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Last updated
13/06/07

155th Birth Anniversay of Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan -  C. Shanmuganayagam, April 2006
சேர் பொன்னம்பலம் இராமநாதன் - நம்முள் கவீரன், Thinakural, 17 September 2006
From S.Arumugam's Dictionary of Biography of the Tamils of Ceylon

Sir P.Ramanathan, was the second son of Ponnambalam Mudaliyar and Sellachi Ammaiyar, daughter of Gate Mudaliyar Coomaraswamy. He was born on 16th April 1851 .He had his early education at the Royal Academy (now the Royal College) and proceeded to Presidency College Madras, for higher studies. On his return, he chose the legal profession and became an Advocate of the Colombo Bar in 1874. As a young Advocate he became prominent by editing the Law Reports of the previous thirty six years. Subsequently he was appointed Editor of the official Law Reports, which position he held for nearly ten years.

His first sortie into the political arena was in 1879, when at the age of 28, he was chosen for the Nominated Unofficial Member seat in the Legislative Council, in preference to a senior Advocate C. Britto. It was a very keen contest, when several public meetings were held in Jaffna. He secured the seat which his distinguished grandfather had occupied. He was later called to the English Bar (Inner Temple) At the age of 38, he was a Senior Barrister, with over fifteen years legal experience and was, also the Unofficial Leader of the Legislative Council. 

He was invited by the Government to function as Solicitor General. He accepted and held that position from 1892 to 1908. When, in 1903, Kings Counsels were appointed in Ceylon, Ramanathan was one of the first to receive that honour... His lectures on Hinduism and Hindu Philosophy, delivered in the United States, were published by his wife later. In 1911, he won the election for the Educated Ceylonese seat in the Legislative Council, defeating  Dr.Marcus Fernando, a popular Physician. He retained the seat for over ten years. 

He was very much in the forefront during the 1915 riots in Ceylon, when he battled for the release of  the Sinhalese leaders who were held in detention. He even made a hazardous journey to England, during the first World War, to present their case personally. He won their release and on his return, the supporters of the leaders showed their appreciation by carrying him in a palanquin from the landing jetty. 

Ramanathan was a lawyer, legislator, scholar, statesman and silver-tongued orator. He was Knighted in 1921, when he was seventy years old, and Nominated Unofficial Member of the Legislative Council 1922-1924. When territorial representation was introduced, he contested and won the Valikamam North Seat, in the Jaffna Peninsula, which he occupied from l924 until his demise on 26th November 1930, almost 80 years old.

His monumental contribution to education was the establishment of two Schools, the Ramanathan College for Girls established at Chunnakam in 1913, and the Parameshwara College for boys, eight years later. The latter has since become the Jaffna University Campus.

He rebuilt the Hindu Sivan Temple, commenced by his father in Colombo, in granite stone sculpture. The elaborate stone sculptures seen on the pillars are the subject of a booklet published separately.

Besides the Ramanathan Reports and Supreme Court Circulars collected and edited by him, he has authored the following writings 

- in English -  The Culture of the Soul Among Western Nations , Commentary on the Gospel according to St.John, Commentary on the Gospel according to St.Mathew.

- in Tamil -  Translation of the Bhagavad Gita with Notes and Commentaries, Senthamil Ilakanam and others.

Books by Ramanathan

THE RAMAYANA: The Wanderings of Shri Raman, From Ayothya to Langka in the Early Part of Thretha Yugam
Eastern Exposition of the Gospel of Jesus According to St. John, Being an interpretation Thereof
The Culture of the Soul Among Western Nations
 

One Hundred Tamils of the 20th Century

Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan K.C.
1851-1930

[see also Contribution of some leading Ceylon Tamils to the Constitutional and Political Development of Ceylon during the 19th and 20th centuries -A. Jeyaratnam Wilson ]


From the Forgotten Aspect of Ramanathan's Life Work by M.K.Eelaventhan, May 2001..

Early Life 
Contribution to Hinduism 
Ramanathan's stand on Battle of the Sites for the First University 
Opposition to 1930 Donoughmore Constitution 
On Land & Territory Supporting Plantation Tamils
Two Statues - but different inscriptions 
Ramanathan belittled, Arunachalam sidelined, and the beginning of broken pacts and evasive proposals 
Conclusion

Early Life

... Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan’s entry into public life was at the instance of Maraithiru Arumuga Navalar in 1879. In 1911, he was chosen as candidate to contest and fill the vacancy that arose in the legislative assembly for the All Ceylon Educated Members seat. He was elected. The other contesting candidate was a member of the Sinhala community. The Sinhala Muslim riots take place in the year 1915. The Governor declared martial law. This was harsh. Ramanathan at the behest of his compatriots left for the United Kingdom. The voyage was in the submarine infested waters (of World War I) and his truimphant return was celebrated with a lot of fanfare by being hand drawn in a “Vel Cart  - Ther” by the then Sinhala leadership. 

However, within a period of four years he recognised that events were moving in a direction he did not agree with. In 1919, Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam, his younger brother was elected as President of the Ceylon National Congress. As is the eastern tradition Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam sought his brothers’ blessings to which Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan cautioned him and said “Thamby go ahead, but take care you will presently meet with a storm which will hurl you off the chair". 


Contribution to Hinduism

.... in my view the most significant contribution of Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan to his religion, Saivaism, was the renovation of the Ponnampalavaneswarar Temple at Kochikade. The Temple was built by his father Ponnambalam. The structure was of sand bricks and mortar. Ramanathan took it upon himself to reconstruct the temple at the very sight in granite. The architectural splendour is no less than what is seen in the Temple built by Raja Raja Cholan the great. The Thanjai Peruvudiyar Kovil.and Raja Rajans son Rajendra Cholan’s Gangai Konda Cholapuram. The architectural splendour is unrivalled in Sri Lanka. 


