Perched on the maritime routes of the vast Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is an island-nation known for its diverse culture truly making it the wonder of Asia. With a population of 20 million, a variety of traditions and customs combine to bring about the beauty of this country.
The spouse of the Ambassador of Sri Lanka, Mrs. Jayalakshmi Wijeratne hosted an event at the Sri Lankan residence to celebrate this magnificent culture, inviting the spouses of Excellencies from all over the world along with other members of the International Women’s Group as well as distinguished guests. As it is custom to do so in Sri Lanka, the programme began with the lighting of the traditional oil lamp which is done in order to acquire merit and to avert evil influence.
A welcome dance was then performed by Amaya, the Ambassador’s youngest daughter who demonstrated the traditional dance form of Kandyan dancing. Sri Lanka has three main forms of dance, which differ in their styles of body-movements and gestures. Kandyan dancing which is known as Uda Rata Natum is the traditional dance style of the hill country, whereas Pahatha Rata Natum is known as the dance of the southern plains. Sabaragamuwa natuma is unique to the Sabaragamuwa province of Sri Lanka.
The osariya (Kandyan saree) is the traditional Sri Lankan woman’s dress which was created as a sign of independence and authenticity. In earlier times the osariya was considered a modest dress and was not meant to expose the woman’s midriff or back. Nowadays however, women make it a must to wear the blouse high enough to expose the midriff and the blouse and sleeve is made in various designs, whereas formerly the sleeve had to reach the forearm. The osariya is mostly worn by Sinhalese women. The Sri Lankan Tamil woman’s dress is very similar to that of southern Indian women. A presentation was carried out about the forms of women’s dress in Sri Lankan culture and to further illustrate this, Mrs. Jayalakshmi Wijeratne demonstrated how the osariya is worn, using her daughter as a model. Finally the doubts of how wear the osariya were erased as the ladies present at the event observed the demonstration up-close and were happy to discover the secret of wearing this beautiful dress.
The tropical isle of Sri Lanka although modestly small provides an incredible selection of food, all dishes being highly personal and diverse. For instance there is Kandyan Sinhalese cooking, featuring its focus on hill region fruit and vegetables and coastal cooking, creating the very best of the seafood with which the country is truly blessed. Then there is the Tamil cooking style which is very closely associated with southern Indian cooking, particularly common in northern Sri Lanka. The programme ended with a cookery demonstration of kottu roti (an eastern Sri Lankan dish) and a traditional meal prepared by Sri Lankan chefs of leading hotels in Kuwait. The buffet table offered a variety of dishes from the coast to hill regions to the northern part of Sri Lanka. Authentic Sri Lankan sweets were kept alongside a basket of colourful fruits which were sent all the way from Sri Lanka. Each of the guests were given a booklet containing the recipes used at the cookery demonstration.
The ladies left not only with a souvenir bag from Sri Lanka, but taking a whole new cultural experience with them. The phrase “we are definitely visiting Sri Lanka” was heard throughout and this brought much happiness and pride to Mrs. Jayalaksmi Wijeratne as the entire event was planned within the family. This was truly a cultural event which shared only a drop of what the small island nation has to offer.