Martin Wickramasinghe

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Martin Wickramasinghe
Lama Hewage Don Martin Wickramasinghe

(1890-05-29)29 May 1890
Died23 July 1976(1976-07-23) (aged 86)
Colombo, Sri Lanka
NationalitySri Lankan
OccupationWriter, author
Spouse(s)Kataluwe Balage Prema de Silva
  • Sarath Kusum Wickramasinghe,
  • Vasantha Kumara Wickramasinghe,
  • Rupa Malathie Saparamadu,
  • Himanshu Ranga Wickramasinghe,
  • Usha Ekanayake,
  • Unie Kuruppu
Websiteofficial website

Lama Hewage Don Martin Wickramasinghe commonly Martin Wickramasinghe, MBE (Sinhala: මාර්ටින් වික්‍රමසිංහ) (29 May 1890 – 23 July 1976) was a Sri Lankan novelist. His books have been translated into several languages.[1]

The search for roots is a central theme in Wickramasinghe's writings on the culture and life of the people of Sri Lanka. His work explored and applied modern knowledge in natural and social sciences, literature, linguistics, the arts, philosophy, education, Buddhism and comparative religion. Wickramasinghe is often acclaimed as the father of modern Sinhala literature.[2][3][4][5]

Early life[edit]

Wickramasinghe was born on 29 May 1890, in the town of galle of Koggala,[6] and Magalle Balapitiya Liyanage Thochchohamy. Koggala was bounded on one side by a reef, and on the other by Koggala Lagoon, a large coastal lake into which the numerous tributaries of the Koggala Oya drained. The landscapes of the sea, Koggala Lagoon studded with little islands, the flora and fauna, the forested hinterland, and the changing patterns of life and culture of the people of the village would later influence his work.[3][4][7]

At the age of five Wickramasinghe was taught the Sinhala alphabet, at home and in the village temple, by a monk, Andiris Gurunnanse. He also learned the Devanagari script and could recite by memory long sections of the Hitopadesa. After two years he was taken to a vernacular school where he prospered until 1897 when he was sent to an English school in Galle called Buona Vista . In the two years spent at the school Wickramasinghe became fluent in English as well as Latin. When his father died, he returned to a vernacular school in Ahangama and subsequently lost interest in schooling.[3][4][5]

his literary career with the novel Leela (1914) and an anthology of essays on literary criticism, Shastriya Lekhana (1919). Shortly thereafter he began a campaign to raise literary standards for the Sinhalese reading public with work such as Sahityodaya Katha (1932), Vichara Lipi (1941), Guttila Geetaya (1943) and  Sinhala Sahityaye Nageema (1946) in which he evaluated the traditional literally heritage according to set rules of critical criteria formed by synthesising the best in Indian and western traditions of literary criticism.[2][3][8][9][10] He is a proude to Sri Lanka.

Through the 1940s Wickramasinghe dabbled with the double role of literary critic and creative writer. Gamperaliya (1944) is widely held as the first Sinhalese novel with a serious intent that compares, in content and technique, with the great novels of modern world literature. The novel depicts the crumbling of traditional village life under the pressure of modernisation. The story of a successful family in a Southern village is used to portray the gradual replacement of traditional economic and social structure of the village by commercial city influence.[3][5]

Wickramasinghe followed Gamperaliya with Yuganthaya (1948) and Kaliyugaya (1957) forming a trilogy. After the decay of the traditional life, the story details the rise of the bourgeoisie, with its urban base and entrepreneurial drive, ending with the formation of the labour movement and socialist theology and rise of hopes for a new social order. The trilogy was made into film by the renowned Sri Lankan director Dr. Lester James Peries.[4][8]

With the development of a literary criticism movement in the early-'50s, Wickramasinghe presented the works Sahitya Kalava ('The Art of Literature' 1950) and Kawya Vicharaya ('The Criticism of Poetry' 1954). He received an MBE around this time.[8]

Wickramasinghe's most heralded work came in 1956 with Viragaya. Due to the significance of its theme and the sophistication of its technique, the novel has come to be hailed as the greatest work of Sinhalese fiction. It follows the spiritual problems of a fragile Sinhalese youth raised in a traditional Buddhist home after being confronted with the spectre of adulthood and the responsibilities that come with it all made more complex with the modernisation of society. First-person narrative is used to put forth the autobiographical story of the anti-hero in impressionistic vignettes rather than in chronological order. It is a seminal work and spawned a spew of imitators, some good on their own right.[2]

Peradeniya school and poet[edit]

Wickramasinghe was an early practitioner of the genre of poetry called nisandas, which ignored the restrictions placed on poetry by the traditional prosodic patterns. It drew inspiration from the work of Eliot, Pound, Whitman and other western poets and was part of a movement called Peradeniya School. Wickramasinghe's work was Teri Gi (1952).

