TV Times

‘Pansale Piyathuma’- 103 years old

By Susitha R. Fernando
"Religion is for belief. What we believe is our religion. Religion is based on morality and precepts. It is by practicing religion that one can lead a good life. Nobody can definitely say my religion is the only true religion and the others are false,"

This was what Kalasoory Rev. Fr. Mercelline Jayakody told when he was interviewed by Pandit Ven. Ittepana Dhammalokara Thera to write a book about the catholic priest, who brought a whole change and got the lead in inculturating certain areas of traditional church and incarnating Christianity in Sri Lankan Culture.

Born in, Godella, Dankotuwa, a predominantly Buddhist rural village close to Little Rome, Negombo, Fr. Jayakody was one the few Sri Lankans who won the Magsayse Award which is also called as the Asian Noble prize.

In 1983 Fr. Jayakody was awarded this prize for his service to the print media and his creative talent showed in mass-communication. A gifted writer, an awarded poet and lyricist and talented musician, Fr. Jayakody's 103rd birth anniversary was held at his birthplace Dankotuwa on June 3.

It was attended by the Ministers from both Cultural Affairs and Christian Affairs along with school children in the area.

Born in June 03, 1902 to a Catholic parents - Jayakody Aracchige Joseph, an Ayurvedic doctor-a Vedarala and mother Josephen Senaratne, who was a convert, Fr. Jayakody as a child was never fed from the silver spoon. Unlike western medical practitioners Fr. Jayakody's father never treated patients, who came to him for money. And he accepted whatever he was offered wrapped in a beetle leave as gratitude after any long drawn treatment.

Son of a father who never got a regular income Fr. Jayakody's childhood was full of difficulties. But one benefit from his father's profession was that this imaginative son had access to all kinds of Sinhala, Pali and Sanskrit books which his father used to learn 'Vedakama'. It was these books that laid the foundation to foster the Sinhalese poet and the writer in little Jayakody.
Clad in a white robe with black belt and a bronze cross, hung with a black string Rev, Fr. Marceline Jaykody's OMI (Oblate of Mary Immaculate) marked his name as one of the leading poets in 'Kolamba Yugaya' Colombo Period. In 1950s it was unusual that a priest from the Catholic Church, a religion hailing from English speaking Europe generating a leading Sinhala poet.

Fr. Jayakody was the first and the only Catholic priest who held the post of Presidency of the Sinhala Kavi Sammelanaya (Sinhala Poets League) and held it for seven years. His outstanding talent to write Sinhala poems with simple and easy with depth was honoured with ‘Kavya Shasthra Shiromini’ award given by the Vidyalankara Pirivena, ‘Kavya Mahopada Sammanaya’ by Sinhala Kavi Sammelanaya and 'Ranpiuma Award' (Golden Lotus) award given by Lanka Kala Sangamaya.

Not only did he write hymns and carols, lullabies and songs about the beauty about the country for films but also he wrote Vesak and Poson Bakthi Geetha which attracted both Buddhists and Catholics. Not only for Sinhala poetry and literature but Fr. Jayakody's contribution to Sri Lankan cinema also was remarkable.

The breakaway film from stereotyped South Indian carbon copies or the first revolution in Sri Lankan cinema, Dr. Lester James Peries's 'Rekhawa' was coloured by Fr. Jayakody's songs. ‘Olu Nerum Neriya Rangala’ ,’Vesak Kekulu Athu Aga Hinda’ and ‘Sundu Sanda Eliye’ written in 1956 and sung by Indrani Wijebandara and Sisira Senaratne are still popular in the history of Sinhala song culture.

Monk writes about a priest-Pansale Piyathuma
At a time of chaos and confusion over religious identity, Fr. Jayakody's example of a priest born in a Buddhist country and the religious harmony he preached was to be honoured and appreciated.

Loved by Buddhists in this country just as the Catholics, Fr. Jayakody stands as the only Catholic priest about whom a book is written by a Buddhist monk. Out of several books written about Fr. Jayakody, the biography written by Ven. Ittepana Dhammaloka Thero is considered as the most remarkable book. According to Fr. Jayakody this was a world record as it was the first ever book written by a monk about a Catholic priest. The title for this book was ‘Malpale Upan Pansale Piyathuma’(Priest of the temple born in 'Malpele'. ('Malapele' was the name given by the villagers to Fr. Jaykody's family home in Dankotuwa. This was because his mother was a garden enthusiastic and her garden was full of flowers.)

Having won the Magsayse award Fr. Jayakody was invited to felicitate by Mahinda College, Galle. Impressed by his speech on religious harmony, one of the attendees had remarked, "We thought the Catholic priests are a set of people who have their faces to Europe and their backs to Sri Lanka. But by listening to you we realised it was not so".

‘Netha Netha Yana Thena Veherak Peniyan
Veherak Nethi Thena Veherak Theniyan
In Ena Pamovudaya Nuwanata Deniyan
Dutu Dutu Vita Sitha Thula Sil Gamiyan’
(Whereever you look you may see a temple, If there is no temple there may they build a temple, The lesson which comes from it may go the heart, Whenever we see peace may fill our heart).


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