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W.Sumith Wickramasinghe

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Ananda College Colombo

Sumith Wickramasinghe was a distinguished old boy of Ananda College......




Col.Henry Steele Olcott (1832-1907)
Founder of Ananda College

Mahatma Gandhi visited Ananda College on 15th November 1927

Anandian - Sri Lanka Cricket Captain Arjuna Ranatunga with Monica Corea and Prema Wickramasinghe

Arjuna Ranatunga old boy of Ananda College lifts the World Cup in Lahore in 1996

Sumith the Athlete
Trophies from Ananda College Colombo

Sumith Wickramasinghe was educated at Ananda College, one of the foremost educational institutions in Sri Lanka. Sumith excelled in school - he enjoyed life at Ananda College.
W.S. was very good at sports and achieved champion status in Volleyball and Athletics. His Alma Mater gave him firm roots and a thorough education. His contemporaries were politicial giants like the former Minister of the Government of Sri Lanka, Dharmadasa Banda. Wickey and Dharmadasa Banda were best friends at Ananda College.
This College has produced many famous 'sons of Sri Lanka' including the Captain of the World Champions of Cricket - Arjuna Ranatunga who defeated the Australians to lift the Wills World Cup in one day cricket in Lahore in 1996. Arjuna Ranatunga is one of Sri Lanka's greatest cricketers and probarbly the best ever cricket captain the island has produced. He took the Sri Lanka cricket team to greater heights and to the pinnacle of one day cricket.
Sumith's wife Prema met with Arjuna Ranatunga on several occasions in 1997 when the Sri Lanka cricket team arrived in London to play some unofficial matches and participate in the annual Festival of Cricket (FOC).
Sumith was an ardent and loyal supporter of Arjuna Ranatunga and the Sri Lanka cricket team. He was a keen lover of cricket and has attended test matches and one day matches in Colombo.
The 'Father of India' Mahatma Gandhi the much loved 'Bapu' actually visited Ananda College on the 15th of November 1927 - before Sumith's birth. His visit caused great excitement at Ananda College - Mahatma Gandhi addressed the Principal, teachers and Anandians during his historic tour of Ceylon. He said: 'wherever I go I love to see schoolchildren...' The staff, parents and children of Ananda College raised Rs 400.86 and presented the money to Mahatma Gandhi as a donation for his 'Khadi Collection.' Gandhi noted that Ceylon was a 'beautiful island.'
Anandians respected Mahatma Gandhi and his message of non-violence. They welcomed him to Ananda College and children even answered his questions on Gautama Buddha.
Chandra Edirisuriya, an old boy of Ananda College looked at the history of the College in an article published in the Daily News in Colombo:
Ananda College - a guiding light to the nation

Daily News Friday 1st November 2002

by Chandra Edirisuriya

'The news of the famed Panadura Vadaya of 1873, where the Venerable Migettuwatte Gunananda Maha Thera proved the relevance of Buddhism in the modern world, spread far and wide. It was this singular event that led Colonel Henry Steele Olcott, an American to come to this country and launch a Buddhist revivalist movement and pioneer Buddhist education.

Colonel Olcott first founded the Galle Theosophical Society in May 1880 followed by the Colombo Theosophical Society in June 1880.

One of the most significant results of these far-reaching developments in British colonial Ceylon was the founding of Ananda College, Colombo on 18th November 1886. Although this institution came into being with a modest beginning as the Buddhist English school at No. 61, Maliban Street, Pettah, Colombo, under the principalship of C. W. Leadbeater, a fellow Theosophist of Colonel Olcott, with 31 students, it is today one of the largest and most complete educational institutions in Asia.

This was made possible by the undaunted courage and determination amidst various odds, of the pioneers most of whom were foreigners directly inspired by the Panadura controversy which displayed the debating skills of Venerable Migettuwatte Gunananda Maha Thera.

The first principal Leadbeater held classes on Sundays in the school to teach Buddhism to the teachers. The school was registered in March 1889 and Madras University graduates Hearth and Oliver James joined its staff.

In 1890 A. E. Bultjens assumed duties as principal, in succession to the first Sinhalese acting principal D. A. Vittachchi. At this time the manager of the school was Bowles Dalley. C. A. Jayatissa of the school becoming the only student in Ceylon to pass the Cambridge Junior Examination in German Language was indeed a feather in the cap of this budding centre of learning.

Venerable Sumangala Thera was the manager of the school from 1892 to 1895. The first step in shifting Ananda College to its present location was made possible by Mudliyar Tudor Rajapaksa donating three and a half acres of valuable land at Paranawadiya in Maradana on 8th January 1894.

