New Light on the Hela Havula

Abstract of Garrett Field’s Essay in the Sri Lanka Journal of the Humanities, 2012, vol. 38: 1/2 entitled “Commonalities of Creative Resistance: Regional Nationalism in Rapiyel Tennakoon’s Bat Language and Sunil Santha’s Song for the Mother Tongue.” 

This article highlights commonalities of regional nationalism between the poetry and song of two Hela Havula (The Pure Sinhala Fraternity) members: Rapiyel Tennakoon and Sunil Santha. I reveal how their creative works advocated indigenous empowerment in opposition to Indian cultural hegemony, and against state solicitations for foreign consultation about Sinhala language planning and Sinhalese music development. Tennakoon challenged the negative portrayal of Sri Lankan characters in the Indian epic, the Ramayana, and Santha fashioned a Sri Lankan form of song that could stand autonomous from Indian musical influence. Tennakoon lashed out against the Sinhala-language dictionary office’s hire of German professor Wilhelm Geiger as consultant, and Santha quit Radio Ceylon in 1953 when the station appealed to Professor S.N. Ratanjankar, from North India, for advise on designing a national form of Sri Lankan music. Such dissent betrays an effort to define the nation not in relation to the West, but to explicitly position it in relation to India. A study of Tennekoon and Santha’s careers and compositions supplement the many works that focus on how native elite in South Asia fashioned a modern national culture in relation to the West, with an awareness of regional nationalist, non-elite communities—who also had a stake in defining the nation—struggling against inter-South Asian cultural hegemony.GARRETT FIELD Rapiyel Tennakoon


2013    “‘Handa Eliya’ (The Moonlight): Mahagama Sekera’s Experimental Prose.” Sagar: A South Asia Research Journal 21.
2010    “From Threatened by Modernity to Reinvented by Modernity: The History of the History of Indian Classical Music 1980 – 2006.” Ethnomusicology Review 15.

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  1. Pingback: The Arya and Hela Schools of Sinhala Song | Thuppahi's Blog

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