Focus on Books
A Sinhala magazine for women in Canada
The term Liyatambara, according to the Oriental folklore and
mythology, is defined as a plant grown in the Himalayan region that
entices meditative hermits and sages with the flowers that look like the
faces of heavenly nymphs.
Though besides the point is the title of the Sinhala magazine edited
by the well-known cine journalist Arthur U Amarasena, who has
continuously shown the extra skill in the pioneering of Sinhala film
journals that had come out of well-known publishing houses and media
units in our country over a period of four decades.
To his credit he had edited Suratura [Times Group of newspapers],
Visitura [Davasa group of newspapers], Piyakaru [a media unit formed by
himself] and a whole host of other periodicals and newspapers and a book
on Sinhala cinema.
With Liyatambara magazine specially meant for the distribution among
the Sinhala reading women in Canada, he has opened up a new kind of
vision and a mission. Up to this moment he had published two numbers,
the very first one and the second [both published for 2005].
Reading through the editorial of the maiden issue [April 2005], we
find that the invitation to publish had come from his friends and
well-wishers in Toronto, who had the conceptual phenomenon that the Sri
Lankan women living in Canada ought to possess some kind of information
and knowledge on local matters as well, and get to know the aspects of
the local culture though living abroad amidst multi cultural aspects.
The present journal is a result of that discourse.
As quite a number of Sri Lankan families live in Canada, the editor
Amarasena with his journalistic experience wants to bring out a “good
readable” publication that would perhaps be reckoned as a preservable
family commodity over and above other items collected to keep their
lives in comfort. Amarasena believes that bringing out such a journal of
the calibre of Liyatambara is a challenge from various points of view.
At the outset it is the challenge of the compilation process itself
deciphering what sort of reading material should go into the making of a
readable informative magazine. Then comes the inevitable publishing
issues such as the illustrations, photos and the page make-ups that
should suit the times and tides.
But I feel that he had with skill overcome most of these impediments
as an experienced Sinhala journalist, by the very selection of an array
of articles catering to such subject areas as fashions, family matters,
medical issues, plans for the future, positive thinking and other social
and psychological matters, good and adverse affects of modern day living
in stress and strain, environmental factors such as the value of forest
restoration and factors pertaining to tourism, informative trends in the
film world both local and foreign, trends in art culture and literature,
and profiles of miscellaneous characters with special interest towards
the newsmakers of the day at home and abroad.
Liyatambara is profusely illustrated with appropriate photos and
other types of sketches that go into the making of a modern day popular
magazine well printed. When all these aspects are taken into
consideration, I was wondering as to why this magazine cannot be sold to
the local Sinhala reader.
But I see that the revenue raised to publish this magazine comes from
advertisements from Canadian sources and designed for free distribution
as a welfare measure and as a cross cultural sponsorship project.
The magazine is printed here and posted to Canada, which inevitably
is a stupendous task that incurs lots of financial barriers on the part
of a single person. But to his credit so far, the editor Amarasena has
brought out two well edited Liyatambara journals transcending the mere
pseudo trend settings in the name of pop culture.
An outstanding biography
Bellana Gnanawimala Mahanahimi, Author: Dr. Iththapana
Dhammalankara Thera, Published by: Dayawansa Jayakody & Company, Colombo
10, 204 pp, Price: Rs. 250
‘Dullabho Purisa Janno Na so Sabbattha Jayathi’ ‘The great person is
indeed rare, He does not come into being everywhere’. Pandit Bellana
Gnanawimala Thera, Maha Nayake of the Kotte Sri Kalyani Samagri Dharma
Maha Sangha Sabha is a great personage of such rare calibre.
The work entitled ‘Bellana Gnanawimala Mahanahimi’ written by Dr.
Ittapane Dhammalankara Thera, Anunayake of the same chapter was recently
launched at the auditorium of the J. R. Jayewardene Cultural Centre,
Colombo 7. Dr. Dhammalankara Thera has earned for himself conspicuous
eminence as a biographer. It occurred to me accordingly that a brief
appreciation of this incomparable work will be of use to all serious
Dr. Dhammalankara Thera has taken the Sinhala biography literature
along new vistas and contributed largely to widening its horizons. He
does not believe in digging up a character from the past and weaving his
story around anecdotes associated with it, but rather takes up living
personages of our own times and offer to the reader an eminently
readable work rich with the many sided aspects of a life, sometimes
missed by a person of less discernment and insight.
