Why the National Anthem Should be Changed to Hela Jathika Abhimane?
Posted on December 15th, 2010

– Kumar Moses  

Now that the national anthem and the way it is sung are discussed widely, it is the opportune time to revisit the appropriateness of it altogether. The present national anthem has been in existence since the 1940s although it was officially adopted in 1951. According to some accounts it was sung at the Independence Day celebrations in 1948. Sri Lanka has undergone tremendous changes thereafter and the appropriateness of “ƒ”¹…”Sri Lanka Matha’ to the modern nation is debatable. It has a number of flaws if one reads it objectively and compare with national anthems of other nations.

 1. The main drawback is it’s disconnect with the past. This has a triple impact on the nation. The name, flag and the national anthem all are disconnected from the past. The name has changed from Hela to Sri Lanka; flag from the lion flag to a more complicated one and of course the national anthem has no mentioning whatsoever of the glorious history we are proud of! If in doubt please read the verses carefully. Not even a slight mentioning of our proud history in our national anthem. What is the worth of a national anthem with such outright exclusion of the nation’s foundations?

 The island nation of Sri Lanka didn’t emerge from the British rule. It has a history spanning more than 3,000 years. Even events that took place before Wijaya’s arrival constitute our glorious history. According to the North Indian epic Mahabharata, Sinhalas – the natives and rulers of “Lanka” (as it was known then to the North Indians) – took part in the Kurukshetra War as a distinct nation. According to scientific evidence the War occurred around 1500 BCE roughly 1,000 years before Wijaya’s arrival.

 Great civilisations of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa mesmerised the world. Without regard to the basis of our existence that can be traced back to our history, we cannot build a nation. The land we were born remain so solely because of the efforts of our forefathers. It must be acknowledged in the national anthem. Sri Lankans will surely be called upon to defend their nation once again. Sri Lanka is not another Australia or Canada where the national anthem can afford to cut off the present from the past.

 Hela Jathika Abimane is a popular patriotic song that has been around for half a century. It clearly links the past to the present and more importantly to the future. Its relevance from verse to verse is tremendous. Simply imagine it being sung as the national anthem! 

 2. Another huge fault of Sri Lanka Matha is although it harps on what the nation can and should provide us it is completely silent about what we can give in return to the nation! Quoted from the national anthem: “Plenteous in prosperity, Thou,

Beauteous in grace and love, Laden with grain and luscious fruit, And fragrant flowers of radiant hue, Giver of life and all good things” Its all about what we can get. It gets even more dramatic in the following verse. “Thou gavest us Knowledge and Truth, Thou art our strength and inward faith, Our light divine and sentient being, Breath of life and liberation. Grant us, bondage free, inspiration” Shouldn’t there be anything in return?

 As the literary meaning goes Mother Lanka has given knowledge and taken the nation’s children to greener pastures (abroad)!

 All these verses must change to emphasise on what we can do for the Motherland and certainly not the other way round.

 Hela Jathika Abhimane on the other hand very clearly specifies the duties and goals of the citizens towards their nation. It calls or rather screams for action; demands the citizenry to decorate the Motherland with prosperity and touches on old and modern economic realities. My attempt at translating it into English is as follows.  

Proud to be a Hela national

Follow the footsteps of our heroic forefathers

Decorate thy Motherland

Won with great sacrifices

Revive, revive and get ready

 

We inherited the heroics of

Our forebears who guarded

This nation with honor

And we shall not become complacent

Like the sailor faring the seven seas

Or the farmer ruling the land

Shall not give in to setbacks

Or to conceit in joy

For we believe in righteousness

For we trust in honesty  

 

Gushing waters of great rivers

Are turned back to farms

Rejuvenating wealth creation

Reminiscent of the past glory of

The Granary of the East

Let us vow to revive

Prosperity in our motherland

Bringing back the Great Perakum era

To Sri Lanka

Our motherland once more.  

 3. The goose bumps effect. Sri Lanka Matha lacks the goose bumps effect compared the Hela Jathika Abhimane. The latter can easily whip up patriotism in hearts young and old as no other song can. It is a definite theme song played in all military bands, schools and during national celebrations. However, it is no military or war song. It is certainly no baila song either as it would not be played at such esteemed events if it was a mere popular sensation. The words, rhythm and flow perfectly match with the theme of the song. Few modifications may be needed but that’s going to be minor.

 In all fairness it should be translated to Tamil for the use by Tamil brethren, not because the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister wants the Sri Lankan national anthem in Tamil but because it is the right thing to do. While he wants the Sri Lankan national anthem to be sung in Tamil, the Indian national anthem is not allowed to be sung in Tamil in Tamil Nadu! Such hypocrisy and cowardice! The national anthem must be close to every singer’s heart. It is not a foreign song recited based on the sound it generates by copying others. It must have meaning to the singer.

