Sauris Silva

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Suwanda Hennedige Sauris Silva (May 05, 1998-Oct. 13,1982), popularly known as S. H. Sauris Silva, was born in Tangalle in the Hambantota District. School Principal by profession, he was also a social worker, and a writer, committing to writing for the first time the little known oral tradition of Tovil. He passed away at age 85.


Kasturi Aracchige Missinona Warnakulasuriya of the southern town of Dodanduwa was, of course, the woman behind the public persona of the husband. But she also ran a loving and efficient home, and was the Mrs. Principal of the neighbourhood.

Early life

Birth and Family Background

S. H. Sauris Silva was born to Buddhist parents in Tangalle, in South Ceylon (Principality of Ruhuna), to Wickremasinghe Saranachchi Patabaendige Dinohamy of Walgameliya (mother)[1] and Suwanda Hennedige Konnehamy of Kudawella, gold medallist “in a [dance] competition …. in Southern Ceylon”[1], his own dance troupe made up of the three sons Sauris, Hendrick and Gunadasa. Oldest of the three, in addition to two daughters in the family, Sauris Silva’s birth date of May 5 falls on Vesak,an International Buddhist holiday recognized by the UN.[2]


In his childhood, his interests were unusual – building model stupas [Buddhist reliquaries], arranging perahera [Buddhist parades], holding mock meetings under trees and making speeches. He also loved to display dancing, rounding up age-mates[1].

Initiated into both dancing and his first letters by his father, his education was at Sri Rahula Vidyalaya, in his hometown. The influence of his mother seems to relate to his spiritual side: “Amma [mother] likes alms-giving, to the Sangha [ordained monks], engages in meritorious deeds, with a mind for generosity …. She is also very conscious of shame and fear meaning here modesty. And it is along the same lines that she conducted the affairs of the family.”[3]

Later life

Education and employment

His employment began while still a student, under an existing Monitor system. Showing his academic acumen as the best student in the higher grades, he was selected to teach the younger grades. In later years, he was to end up as Principal of his own alma mater, Rahula Vidyalaya, but over time, posted to many a school during his career. But, under the British Imperial system, he was paid only half the salary of his counterpart in the English medium.

Following retirement, he was to serve on the Faculty at the Heywood Arts Centre, as Lecturer on Low Country Dancing, writing the first curriculum. Jointly with S. Panibharata, Principal of the school and an Upcountry Dance veteran, the duo were to train the first ever Sri Lankan Dance group to make a visit overseas, this being to India.[4].

He has also served on the Editorial Board of Lankadeepa, one of the two leading Sinhala Dailies published by the Times Group.

Personal life


He was married to Kasturi Aracchige Missinona Warnakulasuriya (1899-1963) of Dodanduwa, on August 8, 1924[5]. As to her qualities, “.. the difficulties that had to be faced, resulting from my employment debacles, …she bore with not an iota of loss of love. She took all responsibility to attend to my mother and father in ill-health, and death.” Between her and him, “For the children, me and my wife, and the house became a school for behaviour and morals, learnedness and handicraft training”. The dance costumes that served as an attraction for the crowds were also to be hand-made by his wife.

Following the passing away of first wife, he was to get married to D. G.Susilawathie, of Devinuwara, a school teacher.


In the Sauris Silva family, only 4 of the 7 children were to survive, the older son, too, dying at the age of 11. Even though his income as Principal was meagre, all three children – two girls and a boy, were enrolled in the fee-paying English-medium Catholic school, Christ Church College Boys’ School in Tangalla. His half salary may have been the eye-opener – to ensure that the younger generation would not face the same discrimination.

His oldest daughter Sunanda (married: Balasuriya), trained at Bhatkhande Music School in Lucknow, India, ends up as music teacher at Ananda College, Colombo, the leading boys school. Chitra (married: Nimaldas), ends up as a Teacher of English as a Second Language in the Koslanda area of their residence. Sugunasiri, a US Fulbright scholar (1964)[1], (married to Swarna Bellana), ends up living in Canada[6].

Practising Buddhist

A critical part of the personal life of Sauris was the attention paid to living a moral life. In his own words, he was one who lived “eschewing the unethical behaviours of gambling, drinking and smoking".

Cultural life


Lead dancer in his father’s Low Country (pahata rata naetum පහත රට නැටුම්) exorcistic dance troupe, he is known for his sophistry “in keeping to the dance steps meticulously and systematically, singing as well as drumming”[7] . Invited to perform at the cultural show organized for the visiting young Queen Elizabeth (1952), she is said to have been mesmerized when the dance virtuoso“let out fire from his eyes … in the ginisanniya (ගිනි සන්නිය) ‘fire dance’ ”[8]File:Sauris dancer.jpg|alt=Dancer Image of Sauris Silva|thumb|Dancer Image of Sauris Silva


His more visible contribution were his publications on තොවිල් පහත රට නැටුම් (Tovil, and Low Country Dancing ) (1965); සුනියම් ශාන්තිය (Sooniyam Shantiya) (1970), committing to writing the oral tradition for the first time[9][10].While there had been early studies in English[11], in his own words, none of them provides a critical analysis of the art, “something only an artiste like myself, with personal knowledge, could do”[12]. He was also a poet[13] .

Public service

An active social worker, he was to get a special ward built in the hospital for the ordained sangha, getting electricity extended to his residential area of Medaketiya as well. A “fighter for justice”, his other services cover a wide range: Education; Cooperatives; Rural development; Temperance; Health; Fishing Community; Religion; Teachers. President, Mahajana Sabha [People’s Association], and Member Ceylon National Congress, making the public “knowledgeable of the Independence struggle”, he was also Founder President, Jayanti Kala Sangamaya ‘Jayanti Arts Association’[14]

World travel

Low Country Dance items on Rogers Cable TV, Toronto, Canada in 1981 Joined by his son, he was to visit the holy places of Buddhist significance in India, in 1971, making a pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya, Sarnath, and Kushinagar. Visiting him and family in Toronto, Canada, in 1981, at 83, he was to perform Low Country Dance items on Rogers Cable TV[15]


The major cultural contribution made by Sauris Silva is the elevation of Low Country Dancing. Relegated to mythology under 500 years of colonial rule, it is now taught at the University of Visual and Performing Arts, in Colombo, the curriculum written by him initially still providing the foundational basis. Low Country Dance has also now reached western scholarship, studying it more under ethnomusicology [16] than as psychotherapy[17].

A state honoured Kalaguru ‘Maestro of the Arts’, the street in front of his traditional family home in Medaketiya has come to be named ‘Kalaguru Sauris Silva Mawata [Street’][2]’>.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Daluwatta, Chandrasena (1970). Sauris Silva eulogy (in Sinhala).{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
  2. Triple celebration of the Buddha’s Birth, Enlightenment and Parinibbana ‘final demise’.
  3. Sugunasiri, Suwanda (2016). Silva, Sauris Autobio - My Mother. p. 29.
  4. Sugunasiri, Suwanda H J (2016). Silva, Sauris, “Autobio”. p. 24.
  5. Sugunasiri, Suwanda (2016). Sauris Silva Autobio - My Marriage. p. 32.
  6. Hori & McLelland (2010). Wild Geese: Buddhism in Canada. Queen's-McGill university Press. pp. 377–399. ISBN 0773536671.
  7. Sugunasiri, Suwanda (2016). Sauris Silva Autobio. pp. 15–16.
  8. Sugunasiri, Suwanda (2016). Sauris Silva Autobio. p. 23.
  9. Silva, Sauris (1965). පහත රට නැටුම් (in Sinhala). M. D. Gunasena & Co.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
  10. Silva, Sauris (1970). සුනියම් ශාන්තිය (in Sinhala). M. D. Gunasena & Co.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
  11. Among them are works by O. Pertold, Beryl de Zoete, Dandiris de Silva (Silva, 1965, 3)
  12. Silva, Sauris (1965). පහත රට නැටුම් (in Sinhala). M. D. Gunasena & Co. p. 4.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
  13. Sugunasiri, Suwanda (2016). Sauris Silva Autobio. p. 40.
  14. Sugunasiri, Suwanda (2016). Sauris Silva Autobio. pp. 35–44.
  15. Sugunasiri, Sugunasiri (2016). Sauris Silva Auobio. pp. 181–187.
  16. The earliest inquiry (letter dated Oct 15, 1970) is from one Pamela Squires, a Master’s student at the Institute of Ethnomusicology, Univ. of California, looking to do research “on one of the Ceylonese dance traditions”. The letter addressed to Jayanti Kala Sangamaya ends with a P. S.: “Do you have the address of Mr. S. H. Sauris Silva who I understand was President as of 1959?” (Sauris Silva personal collection.)
  17. Sugunasiri, Suwanda, H. J (1967). Ceylonese ‘Tovil’ as Psychotherapy.

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