You are on page 1of 18

Metaphysical representation of folk drama in educational structure: an

Ethnographic Reading on Discourse of Bentota Kolam Drama


Saman M Kariyakarawana*
Abstract
Language comprises signs. The sign is divided into two parts i.e. concept and sound
form. In writing visual sound forms are used. Those sound forms can produce figures of concepts
in our mind. In this conceptualization it is not necessary to have a direct relation between the
relevant object or objective nature and the concept. Accordingly the relation between the realm
of concept and the physical world is arbitrary. It is according to this Saussures concept that
Metaphysical academic discourse on Kolam drama is examined. The research involved herein
relates to matching of the metaphysical series of concepts of Bentota contemporary Kolam with
its reality.
They say even in Bentota there are Kolam dramas is a statement Sarachchandra made
in 1968, and subsequently followed by many an individual without verifying its truth. But no all
night full Kolam drama has been staged since 1963. Dramas they call Ttar cum Kolam was
there in Bentota in 1970s. It is impossible to identify them as Kolam. The present study discloses
the inconsistency between the discourse of Bentota Kolam Drama and its reality. This research is
carried out on the basis of information collected by means of snowball method through
discussions held with veteran residents of Bentota, artists involved in drama; individuals took
part in old Kolam dramas and through the experience itself of the present co-writer who has been
living in Bentota for about 40 years. This study which is an ethnographic investigation pays
particular attention to experience of individuals. Data found in this study open to multifarious
reading is thus not focused only on the object of the study. According to what has been found
through the information collected there has not been a full performance of Kolam drama staged
in Bentota since 1963. During the period 1963 to about 1980 parts of performance of Kolam
along with Noorti or some times for the purpose of contests or else as a part of Kassapa Dalada
Perahera (procession of the Tooth of kassapa thero) have been produced. By 1989 Bentota
Kolam was confined to Nga rssa performance. Bentota Kolam after 1989 died out. Though
there are two Kolam artists still living in Bentota and are engaged in staging them they do not
continue the characteristic Bentota Kolam tradition. The method they adopt is a picturesque style
characteristic of Ambalangoda.Though various students are still in the habit of making
contributions on a Bentota Kolam drama it had already died some 6 decades ago and what is
found today is just its remnants only.

Key words: Bentota, Berava caste, Kolam, Kommala, Govigama caste,Sarachchandra.

* M.phil resercher, Department of Sinhala,University of Ruhuna,Mathara.

Approach
Once phenomena and movements of the physical world are translated into language they
become a part of culture. Language assists man to understand the material and immaterial world
and to control them. In consequence language becomes one of the major implements of culture.
Let us consider, two of the most important characteristics of the language i.e.,
1. Language is a system of signs
2. Lack of logical relation between signs of language and substance or movements belong to
those signs.
As Ferdinand De Saussure has shown (Saussure,1999: 66-67) language is a process of inventing
names. Assigning a name to every substance, movement, concept, thought and feeling is the
process of inventing names. The name thus given can be called as the sign. The sign is also
divided into two, i.e. concept and sound image. A sound image can instantly create concept in
mind. But it differs as per context. For instance, whatever concept is created in the mind the
sound figure Ibba (tortoise) depends on what context it is used. If context is marked as The
tortoise steps into the water then the concept forms will be a quadruped amphibian. The
Sinhala Ibba is used also for Padlock. So meaning of the word Ibba depends on its context.
The second feature of language is having the relation between sound figure and concept
been arbitrary. It is a consensus that occurs in a culture. Everybody who speaks Sinhala
unanimously agrees and calls a particular object as gasa. According to the English mans
consensus that object is called tree. So it is the arbitrariness due to which there are various
sound images for one particular concept. Moreover, there is no relationship between concepts
made by man or between objects on which signified concept is based. Therefore, what we call
language is a thing which somewhat mislead you, a thing which make you go astray. To turn
something into language means to make its reality subject to definition. There may not be
whatsoever a relationship between its definitions and the reality. By employing language a given
phenomenon can be subjected to a reading which in reality has whatsoever nothing to do with
that particular event. This can be identified as the creative quality of the language.
Literary studies were esteemed as a disciplinary technique in 19 th & 20th Centuries. Even
in Sri Lanka almost in every field of learning various academic researches and studies were
carried out. Knowledge produced at a certain period through data collected out of field work
2

