The ever-fragrant lotus of Lanka matha
Time to time, we see the emergence of
individuals in this Blue Planet, who are more than mere Mortals. They do
have something in common. They love the total mankind alike and the
ultimate result of this kindness and warmth would be an Invention or a
creative masterpiece. The late Ananda Samarakone was from that rare
species of (human) immortals.
He gifted our motherland the National
Anthem and many other artistic masterpieces and finally vanished in the
Our country or any other country for that matter has their own
folklore songs, which bloom from the cultures and heritages of the
respective nations. These folklore songs are interwoven with the
day-to-day work of people and also with native games. For example, we
would hear damsels singing Onchili Waram, Olinda Keliya in the Sinhala
New Year time and also men folk singing Pel Kawi or Paru Kawi while they
do those professions.
Invasion of alien nations saw the erosion of the core values of our
culture and heritage thus giving a deadly blow to our folklore songs
The history has magically given birth to individuals time to time,
who came forward to revive our dying heritage; Samarakone was in the
clan of those rare individuals.
Egodahage Jeorge Wilfred Alwis Samarakone was born to a Sinhala
Christian family at Panadura, in 1911 January 13. He was the fourth
child of a family of five sons. After obtaining primary education in
Piliyandala Welwala Government School, he entered Kotte Christian
College to pursue with his secondary education in 1919.
The year 1934 was a significant period of young Samarakone. He was 23
at the time and was teaching art and music at Christian College. That
was the year of the great poet of India Rabindranath Tagore's third
visit to Ceylon. Tagore's visit changed lives of many intellectuals in
our country and Samarakone was among them. Tagore's inspiration led him
to fly to India in 1936 to be enrolled in Shanti Nikethanaya (SN)
seeking in-depth exploration into Tagore style. Few days prior to his
departure to India, he tied the knot with Chandra Seneviratne, a
dashingly young pupil of his mother's. In SN, he studied art and music
from Nandalal Bhose and Shanti Dev Ghosh respectively.
In 1937, a Brand New Samarakone came back to Ceylon with the wealth
of knowledge he gathered at SN. He became a Buddhist and refined his
name as Ananda Samarakone. He taught art and music in various schools in
a short stint and tried his luck with Gramophone songs. At the time,
Sinhala songs revolved around Gramophone and Radio. Cargills produced
100 Gramophone records under the brand name "His Master's Voice" and
Ananda Samarakone was among the singers who sang for those records.
Others were H.W.Rupasinghe(Rupasinghe master),Rukmani Devi, Kokiladevi
Weeratunga,Lakshmi Bhai etc.
Ananda stood tall among others as he gave a new pattern and outlook
to gramophone songs. While his fellow mates sang Tower hall songs and
Hindustani melodies, Ananda adopted Sinhala Folklore singing style and
South Indian Wanga music style in his creations. Furthermore, he wrote
lyrics and produced melodies and music for his songs, which appealed to
a vast majority of people. Ananda Samarakone became a household name.
Endada menike mamath diyambata Punchi suda sudu ketiya, ,Ese madura
jeewanaye geetha , Besa seethala gangule ,Podi Mal Ethano..., Siri
sarusara kethe touched the hearts of Ceylonese listeners. His songs
inspired Sunil Shantha, Amaradewa and many more musicians to produce
novel creations later.
Ananda Samarakone excelled as a Singer, Musician, Actor, Lyricist,
Dramatist, Artist and a Poet in 1940 decade. Many women who appreciated
his talents secretly loved him. The Legendary Lata Mangeshkar singing
his lyric Sri Lanka...Ma Priyadara Jeya Bhoomi. boosted his reputation
as a Veteran artist. He divorced his first wife and got married again
with Caroline de Silva of Galle in 1940 December 20. Then he came up
with a gamut of new songs; amongst them was the patriotic song Namo Namo
In the latter stage of 1940 decade, a significant change took place
in the attitudes of Ceylonese people, with the Independence movement of
India and Mahatma Gandhi's AHIMSA concept. The Tibetan monk
Ven.S.Mahinda inspired Ceylonese people towards Patriotism. This winning
mentality of the majority became gigantic force, which urged the
National Leaders to fight for freedom against the Colonial rule. At the
time,'God save the King' was sung in all Countries that were under the
British Empire and our Country was no exception. Namo Namo Matha was
sung as one of the best Patriotic songs.
The child from Ananda's second marriage died in 1948 and he was
utterly dejected. He flew to India again. The same year, Ceylon became a
Sovereign state. Since our country did not have a National Anthem at the
time, with a unanimous decision by the Government, Namo Namo Matha was
sung at the eve of Independence and since then it became the unofficial
National Anthem of Ceylon.
The cabinet decided to officially announce Namo Namo Matha as our
National Anthem in 1951 November 22. Ananda Samarakone returned to his
Motherland the same year. The second phase of his artistic career was
not so glorious as earlier, although he won the best song award for
Manaranjana Darshneeya Lanka, which he wrote for the film Sujatha, at
the 'Dinamina Film Festival' organized by the Lake House Newspapers
Limited. He held art exhibitions at the Art Gallery in 1951,1957 and in
1962. Namo Namo Matha later became Sri Lanka Matha.
A section of the populace saw an Omar Kaiyam in Ananda Samarakone. He
was at the helm of popularity as an artist and young women being
attracted towards him was inevitable. His sensitiveness denied depriving
love for those who loved him. In the latter part of his life, this
extraordinary individual had many frustrations and experienced
loneliness. His dead body was found lying on the bed in his residence at
Nugegoda, in 1962 April 3. SLBC named one of its auditoriums after his
name (Ananda Samarakone Mediriya) as gratitude. In the film Para Sathu
Mal , Gamini Fonseka (Bonnie Mahaththaya) on the verge of his death
utters the words Heta Ira Payaida Maggie? (Will there be a dawn tomorrow
Maggie?) to, one of his intimate associates. Ananda Samarakone would
have uttered a more heart breaking set of words to the thin air.