Hindu College, Colombo :
Temple of learning
Gift out of a challenge accepted with fortitude:
Twenty four leaders of the Hindu Community in Colombo formed
themselves into a society under the name ‘Hindu Educational Society’
with a view to take meaningful steps to facilitate the Hindu students in
the city having their education in their own religious and cultural
Hindu College, Colombo. Courtesy: Internet
That significant assembly of those great men of vision and foresight
was held in Colombo on February 5, 1951 under the chairmanship of Hon.
Justice Chellappah Nagalingam K.C. who later became the head of the
Judiciary of this country as an acting appointment as the Chief Justice.
Having recorded the noteworthy contribution of the Founders of the
Society, one of them recorded as follows:
‘What bigger gift can one generation pass to another than a school’ -
a temple of learning?
It was a gift that did not come easily. It was a gift that arose out
of a challenge - a challenge that faced the Tamils in Colombo and the
Hindu community in particular, when numerous children and parents
knocked at the gates of many a school in Colombo and were turned away.
They had to face a question ‘We have no room for children of other
denominations. Why don’t you people have your own school?’ This attitude
was expressed quite openly. One could not possibly blame them. It was
anyway a big challenge. As one who has been associated with the
activities of the Hindu Educational Society from its inception I am glad
to record that the Tamil Hindu Community in Colombo accepted the
challenge with fortitude.
Birth of the school
On February 12, 1951 the Hindu Educational Society (‘HES’) gave birth
to this school under the name ‘PILLAYAR PADASALAI’ at Sri Kathiresan
Kovil ‘Madam’ only with 48 children.
The following 24 Hindu Leaders founded the Hindu Educational
1. Justice . C. Nagalingam, K.C. (Senior Judge of the Supreme Court)
2. Representative of Trustees of the Sammankoddar Pillaiyar Temple
3. K. Alvapillai, O.B.E., B.A. (Lond.), C.C.S. (Civil Servant)
4. Dr. A. Kandiah, A.R.C.S., D.I.C., Ph.D., D.Sc. (Lond.), A.I.C.
5. M.M. Kulasekaram, B.Sc. (Lond.) (Retired Vice Principal, Royal
6. Dr. V. Nadarajah, L.R.C.P. and S. (Edin.), L.R.F.P. and S. (Glas.)
7. C. K. Ratnam, 8. S. Sellamuttu, OBE, (Mayor of Colombo)
9. Sir Kanthiah Vaithianathan, Kt. C.B.E., C.C.S., B.Sc.(Lond) (Civil
10. K.T. Chittampalam, Proctor S.C. and N.P.
11. M.S. Kandiah.
12. S. Mahadevan, (Director, Sterling Products Ltd. - later Maharajah
13. Senator Peri Sundaram, M.A., LL.B. (Cantab), Bar-at-Law and
14. Sankar Iyer Mahadevan,
15. K.C. Thangarajah, (later Chairman Paper Mills Corporation and
16. R.A. Nadesan, (once Chairman, Express Newspapers Ltd.)
17. S. Somasunderam, O.B.E., J.P. (Proctor and N.P., later President
of the Ceylon Law Society, and also later held the office of the
President of HES and also of All Ceylon Hindu Congress)
18. Senator S. Nadesan, Advocate
19. M. Kanagasabay, M.INST.T
20. V.A. Kandiah, B.Sc. (London), Advocate (later M.P., for Kayts)
21. A. Subaramaniam, (Director, Mascons Limited)
22. A. Ragunather, B.Sc., (Eng.) A.M.I.E.F.
23. K. Satchithananda, B.Sc.(Lond.), A.C.A. - Chartered Accountant
24. M. Vairamuttu
C. Nagalingam was elected the first President of the HES. Sir
Kanthiah Vaithianathan and Senator Peri Sunderam were elected
Vice-Presidents. S. Mahadevan was the first Secretary and K.
Satchithananda the first Treasurer. Messrs S. Somasunderam, M.M.
Kulasegaram and A. Ragunather were the other members of the first Board
of Governors. R.M. Palaniappa Chettiar, A.N.R.M. Ramasamy Chettiyar, KR.
KN.AR.KN. Ramanathar and S.K. Vaiyapuri were the first representatives
of the Trustees of Sri Kathiresan Temple to attend the first meeting of
the HES. Messrs. M.S. Kandiah and A. Ragunathar were responsible for
making the preliminary arrangements.