becomes obsolete within a short time. It is a characteristic common to all studies of humanities.
The reason for such nature is the dynamic condition inherent in humanity. In order to prevent
from knowledge going obsolete constant fieldwork in those disciplines should be continued.
Those researches should be carried out systematically and accurately. It is important that
researchers also should be done by matured scholars.
Literary studies done through near reading of literature produced on the basis of
previous researches are not reliable. The secondary knowledge produced out of stuff referred to
above already used and defined seems to be more prejudicial. Thus stuff produced by so called
researchers based on texts written by pioneers in folk dramas of Sri Lanka such as
Sarachchandra is to a great extent misleading. Re-creations done through language by their very
nature give false impressions and for a third party to re-create yet another creation based on that
particular re-creation is really a laughingstock which is infect the object of the current research.
With a view to deconstructing academic discourse on the Bentota Kolam is being done through
this chapter employing ethnographic sources.
Research problem
Many an academic study done on Kolam makes mention of the fact that the Kolam drama
occurs in Bentota. The author of this study however has never seen or heard that there exists the
Kolam in Bentota where he has been born and bred. But two studies published in year 2000 too
say that the Kolam art is found in Bentota. These contemporary scholars depend on the studies
carried out by pioneer researchers of the Kolam.
The major academic problem that is intended to solve through this study is this dilemma.
Namely had there been a Kolam tradition in Bentota? If there had been one when did it
disappear? Does Kolam drama still occur in Bentota? To what extent is the body of knowledge
pertaining to Kolam introduced by the pioneer researchers accurate? What is the repercussion of
the absence of up-to-date knowledge in respect of the topic in question? These are the issues that
this study intends to solve. It is the influence of the cultural campaign of the Middle class
moulded in 40-60 decades and which subsequently exerted in turn on the study of culture and in
particular on the sphere of folk drama which forms the essential foundation of the present study.

The investigation comes into contact with the aftermath of the cultural campaign heralded
in 1956 which paved the way for the creation of the so called academic discourse known as folk
drama and the nature of its underlying prejudicial effects.
Study area
This exploration is based on the Bentota (or Bentara) Village committee area (Map7.1)
of the Divisional Secretariat of Bentota in Galle District, Southern Province of Sri Lanka. The
area is bounded by the Bentara River in the north by the river Deddu in the east by Induruwa
Village Committee area in the south and by the Indian Ocean in the west.
Literary Reviews
It was through his work titled the Sinhala Gmi Ntakaya (Sinhalese Folk Play) that
Ediriweera Sarachchandra who had been engaged himself in the task of creating an indigenous
tradition of Sinhalese dramatic art associated with the folk play has introduced the Gmi Ntaka
to the study of dramatic art. It was published in 1968. The work titled The Sinhalese Folk Play
came out in 1952 was republished by him in 1966 under the title The Folk Drama of Ceylon.
What he published under the title the Sinhala Gmi Ntakaya in Sinhala in the 1968 comprised
the very same material found in previously mentioned two works but in a reoriented form. This
book strictly had to do with the study of dramatic art and dramaturgy. In the work especially
discussed topics were the characteristic features found in the Grmya Sntikarma (rural rituals),
dramatic Pelapli (parades) embodied in rituals, Kolam (mockery), Kavi ndagam (kind of play
accompanying verse), the Sokari (a kind of dance), the Ndagam and rkada (puppetry) etc.
Sarachchandra has added to the Sinhala version what he had not expressed in 1952 and
1966. While describing the places where the Kolam occurred at that time he says among the
groups who keep on performing the Kolam it is the two groups from Ambalangoda and the one from
Udupila, Mirissa I now (1999:95). Whilst giving an account of Kolam groups in other areas he

says thus: ndi sinno Gurunnns of Pokunuwita also has a set of Klam (Klam Kuttama) and a
group. Further it is said that there are Klam Kandyam (Kolam groups) even in Bentara and
Nkulugamuwa(do: 95). Accordingly what can be gathered from his statement is that the

reference he made to the existence of Kolam in Nkulugamuwa and Bentota is mere hearsay.
4

This rumor of Kolam expressed by Sarachchandra has aroused a serious solicitude among the
succeeding scholars. The work titled Klam Ntaka Shitya (The literature of Mockery
drama) of M. H. Goonatilleke published in the same year, i.e. in 1968 discloses even the names
of many a kolam artists living in Sri Lanka. He gives a long description of the regions and
villages where the Klam has been spread.
The Klam is restricted to lowlands. Even out of them the under mentioned
regions are of special importance. Southern Province and Western Province Kolam
Ntum (mockery dramas) have been very common since ancient times in the districts of
Galle and Matara in Southern Province and Kalutara and Panadura Districts in Western
Province. Even in some of the regions of the Colombo district, this kind of drama was
present.
Villages famous for Klam dance are given below:
Bentara
Kmmala
Suddagoda

