Aesthetics icon, celebrates
50 years of dance,
By Sarashi Samarasinghe
Celebrating his 50th year in the field of dance, music and
theatre, Basil Mihiripanne who has journeyed a long way in the
field of aesthetics, was honoured at a special felicitation
ceremony held at the Navarangahala on June 30..
“Mihiripanne had an extreme determination towards his preferred
kind of arts,” said chief speaker Prof. Carlo Fonseka, adding
that Mihiripanne has taught around thousand students up to now.
“Among those students there are some outstanding characters such
as Dinesh Gunawardena, Ranil Wickremasinghe, Anura Bandaranaike
and Chandrika Kumaratunga, who have now become prominent
characters in the political arena,” said Fonseka.
“Nanditha Manel, the second daughter of Prof. Ediriweera
Sarachchandra got married to Mihiripanne when she became
attracted to him after observing his dances,” said Fonseka.
Mihiripanne has followed the ‘Kathakali’ dancing style under the
guidance of the famous arts guru, Shri Padmanabhan Naayar, when
he entered the Kerala Arts School in India when he was a
When he had returned his motherland, his duty had been to search
for teachers who could teach him the traditional methods of
crafts. He had mastered these crafts dedicating himself to this
field for more than 20 years.
Mihiripanne had also gone in search of teachers to learn about
the kolam dancing method, nadagam dancing method, yaathukarma
and ceremonial dances when he was a youth.
“Mihiripanne had all the important qualities needed to become a
great artist from the very inception, when he entered this field
of arts,” said W.D. Amaradeva, who was the special guest on the
He further added that art is a human activity for which there is
a human purpose.
Mihiripanne has observed and studied dance forms such as kohomba
kankariya, kadawara kankariya, devil dancing, riddi yaagaya,
hooniyan kapilla, garaa yakkuma, pahan maduwa, sanda kinduru
kavi nadagama and sokari dramas over the years. His main purpose
for studying these dance forms has been to identify these
important artistic forms and preserve them in his motherland.
“First of all we should express our immense gratitude to Basil
Mihiripanne for his artistic creativity, and for bringing
respect and pride to our nation by showcasing our indigenous
culture in many countries such as India, Australia, United
Kingdom, and the United States” said Minister of Urban
Development and Sacred Area Development, Dinesh Gunawardena.
He added that 50 years ago he used to be one of Mihiripanne’s
Mihiripanne has also followed the kathakali dance method under
Premakumara Epitawela, and had acted a role in his salalihini
sandeshaya ballet where he met a number of prominent artistes
such as Mohammed Gawus, Amaradeva, Ibrahim Sali, Nadaraja Careem,
Vasantha Kumara, Paneebhaaratha and Ranganaatha, during that
Mihiripanne has also been the teacher of the western ballet
actresses, Mokrowa Kaaniya, Galiya Smilowa who was from
Uzbekistan, Peggy Hoschild who was from United States of
America, Belissa who was from Australia, Leela Amma and Sardha
who were from India.
Among his past pupils who have become famous figures on the
silver screen are Sriyani Amarasena, Vijaya Nandasiri, Kamal
Addaraarachchi, while prominent figures on the stage include,
Manike Attanayake, Somalatha Subasinghe, Shanthi Gunawardena,
Chithralekha Kiriwaththuduwa, Manjula Maanawasinghe, Sena
Edirisinghe, Dayampathi Perera, Tudor Nagahawatte, Nilanthi
Gunaratne, Sujeewa Rohan and Daya Samaranayake .
Mihiripanne has also directed several well known ballets such as
‘Rankati Putha’, ‘Omarilatha’, ‘Sebaliya’, ‘Maathru Bhoomi’, ‘Amma’,
‘Apeksha’, ‘Sobani’ and ‘Balangoda Maanawayaa’. In addition he
has also staged his own creations such as Nawa Ranga, Ves Dakuma,
Abhiranga and Vande Girija.
He was also responsible for the dance arrangements in stage
dramas such as ‘Nari Baanaa’, ‘Elowa Gihin Melowa Aawaa’, ‘Sanda
Kinduru’, ‘Lomahansa’ and ‘Mahaasara’.
While still at school, Mihiripanne performed the main characters
in dramas such as ‘Ramayana’ where he played the role of Sri
Rama, in ‘Julius Caesar’ and in ‘Diyasena’ as the prisoner.
He also performed all the main roles of his own drama creations.
In addition., he has also performed many solo roles such as
‘Mayura Natuma’, ‘Nai Natawanna’, ‘Dadayakkaaraya’, ‘Wes Muhunu
Velenda’, Diwakara’ which won him international renown.
