The dances are usually performed in Ratnapura, relating to the worshipping of God Saman much revered by local people. There are 32 main dances in Sabaragamuwa Style.
The Sabaragamuwa dance style by its geographical location has taken from both Low-Country and Kandyan dance styles. Sabaragamu has based on ritual of the lights (Pung Madu). The more popular drum was the Yukk Bera originally but today the use of Dowla and Thammettama, gives the Sabaragamuwa a quaint peculiarity all its own.
Costumes, Movement, and Rhythm in Sabaragamuwa Dances
The Sabaragamuwa tradition has its own distinctive costumes, songs, chants, drums, and rhythms. In the ancient times, the drum used in accompaniment of these dances was the patawa drum. These days, the dawula or dawul beraya is used. While the Kandyan dancers also use the dawula in accompaniment, the dawula of the Sabaragamuwa region is slightly larger than the udarata dawula.
Just like the people of the Southern and Western provinces of the island, the people of the Sabaragamuwa region perform various shanthikarma too.
the Sabaragamuwa dance tradition can be categorised into three groups: yak thovil, deva thovil, and graha bali yaga.
This type of thovil is performed to appease one or more of the 18 sanni yakku which are believed to be the cause of the various diseases and health conditions.
According to Kumarathunga, the mahason samayama, gopalu samayama, kumara samayama, daraha thovil and the suniyam yagaya, are some of the other yak thovil which are part of the Sabaragamuwa dance form.
On the other hand, the deva thovil are shanthikarma performed to invoke the blessings of the deities of the pre-Buddhist folk religions of Sri Lanka. The gods Kataragama, Dedimunda, Vishnu, Natha, Mangara, Ishwara, and the goddess Paththini are only a few of the numerous deities which make up the pantheon of ancient gods and goddesses.
Graha Bali Yagha
The rituals of the graha bali yagha are performed to alleviate misfortune which is said to befall certain individuals when celestial bodies such as the sun, the moon and the planets of our solar system do not move in their favour. The main rituals which make up the graha bali yagha include the mal bali, thira bali, prathima bali, and the balagraha bali.
Even the raiments of the dancers and drummers are strictly unique, though you see the elaborate Kandyan and the colourful Low-Country influence in them. Some forms of Sabaragamu dances are ‘Sindu mathra’, ‘Gaman mathra’, ‘Yakpada mathra’ and ‘Patu-thala mathra’.