Inventory no.: 1160

Sri Lankan Dance Mask


Polychrome Wooden Dance Mask of Gurulu Raksha

Sri Lanka

circa 1920

height: 60cm, width: 85cm

This splendid Sri Lankan dance mask is of carved wood with polychrome. The prominent ears are detachable. The face has a beak (the nostrils are where the dancer’s eyes can see out), bulging eyes, a tiered headdress and a cobra curled up over the beak and between the eyes. The mask is of Gurulu Raksha, a local variant on the Garuda.

Gurulu is a mythical bird supposed to prey on cobras. There is no difficulty in identifying this mask on account of the facial features of a bird and the cobra.

The mask is of a local softwood: either

Nux vomica, Erythria indica or Altonia schelaris.

A related mask is illustrated in Manukulasooriya (2005, p. 99).

Such masks were used in the Kolam dances of rural Sri Lanka. Disguise and mimicry are features of this dance tradition. The dancers wear masks and costumes and perform with mime, dance and some dialogue. The characters are divided into several types: humans (for example, princes, the drummer and his wife, the European), animals and demons. Performances depict village scenes and extend to stories that involve spirits and creatures from Hindu mythology.

This full-sized mask is highly decorative and is best displayed mounted on a wall. An old internal supporting wire mount readily allows for this.


UK art market


Manukulasooriya, R., Masks of Sri Lanka and Mask and Kolam Dancing, Sri Lanka, 2005.

Inventory no.: 1160