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Hana Mat of Dumbara

The craft of the handwoven hana mat originated over 300 years ago during the period of Sri Lanka’s last royal kingdom, Kandy. Two brothers were appointed by the then king as the royal weavers and settled in the village of Henavala. Today, descendants of the original settlers continue the royal decree with precision, pride and passion.

Pictured: The Temple of the Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha seen across the Bogambara lake, in Kandy, Sri Lanka.



Plant of Life The hana plant (Agave cantala) is the source of raw material for every hana mat woven by the artisans of Henvala. The thick and prickly leaves grow in a rosette and yield a Þne white Þbre. Growing in the dry and rocky regions of Sri Lanka, the plant is well adapt at growing without any watering. When harvested responsibly, a hana plant will yield leaves until it ßowers and dies. This makes the plant a highly sustainable source of raw material.

Artisans harvest leaves from the hana plant and scrape the leaf using wooden tools to extract the hana 횧bre. Each adequately grown leaf yields 5g to 6g of hana 횧bre. Hana leaves are harvested from the outside of the rosette towards the centre. The artisans will always leave several leaves at the centre of the plant in order for the plant to continue growing. The 횧bre is dyed using either natural dyes, such as belleric which gives the beige and black colour, or reactive dyes which are both OEKO Tex 100 and ISO certi횧ed.

Preparation of Fibre

Weaving Magic Using a loom which has remained the same for over three centuries, the artisans of Henavala weave hana mats with pride, passion and precision. The loom, which is made from wood, is Ăžxed to the Ă&#x;oor and the artisan sits on a stool and moves along the loom. It takes 7.5 hours for a skilled weaver to complete a 10ft long plain colour mat. It takes over a years training and consistent practise to master the techniques of weaving designs. Trained artisans rely completely on a psychological image of the design and skilfully brings it to life by passing the Ăžbre (weft) using a long wooden needle through the cotton thread (warp).

Artisans of Hen


A New Hope Henavala is the birth place of the handwoven hana mat. However, today only a handful of residents in the village of Henavala carry on the traditional craft. Yet, these artisans take immense pride in carrying the baton their ancestors have handed down over the generations. At the time of Kantala’s inception in 2013, only 8 artisans were active engaged in the traditional craft of weaving hana mats and the average age of the artisans was 60 years. Owing to economic and social reasons, the younger generation shied away from the craft, seeking jobs elsewhere in other industries. The lack of support from both the public and private sector further hastened the demise of the traditional craft. However, today there are 22 artisans from two villages, with the addition of the village of Yatwatta in Matale, engaged with Kantala and the average age of the artisans has fallen to 50 years. The guarantee of a fair income, timely payment, open communication and a new era for the craft has rejuvenated interest in the craft. Today the youngest weaver is 24 years of age and together with a new generation of artisans are bringing a new hope for the craft.


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The Handwoven Hana Mat of Dumbara  
The Handwoven Hana Mat of Dumbara