Kandy in 1940s and 50s...
In 1951, Kandy witnessed the birth of Sri Lanka Freedom Party.
Bandaranaike who left the UNP Government on the July 12, 1951, contacted
T.B.S. Godamunne of Kandy over the phone same day evening; explained the
reasons for his crossover to the Opposition together with some MPs such
as A.P. Jayasooriya and H. Sri Nissanka.
They came to Kandy on the July 15, 1951 to meet Godamunne for the
purpose of forming a new political party.
The following met at Situmina Hall at Bowela, Kandy; S.W.R.D.
Bandaranaike, A.P. Jayasooriya, H. Sri Nissanka, Darrel Peiris, T.B.S.
Godamune, Thamara Kumari Ilangaratne, T.B. Tennakoon, F.R. Jayasooriya
and T.B. Dissanayake.
They discussed various matters concerning the development of a new
political party. The name “Sri Lanka Freedom Party” was proposed by H.
Sri Nissanka and the rest accepted it.
The Bowela meeting agreed on 10 principles that the new party should
follow. These became the basis of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party that was
officially formed on September 2, 1951 at the Colombo Town Hall.
Kandy perehara, the annual cultural pageant fifty years ago
Picture ANCL library
S.W.R.D. began the 1956 General Election campaign with an alms-giving
to 100 monks at Dharmaraja Primary School Hall. Traditionally this place
was known as “Jayabima”, the land of victory. S.W.R.D’s coalition party
got a landslide victory.
George E. de Silva
While several socio-political activities were going on in and around
Kandy, Minister George E. de Silva fought very hard and got the Ceylon
University established at Peradeniya, which is one of the most beautiful
campuses in the world. This new university was established in 1950.
Sir Ivor Jennings who epitomised British values and traditions came
as the first Vice Chancellor of this new university modeled after
leading British universities.
Accordingly academic staff and students should come to classes in
full dress and should eat at the dining halls with spoons and forks.
Some students who had come from villages developed or pretended to have
stomach upset, avoided eating at the dining halls!.
Sir Ivor Jennings
Some of the students mocked Sir Ivor’s rules by wearing ties flowing
down their backs and coats back to front. Within a few years time, Sir
Ivor Jennings may have got fed up with Peradeniya and left Sri Lanka by
a ship with none from the campus to see him off! Sir Nicholas Attygalle
succeeded Sir Ivor and proved to be a strict disciplinarian.
British administrators who held high positions in the Government also
began leave Sri Lanka. This development was very conspicuous in Kandy.
When Sir Richard Aluvihara was appointed the IGP, the Kandyans in
particular were very happy. This writer remembers several receptions to
the new IGP. Some came to such receptions wearing Nilame Costumes!
In April 1954 Queen Elizabeth II came to Sri Lanka on invitation by
Sir John Kotelawala, the Prime Minister. Kandy authorities accorded warm
public reception to the Queen at Trinity College and a ‘Raja Perahera’
was staged. The Queen was to view the ‘Perahera’ from the Octogen (Pattirippuwa)
at Sri Dalada Maligawa.
Whether the Queen should remove her shoes before step into the
Maligawa became a subject of public debate. Disave C.B. Nugawela the
Diyawadana Nilame, was firm that the Queen should remove her shoes. Sir
John sent the IGP Sir Richard to meet the Diyawadane Nilame and settle
Three members of Kandy press (including this writer) got the wind of
it and we were there in time. Sir Richard and Nilame greeted each other
at the ground floor.
Sir Richard said, “Nilame, the Sacred Tooth Relic is up there (Uda
Male). The Queen should be allowed to come in wearing shoes”. Nugawela,
the Diyawadana Nilame slapped hard on the face of Sir Richard the IGP
and said, ‘Richard you can even arrest me when I am outside.
But neither you nor even the Queen has the power to give me orders
while I am inside the Maligawa”. Sir Richard the IGP had the grace to
accept this and went away.
We in the press kept this incident a secret for more than 50 years!.
The Queen removed her shoes and went to Pattirippuwa to view the Raja-Perahera
showing her royal deference to the traditions.
Up to 1960, in Sri Lanka, there were two kinds of schools, the
schools run by the State free of charge and the schools managed by
denominational authorities, but those schools too were provided with
money by the State.
These second lot were called assisted schools. The Buddhist
Commission recommended that the assisted schools be taken over by the
State for a unified system of education.
Dr. E. W. Adikaram, the Manager of Schools run by the Colombo
Buddhist Theosophical Society too supported the assisted schools
takeover for establishing a unified system school administration.
In 1957, three teachers of Dharmaraja College, having taken leave,
visited Sri Rahula, Vidyartha and Mahamaya Colleges and invited the
principals, senior teachers and some prominent Buddhist leaders to come
for a meeting at Dharmaraja Primary School hall to discuss the school
Four principals of the four leading colleges and large number of
teachers came for the meeting. “Kandy Education Front” with Sir Bennet
Soyza as its Chairman, was established.
Until the assisted schools take over Bill was passed in the
Parliament in Dec. 1960, Kandy Education Front remained very active
force in the island.
Kandy Education Front
In 1957, for a public meeting in support of the school takeover, held
at the Kandy Town Hall, the people went in a procession with Ven. Madihe
Pannaseeha Nayaka Thera and L.H. Mettananda and some more members of the
Buddhist Commission and senior academics including Prof. D.E.
Hettiarachchi and K.N. Jayatilleka led the procession. Thus the Kandy
crowds and the academics joined hands.