Bentara region

In addition to Bentara, regions such as Mirissa, Ambalangoda, Raigama Kralaya and


Alutgama region, Vigada region, Gampaha area have been given by him. Even the names of
artists in each of these regions have been given. He also presents the list of names of those artists
who were in Bentara. Even some names of famous Kolam dancers from Bentara are given
below.
Nand Gurunans and Enda Gurunnanse of Bentara Amarasena Gurunnanse
of Suddagoda. Dni Gurunnanse of Bentara A. Jayasekara of Kommala Dabicha
Gurunnnse, K. giri Gurunnnse of Mgama K. Saranlis Fernando of Mgama L. V.
Pinda Gurunnnse of Mgama (1967:10)
It proved impossible to trace and identify some of these persons. Though reference is
made to a person called A. Jayasekara on the other hand no mention is made to the three Thmis
Jayasekara, Jinadasa Jayasekara and Sirisena Jayasekara who are associated with Klam

dance. And Vilbert Galbada Arachchi says that Amarasa Gurunnnse did not take part in Kolam.
(2014.05.17) hence this list is contradictory.
It is possible to conjecture that the account given by M.H. Goonatilleka of the Klam
drama in Bentara would have been prepared by one without visiting the locality and obtaining
some information from a certain artist. In spite of the fact that mention is made to Amaras
Gurunnns who was famous in that locality on the other hand no reference has been made to
equally famous Sudda Gurunnns who tack part in Klam. Moreover, this work doesnt contain
any mention of the talented Davonis Gurunnns, the mask maker of Suddagoda. Almost all the
important artists of Bentara who were responsible for the Kolam art have been omitted from
Goonatillekes list. 1967 was the period of decline of the Kolam art in Bentota. Although many
of those artists who had taken part in Kolam were still alive at that time no researcher has put in
writing information obtaining from such important persons. K. G. Amarasekara studying Kolam
in the year 2002 mentioned the three names of villages Suddagoda, Kmmala and Tundwa
treating them as localities where up to recent part there had been Kolam. (Amarasekara, K. G.
2002:23). He notes that by the time he was engaged in the study he found no performance of
Kolam in progress (do: 24). Tunduwa and Suddagoda are two traditional villages of Berava
(Drummer) caste. In both these villages Kolam artists had lived.
But in spite of the above fact it was only the Jayasekara family of Kmmala which had
possessed a set of Klam. The group which organized and performed Kolam drama at Bentota
were only Themis of Kmmala and the Jinadasa Jayasekera. Even he wrote of Amarasekaras
descriptions of Kolam just through unconfirmed reports.
Ariyaratne Kaluarachchi publishing a book on Kolam drama in 2006 repeating the same
form of words of M. H. Goonatilleka says that there is Kolam drama in Bentota. (Kaluarachchi,
A 2006:6) Jayasena Kottegoda studying Kolam drama in the year 2006 too says that the Kolam
drama is found even in Bentara (2006).
As nobody has yet authoritatively intervened in so as to carry out an investigation into the
history and the present state of Kolam Drama of Bentota it is hoped that the present study will
fulfill that need. Furthermore, it is also hoped that the present step will help bring to an end

compilation of information which tend to mislead especially the beginner with regard to the topic
Kolam drama of Bentota.
Methodology of study:
Discussions held with those artists who took part in Kolam dramas of Bentota both in the
past as well as in visual entertainments accompanied by Kolam subsequently staged and again
discussions held with a still living few important eyewitnesses of both kind of shows referred to
above are presented here in their own words.
This can be treated as a methodology employed in ethnographic studies. The study area
of this research happens to be the place where the researcher of the present study has lived for
the last 40 years. It is an unusual exploration and it serves in both capacities as a member himself
has become a participant. There are two professional artists of dancing who still make
performance. Discussions held with those two artists are also included here. Snowball method
was employed to pick up those who were interviewed. Snowball method is the way of
interviewing appropriate individuals based on the information furnished by the first person and
so on. Accordingly it is the first person which suggests the second person to be interviewed. The
characteristic feature of this method is that the body of information gathered gradually increases
like a snowball. Not only the information gathered through discussions but also other details not
so relevant yet important to the study in some respects have been shown but separately. All the
information pertaining to the study, i.e. results of discussions, facts collected by means of literary
sources, details gathered from web sites and telephone conversations have been accurately and
qualitatively analyzed.
Qualitative Discussions:
Discussion 1:
Prasanna Abeywardana (69 years) 2014: 02.08 Galbada, Aturuwella, Former President of all
Ceylon Grma Niladhri Association, English educated and represents upper Middle class. I got
my appointment as Grama Niladhri of Bentara - Pahurumulla Division when Mr. Karannagoda
was the D. R. O. in 1963. Mr. Karannagoda was a true benefactor of the rural development
movement. He held a handicraft exhibition of the Rural Development Movement at the college
7

