The Indelible | Sunday Observer

The Indelible

9 February, 2020

Making a sincere attempt to bring an unimagined and unexplored treasure trove of modern Sinhala literature to the English reading community, from last week onwards, Montage is bringing Mahinda Prasad Masimbula’s award winning novel ‘Senkottan’ translated by Malinda Seneviratne, veteran journalist, writer and poet.

‘Senkottan’ (The Indelible), a remarkable creation of literature by Mahinda Prasad Masimbula was his debut effort in his literary career for which he won the State Literary Award in 2013 and short-listed in Swarna Pusthaka Literary Awards and many other Literary Award Festivals in the same year. The book has been published by Santhawa Publishers and ‘Senkottan’ has blazed the trail in the self-publishing industry as one of the best-selling books in Sinhala literature. -Second episode

The attention of those who were feasting on hoppers in Peter’s boutique, those in other shops and on the road was instantly captured by a repeated ringing…’taaang……taaang….taaang…’ The young upasaka started things off this way and the older upasaka, satisfied with the attention received, cleared his throat.

He was ready to sing a four-lined verse about the great and most venerated dagoba, Ruwanweli Seya, as the people came towards them, one by one.

Showering benevolence on one and all

Like the full moon through the clouds to be

The great dagoba rises from the ground

Untrammeled joy in all directions casting

Men and women from Werahera taking goods to the fair, young people loitering among the shops and even the elderly were drawn by the song towards the crowd that had already gathered.

There were two others as well. Werappuli Henaya and Kuda Baba Henaya, each carrying a bundle of clothes and were on their way from the Meddegama Walawwa to their home in Rideevita. The crowd had stirred their curiosity.

Kuda Baba Henaya was about to put his small bundle down at one of the shops but Weerappuli Henaya stopped him just by picking a rock at the end of Peter’s hopper boutique to lay down his large bundle. Baba Henaya followed suit. There was an important reason for Werappuli Henaya’s decision. Four young men fishing in the Dombagodella River some distance away looked their way as they tossed their respective lines into the water.

The older people in the crowd, realizing there was some religious meaning in the verse, showed particular interest. They too were perplexed by the large quantity of brass in the cart. Everyone was waiting to see what else these remarkable people had to say. They didn’t have long to wait. After walking twice by the circle formed by the crowd, he spoke in a strident voice.

‘‘Greetings….greetings…good people of the Godakawela region. Please give me leave to tell you this important and holy tale. The renovation of the Ruvanweli Seya in Anurajapura is nearing completion. We stopped here at this blessed place on our way there with the brass collected to mould the pinnacle of the dagoba, the koth raajayaa. It might be difficult for you to believe what I am about to say. That’s understandable. The koth raajayaa will be thirty to forty feet tall. Now just bring to mind a tall coconut tree in your village. The koth raajayaa I am talking about is about half that height. Can you now imagine what kind of power would reside within it? So, it’s with brass such as what we’ve collected that this koth raajayaa will be made. We were told to come to Anurajapura from Embilipitiya, passing Ratnapura, Avissawella and Kegalle. You probably know how long we’ve taken. The cart is almost full. I believe the cart will be overflowing with brass even before we pass good lands such as Kahawatte and Pelmadulla. We will probably have to make a second journey to collect from other places along our route…’

The younger upasaka once again beat the piece of brass, ‘’Taaang……taaang….taaang…’ The people, the crowd’s interest is growing now. Young boys who had backed off thinking it was some religious affair were nevertheless captured when they heard the story of the coconut tree. Weerappuli Henaya was also quite taken up by all this. Punchi Baba Henaya, just eight years old and largely ignorant of such matters, was nevertheless observing everything with great interest. Although inclined towards matters of the faith, Weerapulli Henaya was at this time rather perturbed due to certain statements made by the rather imposing hamuduruwo who had recently taken up residence in their temple. However, this was not the time to dwell on such things since it was more important to listen to what this remarkable person had to say.

“We are ready to receive as objects of offering anything that is of brass which you own. Good people, remember that this is no trivial matter but something that will have enormously positive karmic power. You can offer anything from a humble brass button to a splendid brass tray. So I am appealing to you to give whatever you can and thereby clear the pathway to the ultimate bliss of Nirvana. We will stay in this place of benevolence for a further hour and a half or so. There’s no need to rush. You can be part of this meritorious deed to the extent of your ability. This young upasaka is in charge of the collections. What you people need to do is offer whatever you can.”

