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28th May 2000
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Kala Korner - by Dee Cee
Gotami Vihara is 100 years old
Gotami Vihara, Borella is 100 years old. The Vihara is famous the world over because of George Keyt's mural paintings in 1939/40 on the life of the Buddha. Now they are showing signs of decay. Much has been written about the need to preserve them.

"The Foundation promised to do something. I have appealed to the Cultural Ministry. They have come and had a look. That's all. Nothing happens," laments the Viharadhipati, Telwatte Nagitha Thera.

"We did what we could a few years back. The paintings themselves were not touched up but experts did what could be done in and around the Budu-ge to preserve them," a Foundation spokesman said. The wattle-and-daub walls of the Budu-ge are not ideal for the preservation of the murals. Obviously not much attention had been paid about making the walls damp proof at the time the paintings were done. 

While the murals used to be reproduced in annuals put out by Lake House and Times of Ceylon, the book on Gotami Vihara murals published by the Foundation sponsored by ANZ Grindlays Bank in 1993 is a permanent record of Keyt's work. Describing the murals as "a magnificent and innovative artistic achievement", Professor Anuradha Seneviratna says that Keyt's artistic creation is a superb transformation of stone sculpture into wall paintings harmoniously blended to create a new technique which is oriental in the full sense of the word. 

"It is definitely not a complete break with the style and compositional methods of traditional art or even a departure from conventional subject matter as some art critics claim." 

Renowned painter Manjusri (he was then in robes) painted the motifs and patterns on the borders and around the Budu-ge.

The beginnings
The land for the Vihara was donated to Venerable Dodanduwe Piyaratana Thera in 1900 by Lady Apolonia de Soysa, mother of Sir James Peiris, the distinguished patriot who was in the forefront of the struggle for Independence. Piyaratana Thera set up the first Sinhala Buddhist school during colonial rule. Harold Peiris, a grandson of Sir James and lover of art, who was married to George Keyt's sister Peggy, was instrumental in getting the brother-in-law to do the murals. 

By the time Keyt started doing the murals at the Vihara, he had acquired much knowledge on Buddhism through his close association with the monks of the Malwatu Vihara in Kandy, which was close to where he lived. Keyt was guided by the resident monk at Gotami Vihara at the time, Venerable Telwatte Amarawansa Thera, a great scholar whose first pupil was Manjusri. 

'Piya-Puthu' combine
It's good to see artist Upasena Gunawardena, who was seriously ill a few months back, up and about once again. He has been busy painting after recovery and his latest efforts were exhibited at the Art Gallery recently.

It was a joint exhibition father Upasena and son Madhava Priyanath, an Indian Government scholar reading for the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at Vishva Bharathi University, Shantiniketan. Now in his final year, he has already completed a two-year colour course in designing and won a Diploma Certificate in the First Division.

The pastoral look was a dominant feature in Madhava's work. Having spent a number of years in India, Madhava had done several rural scenes in and around Shantiniketan. The colours he had used were soothing to the eye. 

I have always enjoyed Upasena's paintings, because his themes are simple. Meeting him at the Art Gallery reminded me of what he said sometime back when I met him at Pradeep Ratnayake's concert at the Lionel Wendt. He had just come out of hospital after a serious heart ailment. 

"I never expected to recover. As I was wheeled into the operating theatre, the one thought which crossed my mind was the frescoes I did for the Nava Jetavana Maha Vihara in Sravasti," he said. One of his major projects was 32 murals depicting the life of the Buddha. 

He has also done murals for a Buddhist temple on Lanchaw Island, Hong Kong and 22 large murals for the Sri Dalada Maligawa.


A Taste of Sinhala (20)

When a buddy meets a buddy

By Prof. J.B.Disanayaka 
Conversations take place between speakers and listeners. A speaker has to address his listener from time to time, but the words used would vary from language to language. 

English uses the word 'you' and derivatives from it, 'your' and 'yours'. In general, an Englishman can use 'you' to address anyone, but in special circumstances, he will use phrases such as "Your Excellency" "Your Honour" and "Your Highness". 

The word "you" can be used whether one addresses a single person or many. 

A Sinhala speaker, however, faces a problem, for he has almost a dozen words from which he has to choose the right one. 

It all depends on who you are and who the listener is. Age, social standing, degree of intimacy and social context are things that matter in this choice. 

If the listener is your equal and is very intimate, the word most Sinhala speakers would use is "Oya"- Oya: Koheda yanne?: (Where are you going?); Oya:ge nama mokadda? (What is your name?); man oya:va dannava (I know you); oya:ta mahansi-da? (Are you tired?); and salli oya:gen (Money is from you). 


Sublime sounds, stunned silence

By Tennyson Rodrigo
It was an exceptionally memorable evening at the Indian Cultural Centre on May 13. A small but enthusiastic audience had an opportunity to listen to a rare instrument (rare to Sri Lanka) when Karuna enthralled his listeners with a comprehensive rendering of Hindustani classical music on the Santoor.

When the Sri Lankan musical virtuoso was introduced to the audience he was referred to as 'Mr Kiriwattuduwe'. His full name is Kiriwattuduwe Arachige Karunaratne Perera and prefers to be called Karuna Perera.

Karuna had chosen the evening Raga Puriakalyani for his performance. It is a Mishra raga embodying the combined features of the two separate ragas Puria and Kalyani. In the exposition of Puriakalyani the artist faithfully depicted the attributes of Furia within the tonal territory of the first five notes of Arohana/Avarohna (Ni, Ri, Ga, Ma/, Pa) and the attributes of Kalyani in the five notes in the upper segment of the scale (Ma/, Pa, Da, Ni, Sa). Karuna's brilliant virtuosity and pure, distilled classicism were ample testimony to the authenticity of his technical excellence in Hindustani classical music. But he manifested much more than sheer technical mastery. The vivid and scintillating sensitivity and artistry he displayed enthralled even the less initiated listeners. 

The Alap, Jod, Madh Jod and Jhala components of the recital were elaborately woven on a large canvas; having started slowly and meditatively he traversed the full universe to evoke, unfold and interpret the alluring quintessence of Puriyakalyani. Karuna chose the seven-beat Rupak Thal for the Gat in Madhya Laya and switched to 16-beat Teen Thal to give himself a platform for innovation and wizardry at the stage of Jhala.

The frenzy and sheer supremacy of control at lightning tempos (that kept the thabla player on his toes!) held the audience breathless in stunning silence. 

Karuna's offering ended with a set of punctuated and cyclically repetitive phrases leaving the audience transfixed in sublime ecstasy.

Karuna is clearly among the top-class exponents of the North Indian classical tradition. He has amply demonstrated an exceptional commitment and dedication, to gain that level of eminence. For 15 long years he studied under Pandit Shivkumar Sharma the undisputed prince of Santoor in India; and his progression as a student and practitioner in India has spanned 28 years. 

Mastery of the Santoor is not his only forte. He is a Sangeeth Visharad from Lucknow's prestigious Bhathkande Sangeeth Vidyapeeth. He has won gold medals at examinations conducted by the University of Allahabad in thabla, vocal. 

Presently he is a music examiner at the same university. 

He has accompanied such luminaries as Ustad Ali Akbar Khan on the thabla and has given public performances in India, Japan, London and Nairobi.

Karuna Perera lives in India and is probably the best and most versatile Sri Lankan exponent of the North Indian classical genre in music today. 

The Indian Cultural Centre deserves to be commended for its consistent efforts at promoting serious cultural interaction between Indian and Sri Lankan communities by providing a platform for the free dissemination of quality cultural programmes and affording opportunities for acquiring skills specially in music, song and dance.

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