About this object

History of use

Worn during curing ritual of the Sanni Yakuma ceremony, part of theTovil series of dramas performed by Sinhalese ritual specialists and dancers. The Sanni Yakuma is intended to combat diseases and afflictions caused by the Sanni group of demons. These consist of 18 or more apparitions of the chief demon, Maha-Kola-Sanni. The officiating healer honours Buddha, then appeases the demons with offerings, dancing, and chanting. This Gara Yaka mask is also associated with Kolam, Devolmaduva and Gammaduva ceremonies.

Cultural context


Iconographic meaning

The features of this mask class include; enormous circular ears, richly decorated with leaf, flower and petal designs, broad half-opened mouths with eyeteeth extended as great fangs, cobra kapelles (usually 3) forming a head dress, also can have big hooked noses, protruding eyes, and green painted faces. The jaw may be movable. Benevolent demons may be painted pink or yellow instead of red (or green?).

Physical description

Mask depicting the demon Gara Yaka with protruding eyes, a crooked nose with flared nostrils, wide red lips borderd in black, white teeth, curving cobras emerging from the corners of the mouth, disc-shaped concave ears, scrolling protruding elements above each ear, and a headdress formed by five cobras. The mask is painted in glossy pink, red, white and black. Strips of red fabric are threaded through the eye slits and the centre of each roundel to secure them to the mask. Twine attached at back. A label written in blue ink on the reverse reads, "Gara Yaka."