Sri Lanka, the beautiful island nation has been home to many distinguished personalities throughout its history. One such personality is Mahagama Sekara, a prolific poet, and playwright.

Sri Lankans consider him to be one of the most influential literary figures in this country. That is simply because his literary works are widely celebrated for their eloquence, depth, and social commentary. The awards that he won prove this fact. And yes, there is so much to know about this wonderful poet laureate of Sri Lanka. Continue reading!

Life and Education of Mahagama Sekara

Mahagama Sekera was born on April 7, 1929, in Radawana, Colombo. His parents were Maha Gamage John Singho and Ranawaka Arachchige Roslin Ranawaka. His early education was at the Government Schools in Radawana and Kirindiwela Maha Vidayalaya.

As an artist, Sekara’s initial focus was on traditional art. Yet, later, he shifted his focus toward modern art. And yes, his paintings and book covers reflect this. He gained a thorough understanding of formal art at the Government School of Fine Arts. He eventually became the Principal there.

Since he grew up in a typical village setting, he got the opportunity to experience the fusion of new ideas and traditional folk culture. This should have surely impacted his unique worldview.

In 1974, Sekera embarked on his doctoral studies at Vidyodaya University of Ceylon. His thesis titled “Sinhala Gadya Padya Nirmana Kerehi Ridmaya Balapa Athi Akaraya” explored the influence of rhythm on Sinhala Prose and Poetry. The thesis was submitted to the university in 1975. However, at the time of his death in 1976, Sekera was working on the final editing of the thesis, as recommended by his supervisors. Sekera worked as a teacher at Gampaha Bandaranayaka School for a few months before his death.

Literary Career of Mahagama Sekara

Mahagama Sekera began his professional journey as an artist, but he also made significant contributions to various genres of literature. He authored a variety of works, including short stories, plays, novels, and poems, and created more than a hundred songs. The well-known musician Pandit W. D. Amaradeva composed music and performed the majority of his songs. However, he was mostly critically acclaimed for his poetry.

The Themes Sekara Dealt With

Throughout his life, Sekara wrote extensively on a variety of themes including love, nature, politics, and culture. The following sections will enlighten you with regard.


Sekara’s works have deep roots in the natural world. In fact, many of his poems and plays explore the themes of love and nature. In fact, the poem he has written as a beautiful tribute to the river that runs through his hometown reflects his deep appreciation for the beauty and majesty of the natural world. The poem describes the river as a source of life and inspiration, and it celebrates the way in which the river brings people together.


Sekara’s love poetry is also widely celebrated. In fact, his poems are powerful expressions of love that explore the complex emotions of desire, passion, and commitment. Hence, these poems are indeed a testament to Sekara’s skill as a writer, and it continues to resonate with readers even today.

Politics and Culture

In addition to his explorations of love and nature, Sekara was also exploring the political and cultural realities of Sri Lanka. Some of his works are powerful critiques of the social and economic inequalities that exist in Sri Lankan society.  Of course, his critiques brought him many issues in his life as well. Still, the service he did with his talent by discussing the political and cultural aspects of the country is indeed impressive.

Some Notable Works of Mahagama Sekara

Sekara has contributed to the literature of Sri Lanka through the astounding collection of books he has written. Let us get to know about some of them!

1. Thunmanhandiya 

Thunmanhandiya is one of Mahagama Sekara’s most celebrated plays which he himself produced from his own novel that went by the same name. It is set in a small village in Sri Lanka. Further, it explores the lives of the villagers who are struggling to survive in the face of poverty, disease, and social inequality. Hence, Thunmanhandiya is a powerful and moving portrayal of the struggles of ordinary people in Sri Lanka, and it continues to resonate with audiences even today.

Plot and Themes

Thunmanhandiya explores a wide range of themes including poverty, disease, social inequality, and the struggle for survival. In fact, the play highlights the ways in which social and economic structures can lead to the oppression of marginalized communities.

