1925- 2000 Ven. Mapalagama Vipulasara Thera

The great artist monk

by Ven. prof. Bellanwila Wimalaratana TheraAnunayaka of the Kotte

Chapter & Chancellor of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura.

Ven. Mapalagama Vipulasara Thera was born on March 03, 1925, in a village named Mapalagama, in the Galle District. He studied at Paranthaneyamgoda Govt. school. He was ordained on July 14, 1940 at Paramadhamma Chetiya Pirivena, Ratmalana and obtained his Higher Ordination on February 18, 1946.

He had his basic Pirivena education at Agalawatte and later he entered the Vidyodaya Pirivena, Maligakanda, Maradana, and pursued his higher studies. As a Buddhist monk, he was dynamic, and was always bubbling with enthusiasm.

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Ven. Mapalagama Wipulasara Thro

Very rarely, a Buddhist monk gains fame in the field of art. If you trace the history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, I wonder whether, we come across a Buddhist monk, who dedicated his entire life for the promotion of art and Buddhism in this country, like Ven. Mapalagama Vipulasara.

It was Prof. Dr. Gunapala Malalasekera, who spotted the artistic talent of the young monk Mapalagama Vipulasara Thera and introduced him to the Principal of the National School of Fine Arts – The late J.D.A. Perera. He followed a course at the School of Fine Arts for three years. Not only was he courageous, but was also a leader, who formed an association with highly talented artists called “Jatika Kala Peramuna.”

Further, Ven. Vipulasara, excelled himself in “Gokkola Decoration and creative art.” In 1956, Buddha Jayanthi year, his decorations were highly appreciated by international dignitaries, such as Prince Mikasa of Japan and other foreign and local VIPs.

Mapalagama Vipulasara Thera’s name became famous and a household word as a sculptor of Buddha statues. One of his brilliant masterpieces is the Ananda College shrine Buddha statue adoring the entrance of Ananda College. It is one of his brilliant creations out of many. Among other notable Buddha statues of his were seen at Vihara Maha Devi Gardens, Colombo. The statue at Bauddhaloka Mawatha, at Kandawatta Kosinna Rajamaha Vihara. Walukaramaya Kollupitiya. Further, he reconstructed the Buddha statue at Maligawila and restored it to its original stature.

Ven. Hikkaduwa Sri Sumangala Thera’s statue at the Vidyodaya Pirivena, Maligakanda and the Anagarika Dharmapala statue at Viharamaha Devi Gardens were also Ven. Mapalagama Vipulasara’s creations.

In 1972, the great monk had the proud distinction of modelling and preparing the prestigious, official emblem of Sri Lanka.

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On an invitation extended to him by the Pope John Paul 11, in 1974, he proceeded to Vatican city, Rome and visited the art galleries and studied the creative works. While in Vatican, he visited St. Peter’s Church and other sites of importance and did an in-depth study of the frescoes and sculptures. The visit was a landmark in his career.

Earlier, from 1961 to 1963, he did research studies on art and crafts, paintings, sculpture etc., in countries such as China, Mongolia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong-kong, Singapore, Thailand and Myanmar.

As a new concept it was Ven. Vipulasara Thera who turned out Buddha statues and other works of using fibre glass.

When Pope Paull II visited Sri Lanka, the stage was planned and constructed by him. It depicted our proud culture. Ven. Vipulasara Thera also undertook the erection of the attractive pandal and the pavilion.

He was a perfectionist. With all his work related to artistic skills, this great “Buddhaputra” served the “Buddhist Order at the highest level. He was a great religious missionary, who played a dynamic lead role in propagating Buddhism throughout the world.

Ven. Mapalagama Vipulasara held many prestigious positions as a Buddhist monk.

He was the head of Paramadhammachetiya Pirivena, a leading institute of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. An important noteworthy feature of Vipulasara Thera was that he helped Buddhist monks for missionary activities at Paramadhamma institute, under the leadership of Dr. Ven. Kirinde Shri Dhammananda Nayake Thera.

He served in many organisations as chairman. Out of them some of the notable ones were chairman, Sri Lanka – Japan Centre Association. He served as the secretary of the Sri Lanka – Korea Cultural Society.

Although he took artistic undertakings both locally and internationally, he never failed in his duty at Paramadhammachetiya Pirivena. With the appointment of Ven. Vipulasara Thera on January 14, 1960 as the chief incumbent, the golden era of the Paramadhammachetiya began.

He was an excellent Buddhist diplomat. He always maintained a very, cordial relationship with the outside world. It was the golden thread of Buddhism that bound many countries.

In appreciation of the great services he rendered to art as well as Buddhism, in 1984, the Government of Sri Lanka, honoured him with the title of “Kalasoori”.

The University of Maha Chuklanka, of Thailand conferred on him a Doctorate. The Vidyalankara Pirivena, Kelaniya, Sri Lanka, conferred Ven. Vipulasara Thera with the title “Sahitya Chakravarthi”.

Ven. Dr. Mapalagama Vipulasara Nayaka Thera served the Buddhist order and the country at the highest level with distinction.

Ven. Mapalagama Vipulasara Nayaka Thera passed away on October 29, 2000. He still lives and is remembered as a great artist. He was a fine painter, artist and a sculptor, who brought international fame and glory to Sri Lanka. This great energetic monk was an ornament to the field of arts, as well as to the Buddhasasana.

May he attain the bliss of Nibbana.

Ven. Mapalagama Vipulasara Nayaka Thera passed away on October 29, 2000. He still lives and is remembered as a great artist. He was a fine painter, artist and a sculptor, who brought international fame and glory to Sri Lanka. This great energetic monk was an ornament to the field of arts, as well as to the Buddhasasana.