135th Birth Anniversary
Heroes of Lanka: Piyadasa Sirisena


August 31st 2010 marked the 135th birth anniversary of Mr. Piyadasa Sirisena, the pioneer novelist, patriot, Buddhist leader and newspaper publisher. The following article was published in a tabloid named, The Ahinsa, in August 1950 which effectively summarizes Mr. Sirisena’s contribution to this country:

A novelist, a newspaper editor, a fearless critic, a lover of Sinhalese Literature, a staunch Buddhist, a prominent temperance worker – all these rolled into one went to make the hero that Piyadasa Sirisena was. Though sprung from humble beginnings, this courageous fighter, latterly took his place among the greats who shaped modern Sri Lanka.

Piyadasa Sirisena believed in the power of the spoken and the written word. His voice was the delight of millions who heard him; his writings in the powerful Sinhalese newspaper, Sinhala Jatiya, and his numerous novels were eagerly devoured by patriotic readers. Verily in his case, a blow with a word struck deeper than a blow with a sword! From platform and press he cried against the loss of national consciousness and the fast westernisation of our culture through practices such as gambling, animal slaughter and drinking. As a lasting monument to his activism, we have his paper, the Sinhala Jatiya and his novels.

He was dubbed the father of the Sinhalese novel. Not only did he introduce the Sinhalese novel to the Ceylon public but he also "made it a potent medium to lash out at the foibles of our people. He did not tolerate the vices that were daily sapping the vitality of our youngsters. His novel was not a mere romance, not a mere thriller, but a purifier of the spirit. While other novelists lost their hold on the public, Piyadasa Sirisena’s novels seem to revive with each new reprint. He drew inspiration from the ancient classics the Panchatantra, Hithopadesa and the Buddhist books. The advice in his pages was directed at the younger generation. To those aspiring to marriage he gives sound advice.

Our hero was a doughty fighter in the cause of the things which this paper stands for. In the temperance movement he was in the forefront; he spoke against the consumption of animal flesh; he saw no pleasure in gambling; he foreswore spirituous liquors. Till the last breath of life left his body, he steadfastly adhered to his principles and the cause for which he earnestly fought. The setbacks of 1915 did not deter him. He remained aloof from the hustings, and never dabbled in politics. But he shaped our society so that we may rise as a people with a proud past, a living present, and a glorious future.

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