Wedding costumes of Sri Lanka

Christian bride and groom, Sri Lanka

These photos of the happy "just married" couple I took while on holiday in Sri Lanka. They were Christians and so the bride wore a traditional white dress decorated with beads and the groom's outfit was a really simple one as you can see.

Beautiful Sri Lankan bride

Sri Lankan bride wearing white wedding dress

What I liked more, however, was the traditional wedding costume. Especially I was charmed by the groom's dress. It is called mul anduma and was worn by the Kandyan aristocracy on important occasions in the 19th century (you can see how their costume looked at that time here).

Sri Lankan bride and groom in traditional wedding outfit
photo credit Malcolm Browne

The making and the draping of the mul anduma is admirably difficult and also an expensive affair. It takes three months to complete a dress, and half-an-hour to almost a full hour to drape it over a groom.
First, the groom wears the frilled trousers of plain white. Then, a bright red coloured cloth and above it the kavaniya - a cotton, silk or muslin cloth from 60 to 100 yards long, with a large golden border at the bottom. The thing, when properly draped, should look like a bud of a flower, with layer upon layer and the bulbous swelling around the hip. A broad belt with a large buckle with a gurula (a two headed bird with an eagle-like beak) carved on it holds the drapes together. All the cloths used for the lower part are gathered above the belt to form a knot of all three colours of draping– white, red and cream.

Groom getting dressed in traditional outfit, Sri Lanka

The upper part of the dress is an embroidered velvet jacket. At the centre of the backside would be embroidered either a large lion – like the one in the national flag – or a swan, a peacock, a gurula or the entwined swan couple. A thick twisted thread of gold or silver is used for embroidery.The jacket comes in cream, dark red or deep blue. 
The outfit is complimented with a four-cornered embroidered hat and with jewelry: a necklace, a large golden signet ring and a small crown in the form of a miniature tree on the top of the hat.

Groom in traditional costume, Sri Lanka

Traditional Sri Lankan dress for a bride is a sari or osaria in gold, cream or red colour, embroidered with gold thread and decorated with pearls and beads. And of course, lots of jewelry. A full set of bride's wedding jewelry consists of 21 items including hair decorations, rings and bracelets,earrings, necklaces, pendants. 

Bride and groom in traditional costumes, Sri Lanka
photos credit Denish C

The most important of them is the nalalpata, a hair ornament of several golden chains diverging from the middle to the sides. It is worn only once in a lifetime at the wedding day. The images of the moon and the sun may be attached to it as symbols of eternal love and lasting marriage. Around the neck seven necklaces are usually worn, because seven is a lucky number.

Traditional Sri Lankan wedding jewelry
photo credit  Koen Vliegenthart

For me traditional Sri Lankan wedding costume is one of the most beautiful wedding dresses I've seen so far.

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  1. wow those pictures are so absolutely beautiful!
    it´s nice to see other traditions than ours;)

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