Sunday Observer, Dec 10 2006
of Nilame and Kumarihamy
by Lakmal Welabada
Nissanka and Nita Wijeratne
In the Spring,
a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love - Tennyson
This was so for handsome Nissanka Wijeratne
who had just returned to Sri Lanka
from the UK
and who was at the Kegalle sports grounds where the
coronation ceremony of Queen Elizabeth 11 was being held. Just 28-years old the
young prince had still not found his Cinderella. Nissanka
recalls what his mother said before he left their UK
residence where his father Sir Edwin Wijeratne was
the High Commissioner for Sri
Lady Leela Wijeratne had
already arranged for her son a marriage proposal. "This should be the
first thing you do once you return to Sri Lanka,"
Nissanka remembered his mother's command. So he was
heading to Kurunegala to see his prospective bride.
On the way he stopped at the Coronation ceremony at the Kegalle
Sports Club as he liked the company of his colleagues who had also joined the
get together. Nissanka roamed around and stopped at a
rose bed on the grounds. This was the time to do the right picking - plucking
the right flower from the bunch of flowers in the world of rose beds. He beamed
touching one of the beautiful roses. Nissanka raised
his head sensing some strange feeling. His eyes caught a good looking 'Kumarihamy' who was also beside the rose plants. The
bashful maiden who saw a princely young man looking at her quickly looked the
other way. But Nissanka didn't feel like giving up.
"Hello, I'm Nissanka
he introduced himself. "Nice to meet you. I'm
Nita Dullewe." she didn't know how she managed
to say, "Excuse me!" and
the next minute she had vanished. Nissanka was bewildered.
This was the first time a girl had evaded his attractive eyes.
That evening, Raja Seneviratne, a planter arranged a dinner for the distinguished
invitees. Nita had come there with her father. There too the young
administrator tried to have a word with the 'Kumarihamy', but she somehow evaded him.
With the family
Early the next morning, Tinny (Thilakaratne) Dullewe had a
visitor. He was delighted to see Raja Seneviratne,
his friend who threw the dinner party on the previous day. "Why Raja, why so early?" he asked. Tinny was astonished
when Raja said he came to get Nita's horoscope. When Nita heard that the young
prince eyeing her the whole of yesterday had asked for
her hand, she at once came out with
what she really felt about him. "Appachchi, he looked like a married man. Are you sure about
this?" she asked. Tinny Dullewe laughed. Nita
was his and his wife Mallika's only child who was
born after 6 years of their marriage. For Tinny and Mallika, Nita was a sacred child as they got her after
offering many poojas to Dalada
After her they didn't get any other children. Now Nita was 21 years. But for
Tinny she was still the little 'Chooti Kumarihamy' who used to bounce on his lap for hours
worrying him to recite one story after another.
Tinny patted her head. "I have been knowing Nissanka since he was in his shorts. He is coming from a
good family too. Also, do you think
that I would give you away to a married man?" when Appachchi
said so Nita smiled contentedly.
In a grand wedding held at Meeduma Walawwa, Rambukkana, at
the Dullewe's residence,
Nissanka and Nita entered blissful wedded life on
December 10 in 1954. So they are celebrating their 52nd wedding anniversary
today. The loving couple still has many things to share with each other -
laughter, a sense of humour and of course passion.
Let's zoom back to their wedding. The catering for the Meeduma
Walawwa was done by the Queens Hotel, Kandy. Governor General of Ceylon
Sir Oliver Gunatillake and Mr. B. Ratwatte (father of
Premier Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike) were the
attesting witnesses for the groom and the bride respectively... "It
started raining and continued the whole day. But everybody said it was a good
sign," recalls Nita. "I
was very much attached to my father. It was unbearable to be away from Appachchi. So I couldn't stop my tears even when we were
proceeding to Haggala for the honeymoon. He (Nissanka) tried to console me,
and at the end he said, 'Andala Evara Unama
Ekkegena Ennam. Dan gihin apahu aralavannam'
(Shall I drop you back and come to fetch you when you have stopped crying?). He
was not harsh, but, I thought I better stop crying," she laughs.
Nissanka and Nita were blessed with four sons and a
daughter- Neranjan (former Diyawadana
Manodha (MP - Dedigama
(former Provincial Council), Lankesh and Nishanganie...
"I was one month pregnant when we went on a Dambadiva
pilgrimage. When we were crossing the Neranjana river to see the place where Princess Sujatha
offered 'Kiri Pindu' to the
Buddha we decided to name our first born child 'Neranjan'.
Also Neranjan was born in the Kandy
Nursing Home at the very moment when the main Randoli
Perahera went back into the Maligawa
after proceeding in the Kandy town. The Matron told me
that she heard the sound of the crackers which indicated the event. So, Neranjan also became Diyawadana Nilame of Dalada Maligawa twice. It was a
great pleasure to think that to be the wife and the mother of the Diyawadana Nilame of the great
sacred tooth relic," she
smiles. Nita seemed to be the only lady who got the opportunity to get blessed
with the main Dalada Karanduwa
kept on her head four times by three of her blood related Diyawadana
Nilames. First when she was a little girl- by her
grand uncle, Harris Ratwatte;
Secondly by her husband Nissanka Wijeratne
and twice by her son Neranjan Wijeratne.
Nissanka Wijeratne was born
on June 14 in, 1924 in Colombo (though he hailed
from Kegalle). His father was a State Council Sir
a Cabinet Minister of D. S. Senanayaka government who
later became a High Commissioner for UK
Lady Leela Wijeratne (nee Pethiyagoda Kumarihamy) from Kandy
was his mother.
Nissanka was a very bright student at Royal College, Colombo.
He was a great giant in the civil service who rendered his service to the
general public, the country and
government ministries by holding many top ranks. He was honoured
with a doctorate by the University
of Colombo in 1978.
Nissanka retired from the Government Administrative
service in 1973. And in 1975 he contested for the Diyawadana
Nilame (DN) post of the Dalada
Maligawa, Kandy, and won it by a landslide victory. It was the
first ever in history that the Kandyan Radala caste hierarchy was challenged for that post.
Although Nita hailed from Radala caste, Nissanka was a Kandyan Govi Gama.
However Nita worked hard for Nissanka's victory. The
service that Nissanka rendered in his high office of
DN to the Dalada Maligawa
was immense and gigantic.
Dr. Nissanka Wijeratne is a
man of great versatility. In his public life,
he displayed wisdom with humour. Once
Prof. Carlo Fonseka had introduced him as a scholar, poet,
politician, ambassador and
prestigious civil servant.
His prodigious memory seems to be improving with age. His passion for history
and religion blended into a transcendental interest in the higher values and
spiritualism, which are reflected in
the verses collected in his 'Ape Appachchi', a collection of his poetry which was published by
his ardent children on his 77th birthday.
The President's Fund was his idea that President J. R. Jayawardane
activated. The Sri Lanka Cultural Triangle,
Ruhunu University and Open University,
President's Colleges all over the island and the New Superior Court Complex in Colombo were among the proposals
of this mastermind that were activated later on.
Let me conclude with the last two lines of one of the lovely verses Dr.Nissanka Wijeratne has
dedicated to his Nita...
"One day when time of me takes toll/ Remember I truly loved you with my
heart and soul..."
Pic: Vipula Amarasinghe