This innovative approach of the author to his subject is evident
throughout his work. With many passages containing the spoken words of
the subject, the reader is pleasantly made to feel that he is in close
communion with the character, which makes the ideals portrayed the more
easily and practically assimilable to the reader.
In the field of Sinhala biographies, they are no more than
eulogies-the character dealt with borders on the perfect example free
from all blemishes. But there had to be a stage where this immaturity
had to be shed and a more human viewpoint be taken of the subject.
In Dr. Dhammalankara’s works we see this welcome change. Fortunately
he has drawn extensively from the examples of the Thera and Theri gathas
of the Buddhist canon, where the autobiographical accounts of a wide
range of characters who had visited the Buddha and had their lives
transformed are given.
The author has struck the right note in portraying his characters not
as superhuman impeccable beings, but as is natural to be expected, with
both foibles and virtues.
He has, however, succeeded in delineating the story of life of the
Maha Nayaka Thera much like a scenic river having its beginnings in the
high mountains and coursing through rocky passes and finally emerging to
the green valleys and the plains the insight to which no doubt has been
the result of the author’s is close association with the Maha Nayaka
Thera, they both being in the same chapter of the Sangha.
Biographies are a popular and wide category in world literature.
Buddhist literature is replete with Jataka stories representing the
lives of the Bodhisathva in his numerous manifestations before attaining
enlightenment. The benefits that society can draw from the reading of
such stories where traits of high character are delineated is immense.
The world we live in today has achieved great things owing to the
great teachers and philosophers as well as economists and scientists. It
is likely that the energies and powers these illustrious figures
possessed in their previous lives, have been instrumental in bringing
success to their lives.
The life-stories of such great personages are therefore shining
examples not only to children and youth but also to grown-ups.
Bellana Maha Nayake Thera, who chaired the Buddha Sasana Commission
recently, is of special standing among the eminent monks of the country.
It is the joy of reading a biography that a reader of this work can
derive from it. A wide understanding of Buddhist philosophy as well as a
knowledge of an extensive range of subjects is available to its reader.
An insight into the challenges and sorrows that we all face today,
irrespective of whether we are high or small as well as an analysis of
the social realities based on a deep delving into the psyche of all
beings, in the visible as well as in the invisible world is provided by
Bellana Maha Nayaka Thera did not strive to be a popular preacher.
His forte is clearly explained in the work. The reader is assured not
only of his eloquence, deep learning and unfailing adherence to the
tenets of the Dhamma but also of his exemplary life.
He was an experienced teacher of outstanding quality, is possessed of
wide-ranging and deep-learning and is a writer proficient in several
languages. Being a monk in the order of the Sangha of the Buddha he is
outstanding for his humility and exemplary way of life.
Never speaking ill of any other faith or philosophy, he is a Maha
thera of great stature, believing firmly in co-existence. He has gained
renown nationally and internationally for his dhamma sermons and dhamma
discussions in both the printed and the electronic media.
If is only in a Bodhisatva that one can come across his simplicity
and unambitious qualities and his uncommon skill in expounding keep and
abstruse philosophical and academic concepts and theories in clear and
simple terms. Kaleidoscopic view The reader is offered through this work
a kaleidoscopic view of the Maha Thera’s encyclopedic knowledge gathered
throughout a life led as a monk spanning over seven decades and coloured
by experiences encountered in the course of studies in Buddhist
philosophy as well as comparative surveys of diverse other philosophies
Offering a logical discussion in simple langauge as to how and in
what type of background a righteous man, a righteous society and
righteous country come into being in the world, how real social values
have collapsed in today’s world the Mahanayake shows with examples the
intrusions made into countries and societies in the name of religion and
the dire consequences of making use of race, creed and language for
He says that a despot invading and conquering a country may be reborn
in his turn, as a subject in the same colony.
Discussing a wide range of subjects, the Maha Thera sheds a brilliant
light on such topics as birth, death, re-birth, the interval between
death and rebirth, the seen and unseen world, karma, the world of
spirits, religious controversies, racialism, the mind, transmigration
and the world, the universe, individual happiness, women and social
relations, service to others, gods, astrology, dissemination of the
dhamma abroad, the Buddha Sasana, status of Buddhism in India, the
ethnic problem in Sri Lanka and many other issues.
It is only very seldom that individual knowledge in different
subjects is found in a person. But such a body of knowledge as is found
in Gnanawimala Maha Thera is evidence of his outstanding characteristic
as a philosopher. One is inclined to ponder that this multifaceted
knowledge may not have been acquired by him in the course only of this
life of his, but that it descends down from his many previous births.