Thereafter there was no turning back for the Buddhist English school now named Ananda College, the first permanent building measuring 180 feet by 34 feet having been opened by Mudliyar Tudor Rajapaksa on the 23rd of August 1895.

One of the greatest sons of Mother Lanka Sir D. B. Jayatilake assumed duties as the first Sinhalese principal of Ananda College on the 15th December 1898. By this time R. A. Mirando had become its manager. A number of foreigners, namely J. T. Davies, M. U. Moore, Fritz Kuntz headed Ananda thereafter.

The hostel of the college originated at "Swarna", Jail Road, Campbell Park in July 1914 and its first warden was P. M. Menon.

In August 1915 the American national H. Gazulick became the vice principal and Mrs. H. Gazulick commenced kindergarten classes.

The first science laboratory named after Wilson Dias was opened by the then Director of Education E.B. Denham on 24th November 1916. The Government Scholarship for 5th standard students and the hostel at the Government Teacher Training College located at the present Thurstan College premises where my father, Dr. Wijayananda Dahanayaka and his twin brother Kalyanapriya, W.S. Wanasinghe and Jayasuriya, the father-in-law of Brevet Colonel G.W. Rajapaksa stayed as trainees, were named after Denham. Colonel Olcott passed away on 17th February 1907. After W.A. de Silva became the manager of Ananda in 1916, from Olcott memorial day on 17th February of that year the American flag was also hoisted at the college premises along with the Buddhist flag designed by Olcott himself and the Union Jack.

The Kularatne era, the most significant period of the development of Ananda College commenced on 1st January 1918 with the assumption of duties as principal by P. de S. Kularatne. The Dutugemunu fund was inaugurated in 1919 and the first building of the Kularatne era, a nine (9) classroom structure was built with the money collected in the fund. In the same year eight classes commenced for Buddhist monks.

On 19th November 1920 Miss Hilda Muriel Westbrook came from England and joined the college staff and in December the same year her marriage to principal Kularatne took place. In the same month a four acre block of land was made available for the college playground at Campbell Place.

On 31st March 1922 British Governor Sir Graeme Thompson laid the foundation stone for a sixteen classroom building at the same venue. In August the same year the first stage of the two storeyed hostel building was opened.

One of the most memorable events in the annals of the college was the visit of the colossus of Indian letters, Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore on November 10, 1922, as chief guest at the annual prize giving. He declared on that occasion: "I acknowledge that the life of Ananda is its humility and unassuming nature." No less significant was the assumption of duties as principal in July 1923 of Professor and Ambassador G.P. Malalasekera, a giant in the field of education in this country. The same month the middle school of the college with 330 students was shifted to the new building at Campbell Place under its head master L.H. Mettananda.

One of the greatest men ever born Mahathma Gandhi visited Ananda in 1927. Two singular achievements of the college in 1928 were the winning of the coveted Herman Loos cup for the best cadet platoon and the Stubs challenge shield for boxing.

A unique feature of this premier Buddhist seat of learning in the island was that it was not restricted to Sinhala Buddhists. Sinhala students were taught Tamil and Tamil students Sinhalese. A Sittampalam conducted Tamil classes.

In 1929 Ananda won the CVRA shield for rifle shooting. On November 1, 1932 L.H. Mettananda became principal and in 1934 the Ananda College rifle shooting team won the prestigious Governor's cup defeating eight formidable teams.

Ananda also won the Herman Loos cup again and platoon 5A won the Ceylon Light Infantry (CLI) challenge cup.

The golden jubilee of the college was held on November 1, 1936 by holding a carnival and giving alms to five hundred beggars. The following year a student of the school became the best marksman in service rifle shooting. In 1938 a railway engine of the Ceylon Government Railway was named after Ananda College. In the following year a workshop for woodwork and metalwork was opened.

In 1943 classes commenced for graduate studies and in 1945 a higher education section for girls commenced. In the academic year 1946 - 1947 Ananda was in the forefront in the island in the university entrance results. Ananda was awarded as many as six scholarships and fellowships. In 1949 a past student of the college Sir Arthur Wijewardane became the first Sinhala chief justice. Ananda won the Herman Loos cup in 1949 and 1950 consecutively. In 1951 an Anandian became public schools athletic champion.

In 1952 the college set up a record in rifle shooting. The same year the inter school boxing championship was won and the top heavyweight champion H.P. Jayasuriya and his brother C.P. Jayasuriya later represented the country at the Olympic games. Ananda has earned a name in almost every sport including cricket, basketball, soccer, rugger, hockey, athletics etc and in chess.

