Schoolboy publisher Notching up half a century in business

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By 2017-08-19

with R.S. Karunaratne

If a schoolboy turns a publisher, that is news. If he remains a publisher for 55 years, that is remarkable. Dayawansa Jayakody is that rare personality in the local book publishing industry.

When Jayakody was a fledgeling student at Ananda College, Colombo way back in 1962, he took a bold decision to publish Nimal Ariyawansa Perera's Sahithya Sungrahaya. He would never have thought that he would remain a publisher for 55 year since then. On 29 August 2017 he becomes the most senior and prominent book publisher in Sri Lanka.

Jayakody was born on 29 August 1943 at Waragoda, Kelaniya. His father Dayananda Jayakody owned a number of houses rented out to people in the area. After some time, he decided to hand over the ownership of the houses to their tenants. As a mark of respect the tenants named the area 'Jayakody Place.' His mother Seedin Nona would never have thought that young Jayakody would ever become a book publisher.

He received his primary education at Clifton Girls' High School, Colombo. Jayakody happened to be the only boy in Grade 3. However, he received his secondary education at Ananda College, Colombo. While he was in Grade 6 he took the initiative to print a children's newspaper titled Sisumina in 1956. His Sinhala teacher Kamala Rajapaksa encouraged him to write essays. His essay titled Vesak Serasilla became popular among the students. However, Sisumina did not receive the blessings of his parents and it ceased to be published.

First children's newspaper

Having sat the G.C.E. (O/L) examination in 1960, Jayakody published another children's newspaper titled Helabima to mark 13 years of independence.It became the first children's newspaper to be published in Sri Lanka. It sold 20,000 copies at that time. Helabima attracted many young writers such as Premakeerthi de Alwis. A.D. Ranjith Kumara, Newton Gunasekara, Neil Wijeratne, Jinadasa Danansuriya, Athula Manchanayake, Siri Kahawala, Chandralatha Senanayake and Chandrasena Ranaweera. Later,Jayakody bought Justin Wijewardena's 'Divaina' press to print Helabima.

With the profits he earned from the sales of Helabima, Jayakody bought an Austin A30 car and drove it to school. However, his father punished him for doing that. Helabima publications include Nimal Sedara's Katu Aga Pipi Mal, B.H. Lesley Sirisena's Ko Amme Thatta, Premadasa Gamage's Palangetiya and Dharmakeerthi Jayasekara's Rathu Kandulu. In 1965, however, Helabima Publishers was relaunched as Dayawansa Jayakody Publishers.

The company was situated on Avondale Road, Maradana. Later the name was changed to Ven. S. Mahinda Mawatha by Prime Minister Ranasinghe Premadasa. Thereafter, Jayakody took the initiative to put up the statues of Ven. S. Mahinda and Ven. Gangodawila Soma at the entrance to the road. P.M. Jayatilleke's maiden novel Ginidel was the first book to be published by Dayawansa Jayakody Publishers. It became a best seller.

Publishing house

Many other authors flocked to his publishing house. They included Kumara Karunaratne, Edward Mallawarachchi, Jayakody Seneviratne, Jayasena Jayakody, Somaweera Senanayake, R.R. Samarakoon and Ranasinghe Premadasa. Jayakody has also published books written by veterans such as Prof. Ediriweera Sarachchandra, Prof. Sunil Ariyaratne, Prof. Sunanda Mahendra, Prof. Sarath Wijesuriya, Prof. Bandu Gunasekara, Prof. Malinga Amarasinghe, Prof. Indrakeerthi Siriweera, Dr. W.A. Abeysinghe, Dr.Gunadasa Amarasekara and G.B. Senanayake.

Modern authors such as SenaThoradeniya, Karunasena Jayalath, K.G. Karunatilleke, Chandra Anagiraratne, Chandrasiri Dodangoda, Thilaka Kudahetti, P.M. Senaratne, Premasiri Mahingoada, Chandrasiri Dassanayake, R.P. Wijesinghe, Palitha Jayakody, Sarathchandra Jayakody, Dr. Dinesh Gunatilleke Samarawickrema, Kumara Siriwardena and Prabhath Mirihagalle also had their books published by Jayakody.

Jayakody has earned a name for publishing Buddhist books. He has published the works of Ven. Gangodawila Soma, Ven.Kiribathgoda Gnanananda, Ven. Devalegama Medhananda, Ven. Ellawala Medhananda, Ven. Bopitiye Gnanasara, Ven. Borelle Kovida, Ven. Magure Sumedha and Gayan Chanuka Vidanapathirana.

Jayakody's one and only historical work, Sinhale Jathika Satan was published on 22 October 2001. While remaining a publisher he was generous enough to give a helping hand to many others who wished to enter the book publishing industry. They include Edward Mallawarachchi, Prof. Sarath Wijesuriya, Athula Jayakody, Dharmadasa Panditharatne and Krishantha Senarath.

Philanthropist

As a philanthropist he helped to set up Waragoda Sugatharamaya, Sir D.B. Jayatilaka Vidyalaya, Dhammasala at Mahamewna Meditation Centre, Buddhist shrine room at the General Hospital, Colombo, and Vahalkada at Mahabodhi Shrine Room, India.

Jayakody was also instrumental in setting up the Sri Lanka Book Publishers' Association which is responsible for holding the annual International Book Exhibition at the BMICH.

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