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Angampora: A pictorial narrative of Sri Lanka’s ancient martial art

Not many know too much about “Angampora,” Sri Lanka’s ancient martial art. It has been a term languishing in obscurity for the last couple of centuries, often misunderstood as an urban legend; a thing of the past. Equally obscure are its history, origins, and techniques, which are largely unknown to anyone beyond the few practitioners that remain. But all of that is about to change.

Banned in 1818 by the British, who colonised Sri Lanka for 133 years, Angampora was a core part of Sri Lankan culture that faced a tragic and tumultuous decline. But, a few secret lineages of warriors faithfully kept the art alive in secret for generations, where in the present day it has resurfaced to reveal a completely unseen side to Sri Lankan history and culture.

Angampora practitioners claim the origins of the art span back to more than 30,000 years ago. It is a discipline that is seeped in military philosophy, spirituality, and was the at the very foundation of Sri Lanka’s 2,300 years of independent rule. In the face of its outlawing in 1818, and active persecution of practitioners until Sri Lanka’s independence in 1948, Angampora’s deadly techniques and esoteric practices were transmitted to the present day through ingeniously concealing knowledge in many forms, which include dances and other exotic cultural performances.

Unfortunately, the art suffered greatly during the British proscription, and is sadly unknown to even a majority of Sri Lankans in the present day. Today, this exotic and deadly martial art is at a critical point where it needs to reveal itself to the world at large in order to preserve a living heritage of humanity.

Oceans and Continents Sri Lanka, a collective of creative professionals based in Colombo, together with one of the last heirs of Angampora’s cultural legacy, have come together and compiled a groundbreaking study of this ancient art in pictorial form.

They will be publishing a coffee-table book titled “Angampora: A Nation’s Legacy in Pictures” after more than six years of intensive research and photography.

With its 436 pages and more than 600 stunning photographs, the book aims to raise awareness internationally and locally about the last remaining vestiges of a colourful cultural legacy that shaped Sri Lankan society over the centuries.

Within this landmark study, Angampora is being showcased with an exotic array of never before seen ancient artifacts, colourful yet unseen cultural practices that are on the brink of extinction, and a host of deadly combat techniques that include lethal pressure point attacks, weapon combat with deadly ancient armaments, and mysterious black magic practices that have been preserved faithfully through secret and unbroken warrior lineages.

The project has been featured on multiple international platforms, most prominently on the Huffington Post, during its formative stage.

The book was released at the DIMO 0800 showroom in Colombo 14.

“Angampora: A Nation’s Legacy in Pictures” is written by  Deshamanya Ajantha Mahanthaarachchi, photographed by Reza Akram, and published by Oceans and Continents.

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