We talked briefly, at a loss for words to express our excitement. That was the first night performance. Since then it has played to generations of audiences, and hundreds of performances. Years later when teaching at the Peradeniya University, I remember attending again a performance of Maname. It was at the open air theatre — grass tiered seating under towering Taboobia trees that shed their delicate pink blossoms on a packed audience of students, teachers, monks, government bureaucrats, workers, and villagers from the surrounding area.
It was an unforgettable magical moment. If Maname was his first experimental drama, then his next play Sinhabahu with its rich dramatic text, the powerfully, complex tragic characters he created around the popular yet simple folk legend, their singing of his poignant poetry was I think the high point in his dramatic career.
Sarachchandra remained a dramatist to the end of his life and continued to write poetic drama yet none has remained as popular or as powerful as Sinhabahu.
Those who would trap me I will rend Crush, tear, with red these claws shall reek As I lap up their dripping blood, Shatter their ear drums with my sound as loud my sky hurled roars resound.
Look is it another man Destined to die, facing in me Retribution for past misdeeds? Why must they come in quest of death? I cannot understand their ire. I merely come to seek my wife. Whom have I wronged? These men bereft me Of kith and kin, now seek my life. Ripped crushed and mangled they shall die In fragments rent their limbs shall lie. Then the lion recognizes it is his son who has come. Maname is generally considered the first real Sinhala drama, signalling the transition from the Nadagam or folk drama to the modern theatrical drama format.
It was praised especially for drawing influence from the traditional nadagam play style. He continued as a playwright, developing his play Sinhabahu in , which is widely considered as his best work. Since then many things have changed in the country, and in the theatre, new plays have been written and new reputations made; but the standing of Professor Sarachchandra has continued in the general estimation refreshingly unchanged.
In he was appointed Ceylonese Ambassador in Paris. It was an appointment which was very clearly meant to have a special significance. For though his personal culture and his achievements in the Sinhalese theatre made him an eminently suitable representative of his people, he had no diplomatic career behind him and certainly no political qualifications. The appointment came appropriately as an acknowledgement by a Government, entrusted with power for a period only, of his more stable distinction beyond the reach of political and other vicissitudes.
The question of his continued distinction is an interesting one, and a consideration of it will help to define the nature of his achievement and the place it occupies in the national consciousness. His finest writing dates from , the year in which the phenomenon which used to be called South-East Asian resurgence was at its highest in Sri Lanka. It marked the th anniversary of Buddhism which was expected to inaugurate a second efflorescence of the Buddhist teaching and of the Singhalese people who were its custodians.
The nation was invited to look forward to an era of millennial prosperity under a righteous ruler called Diyasena whose advent had been prophesied in the thirteenth century. Bandaranaike, though not perhaps the legendary Diyasena, came with all the charisma of a Messianic figure to Singhalese-Buddhist nationalism.
The assassination of Mr. Bandaranaike at the hands of of all people a Buddhist monk put a cruel end to all hopes of the millennium.
What else could a helpless Princess have done? What would you and I do, if placed in such a situation? Could she have realistically rejected him?
Indeed her concern was survival, in a hostile forest. It is finally at this point, then, that the Princess reciprocates, I love you only. She is, at worst, acceding to the advances made by a lustful man! To put it in a more positive light, the Princess can simply be said to be exercising her independence of judgement and freedom of thought and behaviour allowed for, or if that sounds too patronizing, available, in the Sinhalese Buddhist culture. There is certainly no indecision here, but to repeat, a definitive pragmatic decision.
And no infatuation either. But if the Hunter King is to be blamed for inveigling her to her decision, why does he now turn around and abandon her? Is it because she, rightly as we know from the story, but perhaps innocently, or even foolishly for the first time, forces him to face his own conscience? Here is the full verse bearing the ominous words: Princess: My loved lord lies low in death.
Why have you done that dreadful crime? He that was strong and young you killed. You are to blame, you are to blame. Through wilfulness to his own death he went. Here are the next revealing words: Princess. Recitative I do not understand your words, beloved. This then clearly seems to be what turns him against her, not some moral position against a claimed fickle mind! It was that the sense of manhood, specially of a forest dweller associated with the rough and tumble of life, was cut from beneath his very feet!!
Despite his blatant and abrasive expressions of desire for her in the very presence of her husband, he is portrayed as upholding the virtues of formal marriage. To work such evil on the lord you wed! But even if we were to allow for the distant possibility of the Princess being contributory, in a very extended and circuitous sense,22 to her own eventual fate, the Hunter King must be held at least more responsible for encouraging the indecision by his very overpowering stature!
Such a one could hardly be praising the virtues of marriage! Yet in these lines, he has the hypocritical and chauvinistic nerve to castigate the Princess for seeking to have the wedded husband slain! What we find in the play, then, is that despite everything the Hunter King does, he ends up being the upholder of virtue—fidelity and wisdom—and even the arbiter of justice on behalf of society.
He is indeed the anti-hero hero, not a bit without the help of physical prowess and bravado, typically macho characteristics. As our analysis shows, then, we have a woman rendered helpless by two egocentric, impatient and life-denying men; yet it is the woman that faces death.
And worse, from a moral point of view, the man with the lesser morality ends up not only merely living but also earning the respect of society too! Do we need any more evidence of the androcentric bias of traditional society?
It enabled him to play a pivotal role in the creation, direction, and diffusion of modern western oriented evaluative criticism. Through his influence on successive generations of students he was able to give a new direction to modern Sinhala writing and so make a major contribution to modern Sinhala literature. Pandit Amaradeva, in a talk he gave in , recalled how Sarachchandra would quote classical poetry while driving his car or seated in a corner of a wayside restaurant.
