Kularatne of Ananda: biography to be launched soon.

The first comprehensive English biography of P. de. S. Kularatne will be launched shortly. Here is the official announcement.

Kularatne of Ananda coverb2 

Kularatne of Ananda 
The Life and Work of P. de S. Kularatne
by Kamalika Pieris
Sarasavi Publishers

400 pages
Rs. 750
Please direct all correspondence on this matter to:
skgsenanayake@gmail.com

P de S. Kularatne was 3 months shy of 25 years when he took over as Principal of Ananda College on 1st January 1918. Ananda, the most prominent Buddhist school in colonial Ceylon, still had less than 500 students after over 30 years of existence. Kularatne arrived straight out of the University of London, having obtained three degrees in the space of four years, and had no experience in administration. But in a few years he, together with a band of inspired teachers, supporters and benefactors, transformed Ananda into a pre-eminent national institution with influence far beyond traditional education. All this was achieved with meagre financial resources, a generally unsupportive (and sometimes obstructive) government and during a period of intense political ferment. When he retired 25 years later, Ananda College was synonymous with excellence. How did he do it ?

Kularatne is best known as an outstanding educationist and is mainly remembered as the person responsible for developing Ananda College into a leading school. He was a prominent figure in ‘Buddhist education’ and many Buddhist schools owe their existence to him. He pioneered secondary education in swabhasha, encouraged the teaching of indigenous dances and folk poetry in school and devised a comfortable alternative to western dress. He was at the forefront of the political movement to expand educational opportunities to the disadvantaged and was instrumental in creating a Chair for Sinhala in the university. Kularatne initiated the Commission that led to the formation of the Employees’ Provident Fund and was responsible for much of the urban infrastructure of modern Ambalangoda. His contributions to these other sectors have received little publicity and, in some instances, the credit due to him has gone to others.

There is at present no definitive account of the part played by Kularatne and Ananda College in the nationalist movement of the 20th century. The large amount of primary material unearthed while researching into the life of Kularatne is very illuminating. Such information often gets lost in the writing of a biography. Therefore, in this work, every iota of valuable information was retained and specifically woven into the narrative. This book can be read as a biography and also as a study on selected aspects of British rule in Sri Lanka.

Author Kamalika Pieris studied Sociology at University of Ceylon and obtained the Postgraduate Diploma in Librarianship from University of London. She has held positions as librarian in the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Indian Ocean Regional Office, Colombo, Sri Lanka National Library Services Board, National Institute of Business Management, Postgraduate Institute of Medicine and Sri Lanka Institute of Architects. Her publications include Medical profession in Sri Lanka 1843-1980; Bibliography of medical publications relating to Sri Lanka 1811-1976; Bibliography on urban Sinhala theatre 1867-1986; and Sinhala cinema 1948-1986. 

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Meeting Ananga, the God of Love at the Telwatte Temple

There are about three stories jostling in my mind, each one wanting to be the first on the blog for 2015. Not quite good to have my own thoughts hustling to win like the politicians. Cut to the chase, the decision is to leave the sadness of 2014 behind, embrace the new and do a happy post. Post tsunami 10th anniversary almsgiving, I went wandering with my new love, my Nikon camera. First stop was to meet Ananga, a.k.a. Kamadeva, son of Vishnu and Laxmi . His wife is Rati but he lives alone at this abode — the Purana Totagama Raja Maha Viharaya in Telwatte, Hikkaduwa.. He and Rati were favourites of my father and a number of other writers. Ananga is the god of sexual love, like Eros of the Greeks and Cupid of the Romans.

Statue of Anangaya at Purana Thotagama Temple, Telwatte, Hikkaduwa. 26 Dec. 2014. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

Statue of Anangaya at Purana Thotagama Temple, Telwatte, Hikkaduwa. 26 Dec. 2014. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am not sure, what he is doing or supposed to be doing standing larger than life size at the entrance to the shrine room of the temple but there he is, holding a sugar cane bow in his left hand and a sheaf of arrows in the right.

While our giant neighbhour, India, widely worshipped Ananga there are not many references to for the prevalence of this cult in Sri Lanka. In fact, as far as I know this is the only statue of Ananga in Lanka. He has a variety of names .  e,g. Kandapa, Naranga, Malkehella, Madana, Malsara, Makaradvaja and Kama.