grounds of Gamini Maha Vidyalaya Bentota. It accompanied a cultural show. A cultural


programme called Kalmuluva (Art Circle) was held at the college ground of Gamini
Vidyalaya. At this show artists from localities called Tunduwa and Suddagoda made dance
performances. Among those dances were Yak ntum (Devil dances). In 1966 Mr. M.V.D.
Chandraratne, the D.R.O. launched a programme to uplift the artists. Those programmes
comprised lectures and performances. It was Bolin Gurunnnse of Dampllagoda (in Dope G.S.
division) who presented folk dances at those programmes. Many an artist from Suddagoda took
part in it. During my time except a few Rssa Ntum (dancing performed by those disguised
themselves as demons) I have not seen a full performance of a Kolam ntuma (mockery dance in
its entirety).
Discussion 2:
D. Erlis (69 yrs) 23.02.2014 Suddagoda, Bentota of the Berav (drummer) caste. Though he
represents the class of the poor and that of the illiterate he is an exceptionally gifted artist.
It was Themis Jayasekara who collaborated with Kolam at Bentota. He died 30 years ago.
His son Jinadasa Jayasekara died about 5 years ago. Sirisena Jayasekara who died was a victim
of 1989 violence1. Those who worked together producing Kolam are no more. Kolam dances
were presented at the fun fair organized by Mr. Karannagoda at Gamini School Bentota in 1960s.
There were only a few Yak Ntum (devil dances) like Gar yak (Devil called Gar), Nga kany
(Virgin Nga snake) etc. I also carved masks for 15 years. It was from Batuwita that the Kolam
masks were brought to Kmmala. There are sets of Kolam in Batuwita. When I was about 25 a
Kolam was staged at Randomb Temple, Ambalangoda. It was performed by Ariyapla
Gurunnnse. I remember the performance of Alavaka (devil dance) staged at Vanavsa Temple,
Bentota in about 1960. While the monk chanted the Alavaka Stra (one) who disguised himself
as Alavaka (demon) performed the dance. In Suddagoda there were very many dancers at that
time. K. S. Fernando worked at the Radio Ceylon. He died about 15 years ago. Herbert Daysla,
the son of Amarasa Gurunnnse was the disciple of both Sinda Gurunnnse of Tunduwa and
Nanda Gurunnnse of Suddagoda. Nanda Gurunnnse was a good master of Bali (ritualistic
offering to planets). There were numerous disciples of Amarasa Gurunnnnse. Among them Edin
Gurunnnse, K.S. Fernando, Saraneris, Bolin and Sdiris were the leading figures. Sediris was
8

nicknamed Cooray. When he makes jumps he turns like a top. Because of it, those days when a
woman conceived pots were offered on behalf of the semi god Kalu Kumra. Once the child is
born and the day he/she is given the first meal of rice (Sanniyakumak natala) having performed a
devil dance called Sanniyakuma a Kumra pidnna (an oblation) is offered to the divine being
called Kalukumraya. A gurunnns who performed a devil dance in 1960s was paid Rs. 300/-. A
devil dance cost about Rs. 30000/-. The owner of the house where the dance was performed got
an invitation printed and everybody known to him was invited. Invitees were offered tea. Even
the rice was offered to those who were present as spectators in villages (villages of Tamil Gattara
caste) such as Mahavila and Bondupitiya. Inhabitants of Ittpna performs a Pnmaduvak (ritual
of lighting lamps) when the crop cutting and threshing is over. Still the Pnmaduwa is performed
at every hla Poya (Full Moon day of the month July) at the Devle near the Bo tree in
Dedduwa Junction. Every inhabitant in this village caught an epidemic when they once failed to
perform the ritual consecutively, for two years.
Discussion 3:
Diminguvchri Norbert (63yrs) 25.02.2014. Suddagoda, Bentota. Berava (drummer) caste, a
skilled mask carver and drummer.
My teacher is Er Gurunnnse. The teacher of Er Gurunnnse is Asa Gurunnnse. I have
played drum for Klam drama of Ambalangoda. Sudda Gurunnnse played the drum for the set
of Kolam for Ariyapla Gurunnnse of Ambalangoda. He also played the drum for Kolam dances
of Kmmala, Bentota. Those days there were so many famous Gurunnnss. Some of the leading
Gurunnses included Sudda Guru, Dis Guru, Panikkala, Sirimris and Smris. Smaris
Gurunnnse was even one of my teachers. Both Erks Gurunnnse and I myself are disciples of
Smris Guru. Jayanetti ancestry of Velipnna is descended from Sirimris Gurunnnse who
went there from here. Dis Gurunnnse went and settled down at somewhere Matugama.
Amarasa Gurunnnse is one from Galle. He came here settled down and went on with his
profession. These artists had work almost every day. Those days it was Sim Gurunnnse who
cast horoscopes. He also made snana (traditional herbal shampoo) to cure malefic effects of
Rhu (The planet with cobras head) and Ktu (cobras tail). For malefic effects of the planets
Bali ambala Santikarma Karanava ritual images were moulded and ceremonial dances were
9