When some people opposing the school takeover campaign were holding a
public meeting at Kandy Town Hall, about 500 university students led by
Ananda Singaravelu and Nandasena Ratnapala (President and Secretary of
the Buddhist Brotherhood) rushed to Kandy and joined the market crowds
and disrupted the meeting at Kandy Town Hall.
On October 22, 1960, there was a massive procession led by Disave C.B.
Nugawela and Sir Bennet Soyza from the Maha Maluwa upto Pushpadana
Balika Maha Vidyalaya hall where the meeting in support of school
takeover was held.
This public meeting was addressed by leading citizens of Kandy and
academics such as Dorric de Suza, W.S. Karunaratne, Harischandra
Wijetunga and leading citizens such as T.B.S. Godamunne, Dr. S.D. de
Silva and H.A.C. Wickremaratne.
In November 1960, this writer heard of a four-year old girl in
Kotmale who was alleged to recall her previous life.
A group of people including Ven. Piyadassi Thera of Vajiraramaya and
Dr. K.N. Jayatilake investigated this case. This became a thrilling
newspaper story too. The previous life child died on November 9, 1954
and reborn on February 14, 1956.
This case study in rebirth attracted scholars such as Prof. Ian
Stevenson of Virginia University, USA. The child claimed that she saw
the Queen Elizabeth II when she passed trough Talawakele Town.
In 1961, the Peradeniya University had several weekly debates on
rebirth at residential halls. Prof. K.N. Jayatilleke, Prof. Ediriweera
Sarachchandra, Dr. Doric de Suza and Bishop Lakshman Wickremasinghe and
several academics took part in the debates.
In 1957, a public meeting to oppose Minister Philip Gunawardhana’s
“Paddy land Act” took place at the Town Hall of Kandy attended by
leading Kandyans such as Barns Ratwatte (Sirima Bandaranaike’s brother),
C.B. Nugawela and P.B. Ranaraja. The meeting was chaired by Dr.
Wimalananda Tennakoon of the Peradeniya University.
The meeting came to an abrupt end because of disturbance created
unobtrusively by some newspaper men. Dr. Wimalananda Tennakoon realized
who was behind the disturbances and not wishing to cross swords with the
press, abruptly declared that the meeting is at an end!
In the mid 50s, Kandy was the center of much cultural activity. Prof.
Ediriweera Sarachchandra’s timeless creations - “Maname” in 1957 and
“Sinhabahu” in 1960 gave new life to the Peradeniya University. He had
the support of a group of creative musicians and dancers such as
Vasanthakumar, Charles de Silva Gunasingha Gurunnanse, Somaratne
Attanayake, H.H. Bandara and P.D. Ratnapala.
Kandy was fortunate to have men like Premakumara Epitawela who
produced Thitta Bata, Bandula Jayawardhana who produced Berahanda and
Swarnahansa, Vasantha Kumara who produced Kumburupanata and
Vishvavimukthi. We in Kandy town witnessed a golden era of cultural
resurgence in Sri Lanka.
Kandy was blessed by the presence of several distinguished foreign
personalities. For instance, the Ven. Gnanatiloka Maha Thera who was the
Vice President of the German Scientists’ Association was residing at the
Udawattakele monastery along with his fellowGerman, the Ven. Gnaponika
Thera. Both were famous as writers who introduced Buddhism to the West.
Another world famous thinker and philosopher - J. Krishnamoorthi
spent several days in Kandy at Dharmaraja Principal’s bungalow.
A few years earlier in the late 30s Rabindranath Tagore and Mahathma
Gandhi, in their visits to Kandy had given public lectures at the
Dharmaraja Primary School Hall.
In 50s, Kandy was adorned with the presence of literary figures such
as Charles Silva, Gunadasa Amarasekera, Harischandra Wijetunge,
Wimalananda Tennakoon, H.M. Somaratne, Ariya Rajakaruna, Wimalaratne
Kumaragama and Kularatne Bulathgama.
This portrait of Kandy would be incomplete without at least a few
lines of Raja, the tusker who carried the golden casket of the Sacred
Tooth Relic over a period of 50 years annually during the perahera days.
Raja runs amok
Raja ran amok once in 1951 and rushed down Mahaiyawa road, passing
Katugastota Town turned into Matale road.
People began to run away screaming in panic. A beggar nick named
Gandhi used to wear a piece of cloth reaching his knees and carried a
As enraged tusker came charging, the appalled people shouted at the
beggar and asked him to get away from the Raja’s path.
The beggar realizing that he could not get away in time, put down the
walking stick, knelt down with folded hands, made an appeal to spare his
Then something truly wonderful happened. Raja came to an abrupt stop
in front of the helpless beggar and placed the tip of his trunk on the
beggar’s fore-head for a moment and turned away leaving him unharmed!
Two Great Radalayas
In 1958, while the grand last Perahera was in progress, another
elephant in front part of the procession ran amok. Thousands of people
started screaming and there was a stampede killing 14 people.
The Diyawadana Nilame Nugawela was at the time walking in the
Perahera in his traditional place little behind Raja, the Maligawa
Realizing that the casket has to be protected he rushed forward and
stood between two tusks, began to stroke the trunk of Raja gently and
said, “putha, come with me! come with me!” and moved Raja and kept him
between the two tall pillars at the entrance to the Lake House (Present
Bank of Ceylon) building in the Dalada Veediya.
Never for a moment did he think of running away to save his life, but
kept Raja quiet till the commotion was subsided.
The writer a Fulbright scholar is the author of 30 published books -
24 in Sinhala and 6 in English was the Senior Lecturer in International
Relations at Sir John Kotelawala Defense University. Courtesy: the
Souvenir, the Kandy Society of Medicine