There’s something special about Kandy…

The traditional beauty and artistry of Kandyan bridal jewellery

There’s something special about Kandy, Sri Lanka’s former seat of kings, the guardian of our most sacred relic, a tooth from the Buddha himself, and capital city of our famed Hill Country.

To which we should add something just as entrancing—the distinctive jewellery worn by a Kandyan bride, from the traditional, steeped in culture, to more contemporary designs.

Both are luxurious expressions of taste, while traditional jewellery set is different—in colour, texture, weight, and appearance. It is a widely held belief that a traditional Kandyan bride wears 26 pieces of jewellery on her wedding day.

The bride wears three bangles on each hand

Sun and moon

The roarLIFE website reports that the Kandyan bride’s regalia—from head to toe—“traditionally consisted of the following pieces: the headdress known as the nalal patiya, the sun and the moon (ira/handa) on either side of her head, and the lampshade-like earrings with tassels and a row of tiny hanging pearls, called dimbithi.

“The bride wears three bangles on each hand called the gedi valalla (with large coral and gold beads), seri valalla (a thick bangle with engraved patterns) and gal valalla (usually set with red gems).

“She also wears an armlet called ketchagama, a hair ornament called konda maala, as well as the waistlet called the havadiya.

And a hair ornament called a konda maala

She also wears seven pendants with long chains

A modern version

The konda maala is a unique hair ornament, somewhat resembling a konda koora or a hair stick. It is fixed on the middle of a bun which is placed low on the head in the style known as the Sinhala bandapu konde. It has a circle or flower shape embedded with gems in the middle and five chains that spread out to similar flowers.

The traditional Kandyan bride also wears seven pendants with long chains, called the maala hatha. Each called a padakkam maale, the pendants have minor size differences and the chains themselves are of different lengths.

However, all seven pendants of any given set are the same in design. Traditionally, these pendants would be in the shape of entwined swans called hansa poottuwa. This motif symbolises the unity and togetherness of the wedded couple.

Warding off evil

There are certain attendant customs and traditions that are followed during the dressing of a Kandyan bride. Warding off evil and invoking blessings are important parts of these rituals.

Chief among them is the placing of the nalal patiya on the bride’s head at an auspicious time. It is usually placed there by the mother or by a close female relative, symbolising her blessings for the union.

Wearing the nalal patiya was the exclusive privilege of royalty in the past; Kandyan brides wear it today to distinguish themselves from the rest. Some consider it bad luck for unmarried maidens to wear the nalal patiya before her wedding day.

Warding off evil and invoking blessings are important rituals

Keeping the tradition alive

The craft of making these solid yet intricately worked designs—which is the hallmark of Kandyan jewellery—is passed down from generation to generation.

The Kandyan Arts Association confirms that artisans from villages in the hills of the Kandy District such as Naththaranpotha, Neelawala, and Elugoda, still practise this unique art.

Kandyan jewellery is famously made from silver and plated with gold when required. In modern times, semi-precious stones such as zircons, amethysts, topaz, tourmalines, and garnets are widely used.

Many brides today choose to hire imitation jewellery from bridal dressers who specialise in Kandyan bridal dressing, and the jewellery comes as part of a ‘package deal’.

Read more here.

The craft is passed down from generation to generation

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