performed. It was following the Ven. Ariyadhamma Thera of Pnadura since 1980s that the
Bodhi-pja- offerings to the Bodhi trees were introduced for malefic effects of the planets
instead of the above astrological practices. Those days when Baliyak kalma- a ritual image
was molded and offered to the deities- the dura (exorcist) was paid about 50 cents or Rs. 2/=.
On days when there is no work sambur heads and deer horns were carved and sold. It was since
1960s that the tovil- devil dances were introduced by way of (in the form of) displays. Those
days yaknatum (devil dances) were not performed as displays.
It was when I was about 13 that a Klam was performed in Kmmala. Kolam dances
were held on the ground of Gmini (college) Bentara somewhere in 1960s. Kolam dances were
organized by Jinadasa Jayasekara. The Kmmala pirisa group-was of Govigama caste. The bera
(drum) was played by people of our caste. At the beginning it depended on caste. It was the ol
(a law caste) who had the right to perform ves (crown used for Canadian dance) in Gar madu
(huts of the devil Gar). Later (the tradition) it changed. I saw a full Kolam dance in its entirety
at Kmmala. In the olden days there had been Kolam in Kmmala.
Discussion 4:
Wilbert Galbadarachchi (63 yrs) 17.05.2014. Kmmala, Bentota. An old Kolam artist who
belongs to Govigama (Farmer) caste.
There was a set of Kolam here in the possession of Themis Jayasekara. Jinadasa
Jayasekara was his son. Till about 2005 those masks were at Bentara. Chamila, the eldest
daughter of Jinadasa Jayasekara took those masks to Kurunegala. She said that she was keeping
them in her house as curiosities. Jinadasa Jayasekara died about 5 years ago. His funeral took
place at his daughters. Those days a good number of people joined in Kolam, In 1940-50s when
Themis Jayasekara was participating in Kolam he went from place to place playing the art. Full
performance of Kolam was done even here. It was frior to the 1963 flood that a full performance
in Bentara was staged for the last time. Then I was about 12. I also performed characters such as
Kpiri Kolama and Anabero Kolama. Jinadasa Jayasekara acted canats such as Lenchin and
Nga Rssa. Sudda Gurunnnse and Smaris Gurunnnse beat the drum. Amarasa Gurunnnse
did not participate in Kolam done here. It was Dvaminige Aranolis who played Jasaya. Pnis
Tilakaratne played Hencha. It was Richel Bddevitana who played the Arachchi. Before 1960
10

