Marked murals | Daily News

Marked murals

The Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara is a site made hallowed by the visit of the Buddha and is one of the most sacred worshipping places of the Buddhists of Sri Lanka. In the opinion of Raven-Hart, author of 'Ceylon History in Stone', the KelaniMaha Vihara "is a sort of sample book of the buried cities, as if it is there for the convenience of visitors who are unable to visit them."

The Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya exemplifies the art of Buddhist murals in Sri Lanka –in the eyes of the common man as well as the experts. The original paintings on the shrine walls have been added during the reign of King Voharikatissa (214 - 236 AD). In 1213, an invasion from South India led by Kalinga-Maga, resulted in the destruction of many of the shrines and temples in the island including the Kelaniya temple.

Many of you will have seen some of the paintings by the great Sri Lankan Buddhist artist, Solias Mendis. One of the most famous is the image of Bhikkhuni Sanghamitta arriving in Sri Lanka with the Bodhi tree sapling, greeting by King Devanampiyatissa.

Artist Solias Mendis, renowned the world over for his murals in the Kelaniya temple in the suburbs of Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, was a self-taught painter. Hailing from a rural village, he was an extraordinary man who shunned any form of publicity and concentrated on doing his task in a quiet way.

When authorities of the Kelaniya temple sought the advice of the famed Indian painter Nandalal Bose, he visited the temple and seeing what Solias Mendis was doing, had no hesitation is advising that Mendis should be permitted to continue with the paintings in his own inimitable style. Bose admired Mendis’ work and gave him a few tips to improve his style. Bose advised him that the colour of the paint to be used for a particular mural should be prepared from the clay of the same shade. He then travelled many a distance looking for the clay bearing the particular colours he needed. He succeeded in his effort and soon realised that using such clay resulted in the colour lasting for a great length of time without any discolouring.

Mendis was a young lad from an ordinary family in Kahawa, whose parents wanted to see their son emerging as an Ayurvedic physician who later in life became an excellent painter. He was born in 1895 and passed away on September 1, 1977.

At first, he studied Pali and Sanskrit but he was much interested in drawing and painting. So he gave up learning the dead languages and improved his talent in the field of arts. As years passed by he became an expert in painting Murals in Buddhist temples.

His works of aesthetic creations include some paintings in Buddhist Temples in Polonnaruwa, Attanagalla, Sedawatta and Malwana.

The wall paintings done by Salius Mendis at Kelani Raja Maha Vihara (new vihara) is the major and responsible assignment undertaken by him. The responsible task was done under the patronage of Helena Wijewardana of Sedawatta Walawwa.

Solias Mendis was sent on a study tour to Ajantha, Ellora to get inspiration for his assignment, to paint Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara Murals. Solias Mendis created a technique of wall paintings of very high calibre intermixing ingredients of Indian Buddhist paintings and ancient Sri Lankan wall paintings. He prepared his own paints using local substances such as earth and vegetables and also using some ingredients like preservatives.

He commenced painting the walls of Kelani Rajamaha Vihara at the age of 30 and he was 50 years old when he completed his assignment.

The paintings in Kelani Nava Vihara depicting Prince Danta and Princess Hemamala bringing the sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha and conferring the rank of Sanga Raja on venerable Welivita Saranankara Thera are some of his unique creations. Value of these unique, aesthetic creations cannot be expressed in words.

The master painter Solias Mendis was a philanthropist. Mahawewa Sivaraja Deaf and Blind school was built by him, funded from his life savings.

For his commended service, to show the gratitude of the nation, organizing a felicitation ceremony on his death anniversary is not unfair. 


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