The movement dissolved in the 1960s prompted by Wickramasinghe's contention that other writers of the Peradeniya School were not sensitive to cultural traditions and the Buddhist background of Sinhalese society. He accused Ediriweera Sarachchandra, Gunadasa Amarasekara and others of imitating "decadent" western and post-war Japanese literature and of supporting a nihilistic look on life with cyncial disregard for national tradition.

Later years[edit]

In 1973, Wickramasinghe wrote a new biography of Lord Buddha titled Bava Taranaya. In it the great teacher's change from royal heir in-waiting to philosopher-mendicant is portrayed as being a result of his sympathy to the poor and the downtrodden of society. Wickramasinghe died on 23 July 1976 and his home is now a folk museum.[5]

Honors and awards[edit]


A comprehensive list of publications of Martin Wikramasinghe,[11]


  • Leela (1914)
  • Soma (1920)
  • Irangani (1923)
  • Seetha (1923)
  • Miringu Diya (Mirage) (1925)
  • Unmada Chitra (1929)
  • Rohini (1929)
  • Gamperaliya (The Uprooted/Changing Village) (1944)
  • Madol Doova (Mangrove Island) (1947)
  • Yuganthaya (End of the Era) (1949)
  • Viragaya (Devoid of Passions) (1956)
  • Kaliyugaya (Age of Destruction) (1957)
  • Karuvala Gedara (House of Shadows) (1963)
  • Bhavatharanaya (Siddhartha's Quest) (1973)

Collections of short stories

  • Geheniyak (A Woman) (1924)
  • Magul Gedara (The Wedding) (1927)
  • Pavkarayata Galgesima (Stoning the Sinner) (1936)
  • Apuru Muhuna (The Strange Face) (1944)
  • Handa Sakki Kima (The Moon is Witness) (1945)
  • Mara Yuddhaya (Mara's War) (1945)
  • Mage Kathawa (My Story) (1947)
  • Vahallu (Bondage) (1951)


  • Chithra (1940)
  • Mayuri (1944)
  • Vijitha (1952)

Literary criticism

  • Shastriya Lekshana (Educational Essays) (1919)
  • Sinhala Sahitya Katha (Sinhala Literary Essays) (1932)
  • Sahitya Shiksha 1 (Essays on Literatura) (1936)
  • Sahitya Shiksha 2 (1938)
  • Vichara Lipi (Literary Criticism) (1941)
  • Guttila Gitaya 1 (Critical Review) (1943)
  • Sinhala Sahityaye Negima (Landmarks of Sinhala Literature) (1945)
  • Sahitya Kalava (Art of Literature) (1950)
  • Kavya Vicharaya (Sinhala Poetry:A critical Review) (1954)
  • Atta Yutta (Essays in Literature) (1955)
  • Bana Katha Sahitya (Buddhist Folk Literature) (1955)
  • Nava Padya Sinhalaya (Modern Sinhala Poetry) (1957)
  • Rasavadaya Ha Bauddha Kavyaya (Aesthetics and Buddhist Poetry) (1961)
  • Sinhala Vichara Maga (Sinhala Literary Criticism) (1964)
  • Navakathanga Ha Viragaya (Literary Aspects of Buddhist Jataka Stories) (1968)
  • Sinhala Navakathawa Ha Japan Kama Katha Sevanella (The Sinhala Novel in the Shadow of the Japanese Erotic Novel) (1969)
  • Sinhala Natakaya Ha Sanda Kinduruwa (Sanda Kinduru and Sinhala Drama) (1970)
  • Sampradaya Ha Vicharaya (Tradition and Criticism) (1971)
  • Vyavahara Bhashava Ha Parinama Dharmaya (Contemporary Sinhala and Its Evolotion) (?)