these dramas were acted in Temis Jayasekaras garden. In late 1960s during Poson Full Moon
Day (Month of July) Festival lighting a Lamp was commenced on the ground of Kmmala. If the
lamp went on for seven days seven dramas also were performed. They included dramas such as
Kolam dances. Sandakinduru, Jasa Lenchina. They were performed on a stage erected on the
ground using loudspeakers. Those days the masks were brought from Himbutugoda, Pitigala. Mr.
Thomas Adlin Kapumahattaya, officiating priest of the Depnama Dvlaya of Hkandara used
to come here those days to perform Kolam dance. Womens parts were taken by him. Aranolis
and Thomas Jayasekara played the Gurulu Rssa (mythical bird called Gurulu in the form of a
demon). These spectacles were performed during the Poson (June) festival (June) from 1960s to
1970s. Women acted in them. Younger sister of Sla Paranarnna performed in them. Another
woman also from Dedduwa performed. Roles of Bisava (queen), Kumri (Princess), Kinduri
(Mermaid) all taken by women.
In 1989 Sirisena Jayasekara performed Nga Rssa near his house. One of his daughters
wore the mask (Rssa) demon. Within a short time the girl caught leukaemia, eyes julted out died
deformed. Everybody was of the opinion that it was the result of evil effect. The mask Gurulu
Rassa is a very powerful one. We did not perform the Gurulu Rassa in the display organized at
the time of DRO Mr. Karannagoda of Bentara in 1961 at Gamini (College). The Rssa mask was
on the wall. Several other masks were used. After a little while we heard a snake blow. Lo! the
blow comes from the mask Gurulu Rssa! The mask was carefully removed from the wall, to see
that nothing is inside. But the mask keeps on blowing. The tone is very sharp. The mma (uncle)
(Themis Jayasekara) took a pandurak (a coin), washed it and wrapped it up in apiece of cloth
and gave a solemn promise to god to the effect that though Gurulu Rssa was not performed this
time for absence of a suitable person it will be acted in the Mah Kasyapa Dalad Perahra of the
Galaptha Temple during the sala Poya. Then only did the blowing cease. Very rarely one can
play Gurulu Rssa. An inexperienced one even if wore the mask would take only two turns. At
the third time the mask will strike the ground.
It was from Bentara that Daynanda Gunawardana took Jasa Lenchina. Jasa Lenchina
was taperecorded using the voice of the artists taken from here to Radio Ceylon. Bentara Kolam
accompanied only the low-country drum. Trumpet was not used. Aile also was not tied. Mal
yahana (Bed with flowers stretched on) was prepared. It was commenced by worshipping the
11

Buddha. It was done for fun/amusement. Jinadasa Jayasekara went to Polonnaruwa in 70s. Next
younger generation was not competent enough to perform Kolam.
Discussion 5:
D. K. O. K. Sriylath (58 yrs) 12.03.2014. Galtuduwa, Gonagala pura Of Gavigama (farmer)
caste. Admirer (woman) of Kolam belonging to lower Middle class. She has seen Ttar (Theatre)
performed in Bentara in 1960s. I remember Kolam displays staged by Jinadasa Jayasekara and
others on the Bl Pittaniye (Volleyball ground) in Kommala (pic.7.1) in 1960s. Every Poson
Poya they made the Lantern on the Kmmala ground. On the last day of the Lantern show a
Kolam dance was staged. There were dancer of both kinds those wearing masks and those with
no masks. Women also took part. One girl called Nnalatha played Lenchina. Jinadasa
Jayasekara played Kindura. Kindura and Kinduri did not put on masks. In these shows
instruments such as Dolki and serpina rehearsals were held in a desolate place enclosed with
coconut leaves. It is said that Jayasekaras living in Bentara were at the beginning known as
Hettirachchis. They took the name Jayasekara when the English at a subsequent date was
giving honorific titles. Jinadasa Jayasekara used to make performance of Viridu (kind of verse
like recital) over the Radio Ceylon. In about 1980s a pirit chanting was held an alms giving was
offered and the performance was thus given up. Though Jinadasa Jayasekara went to
Polonnaruwa somewhere in 70s at Poson festivals he used to come back. He was a very
handsome man. Even his voice was exceedingly deep.
Discussion 6:
D. S. Ponnamperuma. (90 yrs) 25. 02. 2014. Sooriyagoda, Bentota. The most senior educated
citizen (agewise) living in Bentota today. He is a retired English teacher who represents the
Middle class Govigama caste.
My father taught at Both Aturuwella Vidyalaya and Gamini (Vidyalaya) Bentara. He had
even a Mudaliyar title. He died in November 1956. My father had masks and a Magul Beraya (a
drum used on auspicious occasions) in his possession. They included Hev Klama 2 masks of
Lion, 2 masks of Nga Rssa. Though my father was of Govigama caste he could both play the