Ramanathan's stand on Battle of the Sites for the First University

Ramanathan was an assertive member of the University movement. It is in recognition of his contribution that a hall is named after him at the Peradeniya University, in gratitude. There was a difference of opinion between him and his brother Sir. P.Arunachalam over the choice of siting of the university. Ramanathan was of the opinion that the site should be elsewhere, other in a Sinhala dominated location. Sir P.Arunachalam favoured Peradeniya, for its excellent ambience. This is discussed in an article written under the heading “The Battle of Sites". This gives an inkling into the thought process of Ramanathan. i.e. the domination of the majority community in the field of education. Sir P Arunachalam became closer to the views held by Ramanathan very much later. 


Opposition to Donoughmore Constitution

...He made another risky voyage to Britain to protest on matters concerning the proposed Donoughmore reforms that were proposed in 1930. His pleas with the British about the Donoughmore proposals failed. He returned a defeated, dejected, lonely man in early 1930, following his failed attempts to amend the basis of franchise, introduced into the Donoughmore Reforms.  His arrival was cold-shouldered and ignored...

The (Sinhala owned) Ceylon Daily News... had this to say ... on his death. 

“ Unluckily in later years his increasingly reactionary outlook caused by his resolute opposition to the Donoughmore Reforms and the extension of franchise and by the communalism, ... coloured his political thinking. The subsequent course of history has shown the error of these views but time has also softened our view of the man who held them and enable us to judge his earlier efforts for his country at their proper worth. In spite of his later years of apostasy the greatness of Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan and the magnitude of his achievement in the service of this country was universally recognised. Sixteen years after his death a grateful people erected a statue to his memory” 

However, it is my view that Ramanathan's resolute opposition to the Donoghmore reforms was his most treasured contribution. It was an out come of his total comprehension of what was in store for his community. It was mature, lucid and said so firmly and with conviction... It is this phase that influenced later Tamil leaders... (Indeed) it is the substance of the controversy that prevails now

His invaluable contribution to the Tamil community became emphatic and purposeful when he realised that unwittingly or otherwise, the community was being marginalized. His view of the Donoughmore Reforms was summed in a punch line “Donoughmore means Tamils no more “ 

His difficulty was with the replacement of the franchise that made only the educated eligible by a universal vote. The expansion of the voter base immediately set in motion a change in composition of the Legislature and the cabinet. He eloquently stated-

“The Donoughmore Reforms was a sin before God and man. I see an ugly mob in the streets.”

It is relevant to quote from the Hansard page 1350 of 1928. which reads as follows:

“Then with regard to the universal suffrage, they give us 1,500,000 votes mostly of the Sinhalese community. I have no complaint against the Sinhalese. Long may the Sinhalese live Sir. But out of these 1,500,000 voters how many will vote? Not more than 50,000 or 60,000 will vote, because they cannot vote properly at a secret ballot. When the voters come, they in the nature of things will put in their own countrymen. I once heard the great Gladstone in Edinburgh during his Midlothian campaign. I was on the same platform with him when he told us: 

“I expect every Englishman to be an Englishman, every Scotsman to be a Scotsman every Welshman to be a Welshman and every Irishman to be an Irishman” 

Every nation will have their own leaders and those leaders will speak for a particular nation and espouse their cause generally. Otherwise, there will be confusion and conflict. Now then, is it not natural for a Sinhalese man to vote for a Sinhalese gentleman of his constituency? Then who will be the representatives in the Legislative Council? Most of representatives of the Legislative Council would be Sinhalese gentleman. I bear no ill will towards them. 

I believe that the minority and majority community should prosper. Then if the council constituted, as it would be under the new scheme of election, elects the ministers would it not be a death blow to the minority communities? How can I agree to that? Are we to be just and righteous? Or are we to treat politics as a game for competition? I say I find this difficult. This is not mentioned here. 

If it is said that the legislative council should elect ministers as it stands now I will say all right, but some people would say, “Not as it stands now but according to the wishes of the Donoughmore Commissioners”, I say No that will not do. That will work the greatest possible harm to the minorities... If we accept the Donoughmore recommendations, we will see that there is death to the minority communities and that we should not be a party to that." 

He was firmly of the view that Communal Representation should be the basis of elections to the legislative council. The report submitted by Sir P. Arunachalam to the Governor also stresses this view. 

Ramanathan in ending his speech on Donoughmore Reforms said 

“I think Sir I have said all that I need say considering the exceedingly difficult task that I had to perform, standing on my legs and speaking for such lengths of time it would have suited my personal feelings better if I have said ' let things drift, wherever they may' but Sir unfortunately I am not bred that way. To the last breath of my life; I shall raise my voice against tyranny and for the suppression of falsehood. That is my reason for speaking at such length. "


On Land & Territory

It appears appropriate to quote from the Memorandum, Ramanathan submitted to the British Government on the Donoughmore Reforms. 

“The birth right of every human being is the territory, the family, the language, the tribe, the society and the religion into which he was ushered into by God. ....

Equally illegal and sorrowful is the political extinction recommended by the Commissioner of the Burgher, Mohammedans, Indian and Western Province Tamil constituencies.

Communal representation was granted to these communities by the Order in Council of 1923 which provided that there should be 12 officials and 37 non officials of whom 23 should be elected territorially and 11 communally and 3 nominated. This constitution [the1923 Order in Council] placed the Ceylon Legislature on par with The House of Commons....The then secretary of state, the Duke of Devonshire as the mouthpiece of His Majesty’s Government; gave a distinct pledge in his dispatch to Governor..."

