The Hela Havula marks the 75th Anniversary


BY K. A. I. Kalyanaratne

Language – The most important aspect of culture

Language is the most important aspect of culture. It is the dominant feature in determining nationality or ethnicity. It is the binding force that unites a people, and makes them distinct from others. Language represents a people’s heritage and identity.

The Hela Havula – Its origin and purpose

Viewed in this context the Hela Havula is the organization founded by the late scholar, Cumaratunga Munidasa, to develop, expand and ensure sustenance of all the activities that revolve around the Sinhala language, Sinhala literature and the related facets of Sinhala culture. In fact, the Hela Havula was formed by a few enthusiasts, under the patronage of Cumaratunga Munidasa, at his residence, ‘Sevana’ in 1941 (January 11, 1941). Although several names were proposed, at this historic meeting to form the organization, ‘Hela Havula’ was the name proposed by the late scholar Jayantha Weerasekara. It was endorsed by Cumaratunga Munidasa as an apt name as it embodied and represented all that had to be expected of by such an organization. The Hela Havula thus completed the 75thanniversary (platinum jubilee) of its formation, in January, 2016. It is, therefore, a turning point in any such organization, to review in retrospect its contribution, vis-a-vis the objectives for which it was formed.

Establishment of language organizations

Numerous professional associations have been formed in countries as a result of their language movements for the furtherance and expansion of the respective national languages and literature.

The Académiefrançaiseknown in English as the French Academy, is the pre-eminent French council for matters pertaining to the French language.The primary role of the Académiefrançaise is to regulate the French language by determining standards of acceptable grammar and vocabulary, as well as adapting to linguistic change by adding new words and updating the meanings of existing ones. As the spread of English, in the world, has had much influence on other national languages, the Académie's main task tends to be focused on lessening the influx of English terms into French by choosing or inventing French equivalents.

= The Academy of the Hebrew Language is the language organization established for the furtherance and advancement of the Hebrew language. The Academy of the Hebrew Language was formed by Hemda Ben-Yehuda. Ben-Yehuda’s main industry revolved around the colossal enterprise of reviving the Hebrew language by gathering into one volume all Hebrew words.

= The Central Hindi Directorate is the organization set up with the objective of developing and propagating the cause of the Hindi language.

= Thanittamil Iyakkam is another significant language movement witnessed in India during the post independent era, which may be translated as the Pure Tamil Movement. It mainly functioned as a movement of linguistic purism, that is, to develop and maintain an ‘unadulterated’ Tamil language.

The background to the formation of the Hela Havula

It may not be possible even to conjecture that the Hela Havula was influenced by the developments witnessed elsewhere, and more so the activities that took place in post-independent India.

The writer is inclined to believe that the Hela Havula was an independent movement that came into being purely on the conviction of Cumaratunga Munidasa that the Sinhala (referred to as Hela) is a robust language, that has all the features, namely,

(a) a comprehensive grammatical structure,

(b) an over-abundant and comprehensive and rich vocabulary,

(c) a vast and varied collection of literary works, which could be based for all the modern requirements, ranging from fiction, literary works and technical writing,

(d) an established mechanism / methodology to form words and more importantly verbs,

(e) a developed phraseology that could express / communicate every valuable nuance of human emotions, and

(f) a scientific basis needed to coin and express any technical term and, in fact, all the features / characteristics of a developed language. Cumaratunga also unearthed the Sinhala idiom through his meticulous / exhaustive study of the classical Sinhala works, and undertook an in-depth research on the Sinhala verb. The final outcome of this exhaustive endeavour was the discovery that all the Sinhala verbs could be brought under six categories.These six verbal roots were referred to as bala – bama – bana – bas - pihita – and rak. (A finding uncontested or challenged by any scholar to-date). It was these findings that convinced the late scholar that the Sinhala language possessed all the necessary ingredients for it to stand on its own.

He also mooted the idea that it is the language that binds the nation and the country at large. He referred to it as Hela Trinity (Hela Theruwana), namely, the mother-tongue (basa), motherland (desa) and the nation (resa). This subsequently became the mission of the Hela Havula.

