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Government Gazette

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 repeated.

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 programme.

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 half centuries.

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.

We 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 times.

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