Ramanathan was acutely conscious that a defined territory was basic for identification of a people. Any tinkering with the identified traditional areas inhabited by the Tamil people was not to be fiddled about with. I believe in current terminology this would be described as 'Demographic Engineering'. We see the beginnings of moves in this direction in the 'Nachchaduwa Scheme', as early as the latter part of the second decade of the 20th century. Here the Sinhala leadership did alter a Tamil electorate to that of a Sinhala one. Ramanathan along with other colleagues in the state assembly vehemently opposed these moves. The idea of the need for a clearly demarked land area therefore could be traced to no lesser person than Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan...

In the history of the Eelam struggle S.J.V.Chelvanayagam stressed the value of land for the Tamil community. His lieutenant Dr.E.M.V.Naganathan in his inimitable style said in Parliament 

“Birds have their sanctuary animals have their wild life reservation but Tamils do not have a territory of their own"

It was a statement that came from his inner depths - from a man who was frustrated that his community were being driven literally  from their bearings. 

C.Vanniasingham a founding member of the Federal Party, President of the Tamil Arasukkadchi and an M.P., a puritan, and a devout adherent to SJV had observed that on every occasion on which the Tamils were at the receiving end of a thrashing, they were able to seek refuge in the North and East. If these provinces failed to provide a haven, a sanctuary for the Tamils, which way can they turn except to drown themselves in the sea. 

...Mohammed Ali Jinnah the father of Pakistan, a legal luminary along with being a freedom fighter in his address to the students of University of Aligarh in 1942 said the following 

“ Oh you Muslim youths, we are not a minority but what is the use of declaring that we are not a minority, we are undoubtedly a nation but a Nation cannot be created in vacuum. We must have a clear demarcated territory of our own, and govern it. The greatest task that has befallen upon us since the fall of the Mogul Empire.” 

Mukerjhee an eminent historian in his book “Hindu Civilisation “states categorically 

“Land is not only necessary for the expression of an ethnic group but also for its survival"

On the birth of India and Pakistan, the fate of the Hindu state of Kashmir was in issue then and the issue continues to date. The Indian Constitution in spite of Kashmir being an integral part of India states in section 370 of its constitution that no one other than a Kashmiri shall be permitted to acquire land in Kashmir. This basic safeguard was included in the Indian constitution to ensure that the demographic structure of Kashmir was not interfered with...

The activity of  ULFA in Assam is also worthy of note. Refugees from East Bengal are spilling over into Assam. The arrival of these refugees in very large numbers is unwittingly or otherwise, altering the indigenous influence of the local population in the affairs of state. The natural response is to resist that change...


Supporting Plantation Tamils 

Ramanathan’s perseverance for the Tamil cause did not confine itself only to that of the Tamils of indigenous origin but also to the upcountry (plantation) Tamils. The upcountry Tamil’s right to franchise was in jeopardy. They were already earmarked for disfranchisement because of Sinhala fear that the ethnic balance would be altered. Ramanathan valiantly championed the cause of the upcountry Tamils. 

He defended their right to voting rights in his speech in the Legislative Assembly [Page 1791 Hansard Volume 111-1928] 

“ The Sinhalese tossed in a storm 2,500 years ago were washed ashore on this island. How can they make up their minds and call for the 'Indians' to “Get Out “ The upcountry worker of India arrived in this island under different circumstances. The Sinhalese would not kill a scorpion or a snake and choose to shoo them away. (But) their conduct in this instance was not consistent with the Buddha Dhamma and Santhana dharma."

Ramanathan was around 78 years when he rose to the defence of the workers of Indian origin. 

The problem continued to fester long after he was gone. The consequence of the deprived vote did provoke SJV to remark 

‘It is their throats now. Ours would be the next “ 

C.N. Annadurai, the Dravida Munetra Kalagam (DMK) Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu said “They were being discarded like crushed oranges".  

“ They were treated as if it was a horse deal” said, Dr.E.M.V.Naganathan. To refer to them in more current usage it would be appropriate to say they were treated like “Karapincha” 


Two Statues - but the different inscriptions

...The difference in the handling of the statues built for the two eminent brothers is worth looking at. 

There was hesitancy, reluctance by the (Sinhala dominated) Legislature in their appreciation of the contribution made by Sir P.Ramanathan. This is reflected in the writing on the mount of his statute. The inscription reads 

" Knight, an advocate, a member of the Society of Michel George, Ceylonese representative of the Legislative Council. Erected on contributions made by the people.” 

He died in 1930 and the statue was completed in 1915, but installed only in 1946. 

As against this, despite Sir P.Arunachalam having established the Tamil League, a movement that was to echo the aspirations of the Tamil people, the League died within two years of its establishment without much ado. Perhaps, because of his muted performance as against that of his brother who survived him, the generosity of the inscription in his case is eloquent - 

"Sir P.Arunachalam 1853-1924.Educationist, endowed with political sagacity, able administrator, who dedicated his life in the service of the nation. He brought far-reaching changes by amendments to the Legislative Act. He served unceasingly for the establishment of the arts council. Memorial erected by a grateful Ceylonese public."

If the readers care to read a little into these lines they would reach an assessment of the difference in attitudes in the evaluation (by the Sinhala dominated legislature) of the contribution of the two brothers. 

The purpose for which Sir.P.Arunachalam set up the Tamil League could not be followed through because his life was cut short thereafter. On the other hand, Sir.P.Ramanathan was able to continue to express his views in this regard, which was in total harmony with that of his brother. He was blessed with a few more years after his brother’s death and this gave him sufficient time to campaign for the cause that was shared by him and his brother. Sir P.Arunachalam carried his passion of later years with him to his death - and therefore, it was a passion that remained away from the view of the other camp. Sir P.Ramanathan's bitter campaign in the latter years earned him the displeasure of the other camp. 


