Chelvatamby Maniccavasagar, from Daily News, 23 March 2011
Sri Lanka was blessed during the first half of this century with a brilliant band of supermen with a vision, mission and a mandate who have by their sublime thoughts, power-packed words and dazzling deeds attained immortality. To this group belongs ‘Chinthanai Chippi’ S T Sinnadurai whose 31st death anniversary fell yesterday (March 22).
Sinnadurai was born in the Northern Province, in Kankesanthurai on July 23, 1903. He studied both English and Tamil in a missionary school in Jaffna. In his youth he had occasion to come down to South to see a sick relative. On this visit it occurred to him to live in South as a minor trader. It was in keeping with this intention that he later opened ‘Leela Stores’ in Pettah. In fact, within no time it became a very famous place. Perhaps one reason for this was that it was located at a spot very close to the Pettah Central Bus Stand and the famous Bo-tree. Further, Sinnadurai came to respect this Bo-tree. Every morning he commenced his business activities only after worshiping at the Bo-tree. Indeed, this Bo-tree was a much respected place, but not very well provided for or looked after. On rainy days the compound became a pool of muddy water. This pathetic sight drew the attention of Sinnadurai. He was deeply pained by this sight. He quickly erected an iron fence around the Bo-tree for its protection.
He began to sell all manner of Jaffna products in his shop. In this manner ‘Leela Stores’ became a flourishing business enterprise.
It was at this time that Sinnadurai’s attention was drawn to the sale of Sinhala publications. In order to give a helping hand to Sinhala writer he helped them to publish their publication work. Popular poets and authors of that period visited ‘Leela Stores’ to get their works published. They turned out to be Sinnadurai’s very sincere friends.
It occurred to Sinnadurai that a printing press would greatly help his publication work and he established the New Leela Printing Press from which he rendered a great service to the Sinhala people through local poets and writers.
Sinnadurai preferred plain and simple dress, always wearing the local costume. He never abandoned the traditional costume of white verti and banyan. Further, he always maintained a pleasant and disciplined appearance.
Gandhian way of life
He led a Gandhian way of life and throughout his life he wore ‘Kathar Verti’. Even when he got married, he insisted that the bride should wear ‘Katharsaree’. He was not only a man of words, but he always proved himself as a man of deeds. He always looked at the Sinhala and Tamil communities as brothers and sisters. In fact, he was a man with vision, mission and foresight. That was the only reason he named his two sons as Dhesabandu and Dhanabalaa.
He wanted all the communities in Sri Lanka to live in peace and unity. He was a farsighted personality who thought clearly, realistically, practically and pragmatically that a united Sri Lanka is the only solution to bring about everlasting peace and eternal prosperity. What the politicians could not do, he proved by his actions. Furthermore, he was associated with the Temperance Movement, Pitakotuwa Bodhiraja Samithiya, Veera Samajaya, Sucharitha Viyaparaya and several other societies. He served as the first Treasurer of the Bodhiraja Samithiya, Pettah. Sinnadurai was closely associated with several Sinhala and Tamil politicians and assisted in their social and religious activities.
In fact, a Chaithya came to be built at the Bodhiraja Viharaya, Pettah under the guidance of Sinnadurai. He played a very important role in obtaining the Buddha’s relics to be enshrined in this Chaithya. Further, Sinnadurai and his children later helped to develop the temple of Ven Palamugedara Somananda Thera who provided the relics to be enshrined in Pettah Bodhiraja Vihara Chaithya. Among the Buddhist institutions that benefited from the generosity of Sinnadurai and his children are, the Bodhiraja Viharaya at Pettah, Sri Mangalaramaya Maho, Kurundan Kulama, Pirivena, Wellawatta. It is significant to note that Sinnadurai’s children have erected Janavija Chaithya in Sinharaja Adaviya in Deniyaya.
The Panchanga pictorial calendar that Sinnadurai introduced in 1950 marks an important landmark in our culture. It was the first time that such a calendar was produced. This calendar embodied a wealth of historical and astrological knowledge and information.
Sinnadurai’s children Dr Somasekaram Arulananthan and Vidaikodi Chelvar Dhanabalar are very much involved in religious activities and are following in the footsteps of their father.
Sinnadurai’s life was not merely a successful one, but a distinguished and remarkable one. He was a live wire and whatever he touched and undertook, he put new life into it and made it a living Institution whether it was a printer, publicist, public worker, social reformer or religious worker.