By Helasingha Bandara –
The consequential lull of the recent presidential and parliamentary elections may have been the cause of the lapse of my attention to Sri Lanka affairs for the past two years. The raging debate on the no-confidence motion on which the future of Sri Lanka impinged, has rekindled that interest. I have read a few good articles on that issue in the past couple of weeks.
Being inspired or offended by the use of ‘Wannihamy’, as the name of a certain commentator, I decided to write this piece. The purpose of the write up is not to analyse his/her comments per say or meant as a personal attack on him/her, but to draw attention to the authenticity of the name which has enormous sentimental value to me as I hail from Wanni Hathpaththuwa and belong to the people who bore such names.
After the early 70s such names were no longer fashionable and parents of that era selected different names for their children, to avoid bullying by their peers and society in general as such names had become old fashioned, rustic, obsolete, rather rural, and remote. Before this trend most men of the Wanni Hathpathuwa were, Wannihamys, Appohamys, Ranhamys, Menikhamys, Suddahamys, Kapuruhamys, Hethuhamys, Kirihamys, Mudalihamys and so on. If the commentator has adopted it as a nom de plume, it could be either with some connection to the people of Wanni Hathpaththuwa or with great sarcasm.
If mockery was the intention, here is some factual information and self-assertions to enlighten likeminded people. I have no knowledge as to whether Hamu preceded Hami or the reverse. Whichever the order, the name belongs to a clan with warrior mentality who ruled Wanni Hathpaththuwa. My heritage taught me those facts when I was a young man in my twenties. I am no historian to explain things with such accuracy like A. Suddahamy who wrote the book “Demala Hathpaththuwa Nam Wu Hathpaththuwe Rata” which contains specific facts to support my knowledge that was passed to me by my parents and relatives. Darshanie Ratnawalli may be able to add some factual insight into the history of Wanni Hathpaththuwa and its rulers.
Wanni Hathpaththuwa is a real place that exists in Sri Lanka although the term ‘Wanni’ is used for different areas with different connotations. The modern North Western province was the old Sath koralaya: Demala Hathpaththuwa, Wanni Hathpaththuwa, Devamedi Hathpaththuwa, Dambadeni Hathpaththuwa, Weudawilli Hathpaththuwa, Hiriyala Hathpaththuwa and Katugampola Hathpaththuwa. Demala Hathpaththuwa which includes both Kumara Wanni Hathpaththuwa and Raja Wanni Hathpathuwa is the only one out of the seven that was separated later as the Puttalam District where as the rest of the six Korales still remain within the Kurunegala District. The subject Wanni Hathpaththuwa has Nikaweratiya as its capital while belonging to the Kurunegala district. Wanni was once defined by Kandubodagama Seelananda Maha Thero, the then chief prelate of the Yapahuwa Raja Maha Viharaya, as a derivation of the term Warnaneeya (meaning praiseworthy). Considering its natural beauty and the heroism of its people, shall we call it Warnaneeya Wanni Hathpaththuwa?
For the most part of history during monarchic rule, Wanni Hathpaththuwa had remained an autonomous principality for its geographical location, dry weather and people who were known as aggressors, difficult to deal with and who had refused to pay royalties to the central kingdom. The Europeans kept away for the same reasons as well as the mosquitos. It has always been ruled by the Wanni Unnehes, Wanni Hamus/mys or Wanninayakas. In this respect Wanni Hamys, Unnehes or Nayakas had been the rulers and thus the royalty. They had represented the Wanni Hathpaththuwa at royal occasions at the kandy palaces on invitation by the king despite refusing to pay royalties to the king.
Let’s look at more recent times and analyse these Wanniyars. Semasingha Nawarathna Wanninayaka Mudiyanse became Hulugalle Maha Adhikarama, the great adigar of Hulugalla who was Mahaadhikarama for the whole country for some time. His descendants include Kavisena Herath (grandson), Ranjani Herath (great granddaughter, wife of Jayarathna Herath, a former minister of Parliament) and H.A. J. Hulugalle (former editor of Ceylon Daily News). Hulugalla is a small village about six kilometres from Nikaweratiya, an adjacent village to where I was born. Hulugalla is the name of the tank below which Semasingha Nawarathna Wanninayaka Mudiyanse built his house and adopted the name Hulugalla. We must be historically related as it happens that my mother’s name starts with Semasingha Nawarathna and extends to Situ Bandaralage Kumarihamy. It cannot be a coincidence. Hulugalla is one of the famous five rock tanks built by King Mahasena: Hulugalla (sulu gala or small rock), Magalla (maha gala or large rock), Kirindigalla (rock full of Kirindi trees), Madagalla (rock in the mud), Atharagalla (rock in between) and all of them are situated in or around Wanni Hathpaththuwa.
In addition to the names of Wanni suffixes they are all Bandas (Herathbanda Wanninayaka, a former Minister, Ukkubanda Wanninayaka, a former Finance Minister, Herathbanda Aberathna, former Minister, Puncibanda Jayasundara former Treasury Secretary), Mudiyanses (Mudiyanse Tennakoon of Podiputha fame), Dissanayakas, Abesinghas, Wijekoons, Semasinghas, Nawarathnas and Tennakoons. It is appropriate to add some famous Bandas to this list as a myth buster. They are Tikiribanda (Rajasingha 1, the greatest warrior of the modern Sri Lanka history) Dingiribanda (Former President), Kiribanda (Former Speaker/Sports Minister), Dingiribanda (Mohottalage Dingiribanda, former Minister), Dingiribanda Welagedara (former Minister) Punchibanda Meedeniya (of Irangani Meedeniya/Serasingha fame), Ranbanda Madugalle, Ranbanda Senavirathna, etc.
My assertion is that people from the old British colonies have the subservient mentality to assume that those who know English are better than others. This is more prevalent among the people who directly benefited from foreign rule and held various positions under the colonial masters. Other people, particularly people in Europe and those who have learnt without the influence of the colonialists, do not attach any greater importance to those who can handle the English language. English is just another language and is not rocket science. Anyone can learn it given the right opportunity. Possessing the knowledge of it does not make any difference to a person’s real value in terms of honour, respect, dignity and contribution to society. My attempt is not to undermine the status that the English language holds as an international Lingua Franca nor is it to underestimate the benefits one can reap if they know English. Simply to point out that the ability to handle that language does not make anyone a better human being in any sense.
It is obvious that Wanni people refused to work under the foreigners and they battled against foreign rule. Sath Koralaye Satana of the modern era and the negating of South Indian invader advances beyond Yapahuwa, Hiriyala and Anamaduwa electorates in the bygone era are some heroic deeds that the historians have failed to attach due importance and give credit to those people of Wanni Hathpaththuwa, Hiriyala Hathpaththuwa and Demala Hathpaththuwa. The consequence of their refusal to accept foreign rule, their language, religion and culture was that they were denied opportunities to take part in Sri Lanka’s modernisation. This affected their social and economic status but not their honour, respect or dignity.
Dear Mr. Wannihamy, in my view those names are great and those who had them served the country or at least their region with respect and dignity. Adopting such a name has raised your profile regardless of your intentions. Inadvertently or advertently you have come into the midst of greats.