Once in order to convey the kind of subtle musical effect he needed for the love scene for his play Pabavati that he was then working on, Amaradeva says Sarathchandra suddenly quoted a verse from the 13th century poem the Kavsilumina and passionately expounded on it. Kataka bota mihivita A young woman drinking wine Heta kiyabu mihi siduvaraa siduvara flower from her hair falls into her cup Duralann?
Sarachchandra was not merely a good teacher, scholar and critic he was also a novelist and a writer in both English and Sinhala. His semi autobiographical novels based on his Japanese exposure are brilliant and moving. Here is just a brief vignette from his early writings about his travels in India. In an essay titled [Notes of an Uncompleted Journey] he writes: "It is a great misfortune to form your impressions of India in the trying heat of summer.
While writhing and sweating in the heat and wondering whether this sams? His words had the inevitability of the teachings of the Indian saints. You have merely to sit cross-legged on your seat, close your eyes and forgetting the flesh endeavor to merge yourself in the Absolute. And it is not surprising that under conditions such as these there grew those philosophies and practices which are peculiar to Indian civilization.
I mean the doctrines of karma, nirv? The intellectual leap he makes from the cross-legged equanimity of his fellow traveler to the philosophies of the sub continent conceived probably as a result of this very heat, are characteristic of the man! I remember vividly the first night performance of Maname in , at the Lionel Wendt theatre. As the curtain rose and the rich chant of the Pothegura narrator filled the auditorium, I sat spellbound at what seemed to me a theatrical miracle.
Here was something new, exciting, and different from anything seen in the Sinhala theatre so far, breaking away from the western influenced fourth wall proscenium dramas and opening new directions for the Sinhala theatre. As I walked out dazed and excited I remember meeting Regi Siriwardene, at the time the leading critic for the English newspapers, and he was equally transfixed.
Positive criticism: How did Sarachchandra create that indispensable audience? He has written one of the best two Sinhala novels, yet he has not been a satisfactory critic of the novel. He was the best poet of modern Sri Lanka without ever having written poetry proper.
Amidst all negative and positive criticism one thing must be emphasised though it may be not only a tinglier but also a prickler to some of our critics.
In arts and law, by contrast, it would examine students from UCL, King's College, or any other school or college granted a royal warrant giving the government control of which colleges could affiliate to the university. The Veddha chief, Tisahamy, for example, is known to be punctual, as linguist Sugatapala de Silva found in his dealings with him. Sarachchandra is known to have composed his plays and the greater part of his writings in Sinhalese, his mother tongue.
Ironically, enough here it is Sarachchandra who indulges in criticism in the process of which several misconceptions of literary criticism were given air to and hence the readership who were till then completely innocent of these Western concepts were largely misguided. Aloysius' - Richmond Rugby Encounter. It is about Sarachchandra's first book, 'Modern Sinhala Fiction' that Munidasa Kumaratunge had called him 'harak andara' in There is certainly no indecision here, but to repeat, a definitive pragmatic decision. And no infatuation either.
Ediriweera Sarachchandra: A Renaisance Man June 28, , pm Ediriweera Sarachchandra By Ranjini Obeyesekere Born at the cusp of the 20th century, at a moment when the cross influences of colonialism, nationalism, and Buddhist revivalism had a powerful impact on the psyche of Sri Lankan intellectuals, - -generative as well as conflictual —- the life and work of Ediriweera Sarachchandra, represents a transformation of these forces into works of path breaking scholarship and brilliant creativity. Loved Lord, in mercy,9 oh, be kind!
Do we need any more evidence of the androcentric bias of traditional society? We talked briefly, at a loss for words to express our excitement. She is hardly mindless in this sense either, since she does have the presence of mind, even in a time of crisis, to play it cool, be rational i. The next moment he felt himself being pushed into the midst of the marchers, he was not sure whether by physical force or something else. On a site that touches the lower slopes of the lush Hanthana mountain range, University of Peradeniya is known for its natural environment, it has inspired intellectuals like Sri Lanka's premium playwright. Ashley Halpe had this to say about Sarachchandra's first novel in English.
Leavis and I. Exploring both Eastern and Western cultures and philosophies which had remained unknown to him till then, Sarachchandra began establishing a rapprochement of those cultures with the existing litteratures of his own country, thereby establishing new literary norms and values. In it became the first British university to appoint a woman as its vice chancellor; the university's colleges house the oldest teaching hospitals in England. He is the author of three major plays: Maname , Sinhabahu and Pemato Jayati Soko as well as of a number of smaller pieces which have enjoyed great popularity with the theatre-goer and take pride of place in the dramatic literature of his country. When he conceived creating such developed drama using the folk forms as the ground soil on which he would transplant European, Indian and Japanese classical growths, his colleague, Professor of English, E.
A good critic may not necessarily be a good creative writer and vice versa. Like all public universities in Sri Lanka, UoJ receives the bulk of its funding from the University Grants Commission , part of the Ministry of Higher Education in Colombo ; the UGC and the central government therefore exert a great deal of control over the university. Ediriweera Sarachchandra Festschrift
Foreign invasion, internal political dissension and all the long agony of a culture in decline had necessarily entailed the decline of letters. Because it was his own creative work, he did not have to be really faithful to the Sinhala novel. And it is not surprising that under conditions such as these there grew those philosophies and practices which are peculiar to Indian civilization. Disturbed as he hears her words, he stands staring at her; his grasp slackens; the Hunter King takes advantage of it, frees himself, leaps and takes the sword from the princess and stabs the prince. The incident is mentioned very vaguely in just two lines in Malawunge. It enabled him to play a pivotal role in the creation, direction, and diffusion of modern western oriented evaluative criticism.