Ramanathan belittled, Arunachalam sidelined, and the beginning of broken pacts and evasive proposals

Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam was side lined and Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan was belittled. In the All Ceylon Legislative Assembly, the representation of the Sinhalese and the Tamils were at par. With the passage of a few years, the Tamil representation began to decline. 

It is necessary to repeat that Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam held the office of President of the Ceylon National Congress. It was agreed that a Tamil was to be nominated to the Western Province Legislative Assembly. That nominee was to be Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam. This was later denied. The Ceylon National Congress by now had begun to be dominated by the Sinhalese and Sinhala interests. Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam then broke away from this body to set up the Tamil League. 

It is precisely at this juncture in 1922, that Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam spoke:

“In the name of 'nationalism', in the name of cosmopolitanism I do not want my community to be reduced to the level of fish or foul nor red herring. I am determined to see that we raise our head and determine our future. I am aware that there are moves in certain quarters to intimidate me, but I refuse to succumb come what may. I shall raise my voice till the last against tyranny and oppression."

 His fury continued in the same strain, and said: 

“Who have done more for the welfare of All Ceylon than the Tamils? Who has fought more vigorously for the welfare of the Singhalese? In the dark days of 1915 when our Singhalese brethren were in distress and helpless who came to their rescue but the Tamils? That statue which was to be to the grateful memorial of the help rendered may as proposed in some quarters be flung into the sea “ 

The Tamil minority has been deceived on numerous occasions after the restoration of their rights were promised. It is significant that this trend began very early - in fact Ramanathan and Arunachalam along with several other Tamil leaders were at the receiving end of this breach of promise. 

One of the doyens of left politics in the history of Sri Lanka, Dr. N.M.Perera was a man of academic distinction and erudition. He noticed this phenomenon and said during the debate on the Sinhala Only Act in 1956:

 “In point of fact if you go back to the history of this country you will find that the minorities have been betrayed at every possible turn. From the time of D.S. Senanayake when the Donoughmore Reforms came up, the minorities particularly the Indian Community were given certain promises that were broken. Then again when the Soulbury Constitution too came up with similar concessions that were promised were broken right along. In the Indian Immigrants Bill various promises were made over and over again with regard to the treatment to be given to the Indians, and every one of these promises were broken in implementation of the Bill. In the light of that, are we surprised that the minorities are gibing at the acceptance of these assurances?"  [Hansard Language Debate 1956] 

It is ironic that the very learned and seemingly honest Dr.N.M.Perera performed a similar breach when he was given the opportunity to rectify the wrongs he earlier cried for. It was not only he but also his entire clique of Red shirts. Colvin R De Silva a stalwart leftist amongst them delivered the unkindest cut of all. 

When Senator Nadesan pleaded with him to retain section 29 a minority safe guard clause in the Soulbury Constitution in his New Constitution of 1972, he thought he was very witty when he told Senator Nadesan Q.C. “Politics was the art of the possible”. 

It is this very same Colvin who earlier held the view that if we went in for one language we would end up with two nations and if we opted for two languages we would have saved the whole nation or be left with one nation or something to that effect and and who said “If you thrust Sinhala down the throats of the Tamils, they would vomit it out like the Irish", who later relished shoving Sinhala not only down the throat of the Tamil people but who also ensured that it went right down. 


Conclusion

Ramanathan's post 1915 frustrations are deliberately or otherwise not commented on or written of by several commentators. The exception, of course, was Mr. M.Vythilingam, Emeritus Principal of The Hindu College, Chavakacheri.  I  had the privilege of being associated with the publication of this biography...

... Ramanathan was 64 years of age in 1915 and remained active and involved in public life till the ripe old age of 79 years. It was a significant and very mature fifteen years - and a disheartened fifteen years. He died in 1930. In the later years of Ramanathan's life, differences in the political goals between him and the Sinhala leadership began to widen. It is not incorrect to describe that they began to polarise.

When Sir. P.Ramanathan, denounced the Donoughmore Constitution, K.P.S.Menon the Indian Diplomat and scholar, who served in Ceylon in the 1920’s said:

 “One felt as a prophet had come from another world opening the eyes, stirring the hearts and shattering the illusions of, self complacent individuals”. 

I was privileged to meet his son K.P.S.Menon who held office as Foreign Secretary of India in 1987, when I met him to plead for help following the Vadamaradchi operation by the Sri Lanka security forces. 

During the course of our conversation in the South Block, New Delhi, I referred to what his father had to say on the occasion following Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan's speech. He was taken by surprise and remarked, did he say so? As promised, when I returned to Chennai I sent him a photocopy of the K.P.S. Menon's statement as it appeared in Volume 2 of the biography by Mr. M.Vythilingam, Emeritus Principal, Hindu College Chavakacheri. 

... the Right Honourable D.S Senanayake did describe Ramanathan as “the greatest Ceylonese that ever lived”. [note by tamilnation.org - D.S.Senanayake was perhaps not unmindful of the personal debt that he owed Ramanathan for helping to secure Senanayake's release from detention in 1915] And, Lord Rosebury a contemporary of Sir.P.Ramanathan is on record as having paid Ramanathan the tribute of being  “the most accomplished speaker in our empire "...

Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan by C. Shanmuganayagam, April 2006
Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan designated as ‘the greatest Ceylonese of all times’ by D. S. Senanayake, the first Prime Minister of independent Ceylon, was born on 15th April 1851, and passed away on 30th November 1930. He dominated the public life of this country like a colossus for well over 50 years during the last quarter of the 19th century, and the first quarter of the 20th century, as aptly stated by Dr. C.W.W. Kannangara, a senior Cabinet Minister. His 75th heath anniversary fell on 30th November 2005 and his 155th birth anniversary will fall on 15th April 2006.

