King Swarnamali the Great | Sunday Observer

King Swarnamali the Great

1 August, 2021

Making a genuine effort to bring an unimagined and unexplored treasure trove of modern Sinhala literature to the English reading community, Montage brings Udayasiri Wickramaratne’s debut novel ‘Swarnamali Maha Raja’ translated by Malinda Seneviratne, veteran journalist, writer and poet.

‘Swarnamali Maha Raja’ (King Swarnamali the Great), is an imaginative journey with disgraced Prince Gemunu during his self-imposed exile.


Chapter 2

Filtered by the trees, it was soft sunlight that seeped into the jungle. The image engendered by filtered light was similar to what a landscape would look like when seen through tear-filled eyes.

The horse took the rider among the trees at a leisurely pace. When they came across a stream, without any thought he dismounted and sat by the water. It was years later, long after his mind had become absolutely calm, that he realised that it was the song of the moving water that had compelled him to alight. He looked upon the water which made a distinct but low sound as it flowed.

It was after a long, long time had passed that it dawned on Prince Gemunu that he had not gazed upon the water but had in fact being listening to some voice that moved downstream. It took even longer for him to understand who it was that had spoken to him with the voice of the stream.

The horse looked at the prince for a little while. As though the sight of his face had made him wary, the horse quickly lowered its head to the water and noisily slaked its thirst. Fortunately, this disturbed the prince’s train of thought. If not, would not Prince Gemunu have lost his senses from listening intently to the soft voice that surfaced and slowly flowed with the water?

Noticing that the sound it made at the stream had drawn the attention of the prince, the horse stopped drinking, turned and met his gaze. After a while the horse once again turned to the stream to drink its fill. Prince Gemunu’s hands, almost involuntarily, stretched out to the water. A sip of cool water made its way down his throat. The stream ceased its cry.

Gemunu realised that he had spurred his horse relentlessly since midnight without offered one moment of rest. HIs heart was weighed down by an immense sense of pity for the horse, his one friend as of now, as he noticed that the animal was in the process of quenching an enormous thirst. Prince Gemunu bent down, scooped some water and drank as though he was but helping the horse in its thirst-quenching efforts. The horse gave the impressions that he was accompanying the prince in this, head in the water even as the prince drank his fill.

Gemunu realised that the moment had come to say his goodbyes to the horse. He turned the horse back, whispered, ‘now you return to the palace’ and gave it a gentle slap. The slap was gentle, but there was authority in it. The horse remained still for a moment, disregarding the authoritative signal, and then, as though realising something or struck something utterly sorrowful, broke into a canter along the path they had come. Gemunu watched until he could see the horse no more and told himself that unlike he, the horse was no traitor and, therefore, could return to the palace without mishap. Gemunu turned in the direction opposite to that taken by the horse and went further into the forest.