Gajaman Nona and Walawwa

Gajaman Nona (1758-1814) was an illustrious Sri Lankan poetess who was noted for having the ability to compose and recite impromptu Sinhala verses.
Gajaman Nona statue

Dona Isabella Perumal Korneliya alias Gajaman Nona (1758-1814; Sinhala: දෝන ඉසබෙලා කොරනෙලියා, ගජමන් නෝනා) was an illustrious Sri Lankan poetess who was noted for having the ability to compose and recite impromptu Sinhala verses. She is considered the best-known woman poet of the Matara school. Her house in Weragampita known as Gajaman Walawwa is presently protected as an archaeological monument by the government.

Life Events

Gajaman Nona was born in 1758 as the daughter of a minor Sinhala official named Veerthamulla Gamage Don Fransiscu Senaratne Kumarapperumal (1737-1801) and to Fransina Jasenthu Greru, the daughter of the Schoolmaster at Milagiriya (Jayawardena, 2016; Ranaweera, 2015). She was baptised on 30 July 1759 as Dona Isabella Cornelia at Milagiriya St. Paul's Church in Bambalapitiya (Vanarathana, 1994). She schooled at Milagiriya Church before her family migrated to Matara (Vanarathana, 1994). She completed her Sinhala education under Patthayame Lekam as well as under several Buddhist monks including the famous scholar Karatota Dhammarama Thera [(1735-1827) Vanarathana, 1994].

Gajaman Nona

Gajaman Nona's life was not so pleasant. At the beginning of her 20s, Gajaman Nona was married to an official named Talpe  Merenchige, a Lascoryn who later became Gardiye Arachchi but it came to an end with his death circa 1782  (Jayawardena, 2016; Vanarathana, 1994). Her second husband Don Gabriel  Siriwardene Vijaya Vimalasekera Muhandiram also died, leaving her helpless with four children; one from the first marriage and three from the second marriage (Vanarathana, 1994). She had met John D Oyly (1774-1824), the British Collector of Revenue at Matara when they both studied Sinhala under the Karatota Dhammarama Thera at Weragampita Viharaya (Gunawardena, 2003; Ranaweera, 2015). After the death of her second husband, she had to feed four children alone and therefore she appealed to D Oyly in elegant verse for support from the state (Gunawardena, 2003). It is said that D Oyly granted her some lands in the Hambantota District (Gunawardena, 2003). However, the unexpected loss of her husbands, her parents and later her children except one shows the bitterness she experienced during her lifetime.

Gajaman Nona died on 15 December 1814 and her house in Veragampita village is presently protected by the government as an archaeological monument (Gazette notification: no. 1739; Vanarathana, 1994). A teledrama named "Gajaman Nona" portraying the life story of Gajaman Nona was telecasted in 1999 by the national television Jathika Rupavahini. A statue of Gajaman Nona has been erected at Nonagama Junction in Ambalantota.


#) Dedithara Shokamaalaya (the only book by Gajaman Nona)
#) Denipitiye Nugaruka
#) Piyage Maranaya (The father's death)
#) Sew Wickema Arachchita Seth Pethima (Blessings to Sew Wickema Arachchi)
#) Samarasekara Gunawardena Gajanayaka Awamagul Waruna
#) Thilakaratna Dissanayaka Lamathenige Pinkam Venuma
#) Thilakaratna Mudalita Seth Pethima (Blessings to Thilakaratna Mudali)
#) Thilakaratna Mudaligen Pihita Pethima (Asking help from Thilakaratna Mudali)
#) Matara Disapathi D Oyly Mahathagen Adara Pethima (Asking help from D Oyly)
#) Sahabandu Methithumata Adara Patha Yewunu Kawak

Gajaman Nona statue


1) Gunawardena, C.A., 2003. Encyclopedia of Sri Lanka. Sterling Publishers Pvt Ltd. ISBN: 81-207-2536-0. p.121.
2) Jayawardena, K., 2016. Feminism and nationalism in the Third World. Verso Books.
3) Madumali, I., 2016. Spiritual world of Gajaman Nona manifested in''Gajaman Puwatha" stage play and the poem''Divaman Gajaman". pp.145-147. 
4) Ranaweera, D. D., 2015. Matara Urumaya (in Sinhala). ISBN: 978-955-30-6285-7. S. Godage & Bros. pp.229-230.
5) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1739. 30 December 2011. p.1092.
6) Vanarathana, K., 1994. Matara Puravidyathmaka Ithihasaya (In Sinhala). ISBN: 955-9325-00-0. pp.251-252.


#) extends its gratitude to Lalith Kekulthotuwage for providing the necessary photographs required for this article. All the photos are published here with the permission of the author.

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This page was last updated on 10 December 2023

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