Celebration of Literature at 5th Galle Literary Festival

By Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

“The most companionable of all festivals” ~ Michael Morpurgo (English Author, Poet, Playwright, Librettit and participant of 3rd Galle literary Festival in 2009), (5th October 1943~)

Cultures are the very heart of humanity and creativity

The Galle Literary Festival was founded in 2007 in at the world heritage site Galle. The 5th Galle Literary Festival ~ GLF was held from 26th of January 2011 ~ 30th of January 2011, amidt a call to boycott by the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS). Three writers pulled out from the festival. They are award winning South African novelist Damon Galgut, Noble Laureate Orhan Pamuk and his partner and fellow writer Kiran Desaiboycotted the 5th Galle Litarary Festival.Galle Literary festival included round tables, conversations, workshops, tours, performance, gourmet events, sunset series, picnic and children’s programme.

Similar call was made by some Indian writers and organisations to boycott the first International Tamil Writers Conference in Colombo. It was held from 6th of January 2011 ~ 9th of January 2011.

“I have always enjoyed seeing buildings, but seldom enjoyed reading explanations about them ~ as I feel with others, that architecture cannot be totally explained, but must be experienced” ~ Geoffrey Bawa. This quote applies to the world heritage city of Galle and vicinity.

Raavanesan is being performed in the Kooththu tradition ~ a form of theatre particular to the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka

Combination of folk tunes and vigorous dancing to convey the narrative

Cartoon displayed at the BBC World Service : The Forum: After Shock: The LINGERING LEGACY OF CIVIL WAR

BBC World Service : The Forum: After Shock: The LINGERING LEGACY OF CIVIL WAR

“We read their books but excited to meet the authors in person” say the University students from North and East

Festival ~ goers at literary discussion

“I’m pleased to participate in 5th Galle Literary Festival”says Canista Arthie Denicius,Faculty of Arts,University of Jaffna

The festival promotes the aspects of dialogue and diversity which enhances human development

It is performed all through the night in the “Vatta Kalari, (round stage) in the villages

The story of Raavanesan revolves round Raavanan’s struggle in keeping up with his stature of heroism in the face of crisis

Raavanesan wants to wage a war, Mandothari opposes

Thushyanthy Balasuntharam is a lecturer of Eastern University if Sri Lanka

The weather keeps changing

Raavanesan is killed;Mandothari mourns

Balmy weather in Galle

Horse ride during the performance

Dr.Sinniah Maunaguru performs as Raavanesan after 45 years

“Women and children suffer as a result of war” laments Mandothari after Raavanesan was killed in a battle

Visitors thronged the venue to view the performance

Engrossed festival ~ goers

Most finest expression by Sujananthi Thairiyanathan who perform as Mandothari

Musicians accompany the performance

Sunila Abeysekera moderates the session after the performance of Raavanesan by Dr.Sinniah Maunaguru

Original Gate ~ Until 1873, this was the only entrance to the Fort. A fine pair of crest can be seen above the arches. On the outside is the British Coat of Arms dating from 1795, and on the inside the VOC Coat of Arms dating from 1669

Kids play with sword and trident used during the Raavanesan play

Music adds colour to the festival

Literature promotes reflection and soul ~ searching

Beautiful words meet beautiful settings

Literature provides learning and entertainment

Men are seen busy reading the newspapers

Words are powerful which can move people

Festival ~ Goers in Galle

Musicians at the festival

Beautiful architecture of Galle Fort

The Light House was built in1939

The Mosque was built in1909

Statue in the Law Courts Square

Sarah Dunant signs her book “Sacred Hearts”

Ceylon Sarong Company stall at the Galle Literary Festival

Winners of a painting competition among school students

2nd runners up of a painting competition among school students

Police protection is given for the 5th Galle Literary Festival

Mobile Cigarette vendor in Galle

Gloomy weather in Galle

Boys play Volleyball in Galle

Festival ~ goers walk along the beach at dusk

Antique shop in Galle

Galle Literary Festival has become firmly established on the world literary circuit

Bicycle is parked near the beach in Galle

~ passionParade ~ Email: dushi.pillai@gmail.com ~ twitter.com/dushiyanthini


  1. magerata says:

    Hi Lady, Much thanks, You made me feel like I was there. Loved the photos of Raavenesan play, specially. I will make it to this festival someday. :)

  2. Sen says:

    Thanks for the photos. It was very nice. However, It would be interesting to know how many people turned up to these festival of farse? Is there any journalistic freedom in Sri Lanka?

  3. Noel Nadesan says:

    Nice work for the Galle festival
    Again one after Tamil writer conference,I was trying to thank personally but could not see you
    Any way well done

  4. ernest macintyre says:

    Your readers may be interested to know why Ravanesan was done in the open at the Galle Literary Festival.

    It was done in the open for centuries but influenced by Sinhala drama’s pinnacle figure Sarachchandra of Peradeniya University, Professor S. Viththiananthan of the same university trapped it within the closed stage, in the 60s. I paraphrase below what Jeyashankar of the Eastern University wrote about this:

    The Tamil Department of the University of Ceylon had confusedly tried to “catch up” , after experiencing the Sinhala Maname in 1956 , by producing Ravanesan, Karnan Por, Vaaly Vathay and Nondy Nadaham in the sixties. “Professor S. Viththiananthan modified Koothu to fit the picture frame stage as Sarachchandra had done with Sinhala theatre. He shifted Koothu from an open space – vadda kalari (round open area) to a controlled – space auditorium, constructed by the culture of the colonial power. At this point Jeyashankar quotes Ngugi Wa Thiongo, the Kenyan writer and dramatist – “ Both the missionaries and the colonial administration used the school system to destroy the concept of the ‘empty space’ among the people by trying to capture and confine it in government – supervised urban community halls, school halls, church buildings, and in actual theatre buildings with proscenium stage” .

    Jeyashankar continues, “…it totally changed the traditional concept and character of theatre space from the point of view of both actor and spectator. It brought about separation between the two, critically affecting their traditional intimate relationship……Koothu is community theatre, not folk art, Koothu’s origins are in seasonal rituals in temples” The literary fusion of Sarachchandra’s, own poetry with the folk dance form of Sinhala nadagama, does not attract the attention of Jeyashankar because the Tamil Koothu did not need to do so.

    The Tamil Koothu was already a developed drama, using the literature of the Mahabaratha and Ramayana. Jeyashankar’s criticism was to do with Viththiananthan following Sarachchandra’s helpless retreat, as he saw it, into the colonial closed stage of town hall and school hall.

  5. MA says:


    How about starting somewhere is a good thing. The ones who attended will take the message to others.

    People of Sri Lanka deserve this and more festivals like this.

    I see no political campaigner depriving them of literature because there is “no press freedom in Sri Lanka”

  6. M. Pereira says:

    Thanks for the pictures. Brings back a lot of memories of Galle. Love to attend the festival itself in the near future.