Parliament revisited: creation of a magnificent edifice on the Duwa marsh in Kotte Parliament revisited: creation of a magnificent edifice on the Duwa marsh in Kotte
The structure has a definite Eastern flavour. Bawa commented, “I just wanted the building to fit into the site. You must run with the site, after all, you don’t want to push nature out of the building.”
by Nihal Seneviratne
Wending my way along the old road to what was then known as Kotte, many nostalgic memories keep crowding my mind. This road has now been replaced by a four-lane highway, which leads to the new Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte as the area is now known, along which I commuted for over 33 years.
Most of all I recall the request madeto me by Anandatissa de Alwis, MP for Kotte, to accompany him to view the site for the proposed new Parliament. President Jayewardene had asked the then Speaker to inspect this marshland called Duwa where my friends used to shoot duck a long time ago and assess the suitability of the site.
We had to shed our shoes for gumboots to wade into the marsh. Anandatissa de Alwis was able to report to the president, already totally enamoured by the model of the new Parliament given to him by master architect Geoffrey Bawa, that here was an ideal place for the construction. All credit to Bawa for his enlightened thinking that he could build a Parliament on this marshy site.
On a bright April morning in 1982 at the auspicious hour of 10.13 am, Sri Lanka inaugurated its new capital, Sri Jaywardenepura Kotte to the triumphant sounds of conch shells and reverberating drums. When a third of the construction the new Parliament was done the president followed tradition and deposited nine different gems and other ritual items to invoke the blessings of the deities on the project-
The site popularly known as Kotte would eventually become the sumptuous home of Sri Lankan politicians. The historic Diyawanna Oya, a substantial body of water, was reclaimed from what was once a marshy wasteland. A 300-acre lake was created on which now stands the Parliament of Sri Lanka.
The building was designed by Geoffrey Bawa, Sri Lanka’s best known architect, and it stands as an elegant embodiment of the rich cultural and aesthetic heritage of this land. The silver plated chandelier, weighing one tonne, in the main chamber and skillfully carved mahogany wall outside the Members’ special entrance stand testimony to his work.
Kotte was a capital of Ceylon in the 15th Century, and taking Parliament there as the centerpiece of a new capital was regarded as a return to the past and a methodical strategy for easing congestion of Colombo.
Today, the city of Colombo is still growing from its relatively small size now hosting a yet growing 1.5 million population. What was intended was to make Sri Jayewardenepura the administrative capital of the country and it was so gazetted. It was to house the diplomatic community, government ministries and offices, hospitals and schools; but this has not happened as originally planned. Anandatissa de Alwis suggested the site to President Jayewardene after being told by Geoffrey Bawa that it was eminently suitable. He said, “if we are going to build a new capital, why not return to the capital of the Kings?”
When the Portuguese arrived in 1505, the shrewd Sinhalese tried to keep Kotte’s proximity to the Colombo port a secret. They led the foreigners through a winding excursion on horseback that stretched over seven miles. But the Portuguese saw through the ploy as they could hear their ship guns boom in the harbour. Hence the popular saying “Parangiya Kotte giya” (How the Portuguese went to Kotte).
The building has a huge copper pitch Kandyan roof to disguise its height. In the main pavilion conclave, layers of space on every level are articulated by rectangles of dark wood and glass. Even the stucco columns on the ground floor are unadorned and fuse easily with the simple wooden beams above.
The structure has a definite Eastern flavour. Bawa commented, “We have a marvellous tradition of building in this country which has got lost. It got lost because the people followed outside influences over their own good instincts. I just wanted the building to fit int the site so I opened it into blocks. You must run with the site, after all, you don’t want to push nature out of the building.”
Rupert Scott writing in a Architectural Review states, “most important, the building appears to be in tune with the climate, topography and culture”.
To stand at the entrance to the complex, besides the reflecting pools and Lei race slopes of cascading water, it has to be kept in mind that for centuries the site was a marsh. Constructing the building fell to a consortium of two Mitsui companies. An international team from Japan, Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore along with the skilled labour of masons and carpenters from Sri Lanka all completed the project in very impressive period of 26 months.
