Kandyan Chieftain Family
A Family Portrait of a Kandyan Chieftain (Nilame) 1910
Nilame attire was reserved for the most upper class traditional Kandian families and was made in silk or sheik textiles with embedded jewels and embroidery work. Its colour described the wearer’s designation of work and the status in the society. The attire was completely made by the Sri Lankan helpers who captured the art from Indian Taylors who exclusively made attire for the royal family.
In the 18th century with the down fall of the Kandy Kingdom the Nilame Attire was mostly replaced by western suits due to British colonial influence. Yet, the high class Sri Lankan families occasionally wore them at special occasions such as weddings and cultural events as a symbol of family status. The attire was then reserved only for the Kandian families who kept the right of wearing nilame attire to them.