Buddha Dhamma is a practical way of life. It sprang not merely as yet
another philosophical tradition to satiate the intellectual curiosity of
man, but as a way out of suffering which is the lot of human beings.
Prince Siddhatha who perceived the endless cycle of birth and death
in the sansaric existence went in search of the way out of it and
finally realizing it offered it to the world. This is the basis of
Buddha Dhamma. It is that philosophy the Bellana Maha Nayaka Thera
discusses throughout the book.
This work of Rev. Dr. Ittapane Dhammalankara provides guidance to the
Sangha Sasana, the rulers and the civil society, to whom it should be
compulsory reading. The service rendered by him to society and
literature of this country in giving of his untiring labours to the
compilation of this biography is unparalleled.
Book of quality produced after extensive research
Biographical Sketches of some Kandyan Chieftains in the Last Phase of
Tri Sinhale, Author: Ananda Pilimatalava
Biographical Sketches of some Kandyan Chieftains in the Last Phase of
Tri Sinhale is a sequel to the author’s research work on the monograph
‘The Pilimatalava in the Last Days of the Kandyan Kingdom’
He has selected a few leaders/chieftains like Pilimatalava Maha
Adikaram, Ehelepola Maha Adikaram, Molligoda Maha Adikaram, Pilimatalava
Ralahamy Udagampahe Adigar alias Kapuvatte Diva Nilame, Ellepola Nilame,
Siyapattuve Adikaram, Keppetipola Disave, Pilimatalava (Junior) Disava
of Sath Korale, Madugalla Uda Gabada Nilame, the Levukes and Variyapola
Sumangala Thera as his main characters.
In his introduction he states, “Certain chieftains jointly
participated in some events, such incidents, as the case requires are
related again” but this does not detract the reader from enjoying this
The last days of Kandyan rule were engrossed in tragedy, treachery,
deceit, cunning, disloyalty and worse, blood shed. They were turbulent
times; aristocracy conspired against each other, aided by the Nayakkar
relatives of the King to whom the Chiefs were indebted, as they the
Nayakkars were money lenders.
In case of failure to settle these debts, the Nayakkars would
complain to the King who would admonish the chieftain. This in turn led
to disobedience to the King with the chief falling into disfavour being
replaced by another. The result, jealousy and intrigue. This drama sadly
continues to this day!
The last King Sri Vickrama Rajasinha in the later stages of his rule
became a tyrant as he had no body he could trust except Molligoda who
played a double game. Under these circumstances the Chieftains
surrendered the nation to the British hoping they would get a better
administration and government than the tyrannical rule of Sri Vickrama.
But they soon realized this was not to be, the result was the Uva
rebellion where Kandyan bravery and courage materialized. The ruler’s
onslaught, and butchery of innocent Kandyan peasants was perpetrated by
the superior British troops with their fire power. It is against this
background that Ananda Pilimatalava has selected his chief characters in
Political power was in the hands of the aristocracy who also held key
posts in the administration and manned the Kandyan Judicial Courts as
well. This group enjoyed very large tracts of land given by the King
called nindagam. This gave them economic security, prestige and pomp.
Adigars travelled outside Maha Nuwara with whip crackers preceding them.
According to the author, “in the early 18th century descendants of
the Royal House of Madura of North Indian origin migrated to the Kandyan
kingdom during the reign of King Sri Veera Parakrama Narendrasinha,
married into the Pilimatalava family at Denuvara and got fully
indegenised and assimilated as Kandyan Sinhala.” Their descendants were
powerful, holding high office during the reign of the Nayakkar Kings.
During the reign of Sri Vickrama Rajasinha, Pilimatalava Maha
Adikaram was so powerful that he was a ‘King maker’! Pilimatalava
Pandita Mudiyanse the third son of Arava Tikiri Bandara was promoted
from Udagampahe Maha Adikaram to Pallegampahe Maha Adikaram during the
reign of King Rajadhi Rajasinha.
It was this chieftain who was instrumental in enthroning Prince
Kannesamy under the title Sri Vickrama Rajasinha. Ananda Pilimatalava
records the tragic history of these times, with the Adigar ultimately
paying with his life. Pilimatalava Maha Adikaram was a true patriot, due
to his love for his country his wish was to have a Sinhala to rule over
The Nayakkars skilfully blended themselves with the Kandyan national
interest and religion, and the inherent jealousy amongst the Kandyan
Chiefs convinced him that no Kandyan could ascend the throne without
outside help. Hence his decision to place his own nominee on the throne
and await favourable times to restore the ancient Sinhala line.