His other achievements include many international awards such as
the Golden Medal from the Asian Dancing Competition which was
held in Moscow in 1957, and the Best Gesture Acting Award from
the Arts Festival which was held in Taiwan in 1987.
He has also won many local awards such as the ‘Kalasooriya’
award in 2000 and an honorary award from the Lions Club of
Piliyandala in 2001.
Among the gurus who influenced and trained him during the past
fifty years were: Noman De Silva, Kabellagoda Diyonis, M.K.
Rajaratnam of Kerala, Edwin Samaradiwakara, Olaboduwa Sadiris
Mihiripanne has also served as a tutor in institutions such as
Maliyadeva Boys School in Kurunagela, Sirisumana College in
Ratnapura, Royal College primary school and Wesley College in
A maestro par excellence in his chosen field, this dedicated
dance expert who has showcased our indigenous dance forms both
here and abroad, will no doubt go down in our cultural history
as an artiste who has preserved these dance forms for
Gunawardana, nee De Silva
A friend to all – Especially the needy
Guneetha and I were class-mates at Ladies College and our
friendship extended over a period of over 50 years. During our
school days she was full of life and fun and was in fact almost
a tomboy and even boisterous at times.
Guneetha, Sanoja (now living in UK) and I formed a trio in
school and we indulged in various forms of mischief, as we were
wont to do but such acts were tolerated by our Principal, Miss
Simon who apart from being a firm disciplinarian was very
understanding but more so since she had behind her a team of
dedicated teachers all of whom realised the innocence and the
spirit in which these pranks were played and therefore made no
attempts to mete out punishment to any of us.
Apart from her friendliness towards me and so many others who
were in school at that time, we all noticed that after her
marriage she became very religious and was a veritable recluse.
She was a regular participant at Buddhist retreats which would
last for around ten days at a time and we noticed that the times
she spent during these periods of seclusion, gave her
considerable comfort and peace of mind.
Most of us celebrated our 60th birthdays last year and Guneetha
too would have done so had she lived, but sadly she had to
depart leaving us all in a state of shock. I recall that even
when I ‘phoned her to invite her home on my birthday in June
last year, she told me that I would have to excuse her as she
was unwell. I was very sad at her response as she was present at
all my birthday parties which I celebrated from our school days
inasmuch as I too participated at her birthday celebrations.
Her birthday fell on the 27th of September and since that day
she was no longer in the land of the living, some of us her
school friends got together and decided to provide dinner in her
memory to children in an Orphanage, where their ages ranged from
5 to 18 years of age.
Guneetha’s immediate family members (sister, younger daughter,
and nephews) also participated at this function and provided the
children with some expensive gifts. It was sad to see these
orphans but I know how much happiness Guneetha would have
derived had she seen what we all did for the young ones.
Apparently the concern she showed the poor was not known. It
transpired that on one occasion she had asked her sister to take
her for a meal to a Mc Donalds food outlet and when she was
approached soon after by a poor man, she had given the entire
dinner that she had got for herself to him. She always showed
much sympathy towards the poor and loved helping them. She was
self - less in giving, and even gave away things she owned, and
derived much pleasure in doing so.
The last social event in which she participated with us was at
our “Ruby Wedding” which was held at the Galle Face Hotel in
2005, it being a surprise gift from our daughter. Guneetha
thereafter withdrew into her shell and this made all of us very
sad. This was perhaps because she realised that her days on
earth were numbered.
I do miss the long chats which I used to have with her on the
phone generally after 9.00 pm, and having got so used to
‘phoning her there were times when I still have tried to dial
her number without realising that she was no longer alive..
Gunna always had a good and kind word for her sister Lilani, her
brother Jayantha and not forgetting her late sister-in-law Askie.
She used to tell me that when her parents were both bed-ridden,
it was Askie who took charge of their parents’ household and
would get round the nurses by giving them ice-cream, chocolates
It is very rarely that an in-law gets involved but it showed how
caring Askie was. I did not know her personally but everyone had
a kind word to say about her. It’s sad that she is also no more
as had she lived she would have looked after Guneetha with much
affection and love.
Gunna was very fond of her elder daughter (who has been living
in the States for over 15 years ) and she in turn reciprocated
her love in ample measure by phoning her often from the USA and
sending her various gifts. These included many pairs of walking
shoes her mother needed as she was having a problem with her
feet. She also visited Sri Lanka very often to see her mother.