Its real heroes are the artisans of Sr Lanka – most of them unacknowledged craftsmen who helped create the magnificent work of art and culture. The opulent chamber, the focal point of the complex, is covered with a shimmering tented ceiling made of thousands of small pressed aluminium pieces linked by a tiny brass sequence. Suspended from the centre of the atrium is the enormous silver plated chandelier with over 500 bulbs in the double pain motif designed by Lankan artist and sculptor Laki Senanayake. He was given only six months to create this and say that he could never have succeeded without the brilliant master craftsman Edwin Perera and his skilled team of craftsmen.
Eighteen silver flags, beams and standards of kings, temples and korales displayed prominently from tall steel posts were crafted by D Wimal Surendra. He was responsible for this work as well as the massive silver door leading to the chamber. The intricately carved square copper door is silver plated and decorated with an elaborate inscription with the words of the preamble of the 1978 Constitution in all three languages -English, Sinhala and Tamil inscribed on it.The walls flanking this ornate door are covered with beautiful line drawings of murals by the late artist LTP Manjusri, a Magsaysay Award winner. The story depicted here is the Selalihini Sandesaya – an eloquent legend of King Parakrama Bahu VI by a famous Sinhala scholar monk of the 15th Century. The Selalihiniya was the bird chosen as the courier to convey to the deity Vibushna in the nearby city of Kelaniya the supplication of the Kotte King for a male heir. The understated elegance of the mural juxtaposes with the lobby walls of the entrance for MPs.
The special entrance, usually off limits to the public, is surrounded by wall space covered with multi-dimensional jungle scenes carved in mahogany by Mahinda Abeysekera. The interior of the main Chamber – the centrepiece or the entire complex – exudes luxury. The plush red carpet, the billowing ceiling, together with black leather chairs for the Members are bathed in indirect lighting.
At the Parliament’s opening ceremony, Dr Anandatissa de Alwis defended such seeming extravagance by rhetorically asking: “Is this unworthy of such a nation that can look towards the world and say we are not made by treaty, we were not created by the United Nations Conference, we were not created by Potsdam, Zurich or Washington. We have a history of over 2,500 years of writing, of poetry, of sculpture, of learning, second to nobody – except the most ancient civilization of my Dravidian friends across the floor of this House.”
These were truly historic and memorable words uttered by the Member of Parliament for Kotte whose valuable contribution must be recorded and not forgotten.
(The writer is a former Secretary General of Parliament)
Showcasing the epitome of elegance and craftsmanship
Pure Gold by Tiesh has a well renowned Sri Lankan actress Yehali Tashiya Kalidasa as its brand ambassador. She is a multi-faceted young personality who has made her international debut in Pakistani cinema, and perfectly embodies the essence of the Pure Gold by Tiesh brand.
Tiesh, recognized for its exceptional craftsmanship and timeless designs, launched thier latest filigree collection under its subsidiary, Pure Gold by Tiesh. Imported from the best jewellery houses in Europe, Italy, Turkey, and Dubai, this collection features a stunning array of Italian 18-karat jewellery and 22-carat gold pieces adorned with pearls.
The newly unveiled filigree collection showcases a range of breathtaking earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and rings that exude elegance, dynamism, and vitality. With pieces available in tri-colours, rose gold, white gold, and yellow gold, Pure Gold by Tiesh has curated this collection with careful attention to detail, catering specifically to the wedding season.
Director Thiyasha expressed the brand’s dedication to excellence, stating, “Our jewellery stands out compared to other bridal jewellers. We are deeply invested in every aspect, from design to quality and craftsmanship. Our customers have repeatedly expressed their satisfaction, stating that our collections surpass those of many leading jewellery houses.”
What sets the filigree collection by Pure Gold by Tiesh apart is its versatility, allowing each piece to be worn in multiple ways. With a commitment to inclusivity, Tiesh caters to diverse cultures and ethnicities, offering something for everyone, from beautiful Hindu brides to Muslim brides and traditional Kandian brides.
