Battaramulla – Janakala Kendraya:
The paradise of traditional craftsmen
The handicrafts are beautiful and elegant and also of high quality,
it is unbelievable that items which cost so much to produce are sold at
such low prices, that’s why we came all the way from Hikkaduwa to your
centre, a young Australian tourist Mark Gregory and his wife Jennie who
were at Battaramulla, `Janakala Kendraya’ said.
Mark and Jennie had come to Sri Lanka on October 15 to the spend
their holidays for just two weeks and go back to the Maldives, but
suddenly they had to cancel their Maldivian trip due to the busy
schedule in Sri Lanka .
During their stay here they planned to visit places such as Hikkaduwa
Coral Gardens, the Kandy Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Tooth), The
Botanical Gardens at Peradeniya, Sigiriya Rock and also to the Pinnawala
When the Sunday Observer met the couple at Battaramulla, Janakala
Centre, Mark said they extended their tour in Sri Lanka for a further
three days. He said they were brought to the Janakala Centre by a tour
guide whom they met at Hikkaduwa. He said before arriving in the country
they had browsed the Sri Lanka Tourism Website and selected to visit
only five places during their two weeks tour.
“But, when we came to the Janakala Centre, we decided to cancel the
Maldivian tour with the intention of visiting this village at least for
two days, so that we could buy some traditional items for friends in
He said a large number of traditional items such as batik clothes,
brass and silver items including lamps and statues, wood carvings,
handloom textiles, wall decorations and clay products and many more are
very cheap at the Janakala Centre.
Chairman Buddhi Keerthisena
“We were amazed when we heard about the low prices of some items as
the same items are very expensive at many other places in Colombo,”.
He said he bought a bronze statue of a god at Rs. 3,750, but the same
statue is sold between Rs. 7,000 and Rs. 8,000 in certain popular
shopping arcades in Colombo. He called upon foreign tourists to visit
the Craft Village at Battaramulla once and see the difference.
“I will also ask my friends to visit the Janakala Kendraya to
purchase handicraft items as they are very cheaper when comparing to
other places in Colombo,”.
Mark said although they planned to stay at the village one night, but
gave up that idea owing to non availability of accommodation facilities.
The Handicraft Marketing village at the Janakala Kendra complex was
opened last year to help craftsmen in the country to sell their products
under one roof. The village was opened by Minister Basil Rajapaksa.
The National Crafts Council (NCC) was opened in 1982 by the then
President Ranasinghe Peremadasa to help craftsmen and also to preserve
the age-old handicraft industry in the country.
The village is on a five-acre picturesque land at Pelawatta,
Battaramulla which is in close proximity to the Sri Jayawardanapura
Parliamentary complex and only 15 minutes drive from the city of
Colombo. It also takes less than 50 minutes to travel to this village
from the Bandaranaike International Airport, Katunayaka. Anybody who
visits the village could see the green environment and vast climatical
The craft village has about 30 stalls which are run by local
craftsmen representing all districts. Some of them have their workshops
within the village while some others run only sales centres. In addition
to local tourists, a large number of foreigners too visit the village
Pix: Vipula Amarasinghe
The traditional handicrafts that are available in the village are
batik creations, handlooms, wall decorations, table cloth, bobbin lace
creations, rattan creations, silver jewellery, oil paintings, bronze
creations, interior house decorations, garden decorations and palm
related handicraft creations.
NCC, Chairman Buddhi Keerthisena in an interview with the Sunday
Observer said the craftsmen in the village provide only high quality
local handicraft to visitors at very affordable prices when comparing to
the prices in the open market in Colombo and other tourist destinations.
“Sometimes, we sell very valuable local crafts such as silver plated
elephants, wood carvings, bronze creations such as oil lamps and
handloom textiles at 30 to 40 percent discount rates since our objective
is to help local craftsmen in their endeavour of manufacturing more
items,” he said. Keerthisena said arrangements have also been made to
conduct variety shows such as dancing, thovil ceremonies and cultural
pageants at the craft village during weekends and holidays for the
benefit of local and foreign nationals who would like to see traditional
artistes performing. He said some foreign tourists visit the village not
only to buy items, but also to spend the day as they generally do at
hotels in down South or in Nuwara Eliya and Kandy and other places.
“This encouraged us to start a hotel complex with all the facilities
within the craft village, so that foreign tourists could even stay at
night,”. The Chairman further said steps have been taken to bring more
foreign tourists to the craft village in the future under a special
program, already launched in collaboration with Sri Lanka Tourism.
The village has been constructed on the lines of the famous Indian
handicraft village, `Dilli Hert’ The stalls are open everyday including
holidays and according to statistics over 100,000 local tourists and
20,000 foreigners visit the village every month.
The NCC has also started craftsmen exchange programs between Sri
Lanka and India to encourage our craftsmen to visit handicraft villages
in India. In addition, the NCC also conducts annual trade fairs in
Kandy, Kataragama, Ratnapura and Galle to encourage craftsmen to expand
their sales. According to many craftsmen in the village they have no
fixed monthly income as it depends on the arrival of the number of
customers. Some craftsmen earn around Rs. 60,000 a month, while the
monthly income of some others are less than Rs. 30,000. They are of the
view that only authorities could develop this traditional handicraft
industry by initiating new programs to bring foreign tourists to the
village. A 56–year-old James Perera who owns a wood carving stall said
the Sri Lanka Tourism could play a major role to bring tour groups to
the village, if so all craftsmen will be able to sell their products
within short periods. A brassware and Jewellery stall owner Susil
Rajaguru said there is no proper bus service to the village from Colombo
and proposed the Sri Lanka Transport Board to start a direct bus
service, so that people could comfortably visit the village. The owner
of Sriyani Jewellery House, S.M. Sriyani wanted school authorities to
bring students with their parents to the village to show the
craftsmanship of our people as it will also help them to sell their
Nimal Premasiri of Silver Design said the livelihood of craftsmen in
the village depended on customers and requested Government authorities
to hold conferences and other meetings at the Craft Village hall.
“This will also help us to sell our products to people”.