Mahagama Sekara (1929 – 1976) also called by Mahagamage Sekara is an iconic Sri Lankan poet, lyricist, novelist, playwright and artist. Sekara is best known for a poet as his contemporary works engulfed the nation within a short period. These remarkable masterpieces of Sekara dug themselves deep into society by no force in the attempt of articulating folk culture and modernity. His outstanding contribution in 20th century to literature has been inspirational to many and still remains a bridgehead between poetry before and after Sekara’s era. The son of Maha Gamage John Singho and Ranawaka Arachchige Roslin Ranawaka; Mahagama Sekara was born in 7th April of 1929 in Radawana. Growing up in a village, he started his education at a government school in Radawana then moved to Kirindiwela Maha Vidyalaya to pursue his studies further.
Sekara started his life as an artist as he was selected to the school of Fine Arts which he later became the principal of; where he got a thorough grounding in the forms and techniques of formal art. He progressed to poetry from art. He combined his artistic nature with poetry which was experimental yet was a success. But in his later works he returned to formal ways. His experience in the rural surrounding in childhood and exposure to modern ways in his later life was combined in his works to manifest the need of modernization while preserving the essence of traditional ways yet advancing to the new ways and knowledge. Cross-cultural approach on profound works of the Sekara guides the reader through the path it is paving to visualize and capture the cultural and societal nuances vividly as he was influenced by French free verses, English poetry and Japanese Haiku.
Although his forte was folklore, his affair with Aesthetics and Buddhism inspired him to amalgamate different literary natures which culminated his works making them transcend average. His significant sensitivity to nuances of society gave him the foresight of the modernizing world giving him the opportunity to make his audience experience those foresights via his diction. Exceptional quality of the Sekara’s works influenced generations of writers to be more versatile and depict on themes such as humanity and reality of life. Sekara started his doctoral studies at Vidyodaya University of Ceylon which is commonly known as University of Sri Jayewardenepura in 1974. His thesis on ‘Sinhala Gadya Padya Nirmanayanhi Ridma Lakshana’ – ‘ Rhythmic Features of Sinhala Prose and Poetry’ was submitted in 1975. Unfortunately in 1976 January 14 at the age of 46, Sekara passed away leaving the final editing of thesis as recommended by the supervisors half done.
Despite his death, Doctor of Philosophy Degree(PhD) was awarded to him for his thesis in tribute. This was the very first occasion of University of Sri Jayewardenepura where a Doctoral Degree was awarded for a thesis of a deceased. Legendary literati’s death by sudden cardiac arrest is still considered a tragic loss to the Sri Lankan poetry and literary. In his lifetime he contributed to many aspects of society. He started his careerlife as a Teacher after completing his training in Teacher Training School Nittabuwa, then progressed as a University Lecturer and Principal of Government School of Fine Arts, Lyric writer & Programme Producer at Radio Ceylon, Translator at Official Languages Department, Scriptwriter at Sri Lanka Broadcasting Service and as a Journalist. Sekara wrote poems, plays, short plays, novels, short stories, songs and a film thus contributing to almost every branch of literature. Sekara is often considered nation’s finest poet in the 20th century without any hesitation. Yet surprisingly, most of his praised works were published after his death. His magnificent contribution to the Sinhala Literature is everlasting and shall not ever be forgotten.
Eternal halo of Sekara would remain for centuries for greater good. His famous poetries are Sakwa Lihini, Prabudda, Nomiyemi, Bodima, Heta Irak Payai, Mak Nisada Yath, Rajathilaka Lionel Saha Priyantha, Maranaya, Vyanga (together with K. Jayathilake). Novels are Thun Man Hnadiya, Mano Mandira. Short Stories are Man Thananno, Peethara, Puthata Karekak, Meeya, Pungna. Children’s Books are Koti Waligaya, Lama Geetha, Punchi Ayata Kai Kathandara, Saru Polowak Apata Athe. Plays are Swarnathilaka, Daskon, Kundalakesi, Kantharaya, Chora Pabbatha, Vidura, Sora Pawwa, Sasa Jathakaya, Hansa Geethaya, Nava Baga Sanda, Saddhantha, Sabba Nadee Vankagatha, Amaraneeyathwaya, Mudu Puththu (together with Gunasena Galappaththi). Notable Songs are Me Sinhala Apage Ratai, Sannaliyane, Wakkada Laga, Rathnadeepa Janmabhoomi, Anna Balan Sada, Dathe Karageta Simba Sanasannata, Sandakath Pinidiya, SSeethala Diya Piri Sunila Vilai, Adawan Desin, Ase Mathuwena Kandulu Bindu Gena, Siri Lanka Ratama Api, Mage Deshaya Awadhi Karany Mana Piyanani, Etha Kadukara Hima Arane, Onna Babo Athinniya.
The significant film of him is Thun Man Handiya. The masterpiece of Thun Man Handiya novel was formed as a cinema by Sekara himself. This award winning film was much acclaimed as one of best of Sekara. Sekara won many awards throughout his life and even after his death including Dina Dina Award for the painting ‘Mahabinishkramana’ at the Annual Art Exhibition of Jathika Kala Peramuna in 1956, Merit Award for the Best Lyricist for the song ‘Atha Gavu Ganan Durin’ in sinhala film ‘Gatawarayo’ at the Film Festival of Lanka Industrial Exhibition in 1965, Award for the Best Lyricist for the song ‘Me Sinhala Apage Ratai’ in ‘Saaravita’ Sinhala Film at the Sarasaviya Film Festival 1966, Award for the Best Lyric Writer for the song ‘Sinidu Sudu Mudu Thalave’ composed for the film ‘Sath Samudura’ at the Sarasaviya Film Festival in 1968, Award for the Best Lyricist for the song ‘Ratakin Ratakata’ composed for the film ‘Binaramalie’ at the Sarasaviya Film Festival in 1970, Friendship Award for the film ‘Thun Man Handiya’ from Rajaye Lipikaru Sewa Sangamaya in 1970. and the State Literary Award for his Research Thesis ‘Sinhala Gadya Padya Nirmanayanhi Ridma Lakshana’ at the State Literary Festival 2002 to name a few.
Here's to the legendary, versatile artists including Mahagama Sekara whose halo of artistry deserves to remain bright for the present to be inspired from.