He was a lawyer par excellence, a legislator of the highest probity championing the causes of all communities in the Island and a highly cultured philosopher-statesman, as envisaged in Plato’s ‘Republic’ and a devout spiritual seeker. He was enrolled as an Advocate in 1873, and enjoyed a lucrative practice at the Bar until 1886.

The Governor nominated him to the post of Unofficial Member of the Legislative Council in 1879, on the retirement of his illustrious uncle Sir Muthucoomaraswamy. (Who himself was an international figure, having been knighted personally by Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace in London, for his services to the comity of nations, and who was the father of Ananda Coomaraswamy, the well known international scholar). Ramanathan functioned as an Unofficial Member of the Legislative Council until 1892 and was hailed as a doughty fighter for the rights of all communities in the Island.

He was then appointed by the Governor as Solicitor-General in 1892 and functioned as such until 1906, and acted as Attorney-General on several occasions during this period. He availed himself of this period of service as a senior Law Officer of the Crown to introspect and produce very illuminating writings on Christian and Hindu spiritual themes. The Governor at that time Sir Henry Blake was so impressed with the depth of his spiritual writings, that he gave him one year’s leave from 1905 to 1906 to go on a lecture tour of USA to deliver talks on spiritual topics at the request of over 200 signatories to an invitation, calling upon him to enlighten the intelligentsia in the United States, in the wake of Swami Vivekananda’s spiritual awakening of the people of America 12 years earlier, in 1893 at the World Parliament of Religions.

Earlier during his tenure of office as Solicitor-General, he was nominated by the Government to represent Ceylon as a delegate to the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Queen Victoria in 1897 at London. At the request of Lord Salisbury, the Prime Minister at that time, he delivered an eloquent speech at the celebrations, dressed in his immaculate long coat and turban, which was greatly appreciated by all present. Lord Salisbury described him as the most accomplished speaker in the British Empire and the Queen awarded him a gold medal on the occasion. It is interesting to note that this appellation was subsequently conferred on Srinivasa Sastri of India in the 1930’s, when he was known as ‘the silver-tongued orator of the British Empire’.

Ramanathan entered active politics again in 1911 on being elected by the people as the first Educated Ceylonese Member of the Legislative Council of Ceylon by a sweeping majority. It was a historic event, as he was the very first candidate to be elected to the Legislature of the country by an all-Ceylon electorate, prior to the introduction of universal franchise in. 1931 under the Donoughmore constitution. He was re-elected to this seat in the Legislative Council in 1916 and held it until 1921.

Ramanathan was not only steeped in Hindu and Christian mysticism, but was deeply involved in the revival of Buddhist activities in Ceylon. He was responsible for the Government declaring Wesak a public holiday, and was closely associated with Col. Henry Olcott, the co-founder of the Theosophical Society, in promoting Buddhist education in schools. Olcott had said ‘From the time Buddhists of Ceylon began to take into their own hands the education of their youths, we have had a staunch friend and co-operator in the person of my friend Mr. Ramanathan, the Solicitor-General of Ceylon’.

Sir Baron Jayatilaka, the Head of the Cabinet in the State Council, referred to Sir, Ponnambalam Ramanathan on one occasion as ‘the greatest man Ceylon has produced during the past 50 years.’ (The writer had the good fortune of meeting Sir Baron at a Colombo University Students’ Union dinner in 1940 where the writer as the Chairman happened to receive and toast Sir Baron as the Chief Guest at the dinner).

A. Ratnayake, President of the Senate, (whom the writer knew personally, as his home at Frankfurt Place, Colombo, was the venue for several J. Krishnamurti group discussion meetings organized by the writer) once described Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan as ‘the father of Ceylonese Renaissance’.

Ramanathan himself has been reported earlier as saying, about his dedicated service to the people of Ceylon:

‘Take the Sinhalese nation. I have served the race all my life. In my twenty-eighth year I entered the Legislative Council and never once have I thought myself to be a member of the Tamil community only — I supported the Sinhalese interests and every other interest and treated every subject with the same sympathy and desire to do the best for all communities I knew through and through the men and women of the Sinhalese community of all classes. They have all the characteristics of a great people. They are decidedly considerate and peaceful.’

It is reported that during the widespread and prolonged Sinhalese-Muslim Riots of 1915, the British Governor unjustifiably came down with a heavy hand on the Sinhalese community and declared Martial law and ordered the Police and the Army to arrest and imprison several prominent Sinhalese leaders arbitrarily. Among those imprisoned were D. S. Senanayake, D. R. Wijewardena, Dr. Cassius Pereira, E. T. De Silva, F.R. Dias Bandaranaike, H.
Amarasuriya, A.H. Molamure and several others. It is said that some other leaders were shot without trial. Ramanathan thereupon came to the rescue of the Sinhalese community and fought hard and long against the tyranny of the British Government.

Anagarika Dharmapala who was in India at that time wrote to Ramanathan thanking him for his valiant efforts in pressurizing the Government to do justice to the Buddhists of Ceylon, both in and outside the Legislative Council, and requesting him to persevere with his agitation. Ramanathan then made a special trip by ship to England, in October 1915, braving the German submarines that were attacking British ships at that time during World War 1, and made cogent representations to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in London and to several British Parliamentarians and politicians, and had the Governor and the Army Brigadier recalled and replaced, and all the Sinhalese leaders duly released from prison.

When he returned to the Island, Ramanathan was given a hero’s welcome at the jetty by a grateful public, A. E. Goonesinghe and Lionel (later Sir John) Kotalawela and a few others went on board the ship to receive him and later as A. C. Seneviratne, a prominent Sinhalese, related ‘No horses, but relays of men thirty number drew his carriage through the streets to his residence at ‘Sukasthan’, Ward Place, Colombo, as a mark of deep gratitude’. Among these grateful men who drew the carriage were some of the elite in the Sinhalese community.