Those 24 founders’ initial task was to find money to launch the
school project and their target was to collect Rupees Ten Lakhs. A
pamphlet was issued - 10,000 copies in English and 5,000 copies in Tamil
- and they said in their appeal issued on February 20, 1951 as follows:-
“We have thought it proper to call upon ourselves - 24 founder members
of the Hindu Educational Society - to make the initial sacrifice in this
We felt that we would not be justified in appealing to the public for
contributions without first providing tangible proof of our own
earnestness to make this big venture a success. Some of the 24 members
cannot contribute much, but still we have put up one lakh of rupees, the
money required immediately for the establishment of the Primary School.”
Later, Justice C. Nagalingam had this to say on the initial efforts
of his colleagues:-
“And so it was that the beginning of the year 1951 saw the formation
of the Hindu Educational Society for the sole purpose of establishing a
Hindu School, not in a spirit of competition or rivalry with any other
institution but to supplement the task of these institutions and to take
the overflow from them with which they were unable to cope.
“Through the indefatigable efforts of Proctor Somasunderam, Senator
Advocate S. Nadesan and Advocate V.A. Kandiah, the Society was able
almost immediately to secure an acre of valuable land in the heart of
Colombo situated at Bambalapitiya. That land was placed at the disposal
of the Society as a result of the magnificent generosity of Annamalai
Mudaliyar, the Managing Director of the Madras Palayakat Co. and his
co-directors, who are the trustees of the Shree Kathiravelautha Swamy
Temple at First Cross Street and of the Manicka Pillaiyar Temple at
It is on this leased land the Lorenz Road front portion of the school
and Saraswathie Hall now stand. The portion of the land on which the
Saraswathie Hall stands was separated by HES before the school was taken
over by the Government in 1962, but the College has been given free use
of the Hall whenever it required.
In the month of March 1951 the Pillaiyar Padasalai was shifted to the
present premises. K. Pathmanathan was the first Principal of the school.
T. Sathasivam functioned as the Head Master of the Primary School.
Writing to the Silver Jubilee Souvenir of this school in 1976 K.C.
Thangarajah then Secretary of the Hindu Educational Society said:-
“Planning for the future certainly calls for introspection; deep
thinking, sound and sober judgement and far-sightedness.
“One cannot of course chart a new course for an institution that has
a solid achievement of 25 years behind it and the interest of future
generations ahead, without relating to the life of the Community that it
serves and the life of the nation as a whole.
“In the case of an individual it may be possible to pull out roots
and look for better soil elsewhere.
“But in the case of institutions such as this, representing as it
does the trust placed on us by the founders, many of whom are no more
with us, our responsibility is greater, men such as Justice C.
Nagalingam, S. Mahadevan, Sir Kanthiah Vaithiananthan, Dr. A. Kandiah,
M. M. Kulasegaram, K. T. Chittampalam, Senator Peri Sundaram, A.
Subramaniam, A.Ragunather, V. A. Kandiah.
“Their memory is sacred to us, and whatever heritage they left
behind, has to be safeguarded.”
Upper classes shifted to Ratmalana
The parents and well wishers of the school envisaging a well planned
institution and desirous of ensuring an integrated development of the
physique and mind of its students decided to acquire land at Ratmalana
The land was acquired and foundation stone for the new building was
laid by Sir John Kotelawala, (Prime Minister) on May 2,1953. Owing to
the interest taken and support given by our community led by the HES the
majestic buildings which stand there now took shape. Before the
completion of the buildings, the post primary students from
Bambalapitiya were shifted to Ratmalana in 1955.
During the course of time Bambalapitiya school began to function as
primary school and the school with upper classes at Ratmalana as Colombo
Hindu College as a post primary school. One principal served as the head
of both the institutions.
Management of both schools
The history of the growth of Hindu College Colombo at Bambalapitiya)
will be incomplete if we fail to honour the services done by the heads
of our school at the initial stages.
It was K. Pathmanathan, the first Principal, who took a keen interest
in the development of the school and paved the way for its smooth growth
till 1957. (T. Sathasivam was the headmaster of the Primary section).
His service was continued by N. Satyendra (Barrister) who functioned as
Principal in an honorary capacity in 1958. Following him T. Subramaniam
(1959-62) and S. Ambalavanar (1963-67) served as Principals.
To be continued