The village of Thalagune, tucked away in the lush Dumbara Valley in Kandy, is just one of many villages in Sri Lanka where handloom textile weaving is a living heritage. But, as far back as 543 BC the islanders had found a way to clothe themselves.

When Indian Prince, Vijaya arrived on the island, Kuveni from the indigenous race of Yaksha was spinning yarn. Clearly, Sri Lanka’s handloom weavers carry a rich legacy of culture and hereditary skills.


Traditionally, Sri Lanka’s weavers have been divided into two groups of indigenous weaving communities such as Thalagune, and migrants, often master weavers from India brought to the island to make fine gold-woven cloths for ceremonial use and for the royals.

The local handloom tradition has also been influenced by waves of foreign immigrants, such as the Moor community, descendants from Arab traders from the Middle East. 




Nature inspired the forms and patterns. Many of the motifs on the traditional handloom textiles are inspired by the environment. Stylized motifs of the mythical serpent-like kobo and the salalihiniya bird were immortalized at the loom. So were the sun, moon, stars, peacocks, and elephants.

Geometrical patterns are also common in Thalagune textiles, such as the katuru mala – crossed petals like a pair of scissors, bota pata – two triangles apex to apex and mal petta – geometrical flower petals.



A tale to remember

Handloom textile weaving is largely a home or community-based industry. Traditionally, Sri Lanka’s indigenous weavers have maintained a different aesthetic, where their patterns and colours tend to be more restrained. Yarn was home spun from cotton cultivated in chenas, while natural dyes were used from seeds, flowers, bark and roots.


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