12

drum and dance very well. He had learned those arts. He was in close association with Amarasa
Gurunnnse of Suddagoda.
I remember that those days on the land called Nlisigewatta where the temple stands
thatched huts were erected wherein mockery dances were performed. I saw them in my
childhood. I cannot say whether what I saw were Kolam or otherwise. I cannot remember even
who did it. Only thing I can remember is that those were mockery dances performed wearing
masks. When we were grown-ups we had no time/occasion to watch them.
My father loved arts. Before 1935 Mr. S. L. T. Kapukotuwa was invited to the school at
Aturuwella and for him a Dahaata Sanniya (18 sannis) was performed. Kapukotuwa studied
together with my father at the Tranning College in 1935. Tourism was introduced at Bentara in
1972. Electricity was given to 25 houses in Bentara. One of them was my house. Bentara Rest
House was built by the Dutch. At Gamini Primary Vidyalaya there was a Datch church built in
1755. Now it is demolished. Even since those days Bentara has been a suitable spot for tourist
industry.
Discussion 7:
Patmasiri Weerasinghe. (57 yrs) 06. 11. 2013 and 11. 02. 2014, Tunduwa, Haburugala. He is a
son of din Gurunnnse famous artist He belongs to Berava (drummer) caste, a professional
Kolam dancer of Middle class.
I am having my own Kolam group. What we perform only a few parts of the preperformance. We do not play Kolam stories. After playing Kolam such as the Anabera and
Nonchi Kolama, Polis Kolama, Nga Kanya, Nga Raksha and Gurulu Raksha, Hew Klama,
Jasa Lenchina Kolam, Arachchi Klama and Mudali Kolama some parts of the Sanniyakuma (a
kind of devil dance) are also performed. What we do is a show/performance of Kalu Yak (Black
devil) Daru Nlavilla (Lullaby), Gini sisila (Cool Fire). My group consists of artists B. A. Nihal,
Manoj Ranjan Moonasinghe, Sujith Maitripla, Lasantha Pradeep Kumara, Vikum Lankara
Jayasekara,

Dumindu

Nilanka

Gurusinghe,

Shathish

Upendra

Lankdeva,

Santha

Samarawickrama, and H. N. Chmara Pradeep Kumara. Stage direction, production and coordination was done by Priyantha Ranjan. It is the house of Drama (Institution)of Borella which
13

organized the performance. We have already staged about 10 displays. My group is paid Rs.
80,000 to meet all the expenses. The performance depends on tickets. One performance was
staged at Tower Hall Theatre on 4 November 2012. Another show was stayed at the auditorium,
Dhammissara Vidyalaya, Nththandiya on 24 Sep. 2012. They proved a triumph at Anuradhapura
the hall was jam-packed and many were standing. At the beginning I had no masks in my
possesstion. It is from an artist called Rpas from Ambalangoda I borrowed the masks. Now I
have got my own masks. We receive requests for shows during aulfural festivals. We receive
move requests for childrens shows. I have taken part in several foreign tours also. Sometimes I
do performance at hotels for foreign guests. The field is economically not a loss. Analysis:
It was in 1967 that Sarachchandra and M. H. Goonatilleke expressed their opinions on
Kolam of Bentota. All night full Kolam performance for the last time was staged at Bentota in
the year 1963. Not tying aile and use of merely the law country drum are the characteristic
features of the Kolam dancers of Bentota. From 1965 up to end of 1970 the parts of preperformances of Kolam drama have been acted in concerts and in the Mah Kasyapa procession.
Plays what they had concurrently with Poson (Buddhist religions festival of the month June full
moon Poya) Lantern of Kmmala can more aptly called not as mask drama or Kolam (mockery)
but as Nrti alias Ttar (Sinhala corruption of theatre). In those plays role of women were taken
by women themselves and musical instruments such as sarpin and dlkiya had been used. They
mostly comprised dances/dancing with no masks. The third stage of the mask drama of Bentota
is the Nga Rssa Ntum (dance) organized in 1989 or in Sirisena Jayasekaras time.
Professional dancing performed by artists such as Patmasiri and Kumudu Kumara at tourist
hotels and on performing stages can be treated as the fourth stage. Patmasiri calls his own Kolam
drama as Ambalangoda Kolam drama. Patmasiri has no knowledge/understanding of features of
Kolam drama native to Bentota. He knows Kolam by descent and education. Artist Kumudu
Kumara is also the same. On that account these two artists cannot be taken as a result of the
uninterrupted continuation of the Kolam drama of Bentota. Except for the fact that they have
been residing in Bentota there is no justifiable reason for them to be treated as two men
responsible for the Kolam drama of Bentota. Men and women interviewed here have little or no
knowledge of Kolam drama of Bentota. What is evident from this is that Kolam drama had been
by 1950 treated as a disgraceful folk art. This discussion manifests how these arts came to
learned and appreciated by 1950 decade disregarding the caste issue. The study also identifies the
14

development of these arts by state intervention in organizing concerts and holding competition
on the one hand and through such action re-establishment of them in a different context on the
other hand. Through an analysis of these facts we can reach the following conclusion.
Conclusions:
Kolam drama of Bentota had been there by the decade 1950 in the form of a folk play
under the control of Themis Jayasekara. By the decade 1960 it changed hands and now under
Jinadasa Jayasekara it changed into a Ttar-like drama. Nga Rssa Ntum performed by Sirisena
Jayasekara in 1989 was the last Kolam drama held in Bentota by way of entertainment. Though
there are artists who took part in Kolam drama still living in Bentota they do not adhere to
Kolam drama tradition of Bentota. After 1989 nothing connected with Kolam drama took place
in Bentota. Information already furnished by various researchers and authors about Kolam art of
Bentota are false facts presented without verifying the statements. By today the folk drama called
Kolam survives neither among the people of Govigama caste nor among that of Berava caste at
Bentota. It can be concluded that by today the Kolam tradition of Bentota has been annihilated.

