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Gudu keliya

Gudu keliya is a fading folk game in Sri Lanka. It was a game popular among youngsters. But today it is hard to find youngsters who really know about gudu keliya.

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Indikatu keliya

This is another lesser known folk game. This outdoor game was especially popular among young girls although young boys would also play indikatu keliya.

A group of children would get together and choose one player as the ‘grandmother’ (achchi). The grandmother would sit on the ground, near a mound of sand and pretend she was busy digging the mound with a stick. The rest of the children would stand around her, maintaining a distance, and ask her a set of questions. At the end of these questions the grandmother would get up and chase the children to catch one of them. The first one to get caught would be the next grandmother. The game goes on in this manner.

Matta keliya / buhu keliya

This is another team game for children. A wooden pole, pol komba and a ball is used in this game. A seasoned and hardened pomelo or an orange was used as the ball. Hot ash was used to season the pomelo or the orange.

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The two pol komba are kept on the ground and the wooden pole is kept on it. Players would divide into two teams and stand on the two sides divided by the wood pole. Then a player from each team must hit the pole with the ball. If the player succeeds they win. There is a set of rules in this game that the players have to follow.

Magul parakkuwa

This is a traditional puzzle game of the ancient Sinhalese. The name has an interesting story as it says that the puzzle board was given to a groom by the bride’s father when he first came to the bride’s house. Unless the groom was able to solve the puzzle successfully, the father would not give away his daughter’s hand in marriage. Also, while the groom would solve the puzzle the father studied his ways and would judge how patient and smart his future son-in-law was. This is known to be a difficult puzzle game.

Neranchi adeema

This is a traditional board game similar to chess. There are 22 pawns for each player. There is a specific way of placing the pawns on the board.

Viyath maneema

Viyath maneema is an interesting outdoor folk game which is hardly seen played anymore. Cashews are used to play this game and players would throw the cashews given to them to a distance.

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To do so, all players should stand in a row, one after the other. The winner is the one who collects the highest number of cashews.

An keliya

An keliya is a traditional religious game, especially dedicated to the goddess Pattini. Therefore, this game is also seen as a ritual performed for fertility, rain, and prosperity.

Players are divided into two teams as the uda pila and the yata pila. The place where the game is performed is called the Ampitiya or the field of horns. A Sambur horn was originally used in An keliya in the past but today, a horn-shaped piece of wood is used instead.

Porapol gaseema

Porapol gaseema is another traditional religious game similar to An keliya which was dedicated to the goddess Pattini. There are two teams in this game just like An keliya and they are called the uda pila and the yata pila. The two teams would throw coconuts at each other, aiming at the opposing team members. They had to block the coconut attack with another coconut. The game continues till the coconuts of each team are over by cracking. The team with the highest number of intact coconuts are the winning team.

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Both An keliya and porapol gaseema are played after a set of religious rituals are performed.

A simple and beautiful folk culture was woven around these games. There are folk poems and stories woven around each folk game. The equipment used in the games was fine works of art. The olinda kolombuwa and the magul parakkuwa board are to name two examples. Religious games had specific rituals. Hence, fading away of folk games means the fading away of a valuable aspect of Sri Lanka’s intangible culture.

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Sri Lankan folk games are fun to play. Some are relaxing and calm, while some are energetic and competitive. However, today, most of these games are hardly known by many. It is not easy to find those who know details about our traditional folk games as studies reveal that the fading away of these games may have gradually begun about a generation or two ago. It is only during the New Year season that these names appear in the media. Hardly any of us have even seen the equipment used in these games, nor do we know the rules and background stories of these games. Therefore, it is high time to take measures to preserve this rich culture of Sri Lankan folk games.

Preserving these games does not mean that folk games should be enforced to be played. This means, we can preserve details about these games as publications, videos, and documentaries. The equipment can be collected and exhibited. Details about them could be in school textbooks. App developers can get inspiration and new ideas from our traditional folk games. In this way, we can preserve the rich culture of traditional Sri Lankan folk games.