Sri Palee Mela

The Annual Sri Palee Mela was a pinnacle celebration during our studentship period. In my opinion, Sri Palee Mela was a performance indicator “Celebration” of the interactive functions of the institute Sri Palee.. A true reflection of activities of the Sri Palee of that time at a carnival for the Horana Public.

All divisions of Sri Palee worked towards the success of “Sri Palee Mela” with a kind of “mantharam” of coordination under Mr. Wilmot A. Perera. Music, Dancing and Cultural Events, Science Exhibitions, Handloom Products, Leather Work, Pottery, and a unique Café all manned by energetic teachers and students.

Mr. Perera believed in a sense of practical technology and insisted that the Sri Palee “Annual Mela” (Carnival) to have a base of Technology in Science Exhibition. In 1963, when I was working at the SLBC, Mr. Perera wanted me to see him. I visited him in his Bungalow “Layaan” at Kapugala Kande. He asked my career progress and was very pleased for the Broadcasting Engineering exposure that I was receiving through SLBC. He said “I want you to build a model for the Sri Palee Mela”. He knew that I was good at technology manipulations. He explained that he needed a gadget / a piece of equipment, for the visitors at the mela to try “Test Your Nerves”. He said that he will provide me with financial requirement to construct the exhibit. I constructed an instrument with lights and buzzers and showed him how it worked. He was full of praise - because his idea was developed to a near perfect model equipment. He commended me and issued me a certificate too.

Opportunities at the Science Exhibitions to students to develop exhibits and to explain the workings of exhibits / Models to visitors in English was an avenue to improve English communication skills. I am certain Engineers and Professionals like P. Amarathunga, Dhanapala Perera, S. A. Athukorala, Ananda Gunawardena, Dhanapala Hettiarachchi, and P. D. Sathyapala will stand up to vouch my statement. I remember Mr. W. A. D. Perera on his own initiative constructed and brought in complex touching electronic exhibits for the Mela from 1957-61 period. His high quality sound system and music kept the Science Exhibition a very lively and attractive place.

Sri Palee Mela provided a wide variety of attractions to a cross section of people in and around Horana. Govt. Department stalls and a variety of games of chance and skills for the adult public. An evening full of entertainment atmosphere was in place with merry-go-round, giant wheel and other popular attractions. It was a galaxy of illumination with several thousands of bulbs, flags and decorations.

In every Mela there was a concert. This concert was One year practice show of teacher & student artists. In one year it was “Nala saha Damayanthi”, Next time it was “Asokamala”. Year after next it was “Sakuntala” so on and so forth. There was music and dancing (Oriental & Bharath) sessions. Vocalist and specialist music teacher Mr. Weerasena Gunatilake was a centre of attraction. He too showed his mettle to Sri Lanka by attaining Music “Visharadha” status and a Director of Music - Department of Education and was a TV and Radio personality.

The students and the teachers were the artists who performed in these Mela dramas –performed free of charge, at the concert. They continuously looked forward to this annual show for the simple reason – Their contribution for a worthy cause toDevelop Sri Palee”. Tickets for these dramas were priced at a meager one rupee for a first class, fifty cents for second class. There were minimum two shows of forty five minute duration per day.

Another interesting personal observation: In the Sri Palee Mela, Merry-Go-Round took up a grand place. Music band of the Merry-Go-Round created such a sensation everyone hearing that music gets tempted and charmed that “I must have at least one round on the Merry-Go-Round”. Children and adults equally had this temptation and enthusiasm. The tickets were priced only Fifty cents for a one trip, which runs for around four minutes. If you were lucky and privileged to have a chat with the “Band Master” of the merry go round, and request him to play your popular music – then you really go round and round in the Merry-Go-Round with your music – it was a wonderful feeling for everyone. I was very fascinated with this Merry-Go-Round, and I constructed a model Merry-Go-Round an almost a scale model and it was appreciated by all visitors. The comments by science and other teachers motivated me to develop more gadgets for the next mela. Even today I keep some of the gadgetry remnants of these models as a token to refresh my school memory.

In one or two Mela in the 50s, Mr. Wilmot A. Perera introduced “Win a car” lottery draw. It was a landmark “Lottery launch” at Horana in that era. It focused the attraction of many people at the carnival. There was an “Austin” car on a well lit platform, and the tickets were sold by officials on either side of the platform. The Carnival was filled with live music over the public address system – at times requesting public attention for various scenarios of the mela. Announcements were dramatic enough to persuade people to visit for the next year too.


Yet another story may be in the late 50s is how he bought a Rubber Dinghy Boat and arranged for a few students and teachers to row the boat in the small pond near the famous Tamarind Tree. Incidentally this Tamarind Tree serves to guard and shelter the memory stone engraved with a finely worded poem of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. This memory stone was unveiled by Mrs. Vijayalakshmi Pandit, renowned daughter of Bharath Land and the sister of one time Prime Minister of India - Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. In this memory stone the inscriptions are faded now, but this poem “Where the mind is without fear….” will live on as the monument itself.


In the early 50’s, Mela PA System and the announcing team were under Mr. Gunadasa Liyanage. He created a sensation in his announcements. Mr. Liyanage showed his mettle in his early days at Sri Palee – conducted “Sangawunu Amuttha Seveema” in the carnival all four days. It drew the attention of many – and was a “live” session. Mr. Liyanage, in his career rose to be a writer of esteemed class, a radio and TV presenter, journalist. We used to call him “Guli Ayya”. We are proud of him and his family. His wife – Chandralatha Akka, yet another proud product of Sri Palee, and an early graduate from the Peradeniya University. Their children are too in the allied media professions to preserve the term “chip of the old block” in the Media.

The End of each “Mela day” was registered with a colourful display of fireworks (Malvedi) competition. It was the climax of the day, and this annual Sri Palee Mela was a feature everyone looked forward to. There were night bus services for the public to arrive at the Carnival site – Wewala from Horana, Ingiriya, Padukka, Kalutara, Panadura, Matugama, Anguruwathota, & Kalawellawa. The end of the four day Mela was a really sad episode for everyone who contributed with heart & soul. My friend Dhanapala Hettiarachchi who lives close to Sri Palee : Hop step and a jump, remarked - the activity of the mela merry go round music, announcements, mal wedi sounds still echoes in his mind as it has influenced him so much annually from his infancy to youth.

In the 1958–60 era, Mr. Hubert Silva and Mr. Russell Gunaratne and few others – introduced a “Get-together” for all students/teachers – Mela participants to celebrate the success of Carnival/Mela. It was held the day after the final Day of the Carnival. All teachers and students enjoyed at this fellowship very well. It was a merry making time. Mr. Hubert Silva and teachers, who arranged the get-together, showed us – Work while you work & Play while you play”. Mr. Hubert Silva was a star performer and showed a fine cross section of an effective teacher – student collaboration to celebrate the past event, and to move on and motivate yourself for the next Mela.

50th Anniversary Mela Celebrations

The 50th Anniversary Sri Palee Mela in 1984 had a display of Broadcast Quality Colour Closed Circuit Television System operational at Sri Palee. We fabricated a studio with high quality cameras and a distribution system. This equipment was worth over Rs. 15 million, and was loaned by Panasonic – Uni Walkers, where I was the General Manager. Mr. Dhanapala Perera took the responsibility of all the equipment and provided our staff accommodation in his own residence. If not for his undertaking of the responsibility, Uni Walkers would have not released all that valuable equipment. Mr. Dhanapala Hettiarachchi provided invaluable technical assistance. Visitors at the carnival had the opportunity to present songs and discussions over this system during the four mela days. It was a novel experience as Television was started in Sri Lanka few years back.


Last Updated on Friday, 25 December 2009 15:33