Mahatma Gandhi’s visit to Sri Lanka
Mahatma Gandhi came to Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) in 1927 and spent three weeks visiting many parts of the Island in the West, South, Central Hills and the North.
It was unfortunate that the organisers of the itinerary had not included the Eastern Province into the programme. Mahadev Desai who compiled ‘A Journal of the Tour with authorised version of all important speeches’ titled ‘With Gandhiji in Ceylon’ (published by S.Ganesan, Triplicane, Madras 1928) had stated that “We went straight to Jaffna from Colombo, much to the disappointment of the Eastern Provinceê.. Friends from Trincomalee, however, came all the way to Anuradhapura Railway Station at midnight, woke up Gandhiji and presented their Purse.” ( p:21)
Omitting the Eastern Province was not surprising, because until the beginning of the Second World War (1939-45), this part of the Island remained ignored and isolated from the rest of the country. The massive volume entitled ‘20th Century Impressions of Ceylon’ published during the first decade of the 20th Century contained more than one thousand pages and equal number of photographs. It included only a very few pages on Trincomalee and just two pages to the Batticaloa District, with only one picture of an unknown rock.
Island wide Reception
Gandhiji arrived in Colombo on 13th November 1927 on the invitation of Handy. S.Perinbanayagam, who wrote to him on 28.7.1927 in his capacity as the founder Leader of the Jaffna students’ Congress. He had already invited Gandhiji, when he met him in Bangalore with a delegation. Ghandhiji made reference to this, when he addressed the Jaffna Students’ Congress on 26.11.1927 in the following words: “You have taken upon yourself and very rightly the credit of bringing me to this fair Island, but you must remember that those who take the credit for
Mahatma Gandhi in Jaffna during his visit to Sri Lanka. something have to take the discredit if any problems occur.”(page 128).
Prior to this occasion, Anagarika Dharmapala too had invited him to Ceylon through a telegram sent on 7th February 1924 as follows:
Sassoon Hospital Poona Ceylon Buddhists delighted your release. Invite you and family to Colombo. Quiet seaside residence ready.
But Ghandi could not come due to his busy schedule in India.
Gandhiji, on his visit now, stayed in Colombo from 13th to 17th November in a home named ‘Ark’ at Cotta Road, Borella and the next three days (18, 19 and 20) in the up-country travelling through Chilaw- Kurunagala – Kandy – Matale - Badulla - Nuwara Eliya- Kandy and back to Colombo on 21st.
He left for the South on the 23rd addressing meetings on his way at Moratuwa, Panadura, Horana, Kalutara, Balapitiya, Galle, Matara and Akmeemana.
Coming back to Colombo, he made his farewell address on 25th before leaving to Jaffna, where he spent 26, 27, 28 and 29th and departed to India on the evening of 29th November 1929 via Thalaimannar. He had altogether addressed 31 meetings.
One aspect of Gahdhiji’s visit was the collection of contributions to the movement of Indian Independence and the alleviation of poverty in Sri Lanka
One aspect of Gahdhiji’s visit was the collection of contributions to the Movement of Indian Independenc and the Alleviation of Poverty from the people of Sri Lanka through Purses and also through the sale of Khadi clothes. The people very generously contributed a very princely sum of money, the collections including the half cents being meticulously recorded by C. Rajagopalachariar, who later became the Governor-General of India and Chief Minster of Thamil Nadu.
Purses were handed over to
Gandhiji arrived in Colombo on 13th November 1927 on the invitation of Handy. S.Perinbanayagam, who wrote to him on 28.7.1927 in his capacity as the founder Leader of the Jaffna Students’ Congress
him in Colombo, Negombo, Chilaw, Kurunagala , Matale, Kandy, Badulla, Nuwara Eliya, Hatton, Nawalapitiya, Gampola, Kegalle, Ambalangoda, Balapitiya, Galle, Matara, Godagama, Akmeemana, Anuradhapura (by the people of Trincomalee),Palai and Jaffna totalling a sum of Rs.105,016 and cents 02 ½.
Visits to schools and speaking to students were given an important place in the programme whereby he addressed the pupils in the following schools and received Purses from students as well.
While addressing the students of Ananda College, Colombo, he said “the first maxim of the right path is to tell the truth, to think the truth and to act the truth; Second maxim to love all that lives. Have mercy and kindness; and purity in life.” To the students of Zahira College, Colombo, he gave the advice that “all the education that you are receiving in this great college will be reduced to nothing, if it is not built on the foundation of a pure character.”
(Mr.S.H.M.Jameel is an old boy of Zahira College, Colombo and retired as an Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Cultural and Religious Affairs)