Martin Wickramasinghe was born on May 29, 1892. According to the era he lived in, it was surprising that he criticised witchcraft. He believed witchcraft was misleading people. He said people shunned medical consultations for their dreadful diseases. What was appealing to them was the work of witch doctors because science was not popular in every nook and corner of the country during that period.
People counted on witch doctors. Mr. Wickramasinghe showed the correct path by opening their eyes in his first novel ‘Leela’ which was published in 1914. He arguedwith these witch doctors. In his novels, Mr. Wickramasinghe explores the human mind. His arguments were very strong and to the point. He was a freethinker, not an extremist. The readers get a taste of what true love is by reading about characters like Soma, Seetha, Iranganee, Rohini, Miringuwa and Unmada Chithtra. After gaining scientific knowledge, what the reader should read is works like Sathva Sanththiya and Grameeya Vidya Praveeshaya. These are useful for students who study biology.
His novel ‘Viragaya’ is one of the most critical ones produced by a Sri Lankan. Even a qualified psychiatrist may not be able to pen such a masterpiece. It includes psychological facts. Mr. Wickramasinghe conveyed details about some morals to readers. These were associated with the human body and mind. He presented them scientifically and artistically in Viragaya. The main character in Viragaya, Aravinda, fell in trouble and died owing to his unnatural, neutralised behavioural patterns which highlighted his sedentary life. He disregards customs and ethics in human life.
His world was confined to himself. Aravinda was confined to bed and he did little physical exercises. His death was linked to a biological result. Depicting Aravinda’s character, Mr. Wickramasinghe underscored significant psychological theories. Mr. Wickramasinghe proved his genius by inventing characters with subtle feelings.
Gamperaliya, Kaliyugaya and Yuganthaya highlight the societal changes in Sri Lanka. Piyal in Gamperaliya is a symbol of manifesting the feudal society into capitalist society. That is the conversion of feudal era to a capitalist era. Mr. Wickramasinghe predicted the societal changes to take place in the country.
‘Reality’ is Mr. Wickramasinghe’s main theme in his writings. He has stayed away from what can’t be believed. Mr. Wickramasinghe introduced scientific thinking to writers associated with Sinhala literature.
Some of his books in English language include Buddhist Jataka Stories, Aspects of Sinhalese Culture, Buddhism and Culture, Revolution and Evolution, Buddhism and Arts, Mysticism of Lawrence.
On principle, Martin Wickramasinghe excluded dishonesty and falsehood from life. In ‘Apegama,’ he condemned dishonest people by criticising characters in the likes of Notharis Appu and Daniel Veda Mahattaya for deceiving an innocent person like Koranelis Appu.
Pavukarayata Galgaseema, Wahallu, Magulgedara, Ape Vitthi, Mage Kathawa and Hada Sakki Keema are some of his short-story books. In Pavukarayata Galgaseema, the writer suggests there should be sympathy for the sinner and not to attack him, but attack the sin.
His excellent philosophical knowledge helped Mr. Wickramasinghe to write Budusamaya Saha Samajadarshanaya and Buddhadarshanaya Saha Margaya Bavatharanya. They included themes in Buddhist philosophy. His philosophy revolved around ideological materialism and not idealism.
He is a philosopher. It is indisputable. He wrote Bavatharanaya at the age of 83. Mr. Wickramasinghe travelled on a different path from his contemporary writers. That is reality.
All his works of art highlight morals and offer valuable lessons to the modern society.
Senaka Hettigoda, Galle Registered Pharmacist