Mul Anduma changes over time | Sunday Observer

Mul Anduma changes over time

The regal attire, the Mul anduma is a symbol of the traditional heritage of the Kandyan kingdom.

According to traditional beliefs Mul Anduma is the attire of God Dadimunda and thus it is regarded as the attire of the gods. It was with the advent of the South Indian royal dynasty Nayakkara that the Mul Anduma in its basic form came to the island. This was in 1702, during Sri Lanka’s last Sinhala king, Sri Veera Parakrama Narendrasignhe’s reign. The Bhai community who came with the ‘Nayakkara’ clan brought the Mul Andum craftsmanship to Sri Lanka. The Bhai community created Mul Andum for high caste members of the Kandyan kingdom based on traditional designs. These noble men advised the Bhai craftsmen on the designs which were based on traditional Sinhala designs.

Colours

The traditional Mul Anduma colours were maroon, ivory, blue, red, purple or green. It is important to note that only the basic Mul Anduma was provided by the Indians and the concept of the attire has been developed by the Kandyan nobility.

The Sunday Observer spoke to Sameera Jayaratne of the Hindagala Mul Andum clan to gain a broader perspective of the Mul Andum industry.

Making this regal attire is a family tradition with the techniques being handed down from generation to generation or as it is said in Sinhala a paramparika tradition. Kapuru Bhai of Nawalapitiya is supposed to have been the last of the Bhai Mul Andum craftsman and a member of the Jayaratne clan learnt the art from him and passed it down to other family members. Sameera Jayaratne is a member of the 6th generation of Jayaratne ‘Mul Andum‘Makers. On the emergence of the Mul Andum tradition in Sri Lanka, Hindagala was selected as the village to embark on the making of the attire.

Thus Hindagala earned a reputation as the home of expert Mul Andum makers and since the days of the Kandyan Kingdom, the tradition of Mul Andum creation is protected in the Hindagala village.

A Mul Anduma traditionally consists of 14 parts which are rali kalisama, sudu tuppottiya, rathu pachchawadama, somanaya, kawaniya, willuda hattaya, willuda badapatiya, willuda papupatiya, hatara mulu toppiya, padakkam Malaya, siriya, boralu mala, peras mudda and miri wadi sagala.

But the Mul Anduma has undergone many changes from the time of the Sinhala Kings of Kandy. During the period of the Kandyan monarchs Sri Lanka was divided into 18 divisions and the King’s Court comprised Nilames from 18 different parts of the country, and other elite designated as Adikaram, Disawa, Ratey Mahattaya and Mohottala all of who had unique, designated Mul Andum in keeping with their ranks, and the Sinhala Kandyan culture, to be worn at the King’s Court. These traditions have continued up to date.

Historically, only the basics of the art were received from India. At present however, some of the Mul Andum in use are imported from India, as some Sri Lankans lacked the correct knowledge on Mul Andum designs. Sameera said, “Unfortunately, Indian designers with knowledge on designing sarees only, are attempting to work on Mul Andum, which has resulted in the complete change of Mul Andum designs. They have used designs which are not used in traditional Kandyan designs, with colours such as ash and black which are never used in traditional Kandyan arts.

Ash or black

It is customary for the Sinhala people not to attire in ash or black even for a funeral and due to the lack of proper knowledge some have started to produce Mul Andum in black”.

Focusing on the jewellery of the Mul anduma Sameera said, the sword can only be worn by Adhikarams in the King’s Court and when Adikarams wear the sword they should wear it with the Bapanaya. Yet, people without an understanding about the tradition have given the sword to the hand without a Bapanaya and used ear rings and bangles which are not traditional parts of a Mul Anduma.

Government and non-governmental organisations support is important for the development and regulation of traditional industries and Sameera stressed how the National Design Centre and the Department of Industrial Development and Enterprise Promotion has worked towards uplifting the craft of the Mul Andum makers.

He said, “They have showcased our products in their offices because otherwise these traditional creations would only be available with us. We appreciate the support given to us by the National Design Centre and the Department of Industrial Development and Enterprise Promotion.

As the Mul Anduma is the main ceremonial attire of the national government, involvement is needed to protect the traditional Mul Anduma and hand it down to future generations and also to stop it from being commercialised.

Etiquette

In the past as the Mul Anduma was worn only by a limited number of people, they would visit the Mul Andum maker with bulath, kawum and kiribath. After receiving a request, a Mul Andum maker would look into the character of the person who hopes to wear it to establish whether the said person is worthy of wearing the costume.

Since the lapse of the traditional etiquette these practices have been lost from our culture and now Mul Andum can be purchased in shops. Even in such a backdrop, the Hindagala Jayaratne family refrains from acting in such a manner and is dedicated to protect Kandyan traditions and produce Mul Andum in the proper, traditional manner, presenting it in a manner which fits modern requirements.

Sameera said, “We have to take the Mul Anduma to the future generations because it is an inherent part of the Sinhala people’s heritage. In order to take the Mul Anduma to the future generations the traditional Mul Anduma should be preserved while modernising it within our traditional frame”.

Since the ancient times the Mul Anduma was created using material such as Jeeth Kun, Chaa Kun and Sadaa Kun. These materials are mixed with silver to increase the quality and durability of the Mul Anduma. Much needs to be done to protect the Mul Anduma and preserve this regal attire which is a part of our matchless Sri Lankan heritage, for posterity. 

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