Ven. Mapalagama Wipulasara:
The great artist monk
Chapter & Chancellor of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura.
Ven. Mapalagama Vipulasara Nayaka Thera passed away on October 29,
2000. He still lives and is remembered as a great artist. He was a fine
painter, artist and a sculptor, who brought international fame and glory
to Sri Lanka. This great energetic monk was an ornament to the field of
arts, as well as to the Buddhasasana.
Very rarely, a Buddhist monk gains fame in the field of art. If you
trace the history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, I wonder whether, we come
across a Buddhist monk, who dedicated his entire life for the promotion
of art and Buddhism in this country, like Ven. Mapalagama Vipulasara.
It was Prof. Dr. Gunapala Malalasekera, who spotted the artistic
talent of the young monk Mapalagama Vipulasara Thera and introduced him
to the Principal of the National School of Fine Arts - The late J.D.A.
Perera. He followed a course at the School of Fine Arts for three years.
Not only was he courageous, but was also a leader, who formed an
association with highly talented artists called "Jatika Kala Peramuna."
Further, Ven. Vipulasara, excelled himself in "Gokkola Decoration and
creative art." In 1956, Buddha Jayanthi year, his decorations were
highly appreciated by international dignitaries, such as Prince Mikasa
of Japan and other foreign and local VIPs.
Mapalagama Vipulasara Thera's name became famous and a household word
as a sculptor of Buddha statues. One of his brilliant masterpieces is
the Ananda College shrine Buddha statue adoring the entrance of Ananda
College. It is one of his brilliant creations out of many. Among other
notable Buddha statues of his were seen at Vihara Maha Devi Gardens,
Colombo. The statue at Bauddhaloka Mawatha, at Kandawatta Kosinna
Rajamaha Vihara. Walukaramaya Kollupitiya. Further, he reconstructed the
Buddha statue at Maligawila and restored it to its original stature.
Ven. Hikkaduwa Sri Sumangala Thera's statue at the Vidyodaya
Pirivena, Maligakanda and the Anagarika Dharmapala statue at Viharamaha
Devi Gardens were also Ven. Mapalagama Vipulasara's creations.
In 1972, the great monk had the proud distinction of modelling and
preparing the prestigious, official emblem of Sri Lanka.
On an invitation extended to him by the Pope John Paul 11, in 1974,
he proceeded to Vatican city, Rome and visited the art galleries and
studied the creative works. While in Vatican, he visited St. Peter's
Church and other sites of importance and did an in-depth study of the
frescoes and sculptures. The visit was a landmark in his career.
Earlier, from 1961 to 1963, he did research studies on art and
crafts, paintings, sculpture etc., in countries such as China, Mongolia,
Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong-kong, Singapore, Thailand and Myanmar.
As a new concept it was Ven. Vipulasara Thera who turned out Buddha
statues and other works of using fibre glass.
When Pope Paull II visited Sri Lanka, the stage was planned and
constructed by him. It depicted our proud culture. Ven. Vipulasara Thera
also undertook the erection of the attractive pandal and the pavilion.
He was a perfectionist. With all his work related to artistic skills,
this great "Buddhaputra" served the "Buddhist Order at the highest
level. He was a great religious missionary, who played a dynamic lead
role in propagating Buddhism throughout the world.
Ven. Mapalagama Vipulasara Thera was born on March 03, 1925, in a
village named Mapalagama, in the Galle District. He studied at
Paranthaneyamgoda Govt. school. He was ordained on July 14, 1940 at
Paramadhamma Chetiya Pirivena, Ratmalana and obtained his Higher
Ordination on February 18, 1946.
He had his basic Pirivena education at Agalawatte and later he
entered the Vidyodaya Pirivena, Maligakanda, Maradana, and pursued his
higher studies. As a Buddhist monk, he was dynamic, and was always
bubbling with enthusiasm.
Ven. Mapalagama Vipulasara held many prestigious positions as a
He was the head of Paramadhammachetiya Pirivena, a leading institute
of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. An important noteworthy feature of Vipulasara
Thera was that he helped Buddhist monks for missionary activities at
Paramadhamma institute, under the leadership of Dr. Ven. Kirinde Shri
Dhammananda Nayake Thera.
He served in many organisations as chairman. Out of them some of the
notable ones were chairman, Sri Lanka - Japan Centre Association. He
served as the secretary of the Sri Lanka - Korea Cultural Society.
Although he took artistic undertakings both locally and
internationally, he never failed in his duty at Paramadhammachetiya
Pirivena. With the appointment of Ven. Vipulasara Thera on January 14,
1960 as the chief incumbent, the golden era of the Paramadhammachetiya
He was an excellent Buddhist diplomat. He always maintained a very,
cordial relationship with the outside world. It was the golden thread of
Buddhism that bound many countries.
In appreciation of the great services he rendered to art as well as
Buddhism, in 1984, the Government of Sri Lanka, honoured him with the
title of "Kalasoori".
The University of Maha Chuklanka, of Thailand conferred on him a
Doctorate. The Vidyalankara Pirivena, Kelaniya, Sri Lanka, conferred
Ven. Vipulasara Thera with the title "Sahitya Chakravarthi".
Ven. Dr. Mapalagama Vipulasara Nayaka Thera served the Buddhist order
and the country at the highest level with distinction. May he attain the
bliss of Nibbana.