The Ves Dancers – an expression of Sri Lankan culture

The Ves dance is more than just a ritual; it is a sacred recitation for protection against misfortunes. Hence, the Ves dancer's costume is also considered sacred.
Ves Dancer
Silver headgear
Anklets, bangles, epaulettes
red waist chain
Shell and bead chest adornment
By Time Out editors |

There is something intensely thrilling in the movements of the Ves dancer; the bracelets on his feet and the quivering ornaments on his headdress create the most rhythmic tinkling accompanied by the sound of drums.

The Ves dance is an ancient dance ritual that was performed in a purification ceremony known as the Kohomba Kankariya. Only men perform this dance. The Ves dancer had to traditionally don a costume of 64 ornaments, believed to be a replica of the attire worn by the associated deity, god Kohomba. This attire is unique to the Ves dance recital. The upper body is bare, except for a flimsy web like apron made of shells and beads.

The pleated white cloth covering the lower torso is draped around the waist and tucked, creating the look of loose-fitting pants. The silver headgear characterises the Ves dancer. From the conical top of the headdress, spreads seven spokes that look like rays, sometimes similar to flames and even leaves. From the seven corners dangle little shining trinkets. The headdress is a silver forehead plate. With mango-shaped ornaments for the ears and cobra shaped sheaths over the arms, the ensemble is complete, and the Ves dancer is ready to gyrate to the beat. The Ves dance is an embodiment of Sri Lankan traditional dance narrations.

As the drums beat, the dancer moves his hands, feet and body in perfect harmony with fellow performers, until the crescendo of his performance, which every person in the audience awaits in anticipation. The back flips, acrobatics and leaps are spellbinding. The famous pirouettes (a twirl on one foot) is the highlight of the performance.

As the Ves dancer whirls, the long ribbon suspended from his elaborate crown-like headgear makes the most energetic flicking movement. The Ves dance is more than just a ritual; it is a sacred recitation for protection against misfortunes. Hence, the Ves dancer’s costume is also considered sacred. It is not stored just anywhere, but is usually placed in a separate shrine room or at the village temple. 

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