Impact and Legacy

Simply, Thunmanhandiya is a powerful and moving creation. It is widely regarded as one of Sekara’s greatest works, and it has had a profound impact on Sri Lankan literature and culture. Thunmanhandiya continues to be studied and performed in schools and universities across Sri Lanka. This clearly proves that it is a testament to the enduring power of literature and art.

For those interested in exploring the rich cultural heritage of Sri Lanka, Thunmanhandiya is a must-study. That is simply because it offers a powerful glimpse into the social and cultural realities of Sri Lanka. Moreover, it also highlights the resilience and strength of the human spirit while offering a message of hope to audiences around the world. So, owing to all these reasons, this wonderful literary work of Mahagama Sekara remains one of the best in Sinhalese Literature.

2. Prabuddha

Mahagama Sekara’s Prabuddha is a thought-provoking poetry book that explores the philosophical and spiritual aspects of life. The play has a unique blend of realism and symbolism. Further, it offers a powerful message to audiences around the world.

Plot and Themes

The central character in the story is a young man named Prabuddha. He searches for meaning and purpose in life. Prabuddha is drawn to the teachings of the Buddha, and he embarks on a journey of self-discovery that takes him on a path of enlightenment.

The story explores a wide range of themes, including the nature of existence, the importance of mindfulness, and the power of self-awareness. And yes, it is deeply spiritual that it challenges audiences to reflect on their lives and the meaning of existence.

Impact and Legacy

It has had a profound impact on Sri Lankan literature and culture, and it has helped to promote a deeper understanding of Buddhism and its teachings. Prabuddha has been praised for its innovative use of language and imagery. Moreover, it has helped to pave the way for a new generation of Sri Lankan poets.

3. Sakva Lihini

Mahagama Sekara’s Sakva Lihini is a powerful anthology of poems that explores the themes of love, loss, and identity. 

Plot and Themes

As Sakva Lihini is a collection of poems, it deals with a lot of themes. The novel explores themes such as identity, belonging, and the search for self-understanding.

Impact and Legacy

Sakva Lihini is a landmark work in Sri Lankan literature and has had a profound impact on the country’s cultural landscape. This novel has helped to promote a deeper understanding of Sri Lanka’s culture, day-to-day life, and even deeper aspects of life.

4. Heta Irak Payai

Heta Irak Payai by Mahagama Sekara is a literary masterpiece that explores the complexities of human relationships and the impact of societal norms and traditions on individuals. This is also a collection of poems.

Plot and Themes

The book offers a unique insight into Sri Lanka’s changing social landscape and the struggles faced by individuals as they seek to find their place in a rapidly changing world. Therefore, this book generally deals with a variety of complex themes.

Impact and Legacy

Heta Irak Payai is a piece of literature that has had a big impact. It has inspired countless readers to question the limitations placed on individuals by tradition and societal expectations.

Songwriting Skills of Mahagama Sekara

Mahagama Sekara was not only a gifted poet but also an exceptional songwriter. He had a unique ability to capture the essence of Sri Lankan culture and tradition in his lyrics. The themes for his songs were nature, the rural way of life, and the struggles of ordinary people. In this article, we will explore the songwriting skills of Mahagama Sekara and how he contributed to the Sri Lankan music industry.

Mahagama Sekara was a prolific songwriter, having written over 100 songs during his career. Some of his renowned songs are “Sandakath Pini Diya” from the Sinhala movie Parasathu Mal, “Me Sinhala Apage Ratayi” by Nanda Malini from the film Saravita, “Sannaliyane” by W. D. Amaradeva, and “Seethala Diya Piri Sunila Vilai” by Sunil Edirisinghe.

Additionally, Sekara translated Rabindranath Tagore’s patriotic poem “Chitto Jetha Bhayshunyo” into Sinhala as “Mage deshaya awadhi karanu mena piyanani.” He also wrote “Etha Kandukara Himaw Arane” with music composed by Lionel Algama and sung by W. D. Amaradeva, “Anna Balan Sanda” by Edward Jayakody, and “Dathe Karagata Simba Sanasannata” by W. D. Amaradeva and Wimala Amaradewa. Sri Lankans still celebrate Sekara’s songs owing to their meaningful lyrics and soulful melodies.

