The history of angam is unclear and fragmented, due to the fact that it’s vast history and evolution to what it is today, had never been recorded in an official treatise. However it is fortunate that the technical aspects of angam had been documented by angam warrior clans of Sri Lankan. All we have are inconsistent records of instances in history where it has appeared but briefly, only to disappear from the books of history leaving gaps as well as a lot of unanswered questions.
Angam is believed to have been a part of the ancient culture of Sri Lanka that dates back to over 5000 years. It had evolved from generation to generation, standing the formidable test of time, and once wasan indispensable part of the Sri Lankan way of life.
For centuries the country went through most turbulent eras that required it’s rulers to muster defenses with the help of their fellow countrymen, to battle disturbances that came from foreign lands as well as dissension from within.
The monarchy maintained a reasonable army that consisted of full time soldiers, but the majority of countrymen were ready to answer the call to arms in the name of king and country. Hence Masters of Angam were scattered throughout the land under whom civilians who engaged in different trade such as farming, pottery etc... also trained in the martial arts for mental and physical discipline as much as to be able to protect their country in a time of need. Out of these schools several managed to be outstanding and make the books of history.
The earliest indication of Angam is believed to have been inherited through the vast knowledge of King Ravana who believed to have ruled over ancient Sri Lanka some 6000 years ago. One of the more recent indications of the art stems from the war torn legend of king Dutugamunu who reign in 161 BC. King Dutugamunu was believed to have had Ten Great Warriors who have impressive tales woven around their fearless exploits with their king, were believed to have been experts of Angam. Moreover, the king himself is believed to have been an expert in the art, and had been a warrior king in the front line of the battle that ensued the liberation of “Pihit Rata” region of Sri Lanka.
With the end of the Anuradhapura kingdom in 1017, it spelled the end of ancient Sri lanka and the beginning of the medieval timed period. Throughout this time there are only sketchy references to kings and warriors who have displayed skills in the art.
Later with the beginning of Colonial Sri Lanka that ensued after the visit of Lourenço de Almeida in 1505, its citizens were once again called to arms to defend their country against foreign invasions. With the increased activities of the portages e invaders, 16th century Sri Lanka faced more turbulent times. During this era, history boasts of many endeavors of Sri Lankan warriors who defended their territories through savvy war tactics such as guerilla warfare and the use of varied weaponry.
The fabled battle of mulleriyawa in 1562 stands testament how Angam became an invaluable weapon to fend off invaders at the hands of heroic Sri Lankan warriors. After years of insurgency, the foreign invaders managed to divide and conquer the island through trickery. This spelled fatal to the Sri Lankan martial art world, as its new foreign rulers, the appointed governor of Ceylon Robert Brownrigg banned and outlawed the practice of Agam. Extreme measures were taken that included imprisonment, persecution, and an order to shoot in the knees of any known practitioner of the art.
In the outset of such times, many (gurus) masters of the art, along with its avid practitioners went underground, and employed various methods of concealing the art in plain sight. One such attempt was within the rhythmic movements of Sri Lankan Traditional dance, where hidden within the graceful bend of a knee or the flip of a hand was a deadly and effective technique of Angam.
During it’s more prevalent years, Angam was taught by two main schools namely Sudaliya and Maruwalliya, and history speaks of a long standing rivalry between the two clans. Be that as it may this was on of the very few known fact of angam. Besides that there were clans such at Kotte Clan, Ritigala Clan, Warnasuriya Clan, Padiwita Clan, and many more clans who has taken after the names of families and region where the art was well preserved with its true form and purity.
The Ravana Age 2554 – 2517 BC.
The age of King Ravana is considered to be the time when the art of Angam was at its pinnacle. Ravana was said to be a specialist in pressure point healing. This is evident in the medical writings done by Ravana. The association between Ravana and Angam is so strong, it is such that even today, Angam gurus begin their training only after lighting a lamp in memory of this ancient Sri Lankan King. The art of Angam which was developed for so many thousands of years has done its best in protecting Sri Lanka from its enemies.
Venerable Kirielle Gnanawimala thero, a writer and scholar, explains this about King Ravana. “It is possible to conclude that the Sri Lankan King Ravana mentioned in the legendary Indian epic ‘Ramayana’, was not a fictional character but an actual historical figure. The “Ravana Kitte” area which is not submerged by the sea and other places such as Ravana falls, Sita eliya, by investigations, implies this and also it is possible to know that King Ravana’s tomb was made in the shape of a pyramid analogous to the pyramids of Giza.”
Ravana is said to have also been a specialist in all forms of Angam. History tells us that he has written several books about it as well. This master in Angam is said to have trained all his soldiers, cavalry and other types of mounted troops in the art of Angam.
According to the historical notes in the “Rajawaliya”, the reign of King Ravana was during 19th century BC, which is the period between 2554-2517, to be precise. The cause for King Ravana’s untimely death is said to be due to a betrayal, a very common occurrence in the history of monarchs in Sri Lanka.
History tells us that, prince “Vibhishana”, Ravana’s younger half-brother, has conspired with Rama, the exiled north Indian prince in order to have the throne of Lanka for himself. Vibishana has known what is said to be the only way to kill Ravana, and had shared this knowledge with Rama. Yet, the popular Indian version of the story tells us that Rama conspired with Vibhishana to kill Ravana because he kidnapped Rama’s wife, Sita.
There are north Indian folk tales and legends that also explains how Ravana trained Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana of the art of Angam, before the war with Rama. Even though Ravana had known Lakshmana was his enemy, he had done so out of pure compassion towards the boy.
Ravana is also said to have ruled over many states in southern and central India. To maintain such a large empire, it is obvious that the aid of something as formidable as Angampora was essential.
Even now, after all these ages, certain families still have deadly Angam fighting styles names after Ravana, which specifically use pressure points to disable and eliminate ones opponents.