Sanoja’s mother lived in Boralesgamuwa and latterly she was
quite ill and was unable to get about. Guneetha used to visit
her regularly by bus (as a child she always went by car) from
Nawala to Boralesgamuwa, and she would sing together with her
giving them both much happiness.
Apart from everything else, Guneetha was an accomplished pianist
who enlivened many a party by displaying her skills on the
piano, even before she was invited by the hosts to do so. She
was highly talented and was very well qualified both as a Fellow
of the Trinity College of Music and a Licentiate of the Royal
College of Music. She was a dedicated music teacher and all her
pupils fared excellently at their exams and she had a 100%
distinction rate with all of them.
She had two wonderful parents and all of us were always welcome
in their home and we were never allowed to leave without a drink
or something to eat. They were indeed very hospitable people.
Goodbye my dear friend. It’s sad to know that you are no more.
But we shall always remember you and cherish the memory of a
On the 22nd of July will be her first death anniversary. Goodbye
Guneetha, you will always be remembered by me and your other
– Nilanthi Nonis nee de Soysa
Farewell to a patriotic priest
By Lenard R. Mahaarachchi
It was really saddening to read in the Messenger about the
demise of Rev. Fr. Flavian Wilathgamuwa at the ripe old age of
89 in the USA.
He was a Christian Brother of the de La Salle community before
becoming a Claretian. He was our Vice Director at the Novitiate
in Mutwal in the 50s, where Rev. Bro. Lawrence Justinian was
Rector and Rev. Bro. Edward the third in charge.
The threesome was in the FSC Fraternity (Fratres Scholarum
Christianorum) i.e Brothers of the Christian Schools order
established by St. John Baptist de la Salle, the Frenchman,
himself a priest. During the post War years, this congregation
was not allowed to become priests, a stance that was changed
It is somewhat a providential coincidence that the trio later
became priests and another common factor was that all three
served in the USA after their ordination.
Rev. Fr. Lawrence Jayasinghe predeceased Rev. Fr. Flavian
Wilathgamuwa and in my appreciation of Fr. Jayasinghe, I
recalled with nostalgic memories those good old days when they
took good care of us as junior novices.
Bro. Edward taught us hymns at Lent (O Come & Mourn) and songs
too (I’m a smiling cowboy). Rev. Fr. Edward Vaz is still in the
ministry in the US.
Fr. Lawrence and Fr. Flavian had the rare distinction of being
Directors of St. Benedict’s College; the premier institution of
the La Sallian fraternity, with the latter’s tenure of
stewardship coming in its centenary year (1965).
Fr. Flavian, of Buddhist ancestry, had a knack of befriending
all who came in contact with him. When we were spending our
Easter holiday at St. Anne’s Kurunegala, where we occupied the
dorm and refectory of the college boarders who were away, Bro.
Flavian used to take us out every weekend. During that short
holiday he gave us the experience of climbing Athagala, Ibbagala
and Andagala – famous rocks that surround the city.
We were always entertained by the Buddhist monk heads of the
Vihara there, whom Brother Flavian had become pals with in a
short time. During the Easter holidays of the following years he
took us to Chilaw and Moratuwa.
Young novices like Fr. Christopher Kurera, late Fr. Mathew
Silva, Bro. Eustace Bastians and Bro. Herman Nanayakkara
(teaching in Pakistan, now on holiday in Sri Lanka), to name a
few, were moulded by Fr. Flavian, a stickler for discipline.
Fr. Flavian was laid to rest in California on June 20. I am sad
that I missed a chance of seeing him for the last time this
January when I spent my Christmas holiday with my son in Los
Angeles. In fact, an old La Sallian domiciled in Los Angeles and
I arranged to visit him, but circumstances (wintry rains) did
not permit us to keep the date, which lapse I now regret. Fr.
Flavian excelled in the public relations field, and was pally
with statesmen and ordinary folk alike. It is said that when
S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike was shot in 1958, Bro. Flavian was the
first to receive the information from Sirima Bandaranaike.
Likewise, the incumbent President in his message of condolence
described him as “a true patriot who has fought fearlessly to
protect the good image of the country, against vicious
His robust physique belied his mild ways, but he was mild and
gentle in character and mannerisms. That was the paradox of Fr.
Flavian’s near nine decade life.
It was during his rectorship that St. Benedict’s, skippered by
Sunil Fernando (Ramjet’s brother), scored victories over the
mighty Joes, Petes, Royalists, Thomians, and St. Anthony’s at
We pray that the good Lord who gave our beloved priest a long
life on planet earth will now grant him eternal rest, that rest
which, according to St. Augustine, is never ours, until we rest