On Saturday December 2, 2017 Sri Lanka Foundation Performing Arts Center held their inaugural graduation ceremony at the Sri Rathana Vihara in Anaheim, California. A traditional Sri Lankan Dance graduation is called a “Pahimpath Mangalyaya.” It is the debut performance of a Sri Lankan traditional dance student. It is part graduation, part showcase. Sonali Malalasekara, Nithya Bamunuarachchi, Nethmi Fernando and Hiruni Ranwaka qualified to graduate this year. After mastering the basic foundation of traditional dance, these students began mastering the customs and rituals of the Kohomba Kankariaya. The “Kohomba Kankariya” is how Kandyan dance was initiated in Sri Lanka during the 4th century B.C for the purpose of expelling natural disasters, sickness and invoking blessings and prosperity.
The ceremony began early Saturday morning. With the blessings of Buddha, celestial bodies and deities the dancers were adorned with beautiful “Pahimpatha” symbolising their rite of passage into further practise of traditional dance by their mother. The ornate traditional headpiece made of bronze and matching jewelry is given to the graduates. Then they are covered in a white cloth and taken around the bodhi tree. After looking at auspicious things and taking away any evil eye they see themselves for the first time in a pot of clear water dressed in their traditional jewelry made especially for them.
Then the dancers pray for for their parents, thanking them for all they have done. Then they thank their teachers for the guidance. Afterwards the dancers show their skills at their debut performance in front of their parents, family, teachers, friends and well-wishers. The performances are done to live drums and songs showcasing their keen knowledge of traditional rhythm.
See some photos of the Pahimpath Ceremony
Sri Lanka Foundation Performing Arts Center was founded in 2015. Though the years Sri Lanka Foundation (SLF) Performing Arts Center has worked with the community to build multicultural awareness by bringing together many like-minded people to form a vibrant community dedicated to dance, diversity, and inclusivity. Students participate in creation, interpretations and production of an original art inspired by culture of Sri Lanka. SLF Performing Arts Center not only teaches Sri Lankan dancing, but offer students opportunities to perform and experience theater arts. Students also learn to play traditional drums such as the Gata Bera, Thammatama, Dawla and rabana.