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The indigenous folk drama of Sri Lanka


Although Sri Lanka does not have a rich dramatic tradition it has had three kinds of prominent folk plays. They are Kolam, Nadagam and Sokari. The Kolam and Nadagam have been prevalent along the western and southern coastal provinces of the island. It is observed that these plays are highly influenced by Malaya dramatic traditions. But Sokari, ritualistic folk drama ascribed to the cult of goddess Paththini has survived only in the remote Kandyan areas of Sri Lanka. Even today Sokari Folk drama is staged at places such as Hewaheta, Matale and Hanguranketha. The Play is mostly staged at one of the Kamathas (threshing floor) of the village, after the harvesting season. The performance starts just after the night fall and continues till the next morning. All of the characters of the play have to recite verses. Music is by Kandyan drum (Geta Bera), Udakki and Horanewa. The narrator introduces the characters of the play. The drummer and his assistants follow the verse recited by the narrator. Male characters of the play wear sarong and shawls. Female characters wear Kandyan Osariya. But no females take part in this drama. All the female characters are played by males.

The main characters of the Sokari play are, Guruhami (Andi gura, Guruwa), Sokari, Paraya, waduwa, welenda, Soththana, Nai natawanna and Kapurala. The story goes as follows:

Sokari and Guruhami are a married couple from India. (Bengali/Andra Pradesh) Although they have been married for long they are without children. They come on a pilgrimage to Kataragama. The ship they travel by meet with an accident and Guruhamy, Sokari and their servant Paraya land in a place called Thambarawila on the North Western coast of Sri Lanka. However Paraya, who could speak little Sinhala manages to find some food and shelter for them. In the meantime Sokari gets friendly with a local Wedarala and elopes with him. Guruhamy gets wild and goes everywhere cursing everybody but he fails to find his wife. Finally they come to a Devalaya and invoke the blessings of God Kataragama and with the help of the god they to trace the place where Wedarala and Sokari are living. Guruhamy punishs his wife but they are reunited subsequently.

Rajendra Bandara (AAL)


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