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Sunday, 28 February 2016





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Government Gazette

Kumaratunga Munidasa

Remembering Kumaratunga Munidasa:

The literary genius and defunct Foundation

Sinhala language lovers and the Maha Sangha will commemorate the 72nd death anniversary of erudite scholar, philosopher, linguist, grammarian, commentator, writer, poet, and journalist, Pandit Kumaratunga Munidasa on March 2. Religious rites will be held at 9 a.m. opposite the Kumaratunga Memorial at the Gorakana Public Cemetery in Panadura. Pandit Munidasa died on March 2, 1944 at his residence, 'Sevana' at Pallimulla, Panadura.

Pandit Kumaratunga Munidasa was a pioneer (Sinhala) linguist who founded the 'Hela Havula 'movement which sought to remove Sanskrit influences in the Sinhala language and promote its correct usage. One of the most eminent scholars Sri Lanka has known for several centuries, he is known best for his profound knowledge of the Sinhala language and literary work. Yet, the foundation set to continue with his work has become defunct, and construction work on a museum and a 'Dasunhala' in his name has been abandoned halfway due to lack of funds.

Born on July 25, 1887, at Dickhena, Idigasaara, Dickwella, to Don Abeya Kumaratunga, a physician practicing indigenous medicine who kept invaluable Pali and Sanskrit manuscripts on Ayurveda, Astrology and Buddhism, and Palavinnage Dona Gimara Muthukumarana, better known as Don Nona Baba Muthukumarana, Munidasa received his preliminary education at a Buddhist mixed-school at Dickwella and later, after his father's death, joined St. Thomas', College, Matara, for further education.

Family's discontent

Later still he attended the Dickwella Watarukanna (Wewurukannala Pirivena) Pirivena to learn Pali and Sanskrit, under the guidance of the late Ven. Ananda NayakaThera. He intended becoming a Buddhist monk, however, due to his family's discontent, he was compelled to give up the idea and entered the Government Teachers' College in Colombo, after two years of training, was he received his first appointment as a government teacher at a Bilingual School of Bomiriya. Later he was promoted as principal of the Kadugannawa Bilingual School.

Kumaratunga’s residence at Pallimulla, Panadura, where he died on March 2, 1944.

His plates and other items are kept in a pettagama (traditional box).

In 1917 he was appointed inspector of government schools, which post he held for four years.

Kumaratunga Munidasa married Lilly Laviniya Peiris in Pallimulla, Panadura in 1921. He had six children, four sons and two daughters.

In 1923 he was appointed principal of Nittambuwa Teachers' Training College, during which time he wrote 'Kumarodaya'. However, his first book was 'Nikaya Sangraha Vivaranaya', an analysis for scripture on Buddhist monastic orders, written during his school days.

Munidasa wrote many books in many languages - in Sinhala, English, Sanskrit, Pali, Tamil, Greek, Malayalam and Latin and was also responsible to reviving 'Lakmini Pahana', one of the oldest Sinhala newspapers. He is also credited with launching two magazines 'Subasa' and 'Helio' to teach and promote the correct use of Sinhala. He also wrote and published many literature books for schoolchildren to guide them in the proper use of language.

Munidasa was a member of Sinhala Maha Sabha of the Swabhasha movement, which started as a protest against the English educated elite.

He spoke of language, nation, and country as a triple gem, which was the foundation for 'Hela Havula' movement, which comprised people who shared his ideals. They often engaged in debates on literature and were the starting point for many scholars and artists. The movement exists to this very day.

In 1935, Munidasa published 'Piya Samara' and 'Sidath Sagarawa', tomes on valuable literature and poetry, and in 1937, he published 'Kiyawana Nuwana' for schoolchildren. Over the years he wrote dozens of books on Sinhala literature with 'Kavisitu Mina' being one of the more popular endeavours published in 1943.

Real traditions

Munidasa had unique and creative opinions and his concepts on Sri Lankan history, language and literature have been controversial, though his scholarly writings depicted the real traditions of the nation, with regard to its philosophy and concept as well as the specific and precise characteristics of the nation's linguistic usage.

He was of the conviction that the Sinhala Language was a full-fledged language, during the history of the Polonnaruwa and Kotte periods. His research was based on classical literary works that had been produced during the golden era of Sinhala Literature, from the 12th to the 15th century. He also argued that Vijaya was merely an invader and believed in Ravana.

Kumaratunga Munidasa Memorial constructed at the Public Cemetery at Gorakana, Panadura.

He wrote many books to promote the standard of Sinhala Language and Literature, and books for schoolchildren to mould their character. Most of these books still remain popular, among them 'Heensaraya', 'Hath Pana' and 'Magulkema'

All his endeavours in the sphere of literature were aimed at revealing the Sinhala Language in its true form.

However, the Munidasa Kumaratunga Foundation at Pallimulla, Panadura initiated by the government of the late Sirimavo Bandaranaike by an Act of Parliament, has now become defunct. All the directors of the Foundation have passed away. The Foundation acquired approximately one acre of land and put up a building in his memory and also established a library in his name, which was opened by the then Prime Minister, Bandaranaike.

A museum and a Dasunhala were also to be constructed in his name. The foundation stones were laid, but construction came to a halt half way, due to the lack of funds.

Valuable literature books written and published by the late Munidasa Kumaratunga are now in the custody of his grandson.

Reported - Kapila Somaratne, Panadura Group cor.



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