Colossus in literary firmament | Sunday Observer
Raipiyel Tennakoon

Colossus in literary firmament

1 January, 2023

Anation is blessed with erudite scholars in different disciplines from time to time. In this regard Raipiyel Tennakoon of Sinhala linguistic fame left his mark in the sphere of Sinhala language learning in Sri Lanka.

His 123 birth anniversary fell on December 19, 2022. He was born on December 19, 1899. His father was Tennakoon Arachchige don Suddhappu and his mother was Abeysekara Wannaku Arachichige Dona Pransina. He hails from Rambukkana.

He learned the Sinhala alphabet at Raddholuwa primary school in Negombo. He mastered the rudiments of the oriental languages Pali and Sanskrit under Ven. Dhammananda Thera. He learned the English language under the guidance of the late notary public Kotugoda Jayawardena.

His latent linguistic capabilities were sharpened by his Guru Heenatiyana David de Silva, the head master of Raddoluwa Buddhist School. At the completion of senior school certificate, he proceeded to the Government Teachers’ College at Nittambuwa where he cut his teeth as a teacher. It was a coincidence that while he was undergoing his teacher training, the Principal at Nittambuwa Teachers’ College was none other than Munidasa Kumarathunga.

It is unquestionable that he rendered a yeoman service for the uplift of Sinhala writing. His oeuvre consists of a long list of books on Sinhala grammar and poetry. His poetic prowess is quite evident in his magnum opus Wawuluwa. He has authored 19 books of poetry. It is mentioned in the preface of Wawuluwa that he had been inspired by Munidasa Kumaratunga’s Wirithwekiya.

One day, the Sinhala language colossuses had been pondering on the sons of the soil who enriched our land. On a sudden impulse, Kumaratunga had requested his colleague Raipiyel Tennakoon to write a book of poetry by next day. No words are necessary to show his calibre in his chosen field. It is thus the great sarcastic book “Pindeema” was born.

His inborn talent in poetry is evident in his six books of Andara. He has a number of books on Sinhala grammar under his belt. Sidath Sangarawa is a Jewel among them and “Honda Sinhala” still enjoys a high place in academic circles. The Sinhala grammar revival movement Hela Hawla was greatly benefited by his thoughts and works.

Raipiyel Tennakoon differed from his senior Kumaratunga Munidasa in his line of thinking of the application of the Sinhala language. He was more lenient towards rurality while Kumaratunga Munidasa was going parallel with the language use of the educated lot.

He made regular contribution to the famous Sinhala Journal “Subasa”. He reached the apex of professionalism as the Principal of Teachers’ College, Balapitiya. He exploited poetry to showcase drawbacks in society. Raipiyel Tennakoon passed away on March 8, 1965.