As regards to his personal life, Ramanathan married Chellachiammal, daughter of Nannithamby Mudaliyar, a wealthy businessman of Colombo, in 1874 and had two sons Rajendra and Varnadeva. He was awarded the prestigious title of C.M.G (Commander of the Order of St. Michael & St. George) by the Imperial Government in 1889, and was made a King’s Counsel in the legal profession in 1903. He was conferred a Knighthood by the Imperial Government in 1921.

After the death of his first wife, he married in 1906 an English lady by the name of Miss. Harrison, who was his devoted secretary during his American lecture tour and who later came to be known as Lady Leelawathy Ramanathan, and was Principal of the Ramanathan Ladies, College in Jaffna for several years after Sir Ramanathan’s demise. Their only daughter Sivakamy later married Natesa Pillai, a very cultured person of Indian origin, who became a Member of Parliament in Ceylon, (and whom the writer had the good fortune to meet and get to know personally).

The Ponnambalavaneswara Temple at Kochchikade, Colombo, was originally built by Ramanathan’s father in 1856 out of brick and mortar. Ramanthan demolished it in 1906, and he built a new splendid granite temple with delicately carved rockstone pillars and images on this site between 1907 and 1912 at a cost of two million rupees. He also later built two small temples at the Ramanathan Ladies College campus at Chunnakam and at the Parameswara Boy’s College campus at Tinnevely, Jaffna, both founded by him, the great Philanthropist that he was.

The writer, who is now 86 years old, had the good fortune, as a schoolboy of 11 years, to listen to one of the last talks of Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan at the Saiva Maha Sabha hall at Kandy in 1930. One still vividly remembers the stately turbaned figure of the speaker beginning his English speech with a rendering of Saint Manickavasagar’s famous Tamil hymn: ‘Muthineri Ariyatha Moorkarodu Muyalvenai’ and explaining how the saint ‘in an ecstatic mood marvels (Achovey), at the way the Lord so graciously purifies his mind of all the dross and grants him ineffable joy and liberation.

சேர் பொன்னம்பலம் இராமநாதன் - (நம்முள் கவீரன்), Courtesy Thinakural, 17 September 2006

ஆங்கிலேயரின் கீழ் நாடு பல விதங்களிலும் முன்னேறி வந்தது. தெருக்கள் பல நாட்டின் சிதறிக் கிடந்த தனிப்பிரிவுகளை ஒன்றிணைத்தன. இரயிலானது முக்கிய நகரங்களை இணைத்தது. மேல் நாட்டினரின் முதலும் தென்னிந்தியத் தமிழர்களின் உழைப்புஞ் சேர்ந்து வேளாண்மை விருத்திக்கு வழிவகுத்தன. இலங்கைத் தேயிலை, தெங்குப் பொருட்கள். இறப்பர், கறுவா, ஏலம் போன்ற வாசனைப் பொருட்கள் தரத்தில் உயர்ந்திருந்ததால் பன்னாட்டு மக்களிடையே கிராக்கியுடன் வரவேற்கப்பட்டன. கொழும்புத் துறைமுகம் வாணிப மையமாக மாறத் தொடங்கியது. குளங்கள் சீரமைக்கப்பட்டு நெல், பல்தானியங்கள் போன்றவை பயிரிடப்பட்டன. தன, தானிய விருத்தியுடன் கல்வியிலும் மேம்பாடு காணப்படத் தொடங்கியது. கிறிஸ்தவப் பாதிரியார்களின் அனுசரணையினால் மிகத் திறமையாகக் கல்லூரிகள் வளர்ச்சியடைந்தன.

1879 ஆம் ஆண்டில் தமிழர் சார்பிலான பெயரிடப்பட்ட அதிகாரமற்ற அலுவலராகப் பொது வாழ்க்கையில் ஈடுபடத் தொடங்கிய இராமநாதன் அவர்கள், அப்பொழுது கண்ட நாட்டுக்கும் இலங்கையின் படித்த மக்களின் பிரதிநிதியாக, 1911 இல் தேர்ந்தெடுக்கப்பட்டபோது இருந்த இலங்கைக்கும் இடையே நிறைய வித்தியாசம் இருந்தது. நாடு சுபீட்சநிலையை அடையத் தொடங்கியிருந்தது 1911 ஆம் ஆண்டளவில்.

இந்த மாற்றத்திற்குக் காரணகர்த்தா இராமநாதனே என்று கூறுகிறார் வைத்தியலிங்கம் அவர்கள் தமது நூலில். அவர் நூலில் இரண்டாம் பாகம், பக்கம் ஐந்தில் பின்வருமாறு கூறியுள்ளார்:

"எமது தேசிய வாழ்க்கையில் ஏற்பட்ட முற்று முழுதான இந்த மாற்றத்திற்கு முக்கியமாகப் பேரறிவாளருஞ் சிந்தனையாளருமான ஒரேயொரு நபரையே காரணகர்த்தா என்று கூறலாம். தனது அரசியல் வாழ்க்கையின் ஆரம்பத்தில் இருந்தே ஒளியைக் கண்ட அவர், அது பற்றிப் பயப்படாது, விடாப்பிடியாக, உணர்ச்சியுடன் எடுத்துரைத்து, உரைத்ததை நடைமுறைப்படுத்த உறுதியுடனும் பற்றுணவர்வுடனும் செயற்றிறனுக்கு எடுத்துக் காட்டாகவும் விளங்கிக் கடமையாற்றினார்.

