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61st Independence Day

Pre-independence socio-cultural scene

A brief postscript:

It is observed that the predominant pressures that created the resourceful climate of opinion to usher in the independent status happened to be two-fold basically. Firstly it was the indigenous oriental pressure grasps on the regaining of the lost identity that sounds to have happened due to the impact of the colonialism.


State Legislature Council

Though the colonial rulers happened to be three types: Portuguese, Dutch and English. The last one was more forceful and needs a closer scrutiny. The second pressure to obtain the independent status happened to be the very understanding on the part of the socio cultural identity on the part of the British rulers.

Ruling power

In this direction it is observed that initially the British colonial rulers inclusive of the very first governor Fredrick North was of the view that if the ruling power has to be retained more to forcefully several cordial factors had to be put into action. This included the teaching of English and the establishment of the English schools.

As a result gradually in most capitals of the country, like Colombo, Kandy, Matara and several other places like Missionary schools sprouted. Then it was also their role to instigate a certain degree of religious conversions for the more vernacular bestowing better positions like Mudliyars, Gage Mudalis, Vasala Mudalige and Tolka Mudalis linking their family patterns to a better and lucrative vision of helping them to climb the social ladder culminating in obtaining certificates of merit from the British Dominion.

Unusual change

This scene could be well developed to show how the conscience of general masses could be transformed to suit an unusual change in the pattern of life around them.

The well-to-do families in the country immediately grabbed this opportunity of social climbing with the so called western mannerisms, calling their parents 'mummies' and 'daddies', and their elderly relatives as 'uncles' and 'aunties'. This was looked own upon by a main sector of indigenous opinion leaders who happened to be more rooted and independent.

They happen to be lovers of the classical literature to the past, religious minded.

They happened to represent the indigenous populace from a diversity, mostly drawn from the local schools or search of learning. A few hands that could be cited are the most reverend Hikkaduwe sri Sumangala Thera, Most reverend Ratmalane Dhammaratna Thera, the celebrities like Anagarika Dharmapala, Walisinghe Harischandra, venerated journalists like Pandita Dharmaratne and Munidasa Cumaratunga, and novelists of the calibre of Piyadasa Sirisena and poets of the calibre of Ven. S Mahinda of Tibet who had come to stay in the country well versed in oriental languages.

Those personalities like John de Silva, Sir D B Jayatilaka and Dr. C W W Kannangara and host of other stalwarts spearheaded certain moments which may have convinced the colonial rulers about the dignity in which they clamour.

History records several instances where some of the local Government agents of a high calibre have had tutelage under some of the learned Buddhist priests of the country. In one instance the governor Hamilton had the chance of being a pupil of Venerable Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala.

Colonial rulers

Then there are instances where the colonial rulers of the calibre of Lodringon and Emerson Tennent have recorded their bliss of learning under some of these erudite scholar monks.

In this manner we also observe the link of the two streams polarizing in a way that had enhanced a certain degree of mutual understanding to gain the independence required. Some of the colonial rulers happened to have shown their amazement at the scholarship of the celebrities like Sir James de Alwis who was erudite enough to translate the greatest Sinhala Grammar text called Sidat Snagara into English with a long introduction. Nevertheless de Alwis by that time remained a Catholic as his family lineage may have been forced to do so.

The two main seats of learning the Vidyodaya Pirivena in Maligakanda and Viyalankara Priviena in Peliyagoda happened to be the declared open by Venerables Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala and Ratmalane Dhammarama in 1873 and 1875 respectively.

The two main seats of learning during the post independent era created a climate of opinion pertaining to the need for the release from the colonial yoke, in order to create a better cultural climate in the country. The scholars engaged in this fact were not only oriental scholars, but were also blessed with the learning in English, Latin and Greek.

This was one of the main challenges for the colonial rulers who established their galaxy of English missionary scholars with brand names such as S. Thomas, St Joseph, Wesley College, Trinity College and de Mazenod college, all over the country.

One of the strangest event one could observe is the gradual entry of Pali, Sinhala and Sanskrit teachers into the tutorial staff of each of these institutes.. In most instances the oriental scholar who taught these languages too happened to be a scholar in English as well.

This created a finer impetus on the student as well as governing bodies. The missionary scholars which commenced via 'Colombo Academy' in 1836 by no means spread its tentacles with this challenge.

Even in a seat of learning which was named as Royal College, the bilingual scholar happened to be more suited than the others. Though the bend towards the West was extant, there grew another stream that clamoured for an independent status. This climate of opinion was influenced by the Indian political and cultural scene, which enters into a broad segment or an area of studies.

In the rediscovery of most of the mass media structure in this pre-independent scene, one finds the most enlightening factor as the commitment to a national liberation struggle via dominantly the print medium spearheaded by such periodicals as Sinhala Jatiya, Sinhala Bauddhaya, Sainahal Balaya, Lakmini Pahana, and Sarasavi Sandarasa. This was the trend followed by some of the followers in the field of print medium, and the socio cultural communication scene created for the electronic media.

In these fields as well as the other media structures the visible factor was the non-commercialized frame which spread more avenue for creative skills. This is visualized as the spirit and vein that was inherited from the pre-independent and post independent era which culminated in and around 1956.

Academic depth

Even from an academic point of view some of these factors have not been studied in depth. The words of the celebrated poet and journalist Munidasa Cumaratunga reverberate in my mind as he said: "The need to rethink in creative terms is what we need to uplift the society, and not the need to possess a slavish mind via alien links." Needless to state that the mechanics of politics that had gone into the endowment of Independence in 1948 was merely via a gift of need, but something that was won with a grave sense of understanding of a national socio cultural struggle in search of a self liberation. In this process, I am sure some of the factors are still hidden from the eye because of the conventional historian, who had written based on sources, at his beck and call.

Today we should be in a position to rediscover or reread some of the media oriented events in the light of our knowledge in communication sciences.

Indigenous teaching

Besides we visualize the social responsibility as the guiding beacon of the media structure where the central theme happened to be the liberation from the colonial bonds. If one were to reinterpret poems of Ven. S Mahinda or Piyadasa Sirisena in this perspective, a western oriented literary critic may debunk the their creative skill. This is what happened even during a brief period prior to the Independence. The university education which was more Western oriented disregarded and overlooked the national conscience of the local creative functions.

The same continued to be even after the establishment of the two universities initially named as Vidyodaya and Vidyalankara. The pattern of the indigenous teaching was not continued as they were also represented by the western oriented academic structure of the Peradeniya University. Still the stigma continues and one could see how this happened via the research output of each of these universities.

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