Reminiscences: Kalutara Bodhi and Sir Cyril
On the occasion of the ceremonial unveiling of the statue of Sir
Cyril de Zoysa at the Kirivehera precincts in Kataragama, I am delighted
to express my sentiments, having associated him closely in his social
service and religious activities especially during my tenure as the
Government Agent, Kalutara district from 1967-1970.
Sir Cyril de Zoysa
People of our Country have been inspired with the Buddhist revival
ushered by Anagarika Dharmapala necessitated in view of the colonial
past. Those deliberations culminated in the 1956 cultural resurgence.
In this background, Sir Cyril de Zoysa involved himself vigorously in
pursuing such ideals. His invaluable contribution towards
nation-building as a social worker and philanthropist in respect of
cultural, religious and economic well-being is too well-known to be
A number of Trusts which he pioneered and established have resulted
in introducing outstanding religious monuments into our cultural
landscape. The Kalutara Bodhi with its magnificent Chaitya takes pride
of place in this respect. The Bodhi Trust looks after the Bodhi and
Chaitya, where thousands of devotees worship daily while travellers seek
blessings of the deity of the Bodhi for protection.
The most outstanding and meritorious contribution of Sir Cyril
specially from a common man's point of view is the protection of
Kalutara Bodhi and the construction of the magnificent Chaitya
overlooking the Kalu Ganga. The Kalu Ganga, which has its source at the
sacred Sri Pada, Samanthakuta area flows to the sea at the Kalutara
Bodhi having traversed 72 miles. The Sinhala Sandesa poets such as Gira
Sandeshaya author, modern poets and Gandarva Pandith Amaradeva have been
inspired with the aesthetic beauty and serenity of the environment which
no doubt leaves an indelible impression in anybody passing through.
The origin of the Kalutara Bodhi is traced back to the time of King
Devanampiyatissa when thirty two Bo saplings were distributed from
Anuradhapura to various places in the country. The Kalutara Bodhi tree
is one of them, planted in the Udamaluwa of Gangatilaka Viharaya
premises while the much venerated Bodhi tree in the Pahalamaluwa has
been preserved by royalty and the devotees ever since. The main Galle
Road had been built between the Udamaluwa and the Pahalamaluwa during
the colonial era with much reaction and protests from the people.
In addition, the Kachcheri building complex was built during colonial
times as the administration nerve centre for the district.
These two institutions, the religious centre with the Bodhi and
Vihara and the Kachcheri were naturally incompatible in the same
premises where different day-to-day activities were taking place.
Restrictions had to be placed in the performance of religious activities
with peraheras and drumming.
Sir Cyril de Zoysa had established the Kalutara Bodhi Trust to
develop the religious centre and he found the Kachcheri complex a
stumbling block in the premises where a Government Agent had been
sitting in the office since the colonial times.
In 1966 I was privileged to be appointed as the Government Agent
Kalutara after a spell in Ratnapura district where I was interested to
improve the Kuruwita Road to Sri Pada. Sir Cyril met me in Office often
with determination to pursue the Kalutara Bodhi complex development
Generally, a very busy man with a preplanned schedule for the next
day, Sir Cyril met me once at 5 a.m. by appointment at the residency in
Kalutara North, to discuss the shifting of the Kachcheri from the Bodhi
premises. He told me that he could not get the support of a number of my
predecessors to get the Kachcheri shifted. He felt that he found a
person seeing eye to eye with him in the common pursuit of serving the
people. He firmly believed that the deities of the Bodhi were always
there to help him in his undertakings.
Sir Cyril was so determined and sincerely committed and it was also
common sense that he should be supported in this meritorious service and
I readily agreed to consider the matter and make a recommendation to the
Government with regard to shifting of the Kalutara Kachcheri and the
Government Agent's Office, which had been there for nearly one and a
Of course, it was proposed that Sir Cyril gives an alternate
accommodation for the Kachcheri to house nearly 150 officers with
furniture in various sections in the administration.
A few weeks later, Sir Cyril saw me again and said that a two
storeyed old bungalow belonging to the Bodhi Trust on the Nagoda Road
could be made available to house the Kachcheri and we inspected the
premises and agreed to shift.
In response to Sir Cyril's request we shifted the historic Kalutara
Kachcheri from Bodhiya premises in 1967. I was ably assisted by my Asst.
Government Agent, D.S. Karannagoda (father of the present Navy
Commander) and District Land Officer D.P.K. Pathiratna in this shift
which was done in quick time with Sir Cyril's motivation.
adapted ourselves in an improvised atmosphere in order to accommodate a
worthy cause and the general public too cooperated. Sir Cyril changed
the old Kachcheri buildings to suit the cultural and religious
requirements of the Bodhi Trust.
Today, I feel happy to see that the Government Agent's office room
which I occupied at that time in the promotion of mundane affairs to
satisfy limitless needs of pruthagjanas is being used for supramundane
pursuits with meditation practices and Dhamma discussions by devotees at
the building complex of the Kalutara Bodhi Trust with serene joy.
In concluding my comments, I feel it appropriate here to quote Hon.
Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka, Prime Minister; "so simple and noble a man,
the late Sir Cyril de Zoysa was always one who felt instinctively and
truly for his fellow-beings.
He was a patriot whose personal honesty and integrity were
unimpeachable. He was a gentleman of rare calibre who was truly inspired
by humanitarian ideals" (Vote of Condolence - Hansard Vol. 123 - No.9
July 9, 1999)
The statue of Sir Cyril de Zoysa at Kirivehera Kataragama is a
fitting tribute to perpetuate his memory in appreciation of the
invaluable services rendered by him in pioneering the restoration and
completion of the Kirivehera Stupa to its present magnificence where
hundreds of thousands pay their homage.
The blessings of His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Hon.
W.J.M. Loku Bandara, the Speaker of the Parliament signify the
traditional patronage extended by royalty to the Sasana since ancient