NOTES:
1. Civil war in southern area of Sri Lanka in the period during 1987-1998. It was handled by yang
followers of Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna.

2. Jinadasa Jayasekara was a Grade A Singer of indigenous verses, Viridu (a type of ballads) and
recitalist of verses of National Broadcasting Corporation and worked also as a clerk at the National
Broadcasting service. He was one of the secretaries of Evening Service of the Sri Lanka
Broadcasting Corporation in 1970 and he was also the News Editor of the Pulatisi Ravaya
Broadcasting Service. He who worked as a Regional Correspondent of the Lankdipa newspaper got
married Sunanda Vijelatha Munasinghe, the novelist. He died somewhere on 19.12.2009 and at the
time of in death he had been living in Hospital Junction, Nissanka Malla Mawatha, Polonnaruwa.
This account has been given because at discussions held in connection with this study one statement
contradicts the other.

REFERENCES:

15

Interviews:

Interview had with Mr. Prasanna Abeywardane (69) at his residence at Galbada,
Induruwa on 08/02/2014. He worked as village headman of Bentota from 1960.one of the

former chairman of all Ceylon Village headmans Association.


Interviews had with Mr Pathamasiri Weerasinghe (57) of Thunduwa, Haburugala,Son of

Traditional Guru Adin,a contemporary Kolam artist on 06.11.2013 and 11.02.2014.


Interviews had with Mr. Nobert,Master Mask carver and tom-tom artist of

Suddagoda,Bentota on 25.02.2014.
Interviews had with Mr.D.S.Ponnamperuma (90) of Suriyagoda, the most senior and the

knowledgeable person living at Bentota at present on 24.02.2014.


Interviews had with Traditional Guru Eralis (chanter) of Suddagoda,Bentota on

23.02.2014.
Interviews had with Mrs.D.K.O.K Sriyalatha(58)Born in Kommala but now living at

Galthuduwa on 12.03.2014.
Interviews had with Mr Wilmat Galbadaarachchi (63)of Kommala, Bentota, presently
alive only one person who engaged with bentota kolam on 17.05.2014.
Telephone Interviews:
Interviews had over the phone with Mr.Kumudu kumara(38)Profesional Dancer and TomTom- Beater of Arachchimulla,Bentota on 25.02.2014.

Books

Sarachchandra,E.(1999)Sinhala Gemi natakaya(Sinhala adaptation of The Folk Darma of


Ceylon,1966),3rd edition, Maradana: S.Godage publication.
Goonatilleka, M.H .(1968). Kolam nataka sahithya.Maradana:Rathna publications.
____________(1980)Kolam, Sinhala encyclopedia, Vol.8.Ed.Dharmadasa.K.N.O,
Department of cultural affairs.
Sarachchandra.E.R,1966,The Folk Drama of Ceylon,2nd edition.Ceylon:Dep.of Cultural
Affairs.
Perera,Ranjith,1995,Maname manaranjitha manakalpitha,Theertha, Spring edition,
Colombo:Vibhavi Institute,29-47pp.
Amarasekara.K.G,2002.Kolam Nataka puranaya, Etlanta Priters, Outhers publication.
Kaluarachchi,A. 2006, Kolam nataka wimasuma, Authors publication.
Kottegoda,J.2009,Kolam gemi natakayak nowe, 2nd edition, Boralesgamuwa: Authors
publication.

16

Saussure, Ferdinand de.,1966. Course in General Linguistics. Translated from french by


Wade Baski.London: Hill Book Company.

MAPS:

Map 1: Village headmans divisions of Bentota Village council area.

PICTURES:

17

Pic.1: Public
Pic.2:
Wilbertlanterns
Galbadarachchi
of poya covered by
(63) Kmmala
coconut
leaves (sours:SMK)
in Kommala volleyboll
ground. (sours:SMK).

Pic.3: Pathamasiri Weerasinghe,


son of guru Adin, living at
Thunduwa, Haburugala. (SMK)

Pic.4: a poster of Kolam show held at Tower


hall organized by Pathmasiri. He says that
these are traditional Ambalangoda Kolam.

Pic.5: Jinadasa Jayasekara living in


Bentota

18