History of Traditional Kandyan Costumes (Kasaw Turban)

During the reign of King WimaladharmasuriyaI (1591-1604 B.C.) the normal dress of a King was shirt and long sleeved jacket and on it a manthaya round the neck and a Sinhalese style decorated turban or a Malabar style pair of trousers made of thin material. It is said that he also wore a four-cornered hat with a high borala. It was also the custom of the nobles to wear a sword in a sheath. Nobody was allowed to wear stockings and shoes which was a part of the royal costume.

History of Traditional Kandyan Costumes Contd. (Kasaw Turban)


Especially Kings wore royal ornaments and jewellery on important occasions. The intention was to be seen noticeable among the people and to be revered as a God by the people. However after the arrival of the Portuguese there had been clear difference of the costumes of the royals and nobles.

It shows however that the Sinhalese Kings made changes in their costumes influenced by the Portuguese dresses. Even the words used by Portuguese for their dresses were added to Sinhala dresses.

It showed some changes and new additions were attached to costumes of chieftains towards the end of this era. To the dress the kings wore to cover the bottom part was a three core trouser with pleats. These people who wore trousers must have been influenced by Kings costumes for their creations. The costumes of up country chieftains differed slightly from one another. The dress, the Nilames used in the earlier period started its use during the English period as well. A long trouser for the bottom part of the body, a belt, a turban, necklaces, a manthe, jeweled rings, bangles with carvings, gold chains and a designed hat were parts of the original dress.

The top dress worn by the Kandy chieftains was called the Juan jacket. High officials like Adikarams, MahaDisawe, Rate Mahaththayas,Mohottalas wore a dress called Kuruppus dress. Depending on the value of the raw materials used for these costumes worn by each chieftain had a high value for each costume. This costume came as original dress in the later years. The DiyawadanaNilame is the lay caretaker of the historical procession of the Sacred Tooth Relic. Earlier, members of the up county noble class were appointed as BasnayakeNilmes but now even the ordinary people has the opportunity to be appointed as BasnayakeNilames. It is presumed that revered as sacred and majestic and glorified original costume which has come along the traditions of temples and cultures which is made of velvet material could be considered as a symbol of statehood for all nationalities and foreigners and could be considered as the dignified original dress for the sons and daughters of Sri Lanka.

At present it is considered as the wedding dress at all wedding ceremonies and allowing their sons to wear it is your duty to give prominence to traditions and preserve these traditions for the future generations. Creations of costumes with maroon, green, orange, black, purple, brown, red, ivory the colour of tusks, white and blue colours embroidered with gold threads and using local raw and fancys materials, using animal figures such as lion, swan, mythical birds, phoenix and peacock and flower strands and creepers which were our traditional drawings involved with the hereditary Kandyan era.