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Emergence of Sri Sumangala College, Panadura



Anagarika Dharmapala

The venerable old generation still among the living, must recall, the memories of past events, which perpetuated the cause that led to the emerge of Sri Sumangala College, Panadura and other leading Buddhist educational institutions such as Ananda, Nalanda, Dharmaraja, Dharmasoka, Mahinda, Vishaka, Mahamaya etc in the late years in the 19th century and early years of 20th century.

This was an era where degradation of Buddhism was almost peak in its intensity.

This sad episode was highlighted - rousing the patriotic national feelings and religious dedication, by the then patriotic D. R. Wijewardane through this Lake House Group of newspapers, Sinhala Sunday editorial of 'Swadeshi Mithraya' patriotic Tibet poet Rev. S. Mahinda Thera, Sinhala authors such as Piyadasa Sirisena, Rajakaruna and above all through fearless demonstrations led by Siri Devamitta Anagarika Dharmapala.

Needless to emphasis that memorable historical event in 1876 commonly known as 'Panadura Vadaya' where Mohottiwatte Gunananda thera with clarity and brilliance of genius and emotional voice evidently created a sense of religious dedication and obligation into the minds of Buddhist clergy and laymen and the gravity of the intolerable phenomenon of subjugation of our children to the Christian "faith".

"Panadura Vadaya" had its own impending impact resulting in the arrival in Sri Lanka of Colonel Henry Steel Olcott who seems to have had access to the print on "Panadura Vadaya" and being inspired on what Buddhism stands - in its philosophy for all human and other lives geared a determined campaign to establish fully well equipped Buddhist educational institutions particularly in the capital city of Colombo and then Buddhist schools in the suburbs as means to an end to sabotage the subjugation.

This was the intention but the genuine motive being mainly to open avenues for Buddhist children to receive education within a framework of Buddhist atmosphere.

Then it was said that Devamitta Anagarika Dharmapala jointly with ambitious Colonel Henry Steel Olcott with blessings of Maha Sangha - Weligama Sri Sumangala Thera (great Buddhist scholar) had summoned a meeting of Buddhists and philanthropists at Vidyodaya Pirivena where the main cry was to float an institution or a society mainly to foster Buddhist education & to uphold Buddhist culture.

Thus came into existence the Buddhist Theosophical Society commonly known as B.T.S. The leadership was taken by that famous Buddhist philanthropist, W. A. de Silva of Moratuwa, who was mainly responsible for its successful organisation largely at his own expense - time - energy & capital - until its management was passed to Sir D. B. Jayathilaka, Professor G. P. Malalasekera, Palitha Weeramen etc.

The establishment of Ananda College was the main target & opening up of similar colleges in popular cities with 82 schools in suburbs which were known as B.T.S. schools. Dodanduwa B.T.S. School was the first of its kind to declared open by Colonel Henry Steel Olcott, in the early years of the 20th of century.

With the successful completion of the establishment of Ananda College in memory of Mohottiwatte Gunananda Thera (the name Ananda was derived by deleting the first three letters of the name Gun/Ananda) there followed in quick successions the dawn of Dharmaraja College - Kandy (sponsored by Soysa & Rathnayaka families), Mahinda College in Galle - sponsored by parents of Henry Amarasuriya & family and others, Dharmasoka College by Soysa family and others, Vishaka Vidyalaya, Bambalapitiya by Founder Mrs. Jeremius Dias, Mahamaya College in Kandy sponsored by Sir Bennet Soysa and others, and Sri Sumangala College Panadura by the founders Ms. Mudliar Thomas Rodrigo, P.C.H. Dias M. Mathes Salgado, P. Dumigo Dias, Cornelis Perera & P. Lewis Dias, thereafter followed by other philanthropists like Sir Leo Fernando, Sir Susantha de Fonseka. Arthur V Dias, N. Q. Dias etc. popular Buddhist personalities of the city of Panadura.

The establishment of Sri Sumangala College was last in the fray, particularly due to absence of suitable site to erect college buildings and in regard to finalisation on the name of the College, whether to name Panadura Gunananda College in memory of "Panadura Vadaya" or Panadura Sri Sumangala College in memory of Buddhist scholar Weligama Sri Sumangala Thera. It was said that the decisions were very cordial with the blessings of Maha Sangha of Panadura Rankoth Viharaya.

It must be recorded with honour that when that famous Buddhist personality Arthur Dias donated the site adjoining Rankoth Vihara - the six founders under the shade of the Sal tree, which is still in existence, finalised the establishment of this Buddhist Institution by the name Panadura Sri Sumangala College.

March 3, 1909 was a jubilant day for the Buddhist population in Panadura city, when is was declared open by the six founders, with the blessings of the Maha Sangha and in the presence of Buddhist dignitaries, philanthropists, educationalists & prominent representatives from various institutions followed by a seven-day Pirith Desana & Dhakshina to Maha Sangha which is being continued even today in succession year after year by the authorities of the school sponsored by S.S.C. - OBA.

It was also said that while Buddhist flags were flying in the air covering entire city, on that day the first Principal of the college (designate) Thomas Gunarathne jubilantly announced the results of student enrolment that every class from kindergarten to London Matriculation had been within the average of 20 students to each class.

The noteworthy feature was the first two students to enrol being Walter Salgado & Richard Salgado, the two sons of the founder Mathes Salgado while the children of other founders followed suit. This was the keynote to success to the annual increase of admissions to school.

Much has to be said as to the inestimable contribution made by B.T.S. in general & P. de S. Kularatna in particular in the field of recruitment of Principals & eminent teachers to the tutorial staff.

Enormous contributions made in the sphere of learning by devoted eminent past principals & teachers during the past years of its existence still remain in our grateful collection. Among them were Ms Thomas Goonaratne, R.S.S. Goonawardana, A. Ginige, A.M. de Silva, P. de S. Kularatne, Karunananda, Edirisooriya & Mr. Alagiyawanna.

It must also be emphasised that in the recent past under the firm administration and principalship of Mr. Alagiyawanna the results of public examinations superseded that of past years and admissions to Medical Faculty of the university reached the highest in the history of the school.

Sri Sumangala College Old Boys Association with its Colombo & Kandy branches can be introduced as livewires to up-hold past glory of the school & under the guidance of the present president of the parent OBA Sarath Rodrigo, Colombo branch President Professor Wimal Gunawardana & Kandy branch President M. Fonseka, the school can positively look forward to a bright future.

In the same breath the school recognises the valuable services rendered by past presidents. The image of the S.S.C. OBA Panadura can be witnessed by the OBA building donated by OBA patron Anuruth Abeyratne & upholding the standard of learning, can be witnessed by the installation of the computer system donated by Colombo branch.

Today the determined efforts to restore the past glory of the school by the present administrative head - the college Principal Somathileke Vithane, has brought in rich dividends to the school, with in one year of his service in producing forty one students for admission to varsity while the performances in extracurricular activities are on the upward trend.

These achievements which were never heard in the immediate past is a clear indication of the depth of dedication to the school by the Principal and the tutorial staff as a whole.

May the Triple Gem bless the present principal and the staff.

This article presented by the Colombo branch of Sri Sumangala College, Panadura is released without prejudice to any.

Colombo Branch S.S.C. OBA Panadura.

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