The Hela Havula Movement which has exerted a
lasting influence on the development of the Sinhala language,
literature, and music, on the one hand, and the thriving
patterns of Sinhala culture on the other, commemorates the 64th
death anniversary of Munidasa Cumaratunga.
The 'Revival Movement' was inaugurated by the
two stalwarts, Munidasa Cumaratunga and Jayantha Weerasekara, at
a time not favourable for pursuits of that nature, partly due to
colonial rule prevailing at that time on the one hand and the
lethargy, indifference, misconceptions, and traditional beliefs
of the people who had set their minds in blinkers, on the other.
One of the earlier pioneers, the erudite scholar
W. F. Gunawardana has expressed this pathetic position thus:-
"Those people have no sympathy with originality,
and they have a constitutional hatred of modern ideas opposed to
the teachings of our great masters of old. They cannot conceive
how any man of the present can know anything better than those
masters, and if any man does pretend to know, well then he must
face the consequences."
Cumaratunga being aware of the setbacks in the
social set up at the time, devoted his time and energy to take
the necessary corrective measures to eradicate the corroding
conditions in society.
He laid the proper foundation for the study of
language while he was engaged in the teaching profession.
He put his heart and soul in his work, in
revision and elucidation of classical texts, both prose and
verse. These are revised with full explanatory notes pertaining
to grammar and various allusions which attract the scholar and
the student as well.
Cumaratunga, in his critical research and survey
of the classical texts of the Augustan age of Sinhala
literature, found that most of the great scholars maintained an
elegant grammatical order in keeping with the innate indigenous
structure of the language, and which in turn was an order which
prevailed in society at large.
He was quite aware of the education based on
classical literature which in many ways could preserve, extend
and advance the most significant aspects of Sri Lankan culture.
He was under the impression that every other
thing was subordinate to linguistic stability. In this respect
he was most modern and prophetic.
With unflinching courage and determination and
marvellous patience, he set about the 'Herculean task' of the
‘Revival Movement'. As time passed by many scholars, teachers,
and students, began to comprehend and appreciate his great
As there was no proper medium to give vent to
his feelings and ideas and to guide the students, and Sinhala
enthusiasts, he started the well known paper 'LakMiniPahana'
dated (13.11.1934) where he made the following comment with
regard to the aim of the paper:
'Once again we have to emphasise one point. The
function of our paper is not to express our opinion with regard
to language or religion. Its main business is to provide room
for anyone to express his opinion in refined elegant language
that will be beneficial to society at large. Even though the
opinion that is being expressed may be solely against us, there
will be room for its publication.
"It should be quite clear to our readers that
our principle will be to give room to an opinion is against us,
rather than favourable to us."
Thus, 'LakMiniPahana’ gave much encouragement to
students to write elegant language and to make use of it as a
vibrant vehicle to convey their ideas and feelings and to gain
experience in the form of creative writing, whether it is prose
Many priests, scholars, and students,
contributed articles to ‘LakMiniPahana.’ With much sympathy and
expectation Cumaratunga gave the necessary help to most of them,
specially to the students by doing the necessary corrections in
the articles sent to him by them and making it a point to post
them back. Many promising poets and writers made good use of the
opportunity afforded to them.
Jayamaha Wellala, who was able to impress
Cumaratunga with his talent for poetry, and Amarasiri
Gunawardana, who attracted his attention with his verbal
neatness, cleverness, and poetic art, produced interesting work.
Rev. Warakagoda Seelaratana Thera, a poet with extraordinary
talent, contributed many articles and poems.
Cumaratunga gave very interesting and
constructive criticisms to most of these poems, which were
appreciated by most of the readers. Some of these later on
appeared in his 'Kavi Shikahava' (Restraint in Poetry).
Thus, ‘LakMiniPahana’ really became the
irradiating light of Sri Lanka. Poets from that time onwards
began to shine with the gem - Like creative flame. However it
lasted only a couple of years.
Cumaratunga's ardent love for the maintenance
and preservation of language and his best efficiency and
perseverance in the achievement of his lofty objectives never
failed. With renewed enthusiasm and determination he started
work, in an entirely new field. He devoted his full time to
carry out his work, as a Features Editor in the 'Swadesa -
Mitraya'. For the first time he made an attempt to experiment
with the possibility to explain knotty points in grammar, in
some sort of simplified style, in versified form. He also
supplied a series of articles elucidating rules of syntax, and
supplied clues to various grammatical problems.
The Sinhala version of 'Kadambari' not only
attracted the attention of Sanskrit students, but this in turn,
amply manifested his consummate mastery in the language and his
remarkable talent as a translator. However, his tenure of office
as a Features Editor at the 'Swadesha-Mitraya' paper came to an
end on December 20, 1936.
Cumaratunga strongly felt that the time was
drawing near for Sri Lankans to choose their legitimate rights
as citizens of this country and stand arrayed in their own
colours to safeguard their interests and objectives with regard
to language, race, and country.