இதனை விரித்துப் பேசிய நூலாசிரியர் சுதந்திரமே மக்களின் பிறப்புரிமை என்பதை மனித குலத்தின் முன்னோர்கள் காலாதிகாலமாகக் கூறிச் சென்றதை உணர்ந்த இராமநாதன் அவர்கள் மற்றையவர்களை அடிமைப்படுத்த, அடிபணிய வைக்க, அதிகாரஞ் செலுத்த விழையும் மக்கள் கூட்டம் சிறுமையுடையோர் என்பதை உணர்ந்து, அச் சிறுமைத்தனத்தைச் சாரும் விதமாக நடந்து கொண்டார் என்று கூறினார். இத் தருணத்தில் இரவீந்திரநாத் தாகூரை மேற்கோள் காட்டுகிறார் ஆசிரியர். `நாகரிகமானது மனிதர்களை மனிதர்கள் உண்ணும் பாங்கில் கட்டியெழுப்ப முடியாததொன்று. உண்மையான மனித நாகரிகம் என்பது அன்பு, நீதி என்பவற்றாலேயே ஊட்டம் பெற முடியும்.

இராமநாதன் இளம் பராயத்திலேயே நீர்மேற் குமிழியாம் இவ்வுலக வாழ்க்கையில் திரட்டலிலுந் துறத்தலே மனதிற்கு உண்மையான மகிழ்வைத் தரக் கூடியது என்பதை உணர்ந்திருந்தார். `மின்னொடு வானம் தண்டுளி தலைஇ ஆனாது கல்பொருது இரங்கு மல்லல் பேரியாற்று நீர்வழிப் புணைபோல் ஆருயிர் முறைவழிப் படூஉம் என்பது திறவோர் காட்சியின் தெளிந்தனம்....." ஆகவே தனக்காக வாழ்ந்து திரட்டுவதிலும் பார்க்க, பிறருக்காக வாழ்ந்து தன் சொந்த இன்ப துன்பங்களைத் துறுப்பதற்கு அவர் பின்னிற்கவில்லை.

நாட்டுக்கும் மக்களுக்குமாக உழைப்பவர் கடவுட் சேவையில் கடமையாற்றுகிறார் என்று உணர்ந்திருந்தார் இராமநாதன் அவர்கள். அதனால் தமக்கு ஏற்படக்கூடிய ஆபத்துகளைப் பொருட்படுத்தாது, தனது சொந்த நலன்களைக் கருதாது உழைத்தார். அந்தக் குணமும் பூங்குன்றனாரின் வரைவிலக்கணத்தினுள் அகப்படுகிறது. "வாழ்தல் இனிது என மகிழ்ந்தன்றும் இலமே முனிவின் இன்னா தென்றலும் இலமே.

வாளாதிருக்க விரும்பவில்லை அவர். அதிகாரத் துஷ்பிரயோகம், மனித சுதந்திரத்திற்கு மாறான நடவடிக்கைகள், சமுதாயச் சீர்கேடுகள், இவை யாவற்றையுங் கண்டுங் காணாது இருக்க அவர் மனம் இடமளிக்கவில்லை. வேண்டியிருந்தால் செல்வாக்குடனான சொகுசு வாழ்க்கை வாழ்ந்திருக்கலாம் அவர். ஆனால், அவர் யாவரினதும் மனித சுதந்திரத்திற்காகப் போராட முன்வந்தார். இளைப்பாறிய பின்னர் கூட மக்கள் அழைத்ததால் மீண்டும் அரசியலினுள் நுழைந்தார். வாழ்க்கை அவருக்கு வேண்டியவற்றைக் கொடுத்தது. நற்குடிப் பிறப்பு, நற்கல்வி, நல்வசதிகள், நிமிர்ந்த நடையுடன் சேர்ந்த நற்தோற்றம், நற்குணங்கள், இவ்வாறு பல நன்மைகளை வாழ்க்கையானது அவருக்கு வருவித்துக் கொடுத்தது. தகப்பனார் கேட் முதலியார் பொன்னம்பலம் கோயில்கள் பல கட்டித் தனது வருமானங்களை எல்லாம் பலன் கருதாது அவற்றிற்கும் வறிய மக்களுக்குங் கொடுத்து உதவியதால் தானோ என்னவோ வளமான வாழ்க்கைகளை பெற்ற மக்களைப் பெற்றெடுத்தார் அவர் என்று கூறலாம். எமை ஆண்டு வந்த பரதேசிகள் முன்பாகப் பயப்படாமல் பேசுவதற்கு இராமநாதன் அவர்களுக்கு வாழ்க்கை கொடுத்த பல சீர்களும் உறுதுணையாக அமைந்தன. குனிந்து, குனிந்து பல் இளித்துப் பாதந் தொட்டுவந்த மக்களின் மத்தியில் இப்படியும் ஒரு மனிதரா என்று பரதேசிகள் வியக்கும் வண்ணம் வாழ்ந்தார் அவர். வெள்ளையர்களுக்கே வியர்த்து வேலை செய்து வெண்கொடி பிடித்து வந்த மக்கள் மத்தியில் அறைகூவும் விதத்தில் அசாதாரண ஆளுமையுடன் நாட்டு மக்கள் அனைவரையும் தன்னுடன் சேர்த்து விடுதலைப் பாதையில் முன்னோக்கிச் செல்ல வழிவகுத்தவர் இராமநாதன் அவர்கள்.

இங்கிலாந்தில் இருந்து திரும்பியபோது, அவர்மேல் கொண்ட பேரன்பின் நிமித்தம் கப்பல் இறங்கு துறையில் இருந்து முப்பது பிரசித்தமான இலங்கையர் அஞ்சல் முறையில் குதிரைகளுக்குப் பதிலாகத் தாங்களே அவரின் இரதத்தை அவர் இல்லம் வரை இழுத்துச் சென்றனர்.

