3.2. Vannam Components

Vannams are believed to have originated as songs composed in a dance arena in the 18th century and belong to the Kandyan dancing tradition. The word Vannam translated to Sinhala Varnana means 'descriptive praise'. 

There are seven components of the Vannam dances:

  1. Thanama – Singing a note of the melody to each syllable
  2. Thitha – The beat indicated with cymbals giving a rhythmic timing
  3. Kaviya – The poem vocalized by the dancer
  4. Bera-matraya – Rhythm of the drum
  5. Kasthirama – The finale of the first movement of the dance
  6. Seeru-maruwa – The movement in preparation for Adawwa
  7. Adawwa – The finale of rhythmic body and foot movements

TJ art illustration of Gajaga Vannama

The Vannams Gahaka, Gajaga, Asadrusha, Udara and Thuraga are in praise respectively of the conch shell at the King’s consecration, the Royal Elephant, the King’s glory, monarchy and the chariot-horse were the first ones to be written. This later grew into 18 Vannams’ inspired by nature, history, religion and legends.