Sinhala poet and writer Kalakeerthi Pandit Wimal Abhayasundara, passed away on the morning of Thursday, June 12 at the age of 87. Poet, lyricist, art critic, scholar, veteran author and musicologist, he was born on September 17, 1921 in Welitota in Galle.
He had his primary education in his village and his secondary education in Galle. His spoken language as well as written language was Sinhala and he was also conversant with Sanskrit, Prakrit, Pali, Hindi and English. Though he moved away from the village, he loved the rural landscape, the coconut and cinnamon plantations, the sea, the islands of the Madu Ganga by the side of his village.
In the past seven decades during which he had become a well-known literary figure in Sri Lanka, he had published about one hundred books, collections of poems, short stories and novels. Some of his books on poetry and prose have been translated into English, Yugoslavian, Chinese and Malay.
Wimal Abhayasundara started his career as a journalist and worked as a sub-editor on both daily and weekly newspapers. In 1955, he was appointed sub-editor in the first Editorial Board of the Sinhala Encyclopaedia. In 1958, he joined the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation as script writer in the Sinhala service. He was promoted to drama organizer and Editor, Publications. He also composed and produced musical programmes and radio operas.
In 1964, he followed a six-month course in broadcasting television at the BBC in London on a Commonwealth scholarship. He travelled extensively in countries such as India, UK, France, Switzerland, Germany, Egypt, Yugoslavia, Chjina and Malaysia. He represented Sri Lanka at international poets’ conferences in Yugoslavia and Malaysia.
As an author, his interest lay in experimenting with various styles of composition. Though he had a vast knowledge of Sinhala literature, he was also deeply interested in world literature, especially third world literature.
Four of his books won State Literary Awards and three won first prize in All-Island competitions. His first State Literary award was for a book of poetry in 1936. His most recent works were Conquering Hearts (in English) and Manesa (Mind’s Eye) in Sinhala, published in 2005.
He was honoured with the Kalakeerthi award by the Government of Sri Lanka in 1992 and received the Mahakavi award from the Aganuwara Tharuna Kawi Samajaya in 2006.
In 1994, the book ‘Wimal Abhayasundara Samprasadawa’ and in 2007, ‘Aseniya Kusum’ was published in appreciation of his services to literature. At the diamond jubilee conference of All-Ceylon Poets Association, he was honoured with the ‘Kavya Kala Parameshwara’ award.
It was his wish that he make his last journey in a simple manner, without flower wreaths, flags, decorations, banners, posters, cutouts and polythene disfiguring the environment.