One by one they left, hoping to return after finding something they could offer. Peter, the proprietor of the hopper boutique, groped under the counter and came up with an old brass lamp caked with verdigris. Wine Mahattaya, the tailor, arched his neck to observe this but didn’t budge. There was a noble thought that took root and was quietly sprouting in Weerapulli Henaya’s mind. He made his way slowly through the crowd. Kuda Baba Henaya couldn’t see the expression on the elder upasaka’s face nor his style of delivery because of the crowd and so he climbed on to the bundle of clothes for a better view. More and more people gathered around the upasaka.

He wet the tip of his index finger and with index finger and thumb twirled the ends of his mustache and started to speak.

“It was at the Pallebedda Walawwa that we had lunch today. Believe it or not, had we accepted everything those noble people offered, it wouldn’t have been possible for you people to acquire any merit in this matter. Thanks to the force of argument I managed to limit it to a brass vessel, a tray and vase. The old lady was impossible. This is the way of respectable people who know the worth of meritorious acts. Disregarding protests four combs of honraduvalu bananas were put into the cart for the bullocks to feast on during the journey. That’s typical of respectable folk. They won’t think twice about stepping forward to give, to do good. Why is that? Is it because they feel somehow deficient in merit acquired? No…they know that it cannot go waste…that at some point or another in the sansaric journey it will be needed, again and again….it is due to such folk that the Buddhist Order still flourishes. You all know that it is no small veneration that we have for Arahat Mahinda for bringing the word of the Buddha to Lankadeepa, don’t you? That’s exactly the kind of respect these folk showed me. “Come in, uththamayo,” they immediately said with utmost generosity and respect, led us straight into the house and made us sit on the best chairs…”

He spoke with pride. A considerable line of people had formed by the cart. They were all waiting to offer various brass items.

Weerappuli Henaya, along with Heen Baba Henaya, managed to get close to the elder upasaka once the crowd started moving around. He spoke, his voice filled with deference and laden with kindness.

‘Good upasaka mahattaya….I have with me a knife with a brass handle. All I have used it for is to cut an areca nut. Could you please accept this so that the merit would accrue to this little boy?’

The deferential manner of Weerapulli Henaya persuaded the elder upasaka to adopt a certain sternness. That was his way. He would be deferential himself before the powerful and when shown respect he would show stiffness. He would be utterly humble before a crowd and proud before a single individual.

“Yes, it’s brass alright…it would be good to give this to that upasaka mahattaya at the back and mention your names and where you’ve come from,” he said and with renewed vigour began to address the crowd once more.

“It would be good if all of you keep in mind this very important matter. There will be a grand celebration in Anurajapurathe day that the ornamental pinnacle is placed on the dagoba. All your names will be mentioned that day loud enough to reverberate throughout Anurajapura and indeed all over the eight sacred places of veneration, the atamastana. That alone could be a key qualification to have access to the pathway to Nirvana.’

Everyone raised their voices in acceptance and affirmation…saadhu saadhu… clearly enthused with this final revelation.

As the elder upasaka walked towards Peter’s boutique like one whose arduous task is done, Peter came rushing out to meet him carrying a tray of hot hoppers and bananas, giving it in the manner of an offering. He has been treated this way all along the journey. While he was happily partaking of the meal a few powerful people in the area approached him, wanting to know more about Anuradhapura.

‘Aiye, is it possible for us also to attend this sacred event that they say is going to be held in this Anurajapura…?’ It was one of the more loquacious women in the group that put the question to him.

‘Why not? If ever you sisters come, you can ask anyone in the atamastana for Robo Signo Upasaka Mahattaya. I will take you right up to the udamaluwa, the uppermost enclosure of the Sacred Bo Tree so you can worship. Such acts of merits I have done on many occasions, I have nothing more to worry about in my life. All I have to do is to live a simple life until the day dawns when I can enter the regions of Nirvana.”

Meanwhile, when the crowd thinned out by and by, Weerapuli Henaya and Kuda Baba Henaya were able to get close to the cart.