Among the cricketers produced by Ananda are Arjuna Ranatunga, Anuruddha Polonnowita, Bonnie Wijesinghe, Sarath Wijesinghe, Sonny Yatawara, Sidath Wettimuni and Marvan Atapattu. Brevet Colonel G.W. Rajapaksa as the prefect of games was largely responsible for the blossoming of sports at Ananda. S.A. Wijayatillake an English and Classics scholar became principal in December 1955. Ananda was taken over by the government in 1961.

Brevet Colonel G. W. Rajapaksa was at the helm of affairs at Ananda from May 3, 1969 for around a decade. During his time as Principal remarkable progress was made as during the time of his mentor P. de S. Kularatne. I was very closely associated with him from 1950 to 1999. He passed away on October 3, 1999. He was among those who stood out, as his predecessors like the Westerners who headed this premier Buddhist institution during its formative years, P. de S. Kularatne, G. P. Malalasekera and L. H. Mettananda did. Although Brevet Colonel G. W. Rajapaksa did not take to politics like Sir D. B. Jayatillake and P. de S. Kularatne, he was one of the greatest humanists this country has ever seen.

Not only was he a leading educationist but also a profound thinker, deeply concerned about the welfare of the people of this country as manifest by his message titled "a just society" to the special number of the magazine "Ananda" published to commemorate the opening of Kularatne hall on December 6, 1978.

He had an individual relationship with every student he came across, for well over four decades, as a teacher, vice principal and principal. He could be considered the most important person in the history of Ananda even if the fact that he was there from the day he entered the nursery class to the day he retired as principal alone is taken into consideration. It could well be said that Ananda was Rajapaksa and Rajapaksa was Ananda.

Brevet Colonel Rajapaksa's interview with students recorded in the special number of "Ananda" brings out the greatness of both him and Kularatne. Rajapaksa mentions that Kularatne said that he was really proud of the re-building program of the school, including Kularatne hall, that he (Rajapaksa) undertook.

"He told me sincerely that he himself had handled affairs of the school alone in a similar fashion. It was his wish that I should attempt something better than he had done" says Rajapaksa.

I feel proud of the fact that although Ananda was the jewel in the crown of Buddhist Education, Americans, Europeans, Indian Tamils, Jaffna Tamils et al were associated with its and were instrumental in building it up to its present status.

I also reminisce with nostalgia to have been under the tutelage of Tamil masters, V. Thanabalasingham who taught me English language, a gentleman in spotless white national costume with a blue bordered verti and shawl who taught me English literature in standard eight whom we nicknamed Kabulivallah after he did Tagore's 'Kabulivallah' with us and Sivapadasunderam whom we called Churchill because he resembled Sir Winston Churchill, teaching Tamil from the book 'Bala Bodhini' and to have received my University preliminary class Sinhala prize from former primary school headmaster V. T. S. Sivagarunathan from Jaffna. There were also Tamil and Malay students with us who rose to high positions in this country.

I vividly recollect the girl schoolmates among whom was a Tamil girl wearing a 'pottu'. My Tamil classmates were Vasanthanathan, Nitkanan and Thyagarajah. Among the other non Sinhala schoolmates were Somasunderam, Burah, Ratnam and Boris Marks. I cheerish the memory of associating with them especially at the Tamil student's Annual social held at the Olcott Hall where sweets, vadai, anamalu and orange barley was served. Among the other Tamil masters at College were young and stylish Manivasagam, be spectacled Selvaratnam, Govinda Pillai and Arulambalam.

Then, of course, I never can forget U Chan Htoon son of the Chief Justice of Burma (now Myanmar) who was my classmate. He was a very fair handsome pleasant young boy who wore glasses and is now a leading lawyer in his country.

One afternoon in 1954 when I was 15 years, I was passing a Saiva hotel at Maradana, after shopping and my Tamil master Sivapada Sunderam eating some sweets seated at a table there beckoned me to join him but being too shy to do so quickened my pace and hurried back to the hostel.

Anandians of my time were privileged to have the best of principals, the best of teachers and schoolmates of the two main communities in this country.

On the teaching staff were Buddhist monks of the calibre of Most Venerable Aggamaha Panditha Balangoda Ananda Maitreya, Venerable Professor Kotagama Vacissara and Venerable Diviyagaha Yasassi who became a deputy principal. They were guiding lights to generations of Anandians who rose to the top in various fields of activity, here and abroad.

