Anagarika Dharmapala’s Mother

Mallika Hewavitarne

(1846 – 27 July 1936)

Mallika, Anagarika Dharmapala’s mother, was the matriarch of the Family. She grew up in an atmosphere of devotion to Buddhism and its cause. Her father, Andiris Perera Dharmagunawardene, one of the wealthiest Buddhists in Colombo, was a pioneer in the movement for the revival of Buddhism. He donated an extensive block of land at Maligakanda in Colombo's Maradana area and the funds to establish the first monastic college for Buddhist monks, which became known as the Vidyodaya Oriental College, under the stewardship of the erudite scholar-monk of that era, the Venerable Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala nahimi (thero).

While born into considerable wealth, Mallika lived her life with detachment and an ethos of renunciation. Anagarika Dharmapala writes in his diary that while the seed of Bodhi was established by his father, it was his mother who “used to preach to [him] the doctrine of impermanence weekly….”. Her detachment, Angarika Dharmapala came to believe, was the work of the devas of light who wanted to prevent him from being attached to and tied down by family.


Her great granddaughter, Manel Hewavitarne Ratnatunga wrote in 2012 of her memories of her great grandmother:

“We went weekly to see great grand Mallika who lived close by at Aloe Avenue. … A very old Mallika was dressed in a white sari with a long sleeved white jacket and a solemn face, and was seated on a white chair. Around her was a host of people we did not know….In her kitchen compound I could see two Ali Baba jars on the boil, one with hot water to bathe the beggars and the other with rice to give them a meal. I heard that she cut the beggar women’s hair that was covered with lice and gave them her own expensive clothes to wear after a bath”.

Mallika, with the support of a group of like-minded ladies of her time, founded the Mallika Anatha Nivasa Samithiya - a Home for the Aged and Destitute in 1920 with the funds given to her by her youngest son, Dr Charles Hewavitarne, for the purchase of the land and the budlings in Colombo's Bambalapitiya area. The organization is today known as the Mallika Nivasa Samithiya, which manages the Mallika Home, Sneha Child Development Centre and the Parakrama Child Development Centre.

Mallika’s life was tinged by tragedy. She lived to see the travails of her sons at the hands of the British rulers, including exile and imprisonment, and the death of all her children during her lifetime.