Evolution and Anthropology

  • Sathwa Sanhathiya (Biological Evolution) (1934)
  • Bhavakarma Vikashaya (An Unorthodox Interpretation of Buddhist Philosophy) (1967)
  • Manava Vidyava Ha Bauddha Vignana Vadaya (Anthropology and Buddhist Idealism) (1974)


  • Sinhala Lakuna (The Sinhalese Identity) (1947)
  • Budu Samaya Ha Samaja Darshanaya (Buddhism and Social Philosophy) (1948)
  • Denuma Ha Dekuma (Knowledge and Reality) (1958)
  • Sinhala Sakaskada (Sociological Writings) (1962)
  • Bauddha Darshanaya Ha Margaya (Buddhist Philosophy and the Way) (1968)
  • Nivan Muhunuvara Ha Bamunu Dittiya (Face of Nirvana and Brahmin Dogma) (1972)


  • Ape Gama (Our Village) (1940)
  • Upanda Sita (From My Childhood) (1961)


  • Chechov Ha Lankava (Chechov and Sri Lanka) (1970)
  • Ape Urumaya Ha Bhikshun Vahanse (The contribution of Buddhist Monks to our Cultural Heritage) (?)
  • Ape Viyath Parapura Ha Bhasha Samaja Parinamaya (The role of Our Leaders in the Evolution of Our Language and Society) (?)

Books in English

  • Aspects of Sinhalese Culture (1952)
  • The Buddhist Jataka Stories and the Russian Novel (1952)
  • The Mysticism of D H Lawrence (1957)
  • Buddhism and Culture (1964)
  • Revolution and Evolution (1971)
  • Buddhism and Art (1973)
  • Sinhala Language and Culture (1975)


  • Purana Sinhala Stringe Enduma (Women's Attire in Ancient Lanka) (1935)
  • Kalunika Sevima (Search for Our Past) (1950)


  • Soviet Deshaye Negima (The Rise of the Soviet Union) (1962)

Translations in other languages[edit]

Books translated in to other languages,[12]

Films and television productions[edit]

Films and television productions, based on Martin Wikramasinghe's books,[13]

Feature films


  • Leli (Daughter in law) (1989)
  • Gamperaliya (1989)
  • Madol Doova (1994)
  • Upasakamma (The Pious Woman) (1994)
  • Mudiyanse Mama (Honourable Uncle) (1994)
  • Mava (Mother) (1994)
  • Sisiliyata Padamak (A Lesson for Ceciliya) (1994)


  1. ^ "Martin Wickramasinghe: About Author". Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  2. ^ a b c Martin Wickramasinghe: A literary colossus of the last Century by Dr. W. A. Abeysinghe (Island) Accessed 2016-09-27
  3. ^ a b c d e Biographical sketch of Martin Wickramasinghe by Dr. Ranga Wickramasinghe (Daily News) Accessed 2016-09-27
  4. ^ a b c d Martin Wickramasinghe at 120 Archived 1 October 2016 at the Wayback Machine by Kalakeerthi Edwin Ariyadasa (Sunday Observer) Accessed 2016-09-27
  5. ^ a b c d He wrote for children too Archived 3 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine by Sumana Saparamadu (Sunday Observer) Accessed 2016-09-27
  6. ^ "Martin Wickramasinghe describes father Peace Officer Bastian Wickramasinghe 's skill in investigating crime in this last section of the sixth chapter of Upan Da Sita,".
  7. ^ "Martin Wickramasinghe Biography - The Life Of Martin Wickramasinghe". Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  8. ^ a b c Martin Wickramasinghe: An icon of world intellectual heritage by Dr. W. A. Abeysinghe (Daily News) Accessed 2016-09-27
  9. ^ "Martin Wickramasinghe, Sri Lanka's Renowned Writer Biography and Bibliography". Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  10. ^ LTD, Lankacom PVT. "The Island". Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  11. ^ Gunawardana, C. A. (2003). Encyclopedia of Sri Lanka. New Delhi: Sterlin Publishers Privet Limited. pp. 309, 310. ISBN 81-207-2536-0.
  12. ^ Gunawardana, C. A. (2003). Encyclopedia of Sri Lanka. New Delhi: Sterlin Publishers Privet Limited. p. 311. ISBN 81-207-2536-0.
  13. ^ Gunawardana, C. A. (2003). Encyclopedia of Sri Lanka. New Delhi: Sterlin Publishers Privet Limited. p. 312. ISBN 81-207-2536-0.

External links[edit]