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Photographs by Tissa Madawela

Pinkama in London in memory of the late Maestro Amaradeva

A religious ceremony and a Tribute to the late Dr. Pundit Amaradeva were held at the London Buddhist Vihara on 11th November 2016. A large number of the late Maestro’s fans from various parts of London and nearby suburbs and also members of the Vihara Management Committee attended the Pinkama to show their unbounded respect and to appreciate and honour the peerless service rendered by him to the Sri Lankan music, language, literature and culture. The Sri Lanka government was represented by the High Commissioner H.E. Ms. Amari Wijewardene. It has to be reported that everyone including the Maha Sangha arrived  at the event with  deeply saddened faces still showing profound sorrow and disbelief that their immortal musical genius is no more.

The Maha Sangha was represented at the  Pinkama by the resident monks of the vihara headed by Ven. Tawalama Bandula Thero accompanied by  Ven. Konwawe Ariya Ratana thero, Ven. Kalugamuwe Kassapa Thero and the visiting Sangha Nayaka of Canada Ven. Dunupitiye Upananda Thero.

After welcoming the Sri Lankan High Commissioner in the United Kingdom H.E. Ms. Amari Wijewardene and the guests, Ven. Banduala Thero started the Pujawa first with a brief speech high lighting the more than sixty five years of the late Pundit Amaradeva’s contribution to the Sri Lankan music and culture. Ven. Kassapa Thero conducted the Pujawa and Pan Wedeema, the act of transferring merits to the departed Pundit Amaradeva by pouring water into a bowl conforming to the traditional Buddhist custom. Speaking on behalf of the Maha Sangha, Ven. Dunupitiye Upananda Thero talked about the  and unbelievable mastery of the late Pundit Amaradeva in bringing out the musical beauty and the gentle and deeply humane nature of our native language Sinhala. Quoting a number of his popular songs, Ven. Upananda Thero showed how soothing, refreshing and incomparable his beautiful voice is and how any simple word becoming a golden melody when it comes through the maestro’s mouth. Ven. Upananda Thero further said that the late Pundit Amaradeva is undoubtedly a great loss to the nation of Sri Lanka and also to the millions of his fans all over the world.

After the Pujawa in the shrine room, a ceremony to honour and pay tribute to the late Pundit Amaradeva for his unsurpassed service to the Sri Lankan music was held in the main assembly hall. Starting the special talks of the occasion, Ven. Konwewe Ariyaratana Thero said that the late Pundit Amaradeva’s musical talents  are beyond comparison. Ven. Ariyaratana said that he has had the golden opportunity of meeting the late Pundit Amaradeva and he always appealed to him not only as a genius of  musical .talents but also as an exemplary and honourable human being. Quoting a few most popular songs of the late Pundit Amaradeva, Ven. Ariyaratana Thero described how Pundit Amaradeva  effortlessly brings out the so far unheard beauty, charm and musicality of our language.

On behalf of the organisers, Dr.Amal Gunasena, Senior Fellow at the University of London, stated that Pundit Amaradeva with his silken voice and  the exceptionally beautiful musical creations  entertained  our nation and his ‘Amara Gee Sara’  never fails to enthral and will be deeply and eternally embedded in the hearts of  millions of people all over the world. Dr. Gunasena further said that the golden milestone of the late Pundit Amaradeva’s musical journey was in the year 1951 when he first met Prof. Ediriweera Sarachchandra and the editor of the Lankadipa  Newspaper D.B.Dhanapala. Pundit Amaradeva, then known as W.D. Don Albert Perera, was reciting poems from the much loved Salalihini Sandesa when they were passing though the building where the ballet was being rehearsed. Prof. Sarachchandra was astonished and became speechless for a few moments after listening to the voice of the singer and wanted to meet with him . He instantly recognised the untapped musical talents and creative musical imagery of this young man and with the help of D.B.Danapala and the news paper Lankadipa launched a scholarship fund to send him to the world famous Bhathkande Institute of Indian Classical music. He further added that Prof. Sarachchandra also gave W.D. Don Albert Perera  a new and an everlasting name ‘Amaradeva’ (immortal god) foreseeing his unimaginable talent and potential. Young Amaradeva studied Indian Classical Music both vocal and instrumental and earned the Vadya Visharad and Sangit Visharad with first class honours from this world famous Institute. His distinguished achievements both as a violinist and vocalist have hitherto unsurpassed, Dr.Gunasena stated.

Dr. Gunasena highlighting the late Pundit Amaradeva’s peerless contribution to Sri Lankan music gave a brief sketch of his innovative and novel approach in finding and developing a distinctive national music culture and tradition and how he innovatively mixed the great tradition of Indian classical music with what the maestro believed to be the roots of our traditional Sinhala music heritage –the native Sri Lankan folk songs and rhythm.

Dr. Gunasena continued to say that undoubtedly the late Pundit Amaradeva is the ‘greatest artiste of Sri Lanka’ who reached the pinnacle of his music career. Through his creative musical imagery, gifted silken voice and exceptional talent, Amaradeva has made himself incomparable. He has achieved the unusual distinction of being recognized in his own lifetime as the greatest national musical genius and eternal singer of his country. He captured the nations’ hearts with his golden voice, unique musical creations and with his delightful personality.

Dr. Gunasena concluded his talk by quoting a stanza from the Dhamapada: “A person of great wisdom is seldom found. He is not born everywhere. The country and the nation into which such a person is born is very fortunate’. He also said that all of us gathered here and our people in Sri Lanka should feel very proud and meritorious for being born in the country where such a great human being was born and lived and also during his illustrious lifetime.

Dr. Douglas Mulgirigama, Consultant Psychiatrist, gave a short speech describing the exceptional musical talents and righteous qualities of the Maestro Amaradeva. He said that he was very fortunate for having had a golden opportunity to invite Pundit Amaradeva to stay in his house during his visit to the United Kingdom in 1998.

At the concluding part of the ceremony, the Head of the London Buddhist Vihara and the Chief Sangha Nayaka of Great Britain Ven. Bogoda Seelawimala Nayaka Thero was able to join in time, after a long return journey from Taiwan, where he attended an International Buddhist Conference. Speaking to the gathering, Ven. Seelawimala Nayaka Thero said that he was very fortunate to be able to take part in the Pinkama as he personally admires and greatly values Pundit Amaradeva’s unmatched contribution to Sri Lankan music. Ven. Seelawimala Nayaka Thero, describing the creative talents of the late Pandith Amaradeva wished him to be the greatest wherever he is going to be born and the ultimate cessation of samsara – the bliss of Nibbana. 

Dr.Sujatha Gunasena, on behalf of the organisers, expressed her grateful thanks to the Maha Sangha of the Vihara, the Sri Lankan High Commissioner H.E. Ms. Amari Wijewardene for readily accepting the invitation to attend and for staying both for the Pinkama and the ceremony and also to everyone who participated and helped in numerous ways in bringing this Pinkama and the commemorative evening to a great success. Most enchanting popular songs of late Pundit Amaradeva was played during refreshments and the Programme ended at 10.30 p.m.  

The Pinkama was organised by Dr. Amal Gunasena and Dr.Sujatha Gunasena  with the help of many friends who have been profound and affectionate lovers of the late Mastro’s immortal voice and his unsurpassed mastery of Sri Lankan music. 

May Dr. Pundit Amaradeva ‘The Golden Voice of Our Nation’ attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana! 


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