Ma­hatma Gandhi’s visit to Sri Lanka

Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - FEATURES - BY S.H.M. JAMEEL

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:

Ma­hatma Gandhi,

Sas­soon Hos­pi­tal Poona Cey­lon Bud­dhists de­lighted your re­lease. In­vite you and fam­ily to Colombo. Quiet sea­side res­i­dence ready.

Ana­garika

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

Lib­eral con­tri­bu­tions

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)

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