Cumaratunga tested the timing of establishing the Hela Havula by preceding it with the publication of the ‘Subasa’ magazine. Subasa was a tremendous success and its readership swelled and many a scholar contributed articles to it. Hela Havula was the result of this success. The Subasa paved the way for the resurgence of a literary tradition that proved the efficacy of the Sinhala language to express any idea lucidly, succinctly and proficiently. The writer is, therefore, inclined to think that it was the successful launch of the Subasa and its acceptance by the Sinhala literati that spurred the establishment of the Hela Havula.

The Hela Havula – Its origin and purpose

Viewed in this context the Hela Havula is the organization founded by the late scholar Cumaratunga Munidasa to develop, expand and ensure sustenance ofall the activities that revolve around the Sinhala language, Sinhala literatureand the related facets of Sinhala culture. In fact, the Hela Havula was formed by a few enthusiasts under the patronage of the late scholar Cumaratunga Munidasa at his residence ‘Sevana’ in 1941 (January 11, 1941). Although several names were proposed at this historic meeting to form this organization, ‘Hela Havula’ was the name proposed by the late scholar Jayantha Weerasekara. It was endorsed by Cumaratunga Munidasa as an apt name as it embodied and represented all that had to be expected of by such an organization. The Hela Havula thus completed the 75thanniversary (platinum jubilee) of its formation in January, 2016. It is, therefore, a turning point in any such organization to review in retrospect its contribution vis-a-vis the objectives for which it was formed.

Hela Havula (Incorporation) Act

The Hela Havula was incorporated as an act of Parliament (No. 38 of 1992) in 1992, and, apart from its administrative provisions, what is more important for us is to know its specific objects. They include:

a) To promote and develop the Sinhala language, literature and culture;

b) To protect the rights and interests of the Sinhala people;

c) To organize and hold seminars and conferences at national and international levels;

d) To promote research in languages;

e) To give publicity to literary works;

f) To foster unity and to promote the dissemination of the traditional spiritual values among the Sinhala people; and

g) To do such other acts and things as are conducive or incidental to the attainment of all or any of the above objects.

Planning and reforming the

Sinhala language

The Hela Havula, therefore, as the organization responsible for the use and planning of the Sinhala language (as no other institute or organization has assumed this role) has taken over the responsibility for the planning as well as exposing and establishing the norms of the language. Planning calls for the initial task of researching and discovering the norms and rules that were used and adopted by the writers of the past. This, in fact, is researching or probing into the rules and norms that referred to by Einar Ingval Haugen, (American linguist, author and professor at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and Harvard University), as language planning and corpus planning. Haugen, later labeled the former category Codification or Standardization procedure, and the latter Elaboration or the functional development of the language.

This is what exactly Cumaratunga Munidasa did through his Vyakarana Vivaranaya and the Kriya Vivaranaya. Elaborating and further explaining his expositions a gamut of linguistic works were produced by scholars of the Hela Havula. Among, these the following stand out as more conspicuous:

Honda Sinhala by Raphael Tennekoon

Sinhalaye Pada Bedeema by Arisen Ahubudu

Jyeshta Sinhalaya by JayasekaraAbeyruwan

Vyakarana Visithura by Vini Vitharana

Akshara Shikshava by Srinath Ganewatte, and

Na-na-la-la Vahara by Anandapiya Kudathihi

Technical Terms in Sinhala

A challenging task for those who undertook to write books on science and technology was the dearth of Sinhala equivalent words and phrases. To assist in this endeavour the government established the Official Languages Department (OLD). However, the OLD was unable to fulfil its task as most of the words/ phrases coined by the OLD were not ‘in consonance with the ethos of the Sinhala language’. The technical terms coined were mostly borrowings from Sanskrit. Further, apart from these words being weird and clumsy, they could not be conjugated. The OLD little realized that Sinhala is an inflected language.

‘Technical Terms in Sinhala’ a comprehensive glossary produced by the late Aelian de Silva, Chartered Consulting Engineer, brought solace to this national issue, which otherwise would have made writing and teaching of technical subjects an insurmountable task. This compilation could, therefore, be considered as a boon to the furtherance of technical education in the country. This unique compilation also nullifies the hitherto held belief that the Sinhala language is incapable of conveying / expressing / teaching technological subjects.

