Posted by: lrrp | October 4, 2005

Ananda Sastralaya, Kotte – 115 years

Ananda Sastralaya, Kotte celebrates its 115th anniversary on January 1. Most of us are not aware how and when this noble institution commenced its activities.

Following is reminiscence of events that took place right from the beginning. This letter is compiled not only on the written history but from the stories revealed by old boys of yester year.

Since Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) was under British rule, the Buddhism and the Buddhist Culture were almost in dark atmosphere, no one was dared to challenge the Missionary education.

But during the 8th decade of the 19th century an American gentleman by the name Col. Henry Steel Olcott realised the value and vision of the Lord Buddha’s Teachings after hearing the famous debates, namely “The Gampola”, “The Panadura”, “The Udanvita”, The Baddegama” and “Colomba Urugodawatta” (the debates held in those palaces) arrived in Ceylon.

Thus reforms to the Buddhism and Buddhist culture began having realised that a strong challenge had to be faced with regard to Missionary education, he along with Hon. Anagarika Dharmapala, Most Venerable Mohottiwatte Gunananda Thera, Most Venerable Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thera inaugurated some Buddhist Schools.

They are Maradana Buddhist English School (later Ananda College), Dharmaraja College – Kandy, Mahinda College – Galle.

Some eminent Buddhist leaders in Kotte during that period, too, realising their responsibility towards the Buddhist activities set up a school by the name Kotte Bauddha (Buddhist) Mixed School on the November 4, 1880.

This was a very remote and primary step towards their responsibility and on the January 1, 1890, the Venerable Emulgama Wimalatissa Thera along with eminent leaders in the Dayaka Sabha of the Raja Maha Viharaya, Kotte Headed by Thepanis Perera Appuhamy and few others further enhanced the educational facilities of the school and renamed it “Kotte Bauddha (Buddhist) English Mixed School” and we consider that this is the plant of present Ananda Sastralaya as it was located in a block of land transferred by Raja Maha Viharaya.

Its first Headmaster was C. Ranasingha for the period 1890-1903. D.B. Jayatilaka (later Sir D.B. Jayatilaka) was the Head Master during 1903 to 1905. There is evidence that Col. Olcott had graced the occasion twice as the chief guest in the years 1903 and 1904 at the school’s prize giving.

Then it became “Jayawardena Shasthra Shalava” in 1910, when D.J. Jayatunga was the Headmaster for the period 1905 to 1922.

This is the era that the Buddhist Theosophical Society was founded for rehabilitation of Buddhist activities and for the proper administration of Buddhist Schools took over the administration of this Jayawardena Shasthra Shalava and renamed it as Ananda Sastralaya, Kotte. They appointed S.P. Perera for the Post of Headmaster, who was the Head Master of Aananda College.

After his retirement in 1934, The B.T.S. appointed Dr. E.W. Adikaram, a distinguished scholar after his Ph.D at the Oxford University, England.

He made Ananda Sastralaya, a well organised educational institution by adding Laboratories, a main hall, a hostel, a playground. He left the school in 1934 and Bernard Wickramasingha succeeded. This was the period that the game of cricket first played in Sastralaya.

The team was coached by a professional A.G.K. Gunatilaka. During his period, the school had to be decentralised and so many branches were started in various palaces of the country, Matugama, Badulla, Maharagama, Karawanella, Battaramulla etc. consequent upon the decision to take over the school to Ceylon Army to have a army camp in the school premises as Ceylon had engaged with the Second World War because Ceylon was still under the British rule. After the War school restarted and it is there upto now.

Then we see a galaxy of distinguished personnel by the names N.W. De Costa, Mahinda Palihawadana (later Professor), Gunapala Wickramaratna, C.M. Ariyaratna, A. Pasqual, W.T.P. Tillekaratna are among the lot.

In 1961, the entire system of education was administered by the Government consequent upon the decision to implement National System of Education, thereby all the schools managed by the B.T.S. and some Christian Schools managed by the Churches were taken over by the Government under the Parliamentary Act to take over the assisted schools.

In 1963, a reorganisation took place by amalgamating some primary schools surrounded by Sastralaya who had classes from 1st to 6th standard to Sastralaya.

Once again the school was divided into two institutions in 1971, the girls section was separated and shifted to a block of land at Pagoda owned by Sastralaya, which was obtained by Dr. E.W. Adikaram way back in 1940 approximately. Actually it was a gift to Ananda Sastralaya. After 1971, Ananda Sastralaya became a boys’ school.

Ananda Sastralaya posses a very valuable archaeological site belongs to the Portugese period. There is a tunnel erected in the 16th century by the Ceylonese stalwarts to pass through to Portuguese Fort situated in Colombo.

It has been revealed that there were three entrances one is at the pond belongs to Balapokuna Viharaya at Kirulapona, the other one is beyond our search.

Educational background

Ananda Sastralaya now comprises two major divisions. The Primary Section and the Post Primary Section. Grade 1 to Grade 5 classes are held in the Primary Division and Grade 6 to Grade 13 are held in the Post Primary Division.

Traditional subjects are taught as per syllabuses approved by the Ministry of Education. Apart from the academic structure, the school maintains a high degree of extra curricular activities.

