A proud heritage of the Peardeniya academic tradition | Daily News


 

A proud heritage of the Peardeniya academic tradition

Peradeniya University
Peradeniya University

The University of Peradeniya is heir to a 75-year-old university tradition which commenced with the inception of the University of Ceylon, the first institution of its kind established in Colombo on July 1, 1942. It moved to the banks of Mahaweli River, the longest in the country, in 1952. The University is located in Peradeniya in the Central Province, which bares lush greenery, vegetation, and mist-clad mountains, approximately 6 km from the city of Kandy, the historic capital of the last independent kingdom of Sri Lanka.

The Saraswathi Sangeetha Mandapaya is a proud aesthetic heritage well complemented by the natural calm and beauty of the University of Peradeniya over the past four decades. It all started in 1975 with the long nights of Indian traditional music Prof. Gunapala Dharmasiri and Prof. W. M. Gunathilaka organised as get-togethers, which later evolved into an open house event involving traditional musicians as an offering for goddess Saraswathi.

The sessions got quite popular at the time and offered an excellent platform for spiritual music where various talented musicians came up with their best music compositions. Saraswathi Sangeetha Mandapaya (Saraswathi pooja) was celebrated on the first Saturday of every month. Purification, honour, respect, contentment, and bhakti (literally means “attachment, participation, fondness for, homage, faith, love, devotion, worship, and piety”) evolved with this event and enhanced the spiritual healing powers of music.

Even today Saraswathi Sangeetha Mandapaya is held on the first Saturday of each month at the university premises. It is attended by a limited crowd of traditional music lovers from across the country and serves as a platform for artists to share their life experiences and thoughts. Its performances are threefold including Vadanaya: playing of musical instruments, Gayanaya: singing, and Narthanaya: dancing. The performances are accompanied by a harmonious blend of eastern and western musical instruments including the Flute, Sithar, Violine, Santoor, Clarinot, Harmonium, Tabla, Sarod, Esraj, Benjo oboe, Surbahar and so on. Presently It is also graced by traditional Sri Lankan dancing (Upcountry, Low country, and Sabaragamu dancing) and traditional Indian dancing such as Bharata Natyam (Tamil Nadu), Kathak (North, West, and Central India), Kathakali (Kerala), Kuchipudi (Andhra Pradesh), Odissi (Odisha), Manipuri (Manipur), Mohiniyattam (Kerala), and Sattriya (Assam). As per custom, each session commences with a Saraswathi pooja which makes various offerings to the Hindu Goddess of Music, Saraswathi Devi. These offerings consist of flowers and herbs (lada Pas Mal), garlands (mal mala), oil lamps (pahan), incense (suwadadum), rose water (pinidiya), fruits (palathuru), traditional sweets (kevili pevili), herbal drinks (oshadapana), and milk rice (kiribath). The Sarawathi Pooja serves various functional aspects to those who take part in it.

Music is always with a touch of spirituality which acts as a soothing and healing therapy to those who engage with it. It stills the mind and develops concentration and thus acts as a form of meditation. Moreover, it aids spiritual well-being and brings the mind to an absorption stage (gitadhayanam). It further generates the discipline, flexibility, and self-control needed for both the artists and audience to enjoy traditional music while ultimately promoting human qualities like love and compassion leading to wisdom experienced by the enlightened ones. These monthly sessions of Sangeetha Mandapaya constitute opportunities for informal face to face interactions between various artists and music lovers, enhancing human relationships and promoting collective hospitality.

The blend of Sri Lankan and Indian music traditions gives space for learning, teaching, training, and practicing of these traditional arts, in addition to building reciprocity and intercultural understanding. Furthermore, it integrates artists and music lovers from various layers and demarcations of society such as class, gender, and ethnicity by enabling a harmonious footing of equality through one common spiritual and musical experience.


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