 However, the Tamil translation may lead to controversy. Come to think of it nothing is without controversy in Sri Lanka, may it be the flag, the national anthem, the name and even the capital. Ways and means of overcoming controversies should be found. When translated to Tamil, it may go as “Elam Thesiya”. There is no need to get excited about it as Elam was the name Tamils (mainly outsiders of the island) used to call Sri Lanka and unless it is twisted to mythical Tamil Elam, there is no harm in it. Elam is a derivative of Hela as the sound “h” is confused in Tamil with either “a” or “k”. Alternatively the name Ilankai may be used.

 Adopting an action oriented and relevant national anthem is needed to arouse and sustain patriotism and a sense of belongingness among them citizenry. Let us not refuse to change what needs to be changed. 

6 Responses to “Why the National Anthem Should be Changed to Hela Jathika Abhimane?”

  1. anura seneviratna Says:

    Salutations to Kumar for your noble national sentiments. Indeed this song is the perfect one for our national anthem with minor adjustments.

    “Sinhalas – the natives and rulers of “Lanka” (as it was known then to the North Indians) – …”

    Lanka was never the name of this Island country, it was a name uttered by the Indians. Hence, its most original and authentic name is Heladiva since before written history as our history is beyond written history.

    ” In all fairness it should be translated to Tamil ….”

    This is a destructive suggestion. No country allows the national anthem in more than ONE language. The reason is it will contribute to threats to the National Sovereignty of a country and it was clearly demonstrated by the recent Tamil invasive terror attempts. The Tamil national anthem or a national anthem in Tamil can be legal, moral and justifiable ONLY in the Tamil country of Tamil Nadu.

  2. Kit Athul Says:

    Ho Ho, it’s time to change. We MUST NOT ALLOW TAMIL NADU TAMILS TO TALK ABOUT Sri Lanka national anthem. Thank you Kumar Moses. This is an excellent suggestion. Before Wijaya SINDS from North India (Now a province Pakistan) came to Lanka and got mixed with Helays and SIN-HALA came togather. Tamil Nadu Tamils hate this analysis. Sorry, ANURA, this must be allowed to be translated to TAMIL. Your fairness please take it to Tamil Nadu.

  3. ranjit Says:

    100% I agree with Moses.We need to change with the time but I dont agree translating the national anthem to Tamil language because National anthem is one for all citizens in a country. We dont dance according to any Tamil individual or any outside Government we are Sinhalese nation living side by side with other races in harmony and in peace for long time therefore it should be in Sinhala language only. Nobody can dictate us.Let the Tamils go to Tamil Nadu and make their own Anthem if they wish.No arguments in this subject.Every single citizen born and bread in Sri Lanka should respect our Lion Flag and the National Anthem if they wish to be a SRI LANKAN.

  4. M.S.MUdali Says:

    // The island nation of Sri Lanka didn’t emerge from the British rule. It has a history spanning more than 3,000 years. Even events that took place before Wijaya’s arrival constitute our glorious history. According to the North Indian epic Mahabharata, Sinhalas – the natives and rulers of “Lanka” (as it was known then to the North Indians) – took part in the Kurukshetra War as a distinct nation. According to scientific evidence the War occurred around 1500 BCE roughly 1,000 years before Wijaya’s arrival.//

    Can anyone tell me which part of Maha Bharatha mentions this “fact”?

    According to this story Prince Vijaya is a ZERO in Sri Lankan history!

    LIONS never existed in Sri Lanka or India or Britain! Lion story itself a farce. Who will believe it?

  5. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    According to the Tamil Dictionary published by University of Madras, Elam is a Pali word – not a dravidian word. Elam has the same meaning as Hela and Sinhala

    BTW Wild lions currently exist in sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia, with an endangered remnant population in Gir Forest National Park in India, having disappeared from North Africa and Southwest Asia in historic times. Until the late Pleistocene, about 10,000 years ago, the lion was the most widespread large land mammal after humans. They were found in most of Africa, across Eurasia from western Europe to India, and in the Americas from the Yukon to Peru. Lions have been known to breed with tigers (most often the Siberian and Bengal subspecies). Lions also have been crossed with leopards and jaguars.

  6. Nalliah Thayabharan Says:

    ආයුබෝවන් Mr M.S.Mudali
    Ceylon Lion – Panthera leo sinhaleyus is only known from two teeth found in deposits at Kuruwita – a town in the Ratnapura District. Based on these two teeth,well known naturalist Mr P E P. Deraniyagala erected this Panthera leo sinhaleyus in 1939. Mr Deraniyagala did not explain explicitly how he diagnosed the holotype of this prehistoric subspecies as belonging to a lion, though he justified its allocation to a distinct prehistoric subspecies of lion by its being “narrower and more elongate” than those of recent lions in the British Natural History Museum collection. According to Mr Deraniyagala Panthera leo sinhaleyus was endemic to Sri Lanka, became extinct prior to the arrival of culturally modern humans about 40,000 years ago. However, there is insufficient information to determine how it might differ from other subspecies of lion.
    Further studies would be necessary because it is extremely difficult to differentiate a canine tooth of similar species of animals. Even the Ratnapura rainforest habitat is most suited to tigers than lions. The first tiger fossil was found in 1962 in Ratnapura. In 1982 a tiger phalanx – 17,000 years old – was found in Batadoma, Kuruwita

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