பயத்தை ஊட்டி மக்களை அடி பணிய வைப்பதே சர்வாதிகார ஆட்சியாளர்களின் தனிப்பெருங் குணம். ஆனாலும் பொதுநலக் காரணங்களையே காரணங்காட்டி வருவர். அவர்கள் இருந்தும் தமது எதிரிகளை அடிபணிய வைக்க வேண்டும் என்பதே அவர்களின் ஆழ்ந்த குறிக்கோள். இன்றும் அப்படித்தான். அதனை எதிர்க்க மக்கள் மத்தியில் துணிச்சலும் அச்சமின்மையும் வெளிப்பட வேண்டும். அவற்றை வெளிக்காட்டி மக்களுக்கு எடுத்துக் காட்டாக வாழ்ந்தவரே சேர் பொன். இராமநாதன். ஒவ்வொரு மனிதரிலும் சில நல்ல குணங்கள் ஏதேனும் இருக்கத்தான் வேண்டும் என்று அவற்றை வெளிக்கொண்டுவரும் விதத்தில், தம்முடன் எதிர்வாதஞ் செய்தவர்களின் மனதை மாற்றத் துணிச்சலுடன் அவர் செயற்பட்டவரே தவிர தானும் அவர்களைப்போல் வெறுப்பையும் வன்மையையும் வெளிக்காட்ட அவர் எத்தனிக்கவில்லை. ஆன்ம பலத்தில் அவருக்கு அசையாத ஈடுபாடு இருந்தது. ஆயுத பலத்தை அவர் நாடவில்லை. அன்பால் இன்னொருவரின் மனதை மாற்ற முடியும் என்று நினைத்தாரே தவிர, ஆயுதத்தால் பணிய வைக்க முடியும் என்று அவர் எண்ணவில்லை. அதனால்தான் தனது அறிவையும் அன்பையும் பண்பையும் வெளிக்காட்டித் தூரயிருந்த ஆங்கிலேய ஆளும் வர்க்கத்தினரைத் தம்வசம் ஈர்த்துக் கொண்டார். இலங்கையின் ஆளுநரையும் படைத் தளபதியையும் திரும்ப அழைக்க ஆவன செய்தார். 20 ஆம் நூற்றாண்டின் அரசியலிலே ஆன்மீகத்தை கலந்தவர் மகாத்மா காந்தி. ஆனால் 19 ஆம் நூற்றாண்டியின் இறுதியிலேயே ஆன்மீகத்தை அரசியலில் புகுத்தியவர் சேர் பொன் இராமநாதன் அவர்கள். புகழையும் இகழையும் ஒன்றாகக் கருதி வாழ்ந்தவர் அவர். மக்கள் பணி மகேஸ்வரன் பணி என்று வாழ்ந்தவர் அவர். அவரின் குருவாய் அமைந்தவர் அருட்பரானந்த சுவாமிகள் அவர்கள். குருவின் அருட்பார்வை இராமநாதன் அவர்களை எந்தளவு மாற்றியது என்பதற்கு அவரின் சகோதரர் இங்கிலாந்தில் இருந்து எட்வெட் கார்ப்பென்றர் என்ற ஆங்கில அறிஞருக்கு எழுதிய கடிதத்தில் இருந்து தெரிய வருகிறது. தமையனாரின் புதிய போக்கு பற்றி இவ்வாறு எழுதினார்.

`நீங்கள் என் தமையனாரைச் சில ஆண்டுகளின் முன்பு இங்கிலாந்திலே சந்தித்தீர்கள். அவரை இன்று கண்டீர்களானால் அவரில் ஏற்பட்டுள்ள மாற்றத்தை நீங்கள் நன்கு அவதானிக்க முடியும். அத்தகைய ஆன்மீக ஞான நிலையினை அவர் அடைந்துள்ளார். மிக அமைதியாகவும் விவேகமாகவும் உண்மையாகவும் எவற்றாலும் அசைக்க முடியாத வீரத்தோடும் அஞ்சாமையோடும், எதிலும் பற்றற்ற தன்மையோடும் கருணையோடும், அன்போடும் அவர் விளங்குகின்றார். அவர் தம் உள்ளத்தின் சாந்தமும் அமைதியும் அவரின் முகத்திலே தெய்வீகக் களையினை ஊட்டியுள்ளன.

கொச்சிக்கடை பொன்னம்பலவாணேசர் கோயில் அவரால் பெருத்த செலவில் கடின உழைப்பு மூலம் 1907-1912 வரையிலான ஆண்டுகளில் கட்டப்பட்டது. அவர் தாபித்த சுன்னாகம் இராமநாதன் மகளிர் கல்லூரி, திருநெல்வேலி பரமேஸ்வரா ஆண்கள் பாடசாலை ஆகிய கல்லூரி வளாகங்களிலும் இரு சிறு கோயில்கள் அவரால் கட்டிக்கொடுக்கப்பட்டன.

இராமநாதனும் அவர் சகோதரர் அருணாசலம் நாட்டின் அதி முக்கிய இலங்கையர்களாக வாழ்ந்தும் தமது அந்திம காலத்தில் தாங்கள் பயன் எதிர்பாராது சகோதரத்துவத்துடன் உதவிய இந்நாட்டின் பெரும்பான்மை மக்கள் சிறுபான்மையினரை ஓரங்கட்ட விழைந்ததைக் கண்டு மிக்க வேதனைக்குள்ளானார்கள். தேசிய ஒருமைப்பாடு என்பது சிறுபான்மையினரைப் பெரும்பான்மையோருடன் ஐக்கியப் படுத்திப் பெரும்பான்மை சமூகத்தின் குணவியல்புகளை வெளிக்காட்டுவதே என்ற பாணியில் சிங்கள மக்கள் நடந்து கொண்டமை அவர்களுக்கு மனவேதனை அளித்தது. இராமநாதன் அவர்களின் சகோதரர்கள் பற்றிய அடுத்த கட்டுரைகளில் அது பற்றி ஆராய்வோம்.

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