Sekara’s Skills in Drawing and Painting

In addition to his literary works, Sekara was also a talented artist. His paintings and drawings reflect his deep appreciation for the natural world, and they offer a unique insight into his creative process. Many of Sekara’s original artworks are on display in museums and galleries across Sri Lanka, and they offer a fascinating glimpse into the mind of this celebrated artist.

Awards Won by Mahagama Sekara

Mahagama Sekera was a recipient of several awards throughout his career. In 1956, he was honored with the Dina Dina Award for his painting Mahabinishkramana at the Annual Art Exhibition hosted by the Jathika Kala Peramuna. 

In 1965, he won the Merit Award for Best Lyricist at the Film Festival of Lanka Industrial Exhibition for the song “Atha Gavu Ganan Durin” from the Sinhala film Gatavarayo. Three years later, in 1968, he received the Best Lyric Writer Award for the song “Sinidu Sudu Mudu Thalave” composed for the movie Sath Samudura at the Sarasaviya Film Festival. He won the Best Lyricist Award again in 1970 for “Ratakin Ratakata” from the film Binaramalie. 

In 1970, his film Thun Man Handiya won the Friendship Award from Rajaye Lipikaru Seva Sangamaya. Then, in the following year, it also earned him the Most Promising Director Award at the Awards Festival of the Film Critics and Journalists of Ceylon. In 1972, he was recognized with the Hela Vidu Saviya Kumaratunga Memorial Award for his Patriotic Songs.

Likewise, he won several awards during his lifetime, and they indeed added value to his career.

Sekara’s Legacy

Mahagama Sekara’s legacy is still alive in the Sri Lankan literature field, even today. His works have inspired generations of writers and artists. Moreover, his influence is visible in the contemporary Sri Lankan literary scene. He was also a prominent social activist and a critic of the government, and his works often reflected the political and social realities of his time.

In 1971, the government arrested Sekara on charges of sedition, and they sentenced him to death. His sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment, and he spent several years in jail. After his release, he continued to write and advocate for social justice until his death in 1976.

Tourism and Mahagama Sekara

There is a significant bond between Mahagama Sekara and tourism. In fact, for the tourists visiting Sri Lanka, Mahagama Sekara’s works offer a unique insight into the cultural and literary heritage of the country. Mahagama Sekara has set many of his poems and plays focusing on the lush landscapes of Sri Lanka. Hence, they offer a glimpse into the natural beauty of the island. Moreover, Sekara’s works also explore the social and political realities of Sri Lanka, they provide an opportunity for visitors to learn about the history and culture of the country.

Galle Literary Festival

One of the best ways to experience Sekara’s legacy is to visit the Galle Literary Festival, an annual event that celebrates Sri Lankan literature and culture. This festival features readings, discussions, and performances by both local and international writers, and it provides a platform for emerging Sri Lankan talent. The festival is held in the historic town of Galle.

Sri Lankan Art and Cultural Museum

For those interested in literature and the arts, a visit to the Sri Lankan Art and Cultural Museum in Colombo is a must. This museum features a vast collection of art and artifacts from Sri Lanka’s ancient and modern history. 

The Bottom Line

After all, it is clear that Mahagama Sekara is one of Sri Lanka’s most celebrated literary figures. As you already know, his poems and plays explore the themes of love, nature, and politics, and they offer a unique insight into the cultural and social realities of Sri Lanka. His works continue to inspire readers and artists around the world. Thus, his legacy is a testament to the rich cultural and literary heritage of Sri Lanka.

For tourists visiting Sri Lanka, Sekara’s legacy provides an opportunity to explore the country’s rich literary and cultural heritage. From the historic town of Galle to the ancient Kala Wewa Reservoir, visitors can experience the beauty and significance of Sekara’s works in person. So, if you are planning a trip to Sri Lanka, be sure to include a visit to these cultural landmarks and explore the world of Mahagama Sekara. Happy and safe traveling!