Rūkada Nātya – traditional drama performed using string puppets in Sri Lanka

Inscribed in 2018 (13.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Rūkada Nātya is a type of drama performed using string puppets, traditionally to provide light entertainment and convey moral lessons to village communities. Rūkada Nātya is made up of groups of families belonging to or related to the line known as Gamwari, which lives around the southern coastal towns of Ambalangoda, Balapitiya and Mirissa.

The themes are chosen from folktales, Buddhist stories, ancient literature, historical narratives and trivia with humorous anecdotes from contemporary life or nadagam, an extinct form of ‘folk opera’. Puppeteers make their own wooden puppets and prepare handwritten scripts with dialogues and songs, which they recite while manipulating the puppets.

A small band provides musical accompaniment, and the performances are community events. Through puppet dramas, worldviews and values essential to peaceful community coexistence come to life so that young people can easily understand them; therefore, practice is an effective way of conveying crucial messages for maintaining cohesion among community members. It also allows community members to laugh and have fun together, helping them socialize.

Museums play a key role in contributing to the dissemination of related knowledge, as does the traditional practice of holding performances during the festive periods in May and June in the temple spaces, the traditional community centers of culture in Sri Lanka.

Source: unesco.org

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