Ivory has always been a scarce commodity - not more than one in a hundred Sri Lankan male elephants have tusks. However, now that the elephant is a protected animal at Sri Lanka it is almost impossible for the artisans to legitimately obtain ivory to pursue their craft. Ivory-carvers are using other materials like horn and bone as a base for their craft: it is difficult, however, to replicate the high density of texture and delicacy of tint that ivory possesses in bone, horn, and other materials used instead of ivory.
Ivory is, and has always been, a rare and costly material. The Chadanta Jataka, a part of Sri Lankan folk-lore records a tale of the suffering and subsequent death of a great elephant that was robbed of its tusks; this was considered to be a great sin. Therefore, in traditional Sri Lanka, no elephant was supposed to be killed for the ivory.
The craft is found dominantly in the village of Kekirawa in Anuradhapura district; in Galle district in the south of the island-country, ivory cutting is found in the village of Galwadugoda. It is commonly practised by the artisans who have descended from families that have nurtured the craft for generations and preserved its heritage.
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