Aelian de Silva’s ‘Technical Terms in Sinhala’ may be considered as an unparalleled contribution to the Sinhala language, and more so to the country’s technical education. In addition to exposing the bases on which technical terms are to be coined, the book provides a comprehensive glossary of all the current technological terms. To quote the author "The mere fact that words written in Sinhala characters purporting to be technical terms, are being used in schools and to some extent in the universities, does not mean that a viable technological language exists for the practice of technology".

Some of the most prominent members of Hela Havula

Cumaratunga Munidasa (poet, grammarian, linguist, commentator, writer and journalist) – The founder of the Hela Havula

Alau Isi Sebi Hela (Writer)

Amarasiri Gunawadu (Writer, Scholar, Poet)

Anandapiya Kudathihi (Journalist)

"Kalasuri" Arisen Ahubudu (Writer, poet, Sinhala lyricist, author, scholar, playwright, teacher and orator)

D.V. Richard De Silva (Author and teacher)

Fr. Marcelline Jayakody (Journalist, author, hymn writer, musician, lyricist and poet)

Rev. Fr. Moses A. Perera (Writer, poet and lyricist)

Gunapala Senadeera (Historian and poet)

Hubert Dissanayake (Poet)

Jayamaha Wellala (Poet)

Jayantha Weerasekera (Journalist)

Jayamaha Wellala (Poet and writer)

Jayasekara Abeyruwan (Notary Public and author)

Ven. Kodagoda Gnanaloka (Dakshina Lanka Sanghanayaka)

Mohotti Don David (Journalist)

Mahanama Dissanayake (Poet and journalist)

V. V. Abeygunawardene (Writer and historian)

"Deshabandu" Prof. Nandadasa Kodagoda (Lyricist, doctor and singer)

Raphael Tennekoon (Poet) – (Raipiyel Tennekoon)

B. K. D. P. Balasuriya (Writer and teacher)

A. D. Chandrasekara (Teacher and writer)

Sandadas Coperehewa (Poet, author, journalist and teacher)

Sunil Santha (Singer, composer and lyricist)

Ven. Tirikunamale Ananda Anunayaka Thero

Prof. Vinnie Vitharana (Writer, scholar and author)

W. J. M. Lokubandara (Writer, poet, lawyer, lyricist and author)

Creative works, and Expositions

The writer considers that an article of this nature should invariably contain an account of the creative writings, namely, prose and poetic works as well as translations of the literati of the Hela Huavula. Cumaratunga Munidasa’s writings for the children (Hath Pana, Heen Seraya, Mangul Kema and his nursery rhymes), and the creative works of Raphael Tennekoon (like Vavuluva and Gamayanaya) are incomparable gems in our literature. However, it is sad that limitations imposed on articles of this nature will not permit lengthy expositions. Hence, the writers wishes to deal with this aspect in a future endeavour.

Knowing and willing is not enough

We must apply and do as well

The writer wishes to conclude this short essay with a quote from Goethe. A German by birth, Goethe is hailed by many scholars including poet George Keyt, as the number one scholar born in Germany to date. Having read a fair number of his works, the writer would not hesitate to refer to him as German Cumaratunga. Of knowledge, willingness and application this is what Goethe said.

Knowing is not enough;

We must apply.

Willing is not enough;

We must do.


This is exactly what Cumaratunga Munidasa did and persuaded others to do by forming the Hela Havula. In fact, the late scholar created an organization and ‘marshalled’ a band of dedicated scholars who would ensure that the identity of the Sinhala language would not be obliterated by the influence of foreign languages, including English.

The argument of English being a global language and that it’s a better language is simply hogwash. Today, Israel is one of the world’s leading countries in technology, and its Hebrew language proudly satisfies their demands. Japan, China and Russia among a host of other countries are proof that national pride of language can overpower against any odds.

Easy reading means hard writing

It is on record that celebrated writer G. K. Chesterton once said that ‘easy reading meant hard writing’. One could imagine then the task the late scholar Cumaratunga Munidasa and those of the Hela Havula undertook to discover/ unearth the Sinhala literary tradition, and create the desired standards in the language for present and future writers to produce their literary work including technological literature without causing confusion among the readership.

P.S. This article is based on the presentation made by the writer, at the commemoration of the 72nd death anniversary of the late scholar Cumaratunga Munidasa, held on March 02, 2016, at the National Library and Documentation Services Board.

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