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Phase II: Regional expansion


Project overview and objectives 

As Kandy is the centre of the craft and performing arts traditions, the project activities will be based there, but open to monks and lay trainees from throughout the country. Project activities will focus on re-invigorating the stagnant artisan traditions associated with the Buddhist temples to meet the rapidly growing demand.  In this way, the revival and expansion of traditional artisan and performing arts skills will provide many new employment and income-generating opportunities, especially in poorer traditional inner-city communities.  And because these new opportunities are associated with a cultural renaissance made possible because of peace, they will also contribute to re-building communal cooperation and confidence.


The Sri Lanka Buddhist sangha has identified curriculum topics, training venues, and trainees.  The challenge is that, because of the years of conflict, many of the traditional skills have, in fact, been lost or have degraded to the point that the quality does not match traditional expectations.  Therefore, in Kandy, like in Luang Prabang, and Xishuangbanna, the project will contain research and documentation activities in order to re-establish the high standard training on traditional arts and craftsmanship.


The project aims to revive and revitalize the endangered Buddhist artistic skills in mural painting, painting of Jataka religious stories on clothing, writing of religious stories and the sutras on ola leaves and the casting of religious images in brass. Initial activities will focus on the research, inventory and documentation of (i) religious images and ritualistic items in brass, and (ii) ola leaf writing. The research on the traditional ola leaf writing will include traditional calligraphic styles, as well as the traditional ink used in writing on ola leaves. The documentation will be the basis of formulating a training curriculum on religious brass works and ola leaf writing of manuscripts. The project in partnership with the Kandy Project of the Central Cultural Fund, will target to survise those crafts directly associated with the Buddhist temple. Project objectives are made to guide the project implementation as following:


  • The Asgirya Maha Viharaya and the The Kandyan Art Association will be the two main institution that will organize and conduct workshops and training sessions and they will also liaise between the CCF and the trainees and trainers.
  • Postgraduate Institute of Archaeology (PGIAR) will function as the coordinator of academic and similar aspects of the training modules.
  • Preventative conservation activities will include training workshops conducted by artists from Sikkim and Orissa, training workshops on palm leaf writing by Ven. Yatipola Medankara of Matale, and illustrated lecture sessions on preventive conservation of murals and artifacts in a temple context
  • Hands-on training in order to revive crafts will target cloth painting, traditional murals, and palm leaf writing.  Trainers in the first two topics (cloth painting and  traditional murals) will require preliminary training.
  •  Documentation will be undertaken for cloth paintings, mural paintings and temple histories.
  • Networking activities undertaken by the Kandyan Arts Association will connect the traditional crafts villages in the Kandyan region.


However, during the implementation process, the Aluvihara Royal Temple in Matale has emerged to participate the project implementation focused on revival of the ola-leaf writing of religious texts. Department of Archaeology of the University of Peradeniya, located at the outskirt of Kandy has also become implementation partner.


The ola-leaf project of the will be initiated on a limited scale at the Aluvihara Temple in Matale, a traditional learning centre with well-stocked traditional ola-leaf library. Reviving the ola-leaf writing of religious texts will entail the revival of the art of processing ola-leaf, research on ola-leaf traditions, developing a conservation program for old ola-leaf manuscripts, digital archival recording and mapping of ola-leaf repositories in Sri Lanka, and eventually, training among monks to relearn early Sinhalese, Tamil, Sanskrit and Pali languages (languages about to be extinct) which were used in ancient manuscripts. Initial project activities are expected to start during the last quarter of 2006 after submission of the work plan and site activity proposal.