Buddha Statue inner shrine, Purana Thotagama Raja Maha Viharaya, Telwatte, Hikkaduwa. 27 Dec. 2014. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

Buddha Statue inner shrine room or Viharage, Purana Thotagama Raja Maha Viharaya, Telwatte, Hikkaduwa. 27 Dec. 2014. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

In the inner shrine room, facing the huge reclining Buddha, is another giant standing statue, of God Vishnu, father of Ananga.  There is not enough room for me to back up to take the photo, but I do manage to capture some of the majestic stance of God Vishnu.

Statue of God Vishnu at Purana Thotagama Temple, Telwatte, Hikkaduwa. 26 Dec. 2014 . Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

Statue of God Vishnu at  Thotagama Raja Maha Viharaya Temple, Telwatte, Hikkaduwa. 26 Dec. 2014 . Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vishnu is also known as Narayana, and  Upulvan (blue lotus colour), is represented as a black or deep blue man — sometimes with four arms,  club in one, a shell in another, a discuss in the third, and a lotus in the fourth. His vehicle is the bird Garuda. He is the guardian God of Buddhism.

To the left of the Ananga statue is another colossal statue of God Natha (Avalokiteshwara), surrounded by murals. Two guardian lions stand on either side of the God.

Statue of God Natha at Purana Thotagama Temple, Telwatte, Hikkaduwa. 26 Dec. 2014. Photo Copyright Chulie de Silva

The statue of God Natha ) at Thotagama Temple, Telwatte, Hikkaduwa. 26 Dec. 2014. Photo Copyright Chulie de Silva

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aryapala in his  Book on Society in Medieval Ceylon, quotes Senarath Paranavitane ad states that there was an inscription containing invocations to Tara and Avalokiteshvara, affording evidence that Mahayana Gods and goddesses were objects of popular worship.

The Guard (Doratupalaya) to the right of the God Natha, with the guardian lion. Purana Totagama Raja Maha Viharaya, Telwatte, Hikkaduwa. 26 Dec. 2014. Copyright Chulie de Silva

The Guard (Doratupalaya) to the right of the God Natha, with the guardian lion.  Totagama Raja Maha Viharaya, Telwatte, Hikkaduwa. 26 Dec. 2014. Copyright Chulie de Silva

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manjusri dates the Telwatte Purana Viharaya as 1799. The inscription n the doorway dates this “Aluth Viharage” pintings and sculpture to 1805, but despite this Senake Bandaranayake says these are much more likely to be of mid-century vintage.

Inscription above the door to the shrine room. Purana Totgama Raja Maha Viharaya, Telwatte, Hikkaduwa. 26 Dec. 2014. Copyright Chulie de Silva

Inscription above the door to the shrine room. Purana Totgama Raja Maha Viharaya, Telwatte, Hikkaduwa. 26 Dec. 2014. Copyright Chulie de Silva

Many who visit the temple have little idea of the historical value of the statues or the frescoes, let alone the names of the gods in the statues. For them its a temple in the village that they come to worship.

An elderly woman worships at the Purana Totgama Raja Maha Viharaya, Telwatte, Hikkaduwa. Copyright Chulie de Silva

An elderly woman worships at the Purana Totgama Raja Maha Viharaya, Telwatte, Hikkaduwa. Copyright Chulie de Silva

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This lady had no answers for her grandson when he asked for the names of the Gods. It is difficult to account for the presence of Ananga in the temple says Ariyapala adding that “It may have been a warning to the lay-devotees against indulgence in sexual pleasures.” Whatever the reason for building the statue, its a part of our heritage that will be lost as there is no visible plans to save them. Learning to accept impermanence and decay is an essential requirement of Buddhism. Maybe we have lessons to learn.

Frescoes on the wall to the left side of the Ananga statue. Purana Totgama Raja Maha Viharaya; 26 Dec. 2015. Copyright Chulie de Silva

Frescoes on the wall to the left side of the Ananga statue. Purana Totgama Raja Maha Viharaya; 26 Dec. 2015. Copyright Chulie de Silva

Unexpected pleasures of old photos

It was a regular sound of a banging on a door or a window that woke me up in the middle of the night. Robbers, polecats?– snuggled nicely in bed I debated whether to get up or not but in the end commonsense got better of me and I switched on lights, peered from my window in to the garden. It was the howling winds with a full blown monsoon storm that was spinning my avocado tree in a crazy tango. Thankfully my road was not flooding and my house was dry — not like a couple of years ago when I stepped out of bed into a rising tide of water when a neighbhour woke me up saying “your house is getting flooded!”

