The Mul Anduma – Traditional Sinhala Costume | Sunday Observer

The Mul Anduma – Traditional Sinhala Costume

3 March, 2019

The Mul Anduma or the Nilame Costume as it is more popularly known dates from the time of the ancient Sinhala Kandyan Kingdom (Kanda Udarata). Now, people wear it for ceremonial occassions such as peraheras, weddings and similar events. Some of you would have worn it as page boys in bridal retinues, for fancy dress parades or peraheras. Now, let’s look at the fascinating story of the Mul Anduma.

The last Sinhala King in the Kingdom of Kandy was Sri Weera Parakrama Narendrasinghe (1707 – 1739). He married a princess of the Nayakkar Royal Family of India and it was with the coming of the members of the Nayakkar royalty and nobility that the Mul Anduma came to this country.

With time, the Mul Anduma underwent changes and became different from the original one which was brought to the country during King Weera Parakrama Narendrasinghe’s time. This is the Mul Anduma as we know it today.

In ancient times, this costume was only worn by Royal family members, nobles and high ranking officials. Officials during the time of the Kandyan Kingdom had the Mul Anduma’s designed in keeping with their ranks.

This regal attire has several sections. The ralikalisama, sudu thuppottiya, rathu achchawadama, kavaniya, villuda papupatiya, villuda hattaya, miriwadi sagala, hatara mulu thoppiya, mal gaha, padakkam malaya, boralu malaya, siriya (short dagger with a thin golden hilt ending in an open gurula face) and the peras mudda. The somanaya is also a part of the Mul Anduma but now is rarely worn as somanayas are not freely available.

The traditional colours for the Mul Anduma are maroon, blue, red, ivory, purple and cream. Designs are traditional Sinhala designs .

The first item of clothing to be worn is the sudu rali kalisama or the white , frilled trousers. The rathu pachchawadama (a bright red cloth) is worn over this. The kavaniya worn over the rathu pachchawadama is a cotton cloth with a large gold border. The somanaya if worn has to be worn over the kavaniya.

All these items form the bottom part of the Mul Anduma. The drapes are held together around the hips with a big brass buckle with a two-headed gurula carved on it. The cloths of the lower half of the Mul Anduma are gathered above the belt into a large knot called the Mohottala Gatey. If tied properly, this huge knot should show the white, cream and red of the rali kalisama, rathu pachchawadama and the kavaniya. The Siriya is thrust into the Mohottala gatey.

The villuda hattey (velvet) jacket is part of the upper section of the Mul Anduma. Maroon, ivory, red, blue, green or purple are the traditional colours for this elaborately embroidered jacket. It has an intricately patterned border. The designs are traditional Sinhala ones. Large lions, peacocks, swans, gurulas or the hanspoottuwa (two interlocked swans) are popular motifs for the villuda hattey.

The hand woven motifs are done in thick, dull gold thread and some sequins are scattered here and there. If needed the gold work can be done in silver. This work is done in the Zardozi style.

Many items of jewellery are worn with the Mul Anduma. The long chain with a paddakama (pendant) is worn so that the pendant falls on the Mohottala Gatey. The Mudumal Gasa is a large gold ring set with gems and is worn on the middle finger of the right hand.

The Mul Anduma came to Sri Lanka with the Nayakkar Royals during the reign of King Weera Parakramabahu Narendrasinghe. Originally, the sewing and the draping of the Mul Anduma was entrusted to the Bhai community in the island.

The last of these master craftsmen is supposed to be Kapuru Bhai who lived in Nawalapitiya. Gradually, Sinhalese craftsmen learnt the trade and these craftsmen were found in areas such as Bowala, Warakadeniya, Menikjeewara, Kurunegala and Hindagala. The Jayaratne family of Hindagala has been creating and draping the Mul Anduma for over five generations, an ancestor of theirs first having learnt the trade from Kapuru Bhai.

Robert Knox describes the Mul Anduma in his book A Historical Relation of Ceylon.

This beautiful costume Mul Anduma is very popular today and many people wear it for ceremonial occasions bringing to mind the grandeur of the times of the Sinhala Kings.

Pix: Pubudu Sameera Jayaratne