Gajaman Nona: Stories from the past | Daily News

Gajaman Nona: Stories from the past

Gajaman Nona sprung from a humble Sinhala home. She found a place in Sinhalese literature with her own efforts in spite of many flaming swords that marred her victory. Most of her Sinhalese poems were composed with a clear, powerful vision and humanity

Isabella Dona Cornellia was a famous poet in Ceylon History, forgotten today in schools by students and teachers too.

Born in 1746 during the time of Ceylon, she was highly influenced by the Portuguese. During this period, the Portuguese influenced our speech, clothes and names too that have lingered in our daily society. Hence, Gajaman Nona too, who lived during this Portuguese period, had this influence.

Although born in a Sinhala village, she was accustomed to the Portuguese style that was prevailing in Ceylon. Her dress was supposed to be of the famous Portuguese women’s fashion. Seen very often wearing long puffed sleeves with pleated blouse, with a long frilled and long pleated skirt. This, it says, had suited her perfectly as she has had an enchaining figure and had been a beauty, always gorgeously dressed. She had been an unrivalled famous poet. She admits that poets had tried to directly or indirectly incapacitate her knowledge.

She had been a obdurate poetess for she was never reticent with her rivals. Hence she did achieve he ambition and became a resplendent famous poetress.

In one of her famous poems, she had stated her life’s story too. She had said that in her early years she had lost her dear father. She says her life’s story was sad and interesting too, with all the ups and downs. According to her story in poetic form, her parents and she, accompanied by a group of pilgrims had gone up to Adma’s Peak. While travelling through the thick jungle, wild elephants had attacked the group and had even killed her father.

The rest of the group including her mother had fled in fear, leaving baby Gajaman Nona in the destiny of the wild animals and the tree gods. Fortunately, a Buddhist monk at that moment, known as “Ali Mantaraya” passing this jungle had heard the baby cry.

He had carried this charming baby to Pelmadulla, Ratnapura. After relating this episode, he had handed the baby to a rich Mudalaly for adoption. Born to a poor family with a very rich name ‘Gaja’ (elephant), she had only this patrimony to inspire and give her courage in her venture.

She was proud of her father’s name Wiratamulla Gamage Don Francisco Senaratne Kumarapertumal Gajaman Arachchi. He mother’s names was Dona Nona Babi Hamine. Gajaman Nona was born in 1746. She had been a defiant, head strong, haughty poetess with strong determination. She had fought tooth and nail to achieve this competitive status prevailing at that time. She has had to struggle hard, to keep her poet rivals at bay and secure that prominent place.

There had been times she forgot she was a lady wearing the ‘saya hatte’ modesty. Chastity and purity were often far away from her. For her aim was to be above all other poets. Her main aim was to be somebody. To achieve this goal, her strong weapon was associating educated priests and men. Hence she had many Romeos and paramours.

She had forgotten wedded bliss after the demise of her husband, leaving her a young and charming widow. With her beauty and knowledge of poetry, she knew she could intoxicate any man. She made use of this charming euphuism in her poems. Euphony was in her voice too. She had been educated by a high priest of Karatota. Hence by her erudition, she was able to reach the highest goal.

Mudaliya Elpatha had given up his robes and priesthood for the wind of passion he had for Gajaman Nona. He had been madly in love with her at one time as she had been a radiant and enchanting lady. In one of Mudaliya Elpatha’s poems, he compares Gajaman Nona to a large wild elephant, who blew though her rough long trunk in many directions and had destroyed a healthy yellow bannana orchard.

He compared the Arahat to the steady yellow bannana orchard. Figuratively, Mudaliya Elpatha, in another of his poems, compares Gajaman Nona to a lamp, that is lit to illuminate the darkness in the world. He also sarcastically says that was like a beautiful flowers, born in a forest, to blush unseen.

Perhaps he would have expressed his love for her in an indirect form. It says she too had replied to this poem to insult him for having given up his priesthood for her love. And she had even refused to marry him although he gave up his robes for her sake.

She was supposed to have been in love with two other priests too and an Englishman John Doyly had been one of her lovers. He had helped her financially after the death of her husband leaving her with five children. Once she had written a long “Loce Kavi” to him imploring to help her and her family and have an atom of sympathy to a young beautiful woman like her. She had received substantial help from him.

Today stands the ‘Nonage Gimhala’ (Non’s Rest House) done by her for the benefit of pilgrims at the top of Adam’s peak, to commemorate the events of her being stranded in the jungle on the way to Adam’s peak and of her father’s demise.

Gajaman Nona sprung from a humble Sinhala home. She found a place in Sinhalese literature with her own efforts in spite of many flaming swords that marred her victory. Most of her Sinhalese poems were composed with a clear, powerful vision and humanity.

Some in which a strong expressionist strain was balanced in a sarcastic verification manner, directly or indirectly pointing to a certain person in mind. Some poems had been enriched by flashes of humour to a significant person or persons to whom she wanted to humiliate and hurt.

Some poets had even replied to some of her poems to mollify their anger against her and shame her. She passed off at the age of 66 and it is said that she had a lonely and miserable ending. But she had left behind sweet memories and beautiful poems for us to enjoy. 

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