Next day, the rain continued to pelt, I kept a wary eye open for signs of flooding but there was not much to lift the gloomy mood till I saw the FB post “Seeya’s Album” from my niece Avanthi in Canada. Her Seeya/Grandfather was my father’s no. 4 brother Dr. Richie Kirtisinghe.

I stayed glued looking over and over at the images — and all the joys of childhood, came stumbling out.

From left my brother Prasanna, my sister Yasoja, cousins Anoma & Hemal & myself with cousin Kithranee in the stroller with cousin Tara. Photo Dr.Richie Kirtisinghe, mid-1950's, Ambalangoda.

From left my brother Prasanna, my sister Yasoja, cousins Anoma & Hemal & myself with cousin Kithranee in the stroller with cousin Tara. Photo Dr.Richie Kirtisinghe, mid-1950’s, Ambalangoda.

We were playing at my uncle’s house in Ambalangoda, where he practiced as a GP. It must have been school holidays and probably a birthday party for my cousin Anoma, his eldest daughter. Looking at it I could even remember the favourite dress I was wearing. My aunt had sewed it for me and there was her embroidered bunch of cherries which would feature in clothes she sewed for my kids too.

Anoma in centre sits in a her toy pedal car with my sister on left and am on the right. Photo Dr. Richie Kirtisinghe.

Anoma in centre sits in a her toy pedal car with my sister on left and am on the right. Photo Dr. Richie Kirtisinghe.

My uncle also ran a clinic a couple of times a week in Hikkaduwa, so we did see him and the family frequently and the kids ended up on the beach.

Anoma and Yasoja building sandcastles. Photo Dr. Richie Kirtisinghe. circa 1950's, Hikkaduwa.

Anoma and Yasoja building sandcastles. Photo Dr. Richie Kirtisinghe. circa 1950’s, Hikkaduwa.

Hemal a tad grumpy that his sandcastle wasn't holding up. Photo Dr. Richie Kirtisinghe.

Hemal a tad grumpy that his sandcastle wasn’t holding up. Photo Dr. Richie Kirtisinghe.

It was not just fun looking at the childhood pics, but Avanthie has set us on a course to identify — who was in the photos. Interesting stories started emerging as my cousins Kithranee and Hemal recounted days with their father and the stories behind the stash of 87 pics.

This portrait of a teenage Anoma, who is sadly not with us anymore, was taken by my father’s youngest brother, Bertie, the second doctor in the family. He had a very good practice in Moratuwa and was the most prolific photographer out of the Kirtisinghe brothers. We all posed for him and some family group photos show that he had used wide-angled lenses too.

Portrait of Anoma by Dr. Bertie Kirtisinghe. circa 1960s, Moratuwa, Sri Lanka.

Portrait of Anoma by Dr. Bertie Kirtisinghe. circa 1960s, Moratuwa, Sri Lanka.

Uncle Richie or Richie Mahappa as we called him in the traditional form of address for a father’s elder brother, was very proud of his days  as a cadet and then later joined the Sri Lankan Army.

Dr. Richie Kirtisinghe, as a young cadet. Taken in a studio, photographer unknown. Circa late 1920s or early 1930s.

Dr. Richie Kirtisinghe, as a young cadet. Taken in a studio, photographer unknown. Circa late 1920s or early 1930s.

In the medley of pics of birthdays and the picnics were the ones of the start of his marriage to my aunt.  He had given this photo of himself in uniform to his betrothed Esmeralda, Esme for short daughter of Mrs. AP Fernando of Moratuwa.

Dr. Richie Kirtisnghe as a Doctor in the Sri Lankan Army. Photographer unknown. Circa early 1940s.

Dr. Richie Kirtisnghe as a Doctor in the Sri Lankan Army. Photographer unknown. Circa early 1940s.

She in turn gave him her photo when they got engaged.

Esmeralda Fernando before her marriage to Dr. Richie Kirtisinghe. Circa 1940's.

Esmeralda Fernando before her marriage to Dr. Richie Kirtisinghe. Circa 1940’s.

At the time of their engagement he was in the army and staying at the barracks where the Navy Headquarters are now in Fort. “It was the time the Japanese bombed Colombo. His batman had hid this photo under his pillow and had then run away,” says cousin Kithranee.

He was the longest surviving brother out of the 7 Kirtisinghe’s and whenever I visited him in later life, he recounted his days in the army.  I was surprised to learn that before his engagement, he’d go ballroom dancing in the night. My austere grandmother was better off not knowing about his dancing days but I suppose she effectively cut it short by finding him a suitable wife.

