Rathna Sri Wijesinghe once visited this village called Thodamaduwa close to Anuradhapura, with a friend of his. The two of them got a little thirsty and tired during the journey, so they stepped into a house on the side of the road, looking for some water to drink.
A middle-class house, with a large yard, there was a big banyan tree in the corner, surrounded by beautiful flower plants, as well as a pahan pela (a station where the ritual or devotional lamps are lit). It really looked like a special place.
The owner of the house was a kind gentleman in his 80s, who offered water and some fresh vegetables to Rathna Sri and his friend. Out of curiosity, Rathna Sri asked him about the pahan pela set up, and came to know that underneath that banyan tree, is where his wife (Sudu Bundi) was put to rest. He also got to know that the owner's brother is working on dividing the land into two, and he's about to lose the piece of land where his wife rests.
The unconditional love towards his wife, even after death, and the devastation he is about to face, took deep roots within Rathna Sri's mind. It resulted in this heart-touching song, that we've enjoyed for decades now.
After finishing up some school exams, a friend of Rathna Sri visited his relative in Mannar. During his visit, he got to explore many things in this beautiful city – its culture, food and of course, people. In fact, that's where he met Shanthini, the inspiration behind these lyrics.
Both Shanthini and the friend of Rathna Sri were teenagers back then. She was 16, and he was 17. It seemed like they were fond of each other, but they never got to express or admit it to each other, due to just one problem. The language.
Shanthini couldn't speak the Sinhala language, while Rathna Sri's friend didn't know any Tamil. Rathna Sri says that his friend used to stop by the convent that Shanthini studied at, so they can meet. While they couldn't talk with each other properly, they still managed to strike up a friendship.
After a few months, Rathna Sri's friend had to go back to Galle, to his school. As he said his goodbyes to Shanthini, she started crying.
Fast forward a few years – the country was in turmoil due to ’83 Black July riots. Rathna Sri was a teacher back then, and he witnessed the violence against the Tamil community, which made him wonder about what could be happening to Shanthini. And that's what led him to write this song.
"Kirula Muthu Lihee"
This song perfectly portrays the unfortunate fate suffered by many artists in Sri Lanka.
A few decades back, there was a huge ceremonial event to appreciate the work and contribution of a well-known artist in the country. A veteran in the scene, he has taught dancing to many powerful people in Sri Lanka, including a former prime minister.
Rathna Sri also participated in this event as he wrote a tribute song, dedicated just to this artist. He was awarded a hefty plaque by the president at the time, as well as a whole lot of compliments by many other reputed speakers.
But, on his way after the event, Rathna Sri witnessed the harsh truth. The artist, who they just admired with gifts and kind words, was waiting for a bus in the rain while barely holding the plaque he received with his old, shivering hands.