacher, Bandusena Wijesooriya is a man who has put
in great effort to protect local arts and crafts over the years
with a view to preserving and strengthening the mask-carving traditions
handed over to him by his mask-carver father, Juwanwadu Ariyapala
de Silva Wijesooriya, better known as Ariyapala Gurunnanse of Ambalangoda.
Born to a family
of eminent artistes and craftsmen, Wijesooriya runs the Ambalangoda
Masks Museum and the Ariyapala Dancing Institution today. Situated
along the Ambalangoda-Galle Road, the museum was established in
1987 to celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Sri Lanka while
preserving it for future generations.
Funded by the
German Foreign Ministry, Linden Museum in Stuttgart and the West
Berlin Museum, the project was discussed by anthropologist Prof.
Volfgung Mei, who visited Ambalangoda to study the socio-cultural,
socio-religious and socio-political relevance of masks in Sri Lanka.
and drumming being a local tradition prevalent in the eastern and
south-western coastal areas of Sri Lanka, the museum, contains a
library, workshop and important masks used for kolam and sanni dances.
of mask-carving dates back to many centuries and it is widely believed
that mask-carving was introduced to Sri Lanka over 200 years ago
by those southern-folk who visited Kerala.
used to travel by boat during windy seasons and stay in Kerala until
the winds blew towards Sri Lanka. They stayed for nearly six months
each time they went there and mastered various Indian traditions
and rituals like kolam and sanni."
Wijesooriya, the term 'kolam' is a derivation from Malayalam. "But
India was not the only country that used masks at that time. The
history of masks indicates that they have been used in hunting societies
like France, Egypt and Israel in ancient times. But masks were introduced
to Sri Lanka by those who visited India," says Wijesooriya"Old
people referred to these trips as 'Deshe Yanawa' and my father's
grandfather who went to Kerala from Dodanduwa too became a mask-carver."
While a number
of people have attempted mask-carving over the years, the traditions
of mask-carving have been developed into a fine skill in the hands
of the Wijesooriya family that has produced many an eminent dancer,
musician, drummer and craftsman leaving a mark in the cultural history
the most well-known of the Wijesooriyas, carved famous masks, many
of which are now part of well-known museum collections all over
He not only
carved masks but trained dancers, introduced the Devale Perehara
and liberally supported cultural institutions such as schools and
Buddhist houses of the area.
He shared his
vast store of knowledge of Sinhalese traditions and folk traditions
with the people of Ambalangoda and contributed immensely to local
social and cultural life as a healer, architect, astrologer and
many awards for the contribution he made to preserve local traditions
and rituals. Today his eldest son Wijesooriya preserves the family
tradition by carving new masks in adherence to family tradition.
room is full of masks both vibrant and terrifying , carved out of
soft kaduru wood.
however, according to the tradition of Ariyapala Gurunnanse, masks
have been originally cut from the stem of the 'ding' palm tree that
lines the rivers and lakes in the hinterland of Ambalangoda.
those masks did not last long enough, he started using the wood
of the kaduru tree (nux vomica), which is a comparatively light
durable wood that is easy to carve."
is determined to disseminate his knowledge on local dance, music
and carving methods and preserve mask-carving and authentic dancing
traditions of Sri Lanka. "My father's grandfather, Juwanwadu
Ondiris de Silva, performed a traditional southern dance for Prince
Edward XIII when he visited Sri Lanka during colonial rule. My father
performed for Pandit Ravi Shankar during his visit here.
I want to make
a contribution to the field too." Wijesooriya plans to contribute
to the field by compiling a book on local masks.
masks have become a dying breed today because most masks carved
are non-traditional masks that are distortions of original faces,"
says Wijesooriya who is in the process of drawing traditional masks
in a large book. "My father introduced these distorted masks
after spotting a mask of Maname Kumaraya hung at the entrance to
a Bar in Germany."
masks of Sri Lanka reveal a lot about our cultural, religious and
political background. For instance, there is a mask of a Portuguese
soldier with a pack of cards and a bottle of brandy in his hands.
Such masks indicate the hatred we had towards the Portuguese.
leave details of traditional masks for our future generations,"
added Wijesooriya, who carries out extensive research on traditional
Sri Lankan masks by referring to a musty 100-year-old book full
What is kolam
Kolam is a dancing tradition rooted in the eastern and western
coastal belts of Sri Lanka. Although the tradition is believed to
date back to the early 19th century, anthropologists believe that
kolam has a history beyond that. Over the years the traditional
kolam dance consisting of diverse stories and characters has been
enriched by political, economic, social and religious factors. While
anthropologists debate over the birth of kolam dance in Sri Lanka,
folklore traces its origin to a craving of Mahasammatha Bisawa (Queen
Mahasam-matha) who yearned to see masked dancers.
Unable to quench
her desire to see masked dancers, the pregnant Queen had become
disheartened and sad according to folklore. Noticing the queen's
despondency God Shakra had ordered Wishwakarma to do the needful
and masks had been discovered along with music instruments in the
palace gardens. The king had ordered his subjects to perform a dance
and thus the queen's thirst for seeing masked dancers had been quenched.
every kolam dance performed is said to begin with the arrival of
the queen. Kolam dance, however, is not confined to folklore. Various
aspects of colonial rule and the feudal system are subtly dealt
with through this form of dance to discuss social realities while
conveying religious messages.
types of kolam include Arachchi kolama, Andabera kolama, Hewa kolama,
Peedi kolama, Raja kolama, Sinha kolama, Raksha kolama, Badadharu
kolama, Surambhawalli kolama, Gama kathawa and Dhanudhdara jathakaya.
What is Sanni
is a healing ritual during which various demons causing illnesses
are summoned and given dola pideni on their promise to leave the
patient. Once the demon promises to leave the patient without tormenting
him/her further, the demon is chased away.
Prior to performing
a sanni yakuma the performer determines whether the patient is affected
by a demon or not. Once convinced of the presence of a demon, he
chooses an auspicious day to perform the ritual (thovilaya) and
is seated facing the platform/area in which the dance is to be performed
and the performer invokes the blessings of the gods before summoning
demons to the decorated platform.
second stage of the ritual, the relevant demons causing the patient's
illness are summoned and promised whatever they want. In return,
the demon is ordered to leave the patient.