Ananda Samarakoon

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Ananda Samarakoon
Ananda Samarakoon.jpg
BornEgodahage George Wilfred Alwis Samarakoon
(1911-01-13)13 January 1911
Died5 April 1962(1962-04-05) (aged 51)
Cause of deathSuicide
NationalitySri Lankan
Musical career
OriginSri Lanka
GenresSri Lankan music
Years active1938–1962

Egodahage George Wilfred Alwis Samarakoon (13 January 1911 – 2 April 1962) known as Ananda Samarakoon was a Sri Lankan composer and musician. He composed the Sri Lankan national anthem "Sri Lanka Matha" and is considered the father of artistic Sinhala music and founder of the modern Sri Lankan Geeta Sahitya (Song Literature).

Life and career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Samarakoon was born to a Christian family in Padukka, Sri Lanka on 13 January 1911. He had his primary and secondary education at Christian College, Kotte, presently known as Sri Jayawardenapura M.V.Kotte. His Sinhala Guru was Pandit D.C.P. Gamalathge. Later he served his Alma mater as a teacher of Music and Art. Samarakoon left for the Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan in India to study art and music. After six months he abandoned his studies and returned to Sri Lanka, and changed his name to Ananda Samarakoon, embracing Buddhism.[1] Then he served as the music teacher of Mahinda College, Galle from 1938 to 1942.


In 1937, the popular music of Sri Lanka consisted of songs derived from the North Indian Ragadhari music. These songs lyrics often contained meaningless phrases with little or no literary merit. Samarakone set out to create a form of a music that can be classified as Sri Lanka's own and came out with the song Ennada Menike(එන්නද මැණිකේ) (1940) that paved the foundation for the artistic Sinhala music. In 1940, he composed Namo Namo Mata to instill patriotism and love for one's country, in his students at Mahinda College.It was first sung by little Mahindians at the prestigious Olcott Hall.[2] That song was later selected as the National anthem of Sri Lanka by the Sri Lankan government.

The love themed song ' Endada Menike ' unfolds in the form of a dialogue between a young village boy and a girl. Poetic and beautifully rustic, it became a success and Samarakone followed it with a string of successful songs in the early to mid-1940s, the period considered his golden age. Among his best known works are:

  • Podimal Etano (පොඩීමල් එතනෝ)
  • Vilay Malak Pipila
  • Poson Pohoda
  • Asay madura
  • Sunila Guvanay
  • Punchi Suda
  • Nilvala Gangay
  • Sumano
  • Pudamu Kusum
  • Siri Saru Saara Ketay


In 1945 Samarakoon's only son died at the age of five and the grieving Samarakoon left Sri Lanka for India where he pursued a painting career and held eleven art exhibitions there. Though his painting were critically acclaimed, he returned to music in 1951 back in Sri Lanka.

National anthem[edit]

One of Samarakoon's early compositions, Namo Namo Mata was nominated as the national anthem and was officially adopted as the national anthem of Ceylon on 22 November 1951, from a committee headed by Sir Edwin Wijeyeratne.Critics attacked Namo Namo Mata, particularly the "Gana" significance of the introductory words (Namo Namo Matha) which designate disease and ill luck. Samarakone was not a believer in "Gana" and the criticism caused him to write numerous articles counterattacking his critics to defend his composition. However, without his consent, the introductory words were changed to "Sri Lanka Mathaa" so that the "Gana" significance now would designate victory and prosperity.


On 5 April 1962, at the age of fifty one, Samarakoon committed suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping tablets and the motive is said to be because the lyrics of one of his compositions were changed without his consent.[3]


  1. ^ Hettiarachchi, Kumudini (4 February 2001). "When words killed a great man". Sunday Times.
  2. ^ Saparamadu, Sumana (2006). "Ananda Samarakoon – The composer of our national anthem". Sunday Observer. Archived from the original on 2 February 2012. Retrieved 4 July 2010.
  3. ^ "Pride and tragedy". The Sunday Times Sri Lanka. Retrieved 8 May 2017.