Sixty four years down memory lane:
State opening of Parliament 1948
Following the grand event of granting
independence to Sri Lanka on February 4, 1948 was the State opening
of the Parliament of Ceylon. It was on February 10, 1948 and the
first Parliament after independence was declared open by the Duke of
Gloucester at the Assembly Hall at the Torrington Place
A group photo taken at the ‘Temple Trees’ after swearing in of
Mudliyars in 1947
Sixty-four years have passed. The country and the life of its
inhabitants have faced numerous changes. Back then in 1948 no one may
have thought that Sri Lanka will face so much turmoil in this 64 years.
On the other hand, today no one can feel what happened at that time.
Following the grand event of granting independence to Sri Lanka on
February 4, 1948 was the State opening of the Parliament of Ceylon. It
was on February 10, 1948 and the first Parliament after independence was
declared open by the Duke of Gloucester at the Assembly Hall at the
Today we feel the historical importance and we hear only stories like
fairy tales yet on that day it would have been a real experience.
According to the program of the State opening of the Parliament of
Ceylon, the path for the invitees was known as the Royal route.
It has Queen Street, Prince Street, York Street, Parsons Road, Shorts
Road, Union Place, Alexandra Place reaching Torrington Place.
“The route of the procession is approximately 3 ¾ (three and three
quarter) miles long. It will be decorated for the last 1 1\2 miles will
be lined by the Royal Navy, the Army and Royal Air Force. A running
commentary on the Ceremonial drive and the proceedings inside the
Assembly Hall will be broadcast to the crowds lining the route,” states
the program schedule printed for the event.
A group photo in front of the Dalada Maligawa. Late Prime
Minister D.S. Senanayake visited the Dalada Maligawa after his
first swearing-in his post.
At a special event where
Mudliyars were honoured for their service by the
Governor-General Sir Henry Monck-Mason Moore in June 1947. In
the certificate given to Mudliyar Nanayakkara it says “ Whereas
I have great confidence in the ability of Don Romanis Kuruppu
Nanayakkara, I do hereby appoint him Muhandiram during my will
Adding glamour to all the Independence celebrating contributions, the
‘Sunday Observer’ received a set of documents, containing invitations
and the program of the State opening of the Parliament of Ceylon in 1948
and the Independence Commemoration celebrations in 1949, by the family
of D.R.K. Nanayakkara Mudliyar who was one of the prominent Sri Lankans
who were invited for the event.
“The street decorations were entirely done in cloth,” said Pushpa
Nanayakkara, daughter of Mudliyar Nanayakkara going back to her
The distinguished guests each have had an assembly point.
According to the plan the processions of the Judges of the Supreme
Court and of the Members of the Senate have joined the royal route at
the junction of Prince Street and Queens Street. Prime Minister D. S.
Senanayake and Mrs. Senanayake, Members of the Colombo Municipal
Council, Ceylon Service Commanders and other distinguished guests have
been at the House of Representatives to join the procession. The Members
of the Senate have joined from the Senate Building, Judges of the
Supreme Court have joined the procession from Hulftsdorp, Governor
General Sir Henry Monck-Mason Moore and Lady Moore and their Staff and
Their Royal Highness the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and Staff were
assembled at the Queen’s House (currently the President’s house) ready
to join the procession by 10.10 a.m. Sir Henry Monck-Mason Moore became
the last Governor of Ceylon and first Governor-General when the Ceylon
Order in Council, the first constitution of independent Ceylon came into
Between 9.33 and 10.30 a.m. the guests have arrived and seated
accordingly in the Assembly Hall. As it describes, “On Arrival at the
Assembly Hall, each procession will enter by the Main Entrance and will
proceed up the processional aisle.” “The President of the Senate and the
Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister and Mrs.
Senanayake, the Leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives
and the Sergent-at-Arms will remain at the entrance,” as stated in the
program. Arrival time of the Governor-General Moore and Lady Moore along
with their staff has been marked as 10.25 a.m.
Following is the description of the proceedings as mentioned in the
plan for 10.25 a.m. -
The Parade Ground plan of the 1949 Independence commemoration
The invitation and the seating arrangement of the State Opening
of Parliament of Ceylon
“The Governor-General and Lady Moore will be received by the
President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives,
The Prime Minister and Mrs. Senanayake, and the Leaders of the Senate
and the House of the Representatives.
The Governor-General’s procession forms up in the processional aisle.
As their Royal Highness approach the entrance to the Assembly
Grounds, a salute of 21 guns is fired and the Royal Standard is unfurled
over the Assembly Hall.”
By 10.30 a.m. - On the opening bars of “God Save the King” the
audience had been asked to stand up.
“10 .30 a.m. - Arrival of their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess
As his Royal Highness steps down from the car, a royal salute is
given by the Guard of Honour composed of the members of the Ceylon Light
Infantry and the Ceylon Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve which will drawn
up facing the Assembly Hall. Their Royal Highnesses will be received by
the Governor-General and Lady Moore.
The Governor-General will introduce the Prime Minister and Mrs.
Senanayake, the President of the Senate ….” and so goes the description.
Following the description of the seating arrangements the document
explains how the Assembly Halls was arranged. “ The Dais is on two
At the back on the top level stands the Kandyan Throne. On the next
level are the thrones for their Royal Highnesses. Her Excellency Lady
Moore will sit on the left of Her Royal Highness the Duchess of
Gloucester and His Excellency the Governor-General will sit on the right
of His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester. The Prime Minister will
then sit on His Excellency the Governor-General’s right and Mrs.
Senanayake will sit Her Excellency Lady Moore’s left. The Staff of their
Royal Highnesses and of the Governor-General and Lady Moore will stand
behind the chairs.”
The Final episode -
“The Prime Minister, The President of the Senate and the Speaker of
the House of Representatives then advance to the Dais and His Royal
Highness hands to them three special copies autographed by His Majesty
the King of the two Independence Orders in Council and the Ceylon
Following this the procession of the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester
retires from the Dais along the processional aisle and the House then
“The procession of their Excellencies the Governor-General and Lady
Moore retires from the Dais along the processional aisle, 20 paces
behind His Royal Highness’ procession.”
“As the drumming ceases the Prime Minister unfurls the Lion Flag.
The Prime Minister then addresses the Assembly in Sinhala and a
recorded version of his speech is relayed in Tamil and English.
Their Royal Highnesses and the Governor-General and Lady Moore return
to the entrance to Hall where their Royal Highnesses will enter the
first car, and the Governor-General and Lady Moore will enter the second
car and their Staffs will follow.” states the program.
Thus ends the State opening of the Parliament of Ceylon on February