Icon never forgotten | Daily News

Icon never forgotten

Should only a fearless warrior or a person who sacrificed his life for the sake of his motherland always be honoured and respected as a national hero? Why cannot a scholar who dedicated his whole life to unravel the hidden historically and culturally important facts be similarly considered as a national hero?

When commemorating the 120th birth anniversary on December 26 this year of Professor Senarath Paranavithana, the inimitable giant who left an indelible mark in the annals of Sri Lanka shouldn’t we forward an important appeal to the authorities to formally declare this pre-eminent archaeologist as a national hero?

Indeed when considering the significant exploratory service he had performed in excavating the buried history and the heritage of Sri Lanka and also presenting of an outstanding amount of books and academic theses containing a wealth of information that reveals the pristine glory of our motherland, there should not be any doubt in declaring this great son of Lanka as a national hero.

Undoubtedly Professor Paranavithana is one of the most brilliant and outstanding personalities who adorned Sri Lanka’s scholastic field in the 20th century. Though his work in the field of archaeology began with the onset of the World War Two, his pioneering efforts and unreserved energy in this field came to the fore during his tenure of 17 years as the Archaeological Commissioner of Ceylon. He was the first Sri Lankan to achieve this distinction after many eminent British personalities.

For the good Professor, history and archaeology was equally a vocation as well as his leisure time hobby which he relished very much throughout his long and extremely productive life.

His devotion and the firm dedication towards the study and research linked to archaeology and history of Sri Lanka resulted in producing an unimaginable amount of erudite theses comprising books, research papers and feature articles to various renowned academic journals. Some of his notable contributions are “The Shrine of Upulvan at Devundara” [1953], “The God of Adam’s Peak” [1955],”Ceylon and Malaysia” [1958],” Inscriptions of Ceylon [vol1]” [1970], “The Greeks and the Mauryas” [1971], “Arts of Ancient Sinhalese” [1971],” Inscriptions of Ceylon [vol2]” [published posthumously], “Story of Sigiriya” [published posthumously and ”Sinhalayo”.

It must be specifically mentioned that what is stated above is only an iota of the monumental number of publications this unassuming but outstanding scholar had forwarded to enlighten the glorious heritage of our motherland. Due to the interest and the experience he gained in the fields of epigraphy, history, religion, art, architecture, religion, languages and literature his research papers were packages of knowledge and were very helpful to future students of archaeology and history.

Meanwhile in a review of one of his publications—Sinhalayo—appearing in the Daily News Professor Paranavithana had been introduced as “a fabulous voyager”. It further says “he is the Ulysses of the Orient discovering for the world the rich past of the old civilization. There are quite a number of books written by specialists but none in a single volume in which we could read and contemplate the many splendoured thing that was our past”, and the reviewer goes on to describe in detail the Professor’s contributions in unraveling the buried history of Sri Lanka.

In addition to his formidable research work, the editing of volume 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the Epigraphia Zeylanica and his most celebrated magnum opus – Sigiri Graffiti [volume 1 and 2] are regarded as the supreme contributions he made to our history and heritage.

The Professor’s monumental work in deciphering 685 of the verses on the mirror-wall at Sigiriya help to reveal the sociological and literary details of the era when King Kashyapa established his kingdom there. As the poetry belongs roughly to the eighth and tenth centuries, the research by the Professor helps to reveal a large number of place names, names of royalty, ranks and titles of the authors and especially the chronological development of the Sinhala script.

It also should be mentioned that the unimaginable service the Professor had done in the fields of history, archaeology, epigraphy, iconography, numismatics, musicology, excavation and archaeological administration, the Department of Archaeology will have to compile another magnum opus to fill all the details.

While duly respecting him as the most brilliant and outstanding personality in the field of archaeology, I would repeat my earnest appeal to the powers that be to honour him by officially declaring Professor Senarath Paranavithana as a National Hero.

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