The dancing was in dancing halls very likely introduced by the Brits, for people to meet and socialise.  All dancers had a card which filled up with the partners names for each dance. Once he said a a young Burgher girl saw his card was blank for the last dance and asked him to dance. It was a difficult dance for him– a tango but he did well and only learned later that she was a dance teacher. After these night outs he would come back late to his barracks and then change into his uniform and go to sleep. That he would say with a characteristic chuckle got him for the morning drills in time!

Vesak musings in Dhaka

    Women sell large pink lotus flowes near the Kalutara Temple. The gentle green sprouting bo -sapling on the concret pillar behind her and the white obituary notice on the concrete pillar saying life is transient sums up the cycle of birth and death. Significant in the the pali stanzas recited when flowers are offered is:     "Puppham malayati yatha idam me     kayoa tatha yati vinasa-bhavam." -- Even as these the flowers must fade, so does my body march to a state of destruction." Kalutara, Sri Lanka. December 26, 2008. Photo Chulie de Silva

Women sell large pink lotus flowers near the Kalutara Temple. The flower buds and white obituary notice on the concrete pillar saying life is transient sums up the cycle of birth and death. Significant in the the Pali stanzas recited when flowers are offered is:
“Puppham malayati yatha idam me
kayoa tatha yati vinasa-bhavam.” — Even as these the flowers must fade, so does my body march to a state of destruction.” Kalutara, Sri Lanka. December 26, 2008. Photo Chulie de Silva

The street below me is slowly waking up. The coolness and the soft gentle night of Dhaka will slowly and surely be replaced by chatter, noise, blaring of horns, the cries of the street vendors and the harsh light bringing with it the sweltering heat. Peering out through a tangle of telephone and electricity wires on a still cool and balmy morning I see a vendor with a basin of mangoes on his head and a vegetable seller his rickshaw van piled with glistening vegetables. He stops the cha walla who sells tea from a large flask for an early morning cuppa and they both sit on their haunches and shares a smoke.  A daily maid in a brightly clad red saree with two lasses in equally bright salwars walk passes them, wrapped in their own chatter. The garbage cart with the two young boys is further up the street.  I had watched a street fight between these two young lads and a bigger guy a couple of days ago on the way to work. The young had fought ferociously guarding their territory to operate. This is Dhaka, my abode for the present – I am a stranger – a bideshi – I do not belong but yet am very much a part of it; they are not my family here but am already wrapped in the myriads of issues of my coworkers – so are they my karmic connections? I am not sure if this is a past karma or I am making new Karma – fragments of thoughts, vignettes of life flit across my mind this Vesak as I peer down at the street.

Morning sweeper at Lalmatia, Dhaka. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Morning sweeper at Lalmatia, Dhaka. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Back in Sri Lanka people will be trekking to temple– my family to the Katudampe temple.

Detail from a frescoe at Katudampe Rajamahavihara. Katudampe, Sri Lanka. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Detail from a frescoe at Katudampe Rajamahavihara. Katudampe, Sri Lanka. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Today they say the moon will be the biggest, brightest full moon for 100 years. As the moon does the tango with earth, at times drawing close at times pulling apart, I reflect on how my life too has been a series of such dances where I have been close to some people on a daily basis and then moved away forming new circles of friendship.

The comfort and contentment that we take for granted from a happy family environment are poignantly missed by me in Dhaka. May, is also the birth month of my father and Vesak for me is intricately woven in with memories of him. One priest he had great respect was the scholar priest Rev. Thilaka fro the Katudampe temple. A serene temple set near the banks of a river, I too have good memories of the temple that does a great service to the village community. Paintings probably by late 19th century artists are not famous but is an important visual story telling for villages.

Part of the ceiling frescoes at Katudampe Rajamahavihara. Katudampe, Sri Lanka. August 31, 2008. Photograph©Chulie de Silva.

Part of the ceiling frescoes at Katudampe Rajamahavihara. Katudampe, Sri Lanka. August 31, 2008. Photograph©Chulie de Silva.

Often emotional transactions are much more complicated than financial ones but there is one factor that is common to both  We need to speculate to gain.  Thankfully, unlike your purse the heart has the capacity to replenish itself.

