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Thanks to the abundance of timber in Sri Lanka, traditional architecture was made of wood, and this led to a strong heritage of woodcarving skills. Today, wooden sculptures have become a widespread craft with tourists. Statues of Buddha and gods, as well as animals such as elephants, take pride of place. Most are made from hardwoods like ebony, palu, sandalwood and na. After the wood is selected, a rough shape is chiseled out in a process known as ‘baragahanawa.’ Then the actual features carved with ine chisels (mattangahanawa). The carving is then smoothed and polished. Afterwards, the masks were traditionally sanded using rough leaves or shark skin. Then they were painted, and embellishments such as eyebrows, moustaches and beards were made from monkey skin.

Masks are used for several purposes in Sri Lanka. As well as featuring in traditional dance, drama and comedies, and in large pageants and processions, they are also used in ceremonies to exorcise demons or cure illnesses. Most masks are made from kaduru, a light, pliable wood similar to Balsa.