Mihira at 50 (‘මිහිර’ ළමා පුවත්පතේ 50 වැනි උපන් දිනය): Sparking imagination of millions

Mihira children's newspaper first issue - 27 July 1964
Mihira children’s newspaper first issue – 27 July 1964

Sinhala children’s weekly newspaper Mihira has just completed 50 years of publication. The paper holds nostalgic memories for those of us who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s with limited access to reading material.

The tabloid was launched by Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited (ANCL, or Lake House) on 27 July 1964. Its founder editor was veteran journalist Srilal Hikkaduwa Liyanage (who was also founder editor of Tharunee women’s newspaper and Navayugaya informative newspaper from the same publishing house).

I wasn’t even born when Mihira came out. Sometime in 1969, when I was a precocious three-year-old, my father bought me my first copy. I was hooked: for the next dozen years, I eagerly awaited the arrival of each week’s issue on Mondays.

In the early years, Mihira carried a mix of stories, comics, articles and verse. While many were produced by talented writers and artists who understood the child’s mind, some were actually children’s own contributions.

In fact, Mihira is where I first got myself into print. As a school boy of 9 years, I submitted several of my (Sinhala) verses to Mihira (at the suggestion of my Grade 3 class teacher). One of them, on my perception of an animated clock, was printed in one issue of October 1975. I was thrilled to bits – that clipping is somewhere at the bottom of my personal archives…

Funnily enough, thousands of printed pieces later, I still get an enormous kick each time a newspaper publishes my writing.

S A Dissanayake, comics artist
S A Dissanayake, comics artist

To me (and many others of my generation), the most memorable part of Mihira were extraordinary comics written and drawn by S A Dissanayake. He drew a long-running comic (chitra katha) called Onna Babo (‘ඔන්න බබො’), which chronicled the adventures of three intrepid kids (‘බූ – බබා’, ‘තුල්සි’) and involved a wicked witch (බටකොළ ආච්චි), wizards and other characters. For us entertainment starved kids, ඔන්න බබො was Harry Potter of the 1960s and 70s. All these years later, some sub-plots are still clearly etched in my memory…

S A Dissanayake also drew the more comical Yodaya (‘‘යෝධයා’’) about a good-hearted village giant and a learned but wicked man (‘‘යෝධයා සහ පඬිතුමා”), as well as several other popular comics.

When some teachers and parents condemn all comics as polluting children’s minds, I always remind them of the glorious exceptions created by S A Dissanayake. Some feel his stories paved the way for the enormous popularity of TinTin comics and animations in Sri Lanka later on.

I just read that Dissanayake (who was a school teacher by profession) still draws children’s comics for Mihira – a rare feat (world record?) of a comic artist drawing for the same publication for half a century.

ළමයින්ට දැනුම විනෝදය ගෙන එන ‘මිහිර’ ට 50යි


බුබම්බා, යෝධයා,පඬිතුමා හා බටකොළ ආච්චි ළමා ලෝකයට රැගෙන ආ ඇස්.ඒ.දිසානායක


From the scrap book of S A Dissanayake, children's comic artist for half a century
From the scrap book of S A Dissanayake, children’s comic artist for half a century


Author: Nalaka Gunawardene

A science writer by training, I've worked as a journalist and communication specialist across Asia for 30+ years. During this time, I have variously been a news reporter, feature writer, radio presenter, TV quizmaster, documentary film producer, foreign correspondent and journalist trainer. I continue to juggle some of these roles, while also blogging and tweeting and column writing.

18 thoughts on “Mihira at 50 (‘මිහිර’ ළමා පුවත්පතේ 50 වැනි උපන් දිනය): Sparking imagination of millions”

  1. Thanks for your valued appreciation. Yes, he stills draws at Mihira. Don’t know how long he would be able to do so. But there are some untold stories behind him. He was kicked out of Mihira twice, mid ’70s and again in ’90’s (lucky I was able to intervene) saying those stories are crap. As a journalist you know the regular contributors get a free copies as a complement. He never.The freelancers are allowed to go inside the media companies. But my dad always went up to the Lake House reception and called a staffer. We could remember some days he came home late as he missed the bus result of editorial staff late response (Those days we were in Kalutara). Still he is paid Rs. 250/- per comic tripe. Lastly could you remember the ELASTO board at Bambalapitiya Junction (Not sure still remaining)? It was his work used primary technology.when worked at a shoe company as a commercial artist while drawing Awidda Paya comic. Thanks Nalaka.

