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Jinadasa Vijethunga of Urala

by Ivan Wickramasinghe Gunawardena  - Daily News Sat Jan 26, 2002

Jinadasa Vijethunga was born on January 26, 1902 in the remote village of Urala, about 12 miles interior from the southern capital, Galle. He was the only son of William Dias Vijethunga and Esthera Emiliyana Edirimanna Mohotty. His mother belongs to the ancestral Mohotty clan of Urala. For his primary education parents send him to Yatalamatta School.

At the very early age he displayed his capabilities. Parents on realizing his intelligence admitted him to Mahinda College for Higher education. After a brilliant academic school career at Mahinda, subsequently he joined the same college as a teacher.

At the age of sixteen in 1918 he went to India and entered the National University of Madanapalla for higher studies where he was fortunate enough to gain the acquaintance of Miss Anne Becent in the scout movement to provide national harmony between the privileged and the underprivileged. In 1921 he returned to the motherland and joined the tutorial staff of Mahinda College as an English tutor. Thereafter he joined Ananda College as a librarian.

Again in 1925 he went to India and started the periodical 'The Island Review' as a coeditor with the late Prime Minister S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike. On the invitation of the great Indian poet Ravindra Nath Thagore, he Joined Shanti Nikethana, one of the highest seats of education in India as an English lecturer.

In 1928 he went to New York and participated in the 'Mahabodhi' activities. From 1931-1940 he lived in London and actively participated in the Indian Independence movement. During this period numerous analytical articles were written to the periodicals such as 'New Statesman', 'Time and Tide', and 'Spectator'.

His first literary success was 'Grass for my feet' in 1935, where he has established himself as one of the great writers in the Western world. His maiden literary work 'Grass for my feet' gained the admiration and appreciation of the contemporary writers home and abroad, where he portrayed a vivid picture of the rural life of his own villages. His first marriage to Elisebeth Sadler was not successful.

Finally they separated and subsequently he married Seetha Rodrigo. In 1956 he participated as the UNESCO representative at the 'Sambudda Jayanthi' celebrations in New Delhi. He was a good Buddhist and loved his motherland and also he had great admiration to 'Bharatha Desha'.

As a Sri Lankan his contribution to the English literature was commendable and some of his other successful literary works are 'Do Not Go Down O Sun', 'The Buddha', 'Maharani & Other Stories', 'Lumbini to Kusinara', 'What I Think', 'Ilangan Thevu,' 'Rodiya Girl', 'The Glass Princess' and so on. Vijethunga's achievements were many sided. He was a social critic, journalist, public speaker, author of many English books and a reputed Internationalist.

On the invitation of the late President Ranasinghe Premadasa he came to his motherland at the very feeble age of 86.

The gesture of honour for his dedication to the national service he was given a house at Nugegoda on the instruction of late President Premadasa. But within a couple of weeks he breathed his last at the age of 86 in 1988 and the funeral rites were performed under State patronage.

It is very pathetic that the name of Jinadasa Vijethunga not known to many Sri Lankans. The birth centenary falls today of this great man. May this few lines be a tribute to him.

May he attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana.