Sri Lanka Matha
|English: Mother Sri Lanka|
Emblem of Sri Lanka
National anthem of Sri Lanka
|Lyrics||Ananda Samarakoon, 1940|
|Music||Ananda Samarakoon, 1940|
Sri Lanka Matha is the national anthem of Sri Lanka. The original song was written and tuned by the great Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore. Later, it was translated and composed by the Ananda Samarakoon in 1940, and was then adopted as the national anthem in 1951. It was written when Sri Lanka was still a British colony and was initially written as a tribute to Sri Lanka, expressing sentiments of freedom, unity and independence, and not for the purpose of serving as a national anthem. The song however became very popular throughout the 1940s and 3 years after Sri Lanka's independence, it was chosen to be the national anthem. The first independence day it was sung was in 1952.
The song was officially adopted as the national anthem of Ceylon on November 22, 1951, by a committee headed by Sir Edwin Wijeyeratne. The anthem was translated into the Tamil language by M. Nallathamby.
The first line of the anthem originally read: Namo Namo Matha, Apa Sri Lanka. There was some controversy over these words in the 1950s, and in 1961 they were changed to their present form, Sri Lanka Matha, Apa Sri Lanka, without Samarakoon's consent.
The Sri Lankan national anthem is one of a number that are sung in more than one language: Canada (English, French & Inuktitut), Belgium (French, Dutch & German), Switzerland (German, French, Italian & Romansh), South Africa (Xhosa, Zulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans & English), Suriname (Dutch and Sranan Tongo), and New Zealand (English & Māori). The majority of Sri Lankans (more than 80%) speak the Sinhala language and the Sinhala version is mainly used in Sri Lanka for public and private events. This version is the only version used during international sports and other events. Due to popularity of the song and its rich meaning, it has been translated into several other languages. Although the Sinhala version of the anthem is used at official/state events, the Tamil translation is also sung at some events. The Tamil translation is used at official events held in the Tamil speaking regions in the North and East of Sri Lanka. The Tamil translation is sung at Tamil medium schools throughout the country. The Tamil translation was used even during the period when Sinhala was the only official language of the country (1956–87).
Tamil version controversy
On 12 December 2010 The Sunday Times reported that the Cabinet of Sri Lanka headed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa had taken the decision to scrap the Tamil translation of Sri Lanka Matha at official and state functions, as "in no other country was the national anthem used in more than one language" - even though the national anthems of Canada, South Africa and those of several other countries have more than one language version. The Cabinet's decision had followed a paper on the national flag and national anthem produced by Public Administration and Home Affairs Minister W. D. J. Senewiratne. The paper had drawn on the Singaporean model where the national anthem is sung in the official lyrics and not any translation of the lyrics. Based on this the paper recommended that the Sri Lankan national anthem only be sung in Sinhala and the Tamil translation be abolished. The paper's authors had failed to realise that the official lyrics of the Singaporean national anthem are in Malay, a minority language (75% of Singaporeans are Chinese).
A Government minister Wimal Weerawansa had labelled the Tamil version a "joke" on Derana TV, and had cited India as an analogy. Some journalists (E.g. DBS Jeyaraja)  claimed that it was wrong of Weerawansa to cite India as an analogy because according to them the Indian national anthem was not in Hindi, which is the most widely spoken language of India, but in Bengali, a minority language. Indeed, although sources based on an official Government of India website state that the Indian National anthem was adopted in its Hindi version by the Constituent Assembly of India, the proceedings of the Constituent Assembly of India on 24 January 1950 does not mention that the National Anthem was "adopted", nor does it mention that it was done so in its Hindi version. In any case, in actual practice the unaltered Bengali version is the version sung as the National Anthem, with its words in original Bengali Tatsama, a highly Sanskritized form of Bengali that has Sanskrit words common to both Hindi and Bengali.
The alleged Cabinet's decision to scrap the Tamil translation caused much furore in Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan government denied allegations that the Tamil translation of the anthem was to be abolished. The Presidential Secretariat has stated that there was no basis to the media report and follow up reports which intimated the same.
Tune of Sri Lankan Anthem
The Sri Lankan anthem's tune is similar to a Hindu devotional song Jai Jagdish Hare. However, there isn't much knowledge on whether the tune was inspired from the song. Ananda Samarakoon was Rabindranath Tagore's student and the tune is influenced by Tagore's genre of music.
Sri Lanka Matha (Mother Sri Lanka)
|Transliteration of Sinhala||Sinhala Lyrics of the Anthem||IPA Transcription of the Sinhala text|
|English translation||Tamil translation|
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- Prabhu, R. K. (1967). Songs of freedom: An anthology of national and international songs from various countries of the world. Bombay: Popular Prakashan. page 138
- Bandaranayake, Senake (1996). Ivan Peries paintings, 1938-88. Colombo: Tamarind Publications. ISBN 9559458000. page 155
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- "THE CONSTITUTION OF THE DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST REPUBLIC OF SRI LANKA - Section 7 The National Anthem". LawNet, Government of Sri Lanka.
- "National Anthem only in Sinhala; Tamil version out". The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka). 12 December 2010.
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- "S.Lanka denies move to ban national anthem in Tamil". Radio Netherlands Worldwide. 13 December 2010.
- "National Anthem and National Identity". The Island, Sri Lanka. 17 December 2010.
- "Lanka scraps Tamil version of national anthem". Zee News. 12 December 2010.
- "Sri Lanka's national anthem now only in Sinhala; Tamil version out". Deccan Herald. 12 December 2010.
- "Sri Lanka scraps Tamil version of its national anthem". NDTV. 13 December 2010.
- Chandra, Anjana. India condensed : 5000 years of history & culture. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2007. page 120
- "Sri Lanka minister denies Tamil national anthem ban". BBC News. 13 December 2010.
- Reddy, B. Muralidhar (13 December 2010). "Colombo denies reports on Tamil National Anthem". The Hindu (Chennai, India).
- Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka Matha - Audio of the national anthem of Sri Lanka, with information and lyrics
- Siha Shakthi - The "Himnuszok" website features a vocal version of the Anthem performed by the vocal group Siha Shakthi.
- An instrumental version of "Sri Lanka Matha" featured in the "Sri Lanka" entry at the website "National Symbols". (MP3 format)