Yesterday, my bearded boss Shahidul Alam, writing from Berlin had introduced me virtually to a photojournalist and film maker Zin Myoe Sett  in Myanmar (Burma). My first contact in Myanmar!  Responding to Zin’s mail and thinking that he might be a Buddhist and thoughts of Vesak foremost in my mind, I had ended my email to him wishing him for Vesak and said “Buddhu Saranai” (May Buddha protect you) in closing.  Zin replied saying we add “Metta” (loving kindness) to it.  So this blog where I muse about teachings and recollect past events with a varied collection of photos and my ramblings is for my new friend Zin with Metta. And to all of you who have followed my blog and encouraged me to write more. …

A temple close to my village Hikkaduwa is the Sailabimbaramaya Temple in Dodanduwa. It is well known for the  giant granite Buddha statue which had eyes set with blue sapphires.  But the gems that were there are no more.  They were stolen.  Obviously the Buddha’s benevolent smile or the teachings did not matter a tot to the robbers.

The temple itself got the name from the granite statue which was brought to Dodanduwa from India.  The story is that the incumbent monks had heard of the granite statues in a region in India called “Kaveripattam” and a Governor had intervened to send one to Sri Lanka by ship. Dodanduwa, then did a brisk trade in salted fish, earthenware and salt with Maldives and India. People of the area says the  statue was taken from the harbour at Dodanduwa to the temple up the river on a raft.

The first Buddhist School in Sri Lanka by the name ‘Jinalabdhi Vishodaka’ was started by in the premises of Sailabimbaramaya Temple by Venerable Dodanduwe Piyarathana Maha Nayaka Thera.

Interestingly, as I roam around these temples with my camera comes the realisation that  rejection of the not so perfect is universal. I found these rejected statues tucked away at the Kataluwa temple.

Damaged and discarded Buddha statues at Kataluwa temple. Kataluwa, Sri Lanka. September 10, 2011. Photo Chulie de Silva

The perfect is worshiped thus;

Ye cha Buddha atita cha-ye cha Buddha anagata,
Pachchuppnanna cha ye Buddha-aham vandani sabbada.”
The Buddhas of the ages past,
The Buddhas that are yet to come
The Buddhas of the present age,
Lowly , I, each day adore!

A modern Buddha Statue at the Katudampe Rajamaha Vihare. Katudampe, Sri Lanka. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

A modern Buddha Statue at the Katudampe Rajamaha Vihare.
Katudampe, Sri Lanka. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

To my life’s end the Buddha and his teaching will be my refuge. Sadly. as recent news reaching me from Sri Lanka shows that the difference between paying lip service to the teachings and practicing them is profound.

I have carried with me when I lived abroad a little book called the “The Mirror of Dhamma” by venerables Narada Maha Thera and Kassapa Maha Thera. I was introduced to this book by my sister-in-law Swineetha Fernando way back in 1965. I have in turn given copies to my sons and I hear my granddaughter Tara, can get her tongue around some of the Pali gathas with an interesting twist. I have thumbed this book many times and  today I leave a you a wish for Vesak from this book.

Visible, invisible too
Those dwelling near or far away.
The born, and those seeking birth
May every being live happily.”

See also

A Salutary Poem at Vesak from Rabindranath Tagore

A century old family photo on my 100th blog post

100th blog — is it significant? Not as significant as this 100 year old photo, but still a good time to bring it out. When I first saw this photo, I sat momentarily transfixed.  Here was a slice of history, frozen in a quiet gentleness, a significant moment in the lives of my ancestors, whose blood flows through my veins. I saw my grandmother, probably still in her twenties wearing the jewellery that my mother gifted to me.  I could see what excitement there would have been in this house of my great-grandfather S.K. Issack de Silva (circa 1860–1930) of Degoda, Ambalangoda  (seated next to my grandmother third from Left).

My paternal grandmother, Achchi, Pintohamy (Second from left) and grandfather, Seeya, K.H. Bastian de Silva standing behind her carrying Uncle Ritchie, in her father’s house in Ambalangoda. The photograph circa 1911 was taken when her brother Heron de Silva Kularatne (centre, back row) took oaths as a lawyer on his return from London. Standing next to him is his youngest brother Patrick de Silva Kularatne who also graduated from the University of London. His first job was as the Principal of Ananda College which he took up in 1918. He retired voluntarily in 1943. Later he shed his western clothes and went on to become one of Sri Lanka’s foremost educationists. Re-photogrpahed from a copy by Chulie de Silva

The same stream of life that runs through my veins

night and day runs through the world and dances

in rhythmic measures.

It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of

the earth in numberless blades of grass and breaks

into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.

It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of

birth and of death, in ebb and in flow.

I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this

world of life.  And my pride is from the life-throb of

ages dancing in my blood this moment.

Translated from Bengali by  Rabindranth Tagore.