Scholar beyond a century | Daily News


Scholar beyond a century

The popularity of a particular seat of learning is measured not merely in the number of subjects taught therein by the well-qualified teachers. But it is observed that the popularity is due mainly to one or two great teachers who have dedicated their time and energy for the sake of directing the students in the right way which is measured in terms of innovations, explorations, creations and noble visions.

The Bengali seat of learning known to the world as Shantinikethan was known by the name of the founder Guru Rabindranath who was not only a great teacher cum creative aesthete but also was a dedicated visionary for the entire world. Taking the cue from the maker, Tagore, we too encountered a similar great person who changes his Portuguese name De Silva as Sarachchandra dedicated his entire time devoted to new findings in folklore, aesthetics, literature and various inter-linked subject areas.

Theatrical activities

Professor Ediriweera Sarachchandra (1914 – 1996) has become a household name as a result of the wide gamut of work he had performed during the span of his career as a teacher, broadcaster, journalist, creative writer, administrator and political and social reformer. His scholarly activities were not confined to mere research earning his reputation as well as admiration. Sarachchandra went beyond the barriers of a university teacher via his practical theatrical activities on theatrical performances and broadcasting.

Today, he is remembered not as university don but as a person who ushered in various forms of subject areas that include sociology, literary criticism and mass communication. In fact, it was Professor Sarachchandra who coined various theatrical terms that we use today. The University of Colombo is credited to have noted most of the contributions of the scholar creative artist in an admirable collection of essays titled as ‘The Birth Centenary Tribute’ denoted in Sinhala as Janma Sata Sanvatsara Shastriya Sangrahaya as edited by the two Sinhala Professors Venerable Agalakada Sirisumana and Sandagomi Coperahewa. As a reader of these 23 learned essays, I found that this is an attempt to help peruse all the aspects of Professor Sarachchandra in order to penetrate deeply into the world gradually waning off from the contemporary learning and the higher education level of learning.

The very first article by Professor JB Disanayaka is an attempt to present the salient aspects of Professor Sarachchandra as a teacher par excellence. Perhaps it was Professor Sarachchandra who changed the format of teaching literature and the level of higher education by introducing a comparative mode of literary criticism that aims to introduce both the occidental forms well as the oriental forms. In this direction, he compiled a series of essays in his book titled as ‘Sahitya Vidyava’ that culminated into the realms of literary visions of varying types. Professor Kusuma Karunaratne in her essay on the play by Sarachchandra known as ‘Pemato Jayati Soko’ introduce the basic folk and religious creative sources that helped the creative process to be eliminated from the basic mundane levels to a richer form of appreciation. Professor Rohini Paranavitana, in her essays, attempts to help the reader to gauge the intensity and the need for a better form of literary theory and practice adhered to by Professor Sarachchandra.

Controversial work

Though known to the masses as a controversial book, authored by Professor Sarachchandra, the collection of essays titled on ‘Dharmitshta Samajaya’ as reread by Venerable Professor Agalakada Sirisumana Thera is an eye opener from several counts. The venerable scholar attempts to present the role of the social thinker in Professor Sarachchandra where the need for a new vision via socio-literary and socio-cultural aspects matter as paramount factors one of the lesser known areas in the career of Professor Sarachchandra is his period spent attached and influenced by the Shantiniketan of Tagore. The area is rediscovered by Professor Sandagomi in his contribution.

This is a learned essay rarely come to the light facts drawn in order to show the comparative studies of Tagore and Sarachchandra in the attempt to enlighten the studies in aesthetics. The researcher, Coperahewa, tries to peep into the vision of both Tagore and Sarachchandra in order to visualise how the amalgamation could enhance the comparative influence that could be gauged.

One salient area comes as the music of which both Tagore, as well as Sarachchandra, draws inspiration from both the folk and classical fields. The rest of the essays centre around almost all the areas of the creative activities of Professor Sarachchandra such as short story, radio opera, one-act playwright, novelist and the essayist.

Turning point

In this direction, the two well-known novels set in Japan as Malagiya Atto and Malavunge Avurudu da are emphatically rediscovered turning points in the local narratology. Professor Sarachchandra too triggered off his writing career from journalism. He was well versed in three-four languages, Sinhala, Pali, Sanskrit and English in addition to his learning in French and Japanese. Rediscovering Sarachchandra is an attempt to rediscover the creative trends and the literary criticism trends in our country. I felt that works in the form of introspective notes titled as ‘Pineti Sarasavi Varamak Denne’ ought to have been a work that needed much more perusal.

That work is just not a series of autobiographical notes, but a social commentary as well that enables to fathom the cultural and literary trends as a panoramic vision as the influence of Professor Sarachchandra grew up gradually in the country at large, the masses who oppose the critical views, branded the seat of learning as Peradeniya cult or Peradeniya Guru Kulaya. But Professor Sarachchandra has denied that he has not meant to mould such a seat of learning, instead wanted his students to think independently.

This volume that comes as a tribute from the University of Colombo, where Professor Sarachchandra held the post of the Dean of Faculty of Arts and Humanities has been instrumental in the paying of the tribute that transcends a mere felicitation volume.

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