Chasing Away Evil

Classical dance in Sri Lanka falls into three groups; Kandyan dancing (Uda Rata Natum) of the people from the Hills,  Low country dance (Pahatha Rata Natum) of the people living in the Southern Plains and the Sabaragamuwa dances of the people from that Province.

Dances depict folklore, at times in comic form or in a more serious nature.  Some are performed wearing masks, which again portray comedy or evil.  Body movements differ according to the type of dance performed, Kandyan, Low Country or Sabaragamuwa as are the drums, with the ‘Geta Bera” used by the Kandyans, the “Yak Bera” in the Low Country and the “ Davula” of the Sabaragamuwa province.

Pictured here is a Devil Dance, “Gara Yaka” performed in the outskirts of Colombo a few years ago.

Many Sri Lankans believe that an unseen hand brings about bad luck, and such situations could be prevented or fixed through devil dancing.  So, whether it is a sickness, loss of crops or business, or continued bad luck, a ceremony involving devil dancing is organized to make things right again. Preparations for the event take all day, with natural material such as banana trees, young coconuts and its flowers etc. making up the decoration.   The dancing begins at night and usually goes on till morning. While some events are limited to close family and friends, usually, the entire village turns up to watch the performance.

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