Director Ayesh De Fonseka elaborated on the collection’s uniqueness, saying, “Each piece is distinct and one-of-a-kind. What’s truly captivating about this collection is its transformative aspect. We are reintroducing our special ring that transforms into a bangle, a design we first introduced in Sri Lanka in 2015.”
The dazzling filigree collection showcases the sheer intricacy and timeless allure of filigree work through an exquisite range. The inclusion of transformative jewellery adds an innovative touch to the collection, setting it apart from Tiesh’s other offerings. Every piece of jewellery from Tiesh is a fusion of traditional and trendsetting elements, allowing customers to express their individual preferences. This exclusivity distinguishes the brand from its competitors, while the meticulous attention to detail adds a touch of modern luxury to each creation.
“We wanted a collection that could complement any look: beautifully paired with your favourite watch, worn as a classic stack of bangles, or simply worn alone for a more subtle appearance,” Thiyasha further added.
The campaign surrounding the filigree collection not only celebrates the grandeur and glamour of modern Sri Lankan women but also pays tribute to the rich culture and bridal market. Tiesh continues to be at the forefront of the jewellery industry, offering exquisite designs that capture the hearts and desires of jewellery enthusiasts worldwide.
Fellowship and networking
Institute of Hospitality Sri Lanka
The Institute of Hospitality, Sri Lanka International branch had their 31st Annual General Meeting recently meeting at Movenpic Hotel Colombo followed by cocktails and fellowship.
This is an annual event, organised by the President Dr. Harsha Jayasinghe and Executive Committee of the Institute.This event is organised for members of the Institute of Hospitality who have shown their dedication and commitment to the tourist industry.
The evening started with a speech from the President of the Institute Dr. Harsha. He spoke about the challenges ahead for the hospitality industry. Sri Lanka is making progress and economy is slowing signs of settling down. There are many tourists to Sri Lanka and this is definitely positive signs for the country said Director/CEO of National Development Bank Dimantha Seneviratne.
It was an entertaining evening with many members of the hospitality industry in attendance. The General Manager of the Movenpick hotel Roshan Perera gave his unstinted support to make a successful event The Chief Guest Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management Shirantha Peiris also spoke
Denara Eid Durbar
The Denara Vocational Training Institute a subsidiary of the All Ceylon Muslim Women’s Association is for the first time conducting a full day’s programme comprising a mini Eid Bazaar, Sale of items produced by the students of Denara and Cuty Rose and an evening of entertainment. It will be open to the public on Saturday,17th June from 9 am to 5 pm and entrance tickets to the exhibition are priced at Rs. 100/- .
Denara was established in October 2021 where courses in dressmaking, needlework, computer classes, cookery classes and Mehendi Art have been carried out. Despite the economic crisis, and all the challenges endured during these past few years, Denara has been able to still conduct the above classes giving many opportunities to the youth. The Vocational and Training Institute is supported by the All Ceylon Muslin Women’s Association, a reputed charity organization of 70 years history to date!
More than 200 items will be exhibited and available for sale, in addition to bed linen, table linen, cushion covers, cloth bags, and others lovingly crafted with beautiful hand embroidery.
Different to regular exhibitions and sales, a second part is being introduced to the day’s activities where a complete Moghul feel will take over! Ambassador for Turkey Demet Sekercioglu, Ambassador for Turkey in Colombo will grace the exhibition at 4 pm.
A spokesperson from the organising committee said that it will be a festive occasion in keeping with Eid, where an evening of music and games, a fashion show by the students of Denara and Cuty Rose showcasing their creations will be held not only to encourage the talented students who have worked hard to showcase their talents, but also to create an entertaining afternoon. The widely acclaimed Muslim Chorale Choir will make a guest appearance complementing the occasion. The day’s proceedings will conclude with a light dinner where tickets for this are priced at Rs. 3,000/- and already available for sale at the Denara Vocational Training Institute Office located at 191/50, Mangala Gardens, Colombo 5. . Please call on 077 853 9890 for further details.
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