Sri Lanka Matha
|English: Mother Sri Lanka|
|Sri Lanka Matha
Sri Lanka Thaaye
Emblem of Sri Lanka
National anthem of Sri Lanka
|Lyrics||Ananda Samarakoon, 1940|
|Music||Ananda Samarakoon, 1940|
In 1938 Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote the music and lyrics for Nama Nama Sri Lanka Mata in the Bengali language for his student Ananda Samarakoon. Samarakoon returned to Ceylon in 1940 and translated Tagore's song into the Sinhala language Apa Sri Lanka, Namo Namo Namo Namo Matha, Sundar Sri Boroni.[a] After Samarakoon's translation was sung by the choir from Musaeus College at a public event it became hugely popular in Ceylon and was widely played on radio.
Ceylon achieved independence from Britain in 1948 but continued to use the British national anthem. In 1950 Minister of Finance J. R. Jayewardene requested that the government recognise Samarakoon's Namo Namo Matha as the official national anthem. The government appointed a committee headed by Edwin Wijeyeratne, Minister of Home Affairs and Rural Development, to pick a new national anthem. The committee heard several songs but, after much deliberation, picked Namo Namo Matha. The committee made a minor change to Samarakoon's song, with his apprival, changing the tenth line from "Nawajeewana Damine" to "Nawa Jeewana Demine Nithina Apapupudu Karan Matha". The committee's decision was endorsed by the government on 22 November 1951. The anthem was translated into the Tamil language by M. Nallathamby. The first independence day it was sung was in 1952.
In the late 1950s controversy arose over first line of the anthem, "Namo Namo Matha, Apa Sri Lanka". It was deemed to be "unlucky" and blamed for the country's misfortunes including the deaths of two prime ministers. In February 1961 the government changed the line to their present form, "Sri Lanka Matha, Apa Sri Lanka", despite Samarakoon's strong opposition. Samarakoon committed suicide in April 1962, leaving a note complaining that his anthem had been mutilated.
The Sri Lankan national anthem is one of a number that are sung in more than one language: Belgium (French, Dutch and German), Canada (English, French and Inuktitut), New Zealand (English and Māori), South Africa (Xhosa, Zulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans and English), Suriname (Dutch and Sranan Tongo) and Switzerland (German, French, Italian and Romansh).
The majority of Sri Lankans (around 75%) speak the Sinhala language and the Sinhala version is mainly used in Sri Lanka for public and private events and is the only version used during international sports and other events. 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 even used 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).
Government minister Wimal Weerawansa had labelled the Tamil version a "joke" on Derana TV, and had cited India as an analogy. Some journalists, such as D. B. S. Jeyaraj, 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. 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 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. Nevertheless an unofficial ban on the Tamil version came into being as fearful public officials in Tamil speaking areas stopped using the Tamil version or blocked attempts to use it. The Sri Lankan Army forcefully stopped any use of the Tamil version and taught school children to sing only the Sinhala version.
In March 2015 newly elected President Maithripala Sirisena announced that he would be issuing a circular which would state that there was no ban on singing the national anthem in Tamil. Sirisena's announcement was attacked by Sinhalese Buddhist nationalists.
ශ්රී ලංකා මාතා
ஸ்ரீ லங்கா தாயே - நம் ஸ்ரீ லங்கா
Thou Mother Lanka,
Sri Lanka Matha, apa Sri Lanka,
ʃriː laŋkaː maːtaː, apa ʃriː laŋkaː,
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