His courage is shown when Sri Vickrama was ready to pardon him
provided he took an oath never to attack his government again. The proud
Chieftain brimming with patriotism refused to take the oath but said he
did not want to hurt the King but only to save the country from
The Ehelapola family was one of the most noble families in the
Kandyan Kingdom dating back to Rajasimha II. They were originally
Gamaralas (Chiefs of villages).
Molligoda, Ellepola, Keppitipola, Madugalla and Levuke families were
from the “Radala Peruva” an endogamous group in the govikula caste which
formed the aristocracy of the Kingdom. The lineage of these Chiefs is
given in detail by the author. Ehelapola was thought to be a tyrant
The King would have profited if he paid attention to the good
qualities of this minister; but sadly the count suffered due to the
parting of King and minister. The Ehelapola family was ultimately driven
into the hands of the British.
Molligoda Adigar played a double game bribing the royal ambassadors
to give false information about Ehelapola to the King. Ehelapola was
deprived of his position and replaced by Molligoda who ultimately had to
seek protection under the British. He signed the Kandyan Convention as
Pilimatalava Ralahamy Udagampahe Adigar alias Kapuvatte signed the
Kandyan convention but was involved in the Uva rebellion, taken prisoner
by the British for helping his cousin Pilimatalavuva Disava to escape;
he was released from prison and appointed Maha Gabada Nilame and
Diyawadana Nilame of the Sri Dalada Maligawa on 27th November 1823.
Ellepola Nilame - Siyapattuve Adikaram was accused with
Pilimatalavuva of attempting to enthrone Mampitiya Bandara and was
condemned to death. Subsequently he was exonerated but he may have been
out of office as he was not a signatory to the convention.
Ellepola an elderly Senior Chieftain joined Pilimatalavuva alias
Kapuvatte, Ehelapola, and Madugalla in the Uva rebellion as he valued
Sinhalese independence more than the office and personal benefits he got
from the British.
His properties were confiscated by the British who offered 1,000 Rix
Dollars for his capture, Ultimately he was captured and beheaded near
the Bogambara Veva and so ended the life of this brave Sinhalese
The Keppetipola family were descendants of the seven aristocratic
Brahmin families that came out from India to attend the coronation of
King Vijayabahu I. Even though he was a signatory to the convention, he
openly expressed the view that British authority should be terminated
and replaced by a Sinhala King who would look after the Buddha Sasana.
Keppitipola joined the freedom fighters of the Uva rebellion and was
one of the leading Chieftains along, with Madugalla and Pilimatalavuva
Disava. The author goes into details of the rebellion which ended in the
capture of all the Chiefs.
Keppetipola and Madugalla were beheaded on the outskirts of Bogambara
Veva while Pilimatalavuva was confined to safe custody in Colombo due to
his relationship to Molligoda whom they didn’t want to displease, and
was banished to Mauritius later.
Variyapola Sumangala Thera removed the sacred tooth relic from the
Maligawa after the tevave ceremony and joined the rebellion with several
followers. He was ultimately captured at Dambulla and sent to prison in
Jaffna, being ultimately pardoned by Governor Sir Edward Barnes and
released from jail on 13 April 1821 due to old age.
Controversy shrouds the legend which states he pulled down the
British flag. Would this have been possible with 1,500 British troops
present on the Mahamaluva? James Sutherland in his despatch to the Home
Government says, “The British flag was hoisted without incident”.
Governor Brownrigg does not mention this incident nor do contemporary
The author has done extensive research into Colonial Office Records,
gone through most of the available English and Sinhala secondary sources
to produce a well written, very readable book.
Recently there has been a revival of history, without which a nation
is lost! Amateur historians like Ananda Pilimatalavuva should be admired
for producing a book of quality which fills a rich facet in the Sinhala
history of the last phase. This book should find a wide readership.
Case studies of managing distress
Depression and Psychotherapy, Author: Dr. Ruwan M. Jayatunge, Godage
International Publishers, Colombo 10, 158pp, Price Rs. 450
Depression is an affective disorder that can cause physical and
psychological distress in an individual. It destroys the pleasure of
living and it gives negative vision of life.
To day, the technology is so developed and we are living in a highly
industrial age. Even though man has achieved a greater success in his
mundane life, he seems to be unhappy. Therefore, man must regain the
proper balance in his life.
Depression and Psychotherapy, written and compiled by Dr. Ruwan M.
Jayatunge gives the basic understanding of depression and different
methods of management. The author who has successful clinical experience
in Psychological Counselling and Psychotherapy reveals important case
studies of managing depression.