S. Mahinda Thera:
Poet and freedom fighter
When we talk about Buddhism in Sri Lanka, we can think of so many
people who have done so much towards the revival of this great religion
in the country. What is so significant about this is that some of these
people were not even Sri Lankans, but belonging to other countries and
One such person was Col. Henry Steele Olcott, who we have already
featured in this page in a past issue. Another example of such a great
person was S. Mahinda Thera of Tibet. His services were rendered through
poetry not only towards the revival of Buddhism, but also to promote
patriotism, national pride, equality and national independence.
S. Mahinda Thera had been described by some as being more Sri Lankan
than the Sri Lankans themselves. The locals' struggles against their
colonial masters were ably supported by 'outsiders' like S. Mahinda
The Thera, known in the country as Tibet Jathika S. Mahinda Himi,
arrived in Sri Lanka in 1912 as a 14-year-old boy. He entered the
Buddhist Order at the famous Polgasduwa temple; he was ordained by
Piyaratana Nayake Thera at Sailabimbaramaya, Dodanduwa.
Known in his lay life as Tasilmgal, he was ordained as S. Mahinda
(the S standing for Sikkim). He arrived in the island from the Tibet-Sikkim
region, but preferred to be associated with Tibet instead of Sikkim as
the former was better known among Sri Lankans.
This was a time when the British were ruling our country. Since the
1848 Matale rebellion, which had failed, no significant struggle had
taken place against the colonial government. Some local chieftains had
started supporting the colonial masters, while some had just given up
any thoughts of regaining freedom.
The Thera had seen and realised the danger which lay in these new
developments and decided to promote "a new man who loves his motherland
more than anything else". Towards this end, he used his poetic talent to
the best of his ability. He mastered the local language and called on
Sri Lankans to rise up from their slumber and fight the British to
regain their lost freedom.
Through his writings, both prose and verse, he called on all, the
young and old, men and women, to march towards freedom.
He wrote many inspiring poems such as "Nidahase Dehena", "Nidahase
Manthraya", "Lanka Matha", "Jathika Thotilla", "Ada Lak Mawage Puttu", "Nidahasa",
"Videshikayakugen Lak Mawata Namaskarayak" and "Sinhala Jathiya" which
became extremely popular among many generations of the reading public.
Many of his poems have been adapted to various other forms, while
some are also available in CD format. The following is an example of his
Nidahasa maha muhudak ve
Ehi ulpata putha numba ve
Ebawa sihikota melove
Yutukama itukalayutu ve.
(If the ocean is the freedom, its fountain is the baby in the cradle.
Dear son, you should keep this in mind and fulfill your responsibility
in protecting the motherland from various challenges. )
Mahinda Thera died 57 years ago, on May 16, 1951. It is believed that
his ashes are still kept in a pot hanging on the roof of the Mahabellana
Temple without any proper means of protection. A statue of him also
adorns a temple in Panadura, which was his spiritual base.
Events are held across the island to commemorate his death
anniversary, but many Sri Lankans believe that this national hero has
not been given the respect or recognition he deserves.