Presently 2,300 students read their academics and every year quite a good number of students sit for GCE O/L and A/L examinations.

Quite a few number get through to the Universities but when compared with the early years it is not satisfactory. The science laboratories are constructed in Adikaram era, but a libratory for zoology commenced in 1962.

Presently four laboratories namely, physics, chemistry, biology and zoology are maintained. The school posses an excellent library with 50% new collections. The library is equipped with some of modern amenities but yet it has to be improved further more by adding electronic devices to match some modern libraries.

Consequent upon the decision taken by the Ministry of Education to equip all the schools with Information Technology, there is a separate section for IT with about 6 Computers. It is also suggested to make Ananda Sastralaya a Computer Centre in near future.

Apart from these, a multi purpose building was declared opened last year for the following subjects: Oriental Dancing, Classical Music, Classical Art, Electronics, Indoor Sports, Agriculture and Life Skills.

Ananda Sastralaya studded with so many extra curricular activities which a description given below:

Cadet Troop – The Cadet Troop was inaugurated way back in 1962, then it was a junior platoon. Years pass by they were given senior status. At the annual Camps held at Rantembe they were competent enough to win several awards.

Eastern Band Troup – This band troup was also inaugurated somewhere in 1980 and Ananda Sastralaya Band was given the honour to parade right in the front at the ceremonial opening of the new Parliament at Battaramulla and also on the Independence Day in the year 1983.

They won the prestigious Gunasekara Memorial Trophy for the Eastern Bands at the Camp held in 1991 at Randenigala.

The Scout Troop – They had a highly talented scout troop which was founded in 1957, in 1958 they won the award that had been presented to the best troop at the annual jamboree held at Vihara Maha Devi Park.

Ananda Sastraliyans could be proud of their Oratorical skills and the debating team which had won several shields in past years whoever the opponents are.

here is a squad selected from the students of middle school for protection of the environment. In addition they equipped with a media unit where a fine set of broadcasters excel. There are societies for Science, Commerce, Astronomy, and Photography. The college prize giving is held annually and almost 200 students get their merit.

The staff

The academic Staff consists of 96 personnel, and about 10 persons in the non academic staff. For the first time in the history a Buddhist Priest by the name The Venerable Abesekeragama Gunaratana Thera has been appointed to Ananda Sastralaya in 2002 for the post of Principal.

There are two deputy principals namely K.G. Jayawardana and Wimala Kumari Ranasingha. The Primary is headed by Gamini Nanayakkara and several assistant principals are looking after separate sections such as middle schools, O/L section and A/L section.

The period prior to take over of schools our major sport was Volley ball, when all the major schools in Colombo focused on cricket.

Majority of all Ceylon players were selected from Gampaha and Kotte, where our old boys excelled. In 1953 the Ceylon team was captained by an old Sastraliyan be the name H.P. Siriwardena who was the senior Hansard Editor of the Senate. (The Upper House of the Legislation) and Suriyapperuma, Gunasekara Banda were among the others.

But with the introduction of Cricket, Volley ball gradually diminished. There are several records by our cricketers but unable to state here due to lack of space.

Over the years Sastralaya players excelled in inter-school cricket arena by winning almost every tournament they participated.

They were the worthy winners of first ever Sharona Trophy in 1991, young Sastraliyans emerged champions in Astra Margarine Trophy for under 13. Although we started cricket in 1959 it was in 1991 that we could play a Battle (Big Match) coincided with centenary celebrations.

At the First ever big match Sastraliyan Mohan de Silva claimed all 10 wickets in an inning which is an all time record, the first school boy player, and only one to achieve it so far, to bag all 10 wickets in an inning in a big match.

Out of the 14 fixtures played, victory was achieved only after 11 years in 2001 and 2002 by Ananda Sastralaya and also Sastralaya produced a test cricketer is Ruchira Perera.

The playground is situated at Beddegana, along Talawatugoda Road, which the credit should go to Dr. Adikaram, who initiated to obtain it from N.E. Weerasuriya Q.C. in his era. But he couldn’t gain the results thus, the present generation is the luckiest group as they enjoy the facility of a playground of their own.

There were students who excelled in the field of athletics as well. W.K. Vimukthi Nanayakkara won the first place in 400 meters under 15 at the National School Meet in 2002, first in 400 meters at Sir John Tarbet Shield, junior championships held in 2002, and first in 400 meters under 15 at Western Province Athletic Meet. Chulanga Chetiya Edirisingha won the first place in 100 meters at Sir John Tarbet Shield Championships by finishing 11.1 seconds thereby won the Athletic Colours.

Early 1950 there was a drama society which staged many a play, to name some of them were Rattaran, Elowa Gihin Melowa Awa, Sanda Kinduru, Surapanaya Adinawa, Kedunu Karattaya.

The well-known Dramatist the late Gunasena Galappatti a member of academic staff started his drama career at Ananda Sastralaya by producing and staging Sanda Kinduru, later he produced Muhudu Putthu and became one of the bests in the island.

During the period 1960-70 the Drama Society was supervised and the patrons were Trilicia Abeykoon (Gunawardena) the Queen Maname of Professor Sarachchandra’s Maname and Mrs. Welikala.

(www.dailynews.l/ 2005/01/01)

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