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Honouring Dr. Panibharata

by Ranga Chandrarathne

Kalasuri Dr. S. Panibharata's immense contribution for the betterment and for up- grading the standard of Fine Arts in Sri Lanka was recognized here and abroad. On the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of Independence, he was presented with a special Award by The Japan Sri Lanka Friendship Cultural Fund.

The most singular contribution that Dr. Panibharata made in the field of Fine Arts in Sri Lanka and to the then Heywood College, and later known as the Institute of Aesthetic Studies was to up grade it to the status of a fully-fledged Faculty of the University of Kelaniya. Kalasuri Dr. S. Panibharata became the founder Dean of the Institute of Aesthetic Studies, which was later established as the University of Aesthetic Studies.

Unveiling the statue of Dr. Panibharata

The 86th birth anniversary of the late Dr. Panibharata, one of the pioneers in Fine Arts who was instrumental in uplifting the Institute of Fine Arts (also known as Heywood) to the status of a fully fledged Faculty of the University of Kelaniya, was celebrated recently at the University of Aesthetic Studies, which is the successor of the Faculty affiliated to the University of Kelaniya.

At the ceremony, a statue of the late Dr. Panibharata that was presented by family members was unveiled. Dr. Sarath Amunugama, Artist Pushpananda Weerasinghe and family members including Dr. Panibharata's wife, Hemalatha Panibharata, his sister Chitra Walgama were among the distinguished gathering at the function.

Reminiscing about the maestro, intellectuals acknowledged that Dr. Panibharata who was an authority in his field should be remembered for the application of his knowledge in practice. He worked hard to make the Institute of Aesthetic Studies a University and he became the first Dean of it.

His contribution to Fine Arts was immense. If we observe the life and times of the late Dr.Panibharata, he could be considered as a cultural ambassador who enlightened the world of artistic heritage in Sri Lanka. Kalasuri Dr. Panibharata who was born in Algama in Hatarakorale on February 24, 1920 had always stressed the fact that Sinhala dancing and singing was an indispensable part of our culture.

He contributed immensely to uplift the standard of dancing education in Sri Lanka. He introduced low-country dancing tradition to the then Institute of Aesthetic Studies in the 60s which was then confined to more or less teaching of upcountry tradition of dancing and by 1978 he had also been teaching the Sabaragamuwa tradition of dancing at the Institute.

His illustrious teaching career long-drawn-out into more than three decades of enlightening generations of students who were now in turn making their contribution in the field of dancing by keeping a vanishing tradition alive not only for Sri Lankans but also for the entire world especially, as the up-country, low-country and Sabaragamuwa dancing traditions are unique to Sri Lanka.

His wide range of knowledge both in theory and the practice of traditional dance was internationally acclaimed and he was honoured with numerous awardsby the Government of Sri Lanka, in recognition of his academic and intellectual contribution to the field of Fine Arts, He was conferred the prestigious title of Kalasuri. He will remain as a beacon of light in the field of dancing and his name will always be associated with the cultural life of this resplendent island.

The greatest tribute that the present day students could make to the late maestro is to foster the unique traditions and rich heritage of truly Sri Lankan dancing against the onslaught of alien culture and cheap forms of dancing.

Shantha Dissanayaka, Jayawanthi Panibharata, Jayantha Mallagama and Kulasiri Budawatta, Ravibandu Vidyapathiand Prof. Mudiyanse Dissanayaka paid tribute to late Dr. Panibharata at the ceremony.

A rare picture was also taken at this memorable event. Three veterans in dancing Ravibandu Vidyapathi, Kulasiri Budawatte, and Prof. Mudiyanse Dissanayake were on the same platform celebrating the 86th birth anniversary of veteran Pani Bharatha. Our cameramen Sudam Gunasinghe was at hand to capture this momentous occasion and we have it for you on the cover.

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