King Swarnamali the Great | Sunday Observer

King Swarnamali the Great

26 September, 2021

Making a genuine effort to bring an unimagined and unexplored treasure trove of modern Sinhala literature to the English reading community, Montage is bringing 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 the disgraced Price Gemunu during his self-imposed exile.

Chapter 8, Part 2

Wasn’t it true that even as all these thoughts crossed his mind, he had not taken his eyes off the figure that had emerged at the far end of the field? Had he realised, the moment the figure had materialised upon the mahaniyara faraway, that it was none other than Nandimitra? As the man approached and this was indeed confirmed, why didn’t the realisation rise to the surface of his mind? In other words, had he reflected thus knowing well that it was Nandimitra? Had he secured access to such thoughts on account of being wrapped in some kind of energy that Nandimitra had released into the landscape around him? In fact, hadn’t Nandimitra turned the entire field into a home simply by walking across it towards him?

When in solitary reverie, he had to bear the burden of himself and the world all by himself. This is the very essence of solitude. Ranmenika was prepared to share a part of his solitude. She was ready to share a part of his burden.

Since he bored the entire burden of Lanka, he himself would be a burden unto her. Never alone in her home, Ranmenika would have to suffer solitude on his account. Living with her family whose livelihood was farming, she would never suffer solitude, but with him and because of him she would. She, who was never alone, would learn the meaning of solitude if she were to live with him.

Lightness of being

This is why life was different in a home. Within its confines one is not forced to carry one’s burden nor those of the world. Life never felt like a deadweight. Life was light and lighthearted. How many years had passed since he had renounced this lightness of being? So was it not the very same lightness and ease that was now approaching him in the form of Nandimitra?

Gemunu gazed upon Nandimitra’s face as though he was looking at his own father, the King. Nandimitra came up to him. He stopped. Gemunu was transformed into a newborn infant.

He was now one who knew not what to do. Nandimitra looked at Prince Gemunu for a moment, then fell on his knees and saluted him.

It was then that Gemunu recovered his senses. He immediately stepped forward, put his hands on Nandimitra’s shoulders and made him stand up. Nandimitra, however, was so consumed by confusion that he desired more than anything else to just sit down and be lost in thought for days without once blinking his eyes, just as Gemunu had.

Nandimitra did not do anything of the kind though, but Gemunu read it all in Nandimitra’s eyes. Gemunu invited Nandimitra to sit down beside him under a tree upon the mahaniyara. Nandimitra looked at him.

‘Mother and father — are they well?’ Gemunu asked.


It was a one word answer that Nandimitra offered, but that single word told Gemunu all he needed to know. The colours emanating from the single syllable of the word enabled Nandimitra to paint the entire picture of the story expected of him. Gemunu found himself standing up. The sight of Nandimitra dispelled his solitude and yet there was a deeper loneliness that pervaded everything now. There was nothing to be seen anywhere. Neither was he able to sit down and look for some blank space in the sky or to curl up, close his eyes and drive his mind to be convinced that the world did not exist.

Weight of discontent

As Gemnunu took one step forward, he felt as though the entire weight of his discontent, his being, the world, the earth and the universe had descended upon his foot. In short, without murmur, with utmost calmness and grace, in conduct quite unlike that unleashed by his insanities, endowed with compassion for one and all including himself, without an iota of ill will even in some obscure corner of his mind towards the hapless creatures who had conferred upon him this weight but instead that very burden turning the corner of his lips into a smile that arrived a moment after being amused and thereby indicating to the world the true weight he bore, the weight his father, the King carried, now.

Suddenly, as though having concealed itself in some corner of the field, a storm broke through. Sweeping through the vast expanse of the paddy field, announcing a determination to bring down branches of the trees beyond, rolling up the paddy field as though it was a mat, a great wind arose as though intent on breaking through the clouds into the skies above or destroy the sky itself and scatter it all over the earth.

The landscape which had not many moments previously appeared like a mirror was now enveloped in a gigantic, dark cloud. This, then, was darkness. Once the entire sky was covered by grey clouds, raindrops began to fall as though they were black blobs unleashed from above to seek and put out any pockets of light that may still remain. The wail of the rain and the growl of thunder encompassed everything.

Walking through the pouring rain, Gemunu nevertheless heard Nandimitra’s voice very clearly. Perhaps Nandimitra’s voice had risen above the cacophony of rain and thunder. Perhaps it was just that Gemunu had blocked everything from his mind and had channelled all his senses to focus on Nandimitra’s voice alone and therefore he could discern with utmost clarity even what was spoken in the softest murmur. As the entire sky wept and wailed, all Gemunu could hear was Nandimitra’s voice.