Saintly wisdom of linguistic prowess | Daily News
Munidasa Cumaratunga’s death anniversary falls today:

Saintly wisdom of linguistic prowess

Do not be unhappy in any manner that you are unpleasant

The Rain Cloud, just because your colour is black.
The good learned men do not recognize the eminent
By skin-colour but by one’s virtues.

Springing from the sky and spreading,
And quenching the thirst and making the people happy,
Filling also with water the farms – tanks and ponds
It is you who donate to the world food and water.

Hearing the sound as well as your colour
Peacocks dance in ecstasy spreading their trains;
As if freshly rejuvenated even the trees and creepers
Will start growing being pleased with water.

The white clouds reach much higher in the sky,
While you are always at lower levels. But,
Is it a wonder? The exalted and wise men
Being bent with virtues remain forever.

Even salt-water that is difficult to be taken
To the mouth, becomes sweet when taken by you
From the ocean. When accompanied by dignified men
Even the simpletons get dignified very much.

The nature having seen your virtues,
Considering none like you in comparison
Even the lightning assuming the role of a bright
Golden chain adorns only your neck, behold!

- Kiyavana Nuwana-Sixth Reader

Much has been written on the different facets of Cumaratunga Munidasa’s prowess and profundity since his demise on March 2, 1943. The commonest approach that had been adopted by many a writer to date has been to deliberate over his literary styles, expositions on grammar and book-reviews on a topic-wise basis. But there are a few who have been treading on to reveal his characteristics by critiquing his literary works. I prefer to tread on this second path, especially when commemorating the uniqueness of this personality, as critiquing his literary works would invariably bring about the more important facets that had gone to make this unique personality.

The Rain Cloud – its uniqueness

Herein the literary piece that was selected for critiquing is Cumaratunga’s short poem ‘The Rain Cloud’ which comprises of six short verses written in the ‘drutha vilambitha’ style. There have been only two other poems of Cumaratunga that follow this style, that is, ‘Piya Samara’ and ‘Daru Surathal’. The rain clouds are normally blackish in colour, not pleasant to the eye. They, in fact, give a gloomy and depressing appearance. But how cleverly the poet has infused vigour and energy to such dull and gloomy phenomenon. Cumaratunga’s life-span had been a relatively short one. He passed away at the age of 57. However, all his endeavours had been acutely focused. Every act of his had been to meet a specific purpose, which, in fact, had been his social philosophy.

The Rain Cloud – objectives

Cumaratunga spells out in his ‘Prabandha Sangrahaya’ the following six different types of compositions:
a. Story-telling
b. Historical episodes
c. Biographies
d. Descriptive and Explanatory writings
e. Argumentative writings
f. Fiction and Creative writings

Any creative narration would help children develop their own story telling and more importantly writing talents by applying the techniques they have been able to read and experience. The Rain Cloud would, for certain, come under the categories of ‘argumentative writings’ and ‘descriptive and explanatory’ writings as well as creative writings. As said earlier the picture that is created in the minds of children cannot by any means be ‘rosy’. The children would under normal circumstances accompany rain clouds with darkness, incessant rain, lightning and thunder and as well as spells of inactivity and boredom.
How on earth can such feelings be overturned, and draw a completely different picture in the minds of the readership. Once ‘The Rain Cloud’ is read it instantly becomes the ‘harbinger of prosperity’ that quenches the thirst and make the people happy. It also fills farms, tanks and ponds with the much needed water. Wow! The once detested rain cloud now donate food and water to the world. Even salt water from the sea that is difficult to be swallowed becomes sweet when absorbed by the rain cloud.

Adding the element of creativity

The Rain Cloud doesn’t stop at that. Cumaratunga also brings in peacocks and lightning to the picture. He says ‘hearing the sound as well as (your) peacocks dance in ecstasy spreading their trains. Imagine the beautiful peacock, spreading its priceless plumage, dancing in tune with the rhythm of the rain. Isn't it a sight to die for? It is said that peacocks open their colourful feathers in the rain and dance to attract their female partners. This phenomenon of seeing peacocks dance in the rain is far from a modern idea.
The last verse brings the culmination to the whole episode when the poet says that ‘the nature having seen your virtues, and considering none like you in comparison, even the lightning assuming the role of a bright golden chain adorns only your neck’. Children’s literature needs to encourage creativity. In this sense, one could imagine the role of Cumaratunga’s short poem ‘The Rain Cloud’ in nurturing and expanding their imagination.

Fulfillment of child’s aspirations

Giving children access to all varieties of literature is extremely important for their success.
Not only is reading literature important in developing cognitive skills to be able to succeed in a school, but it is valuable for other reasons as well. Although there are countless values in exposing children to literature, Donna Norton (2010) Professor Emerita, Teaching, Learning, and Culture, and specialist in children’s literature, identifies the value of literature for young people in her book Through the Eyes of a Child. Children’s literature is important because it provides students with opportunities to respond to literature; it gives students appreciation about their own cultural heritage as well as those of others; it helps students develop emotional intelligence and creativity; it nurtures growth and development of the student’s personality and social skills; and it transmits important literature and themes from one generation to the next.

Fostering personality and social development

The writers of children’s literature are also responsible for fostering children’s personality and social development. Cumaratunga has looked into and fulfilled these aspects as well. Verses 5 and 6 deals with these aspects.
The poem says that although white clouds reach much higher altitudes in the sky, the rain clouds are always at lower levels, making a comparison that ‘exalted and wise men being bent with virtues remain forever, at lower levels like the rain clouds. Signifying the rain cloud’s ability to turn salt water from the ocean to sweet / drinkable water, the poet exalts saying that ‘when accompanied by dignified men even the simpletons get dignified very much’.
Children’s literature is extremely valuable in both the school setting and at home.
Teachers and parents should both be able to differentiate between quality and mediocre literature, in order to give students access to the best books to encourage these important values of literature and considering developmental domains.


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