Words Sonali Kadurugamuwa Photographs Mahesh Prasantha
Amidst The Square Of Independence
Sri Lanka is recently a nation of pure independence than it was just after its freedom from colonialism in 1948. The Independence Square stands true to this now, more than ever. A place shielded by hearts of lions, stairwells edged by the strength of dragons and a stone emblem of a man, a father and advocate for his people, and his country, still stands in unison through the ages, in its patronage to a nation.
A matter of freedom you say… to laugh, to hum a carefree tune, to enjoy a quiet recreational meander through and around the wind swept enclosures in one with your being… a space, which until 1948 was merely a name, and not yet a symbol to which, a nation looks upon now as a salutation, a resurgence to victory through INDEPENDENCE. Right here in this very moment, I see the Square for its resilience, its meaning and most of all, its presence of permanence.
Stories, from the time Buddha laid foot in Sri Lanka, to ones that portray the country’s ultimate rise to freedom, embed the spaces between the roof and the tops of the pillars.
The lush wind-rustled trees bring a collaborative serenade of a past ceremony that once occurred here – the one that etched self-rule into the heart of its congregation that gathered on that cool, pleasant fourth day of February 1948. My thoughts continue to override my research of the Memorial Hall in which the ceremony of freedom triumphed. I imagine it to be dressed in an impression of commemoration, of faces that had once shed sweat, were rested, a podium with several officials, heads held high, declaring its renewed independent state. The architecture of the Kandyan bred Magul Maduwa is said to shed light on these meticulously pied details of the Independence Square’s Memorial Hall. One can observe shades of brown washed carved pillars where stone flowers elegantly droop down from their tops, the monumental statue of the first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Rt Hon Don Senanayake braved by the surrounding lions and the roof transcending a picturesque contrast of red, roof tiles.
The Old Parliament
Time stands still, off course with the ever change of pace and the new age that unceasingly presents itself, as the Old Parliament building holds its maturity in an era wide open to the contemporary.Everyday, this former Parliament of Sri Lanka sees new additions within its vicinity, from the change of tide of the Indian Ocean facing it to the skyscrapers surrounding it. And everyday it retains the strength of its history with an influence, which dates back to colonial 1930, hailing a Baroque/Ionic style structure made for the Executive and Legislative Councils of the country. In its entirety the building is steadfast to the journey of exchanges that occurred within its walls – from housing the State Council the following year, and in the years thereafter being claimed by names such as the House of Representatives, National State Assembly…until finally it became the Parliament of Sri Lanka in the late1970’s, however, not before replacing its emblem or official insignia, from the British Coat of Arms to Ceylon, with the implementation of the Republican Constitution of Sri Lanka in 1972. Although Parliamentary affairs are a thing of the past for the old timer, after the Parliament was moved to Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte in 1983, the Old Parliament building lends its warm abode to both the Presidential Secretariat as well as the Ministry of Finance and Planning. Statues of the Prime Ministers of Ceylon, Rt Hon D. S. Senanayake, Hon Dudley Senanayake and General Sir John Kotalawela are grounded as permanent hosts and guardians of the Old Parliament building. The site’s colonial vintage is a reminder of a nation that once was, and a proud one at that. It is also an aide memoire of a tireless journey of a country that continues to adhere to a heritage that remains impenetrable, even through time. (refer pic 3)
Stories, from the time Buddha laid foot in Sri Lanka, to ones that portray the country’s ultimate rise to freedom, embed the spaces between the roof and the tops of the pillars.I take off my shoes to feel the coolness of the floor beneath my feet as I picture-read into the intensity of these stories that if read in book, would begin, ‘Once a upon a time, over 2500 years ago….’
As the 63rd year of independence is just around the corner, it is yet another year for the Independence Square… a place that the people of this nation believe is not just a site to see, but also a path to follow and epitomises the pride of the Nation.