Inaugural Wijewardene family get-together


The Wijewardene family can trace its ancestry back, with a degree of accuracy to the 15th Century, where the Tudugala Wijewardene family has established roots to King Parakramabahu VI who was the last king to have reigned over the whole of Sri Lanka. He is said to have done so for 55 years – (1412-67).

A book "The Tudugala family" by Mr J H O Paulusz, a former archivist to the Government of Ceylon takes us down the family tree all the way to Prakrama Bahu of Kotte. This is now being updated with new material which will see the progress and contribution made by the progeny of Don Philip Wijewardene.

The name Tudugala is not as common as Wijewardene and is associated with the Tudugala village which was gifted to an ancestor of the family. This was his mother’s village and was on the bank of the Kelani river. The family has always had strong links with Kelaniya and especially the Kelaniya Temple.

Mohandiram Don Philip Tudugala Wijewardene who married Dona Helena Dep Weerasinghe in 1880 is associated with Sedawatte where he resided and built up his business empire. Don Philip was a contractor and timber merchant and was considered an outstanding business magnate. It is interesting that he supplied timber for the Public Works Department for bridges all over the island, the Museum, the Victoria Memorial Eye Hospital, the Supreme Court Complex in Hultfsdrop and major building projects. The success of these contracts earned him from the British colonial Government the honorary title of ‘Mohandiram’. He thereafter added Wijewardene to his name and was known as Don Philip Wijewardene. He gave this name to generations to follow him. Don Philip and his wife Helena although they were born Christians embraced Buddhism subsequently and did a lot for the many temples notably the Wehragodella temple in Sedawatte and the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara where the name of Helena Wijewardene Lamatani is venerated for her munificence. The social work done in the area of Sedawatte and elsewhere by the husband and wife is legendary.

Special mention could be made of Helena and her efforts to restore the Kelaniya Temple to its pristine glory, particularly her leadership and generosity in the restoration and producing of new murals by Solius Mendis to replace those which were destroyed by the Portuguese’s. If she did not act then, the paintings may have been lost for ever and the glory and greatness of Kelaniya would not have been re-established.

During the war years Helena donated rice from her Kalawewa farm to the impoverished villagers of Sedawatte. It was during her time that the Kelaniya Duruthu Perehera was inaugurated and the first Perehera was organized under her patronage in 1927. Her son Don Walter was the first Basnayake Nilame of the Kelaniya temple. She died at the age of 76 years. Dona Helena was widowed at the early age of 39 years and she brought up nine children and saw several grandchildren. She built ‘Sri Ramya’ which was a very large house on Galle Road Kollupitiya which presently houses the Library of the American Embassy, where she moved in after the death of her husband with some children and grandchildren. Her nine children, Don Alexander, Agnes Helen, Don Louis, Don Richard, Don Edmund, Lizzie Harriet, Don Charles, Don Walter and Don Albert attained great heights, two of them Don Alexander and Don Richard were acknowledged as National Heroes. Her grandson J R Jayewardene was our first President and a great grandson Ranil Wickremasinghe was a Prime Minister and many others who are well known professionals including Ray Wijewardene who was a world renowned inventor, Upali Wijewardene and Ranjith Wijewardene are well-known business magnates.

Then the 4th generation some of the family members are Amitha Goonaratne, Amari Wijewardene, Shalitha Wijesundera, Dhammika Attygalle, Shan Wickramasinghe, Dr Srinath Seneviratne and Hon Ruwan Wijewardene. Then the fifth generation some of the family members are Ishini Wickramasinghe, Tishya Wickramasinghe, Niroshan Wijesundera, Chulo Samarasinghe and past Royal Rugby Captain Duminda Attygalle.

The inaugural Wijewardene get-together will be held on Sunday November 18 at "Light House Galley", Chaithya Road, Colombo 1.

Organizing Committee:

Ms Lakmini Ramani Wijesundera - 077-7395325, Mr Dhammika Attygalle - 011-2436591, Mr Haritha Wijewardene - 077-7530900, Mr Lalith Jayawardena - 077-7327918, Hon Ranil Wickremasinghe, Mr Sujan Wijewardene, Dr Srinath Seneviratne, Mrs Rukmani Belligammana, Mr Shantilal Wijesundera.

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