  2. මාත් තුනේ පන්තියේ දී මා ලියූ ප්‍රථම කවිය මිහිරට යවා එය පලවී තිබෙනු දැක මිහිරට පත් වුනා අද වගේ මතකයි!

    මිහිරේ බූ බබා සහ යෝධයා කාටුන් ඇඳි එස් ඒ දසනායක ගැන මිස මිහිර ආරම්භක කතෘ වූ හික්කඩුව ශ්‍රී ලාල් ලියනගේ ගැන මේ සංවත්සරයේත් වැඩි යමක් ලියවී තිබෙනු මා නම් දැක්කේ නෑ.

    මා දන්නා පරිදි මිහිර පත්තරේට ඔහු ලියූ කතුවැකියක් එවකට ලේක්හවුස් පාලකයින් ගේ /රජයේ උදහසට ලක්වීම නිසා හික්කඩුව ශ්‍රී ලාල් ලියනගේ ට තම රැකියාව අහිමි වුණා.

    මා දන්නා පරිදි හික්කඩුව ශ්‍රී ලාල් ලියනගේ ගේ පුතා ගලහිටියාව මධ්‍යම විද්‍යාලයේ භෞතික විද්‍යා ගුරුවරයෙක් ලෙස සේවය කළා!

  3. @Charitha,
    I’m appalled (but not surprised) to hear how little Lake House pays your father — he is a living legend and a hero of popular culture to at least two generations of Lankans! Besides, he is a star contributor to Lake House newspapers for half a century.

    I’ve been a freelancer myself for many years, and know very well how the Lankan print and broadcast media exploits freelance writers and other creative professionals who are paid extremely low rates even by highly profitable media companies. In fact, I wrote about it recently in my Ravaya column – see: http://wp.me/p3zUD-2DH

  4. Loved Mihira even before I was able to read and write. It was the only extra reading material I had (except for my late father’s communist literature which came right from the USSR.) Mihira was so original. Loved Noel Lasantha’s cover pages and S. A. Dissanayake’s Yodhaya and Pandithuma. Have met S. A. DIssanayake’s daughter twice with her husband.

    Nalaka, I think you should write an elaborated article to Siwmansala Kolugetaya next week about Mihira and S.A. The two are inseparable.

  5. Journalist and editor Malinda Seneviratne has also written memories of growing up with Mihira in The Nation newspaper, 10 Aug 2014.

    I fully agree with him when he says: “Monday was Mihira Day. I am not sure if my siblings were as conscious, but I remember watching out for the newspaper delivery man on Mondays. I wanted the first read. The first Monday of January was special. Mihira came with a beautifully decorated school time table.”

    See more at: http://www.nation.lk/edition/fine/item/32082-mihira-and-days-when-life-was-so-much-sweeter.html

  6. I got Mihira even before i was able to read.I tried with so many hardships to read Mihira .Then I started readings “Chnadrasuryage Delum,”Punchitha,Bai Gedara,Lak diwa Puwatha.I was waiting till i get the newspaper on each Monday.It was a time where we don’t have Internet even television very often.Sources for knowledge as well entertainment were not freely available.I can remember i really loved Boo Baba .Tried to imitate some of the actions.in 1988 i was in grade 2.I can remember suddenly “Punchitta” stopped .Again i got to read “Ibe yantharaya” which was an another children cartoon By S.A Disanayake.In that story main characters were “Padithuma and Ralahami”.Acually that story looked at in a very statistical way of doing thing in theoretically and practically.
    Today I’m an Architect.As practicing Architect I do face the conflict between theoretical knowledge the practical .
    But the first lesson as a kid I learnt form ” Mihira”from “Padithuma” and “Yoda Ralahami”
    Thank you Mihira…………..

  7. “I still get an enormous kick each time a newspaper publishes my writing” this feeling should be universal ..and I’m sure most of the journalists today would have their first pieces published either on Mihira, Vijaya or Vidusara :)

    As kids, we really enjoyed reading these Children newspapers (..or listen to someone reading them for us). But in this era TV and Internet invade the society; will Children’s newspapers become a thing in the past..?? ..or should these Children’s newspapers fight hard (without giving up) – as the other media have become detrimental, so they can continue to provide materials suits to children..?