With this end in view he started his well known
journal 'Subhasa' (‘Elegant language') to safeguard, propagate
and achieve the above objectives in the best way possible.
As time passed by, a large number of followers
from diverse walks of life rallied round him, to develop, enrich
and safeguard the elegant forms of the Sinhala language. 'Subhasa'
firmly anchored to the principles of order in society was
started on July 10 1939, and continued till February 16, 1942,
having fulfiled in diverse ways, its objective in an
extraordinary manner, in spite of the alarming setbacks of the
social set up at that time.
'Subhasa' exerted a tremendous influence on the
'Revival Movement.' Many budding poets, and writers took an
active part, in diverse forms. At this stage, it is necessary to
direct our attention to some of the poets, essayists, novelists,
who had made very valuable contributions to develop literature.
R. Tennakoone, exhibited his flashes of genius
by the contribution of many poems, going ahead of others. He was
the most prolific writer, whose most characteristic features
were his rare wit, sarcasm, and humour.
Jayamaha Wellala, who attracted Cumaratunga's
attention (during ‘LakMiniPahana’ period) with his inborn poetic
talent, his simple, lucid style, and pleasing themes, satiated
the aesthetic taste of most of the readers. Cumaratunga's right
hand-man, Jayantha Weerasekara, as the leading dynamic force in
his movement, dominated the whole show.
Hurbert Dissanayke who contributed many articles
to 'Subhasa' became very popular among the readers. Through the
medium of poetry he was able to convey the mood and emotion of
characters by this peculiar poetic and prose presentation and
As time passed by hundreds of such talented
young men rallied round Cumaratunga. Cumaratunga's great
expectation that there should be an organized body to carry out
the varied activities of the 'Revival Movement', failed to bear
fruit after the setting up of a society called 'Sinhala Samajaya'
and 'Sinhala Araya.' Later he was able to organize an assembly
presided by A. P. Jayamanna, lecturer, Training College, Maggona.
Cumaratunga stressed the necessity for an association and
requested the members to suggest a suitable name for the
Association. Jayantha Weerasekara's suggestion that the
association should be named as 'Hela Havula' was unanimously
adopted by the society. Cumaratunga then gave a very impressive
He said, "a country with an undeveloped language
will not develop. In fact this is not an Eastern concoction.
This is the conception of Western scholars. It is a pity that
these ideas have not got into the heads of our people. It is
more or less the task of a person to develop a country single
handed. Even for such a one if there is the slightest support,
it is indeed an encouragement.'
"During King Dutugamunu's era, the bhikkhus took
the initiative to direct the attention of the people towards
worldly affairs. It appears that there is some such inclination
among the monks to compete with the laity. Certainly, it is a
symbolic presentation of the country's position'.
'If we are to bring about the pristine glory of
the past, the foremost meritorious act that we should do is to
go ahead with the pursuit of developing the wisdom and knowledge
of the Sinhalese.
"This is a small country. The Sinhalese are a
small nation. It is a defeatist mentality to go by the fact that
in a small country there is hardly any room for development."
"Therefore, take heart. Let us get together and
form a society, and set up branch-societies throughout the
island and create an awareness among the people to know the work
that we propose to do."
For this purpose Abiram Gamhewa and Eddie
Fernando were appointed joint secretaries. Along with them an
Executive Committee was also formed inclusive of monks and seven
Before long branch - societies were set up in
Panadura, Kalutara, Colombo, Galle, Matara, Ambalangoda, Kandy,
Bandarawela, Kegalle, Dambadeniya and other places.
Meetings were held to propagate the mission.
Cumaratunga and Jayantha Weerasekara (who had won the admiration
of the people as eloquent speakers) were able to create a
lasting impression among the audience.
R. Tennekoone, in his usual humorous, sarcastic
style provided much entertainment. Charles de Silva, the erudite
scholar, Amarasiri Gunawardena, Jayamaha Wellala, Abiram Gamhewa,
and W. M. Perera gave their ardent support.
Cumaratunga encouraged his followers to channel
the forces of the mind in the pursuit of aesthetic and
linguistic adventure for the betterment and the upliftment of
The 'Ruwan Vala' series started by Cumaratunga
with the help of Jayantha Weerasekara, made great headway in the
production of innovation in aesthetic and literary pursuits, in
the most admirable manner. Jayamaha Wellala's ‘Ali Sathuruva’
Tennekoone's ‘Vevuluva' 'Mavilla', 'Davinaya', Warakagoda
Seelaratana Thera's 'Lama Viruva', Amarasiri Gunawardena's 'Piliyama'
attracted the attention of the readers in a remarkable manner.
At the height of fame and influence, he realized
that before long he would be able to reap the fruits of his
magnificent mission, to safeguard, sustain, and ensure the order
of language and thereby pave the way for order and harmony in
Driven by a collective consciousness devoid of
caste, creed, national, and religious bias, in solemn words he
expressed his view for the sole unification of the country as an
'Basa-desa-rase yaa - Nokarana pana yaa’
‘The life that fails to cherish, language, race
and country, will perish'.