Skip to Content

Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2705

Dr. Fernando is wrong again

By Janaka Perera

With reference to Dr. Mithra Fernando's article, "An apology for mistaken identity but the measles remain a handicap" (Asian Tribune August 21) it appears that he is wrong again – this time on Anagarika Dharmapala. He says that Anagarika Dharmapala (1864-1933), was born in Colombo as a Christian named David Hewavitarane.

He was mot born a Christian. He was born into a Buddhist family that hailed from the South. His father was Don Carolis Appuhamy (Mudaliyar Don Carolis Hewavitharane) - founder of H. Don Carolis & Sons furniture dealers - came from Matara to do business in Colombo. His father was Dingiri Appuhamy of Hittetiya Matara, who was a brother of the Venerable Hittatiye Attadassi, a leading bhikku at the time.

Don Carolis married Mallika, daughter of Don Andiris Dharmagunawardena, then a well-known Buddhist philanthropist (The Vidyodaya Pirivena has been built on a land donated by him). Mallika gave birth to her first child on September 17, 1864 . He was named Don David Hewavitharane (later Anagarika Dharmapala).

There is story about young David - who attended a Christian School - keeping away from classes on Vesak Day (which was not a public holiday then) and being punished by the school authorities as result. He of course had a good knowledge of Christianity and used that knowledge to the maximum in arguing his case for restoring Buddhist rights and promoting the Sinhala Buddhist cause in an era when many Westernized Sinhala and other local Christians – aided and abetted by the white Colonial masters - were dominating the socio-political scene and marginalizing Buddhists.

Adopting European first names or surnames however was a fashion in that colonial era. Many Sinhalas had pictures of Queen Victoria hung on the walls of their houses. But this was not necessarily because they were Christians. Several my older relatives born in the late 19th or early 20th century have had European names but they were staunch Buddhists. The difference between them and Sinhala Christians was that the latter usually had more European or Christian first names than Buddhists ( e.g. Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike).

- Asian Tribune -

Also Read: An Apology for mistaken identity but the measles remains a handicap.

Share this