  8. I can remeber the first issue of Mihira because there was not many tabloid type papers (There was another one for the kids by Gunasena’s but cant remember the name now). In fact my father was the Manager of Annual Publications at the time and it was his responsibility to issue Mihira, Tharunee and Suba Setha at the time. If I am not mistaken my father had a role in convincing Mr Liyanage (Liayanage uncle) to take up the editorial ship (I may be wrong). Liyanage uncle was a very good friend of my father (in fact at that time whole of Lake House was like a family) and we used to meet him almost every day at Lake House because used to wait for our father after school near the reception (there was a tabel and a few chairs where we could even do our homework). One day when he saw something I have written he asked me to write a kaviya and I was surprised when the first Mihira was issued one of my classmates brought it and showed my contribution published. Although my father had known he had kept quiet to make it a surprise. I would love to get hold of a copy of the first issue but not sure whether they are availble in hard copy or electronically. My father retired in the seventies after working for 40+years and passed away in late ninetees.

    1. @Jayantha, Thanks for comment. So you were there at the birth of Mihira – and were even part of it! The only places where hard copies are likely to be found is Lake House Library and the National Archives. Not sure if either place scans them electronically, but Archives provides photocopies on request for a small payment.

      1. I suppose you can say that I was part of it! I visit SL every year and next time I might visit the Lake House Library or National Archives and see whether I could at least get a photo copy. Thank you for the prompt response.

  9. There is a revival of Sri Lankan Comics nowadays – exhibitions, work shops, public gatherings of well known artists (Bandula Harishchandra, Anaton B Perera to name a few) and most importantly re-publication of old “chitra katha” in book form. Sadly, Mr Disanayake or his work is ABSENT in all these events. We would love meet him and we would love to read his work again (onna babo, punchitta , yodaya, bataklola acchi etc.). Dear Mr. Disanayaka, why dont you publish your work in book form? especially “Onna Babo” the best children’s comic ever written in my opinion, I am sure thousands of Sri Lankans (young, adult alike) would be delighted read these masterpieces of art and story telling.

  10. I recall the sweet memories with Mihira throughout my childhood.It was a great help in every part of life molding.

  11. ඉස්සර මම පොඩිකාලේ පත්තරේ කවදද එන්නෙ කියල මග බලාගෙන ඉන්නව කොහ‌ොම හරි අම්මට කියල පත්තරේ ගන්නවා. අම්ම පත්තරේ කියවනව මට. මම ආපහු කියවනවා. එක පත්තරයක් දහ පාරක් විතර බලනවා. ඒ් තරම් ලස්සන වැදගත් ඒ පත්තරේ. මමත් පොඩිකාලේ මිහිර පත්තරේ නොවරදවාම ගත්තා මම හයේ හතේ වගේ ඉන්නකොට හාවෙක්ගෙ පින්තුරයක් ඇදල එව්වා. ඒ්ක පත්තරේ පල උණා. තවත් චිත්‍ර ඇදල එව්වා ඒත් පලවුණේ ඒක විතරයි. 2020 වෙනකන් ඒක පරෙස්සම් කරගෙන හිටිය මගේ දරුවට පෙන්නන්න. ඒත් අවසනාවකට පත්තරේ මීයො කාල. මම හොයනව ඒක දැන් ගන්න පුලුවන් කොහ‌ොමද කිලය. පුලුවන් කමක් තියනව නම් මට ඒ පරණ පත්තර ටික ක්‍රමයක් දන්වන්න. මම හරිම ආසයි ඒ දවස්වල අවසාන පිටුවෙ කතාව බලන්න. එතකොට අහන්න ආසයි, හාල්මැස්ස, සූටික්ක, ප්‍රහේළිකාව වගේ ඒව විතරක් නෙවෙයි. මුලු පත්තරේම. පුලුවන් නම් පරණ පත්තර ගන්න ක්‍රමයක් කියන්න.

  12. Dear Mr Nalaka,
    Thank you very much for providing a platform to appreciate the very deserving ‘Mihira’ staff, esp the likes of Mr S A Disanayake. I was born in 1964 & been an ardent follower since 1968. Mihira played an integral part in the lives of almost every child born in 60s & 70s at a time where we had very little material available for the young & seeking minds. And when we think of Mihira the first name that comes to the mind is of Mr S A Disanayake with his well loved characters Boo, Baba, Thulsi, Yodhaya & Mahatthaya. With them he was able to stimulate our minds to seek the unknown & at the same time inculcate a sense of the good & the bad , in a simple, tasty manner with no preaching. I think no other sinhala children’s writer had ever been able to do what Mr S A Disanayake had contributed in that era to shapen the young minds of so many who must be succcessfull & worthy citizens by now. A whole generation would like to salute Mr S A Disanayake for what he had done for us & for the country.
    I would like to contact Mr S A Disanayake if possible for him, so if you can pass on his contact details would appreciate.
    Thank you.
    PS. I think it will be a good idea to publish those strips in book form now, as someone said above.
    Janaka Kandamby.

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