There have been eminent politicians in this country who were principals, teachers and past students of the school. The principal of Dharmapala Vidyalaya, Pannipitiya when I was in the third standard there in 1947, G.C. Edirisinghe who was later to become my lecture in modern history at Vidyodaya University in 1959/1960 had this to say of one of the distinguished products of Ananda at one of his lectures. "Dr. N.M. Perera was my pupil at Ananda but he later went astray, you know". He fell out of his teacher's favour because he became a marxist Trotskyte in spite of very high academic distinction.

However, whatever their convictions or field of activity Anandians have excelled in the various tasks entrusted to and taken on by them. They have always been faithful to their country and tolerant of and treasure the company of all irrespective of clime, race, creed or clan.

I shall be failing in my duty to my Alma mater and this article would be like the description of a bountiful tree without mentioning its fruits, not mention some non-controversial figures who have been giants in their respective fields. Among such men and women are eminent educationist Dr. (Mrs.) Tilokasundari Kariyawasam, (daughter of W.S. Wanasinghe), D.J. Wimalasurendra pioneer of hydro-electricity in this country, D.G. Dayaratne of the Ceylon Civil Service, Former Chairman of the Ceylon Tourist Board Chandra de Soyza, former President of the Senate Thomas Amarasuriya, Professor D.A. Ranasinghe, Dr. Herath Gunaratne of the World Health Organization and Ranapala Bodhinagoda et al.

The country has certainly benefited from generations of such Anandians who have been and are in various positions of responsibility in this beloved land of ours.....'

The following article was also published in the Daily News in Sri Lanka:

Olcott set in motion the wheel of Buddhist education

by Chandra Edirisuriya

"We could hear echoes of the debate at Panadura between Venerable Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera and Rev. David de Silva.

This received publicity even in the New World and we could see Col. Henry Steele Olcott, an American Theosophist, making a careful study of the situation. He realised that the Buddha Dhamma was a religion that offered a practical solution to the riddle of life and he decided to come out to Ceylon to give us a helping hand to rebuild our national culture which was fast crumbling to pieces. It is indeed a strange paradox that what the West sought to destroy the Far West rescued from disaster.

"It was 1880 when this great American arrived in Lanka. Perhaps next to the visit of Arahat Mahinda this was the most eventful visit of a foreigner to our shores. Within a short time he was able to fathom the depths to which we had descended. He was a man of action. He was among those who inaugurated the Buddhist Theosophical Society and set about raising the people from their slumber. They awakened and they realised that the immediate way out of the morass was to organise Buddhist educational institutions.

"It was an ambitious programme, but they had in Col. Olcott a man of steel. His dynamic personality won the hearts of the people and the first Buddhist English High School was inaugurated at Maliban Street, Pettah, Colombo on 1st November 1886, States Justice S. R. Wijayatilake in an article titled "Buddhist National Renaissance - Ananda to the Fore" to the special issue of the magazine 'Anandaya' to mark the opening of the 5 storeyed science laboratory at Ananda College, Colombo on January 5, 1973.

Col. Olcott came to Dharmopakari Society, Maradana, Colombo on September 8, 1884. C. W. Leadbeater came to this country on May 1885 reports the "Sarasavi Sandaresa" newspaper. On October 22, 1886 "Sarasavi Sandaresa" repots about "A Buddhist English Academy". On October 23 a meeting of the Buddhist public was held headed by Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thera in Pettah, Colombo.

It was the Buddhist English Academy that was founded at No. 61 Maliban Street, Pettah that was named Ananda College in due course.

The first principal of this institution was C. W. Leadbeater. At the beginning the number of students on the roll was 37. On January 16, 1889 the first prize giving was held with Col. Olcott in the chair.

It would be most appropriate for me to again quote at length Justice S. R. Wijayatilake, brother of my principal at my alma mater from 1955 to 1959 who was magnanimous enough to give me a lengthy character certificate written in his own hand writing, relating the annals of the college with utmost dexterity.

He states in his article referred to above:

"Col. Olcott was successful in selecting Mr. C. W. Leadbeater an English Theosophist as the first Headmaster. About this time Anagarika Dharmapala was Manager of the school.

"Three years later Mr. A. E. Buultjens, a very scholarly and distinguished Dutch Burgher with liberal views-an alumnus of St. Thomas' College, Colombo and of the University of Cambridge was appointed Principal.

"Mr. D. B. (later Sir Baron) Jayatilaka, who was vice-principal, succeeded Mr. Buultjens in 1898. His early education at Vidyalankara Pirivena, Kelaniya was a sure foundation for the part he was destined to play in the resurgence of our nation. Wesley College and the University of Calcutta too in their own way contributed to his liberal education and the growth of his personality; and he in his characteristic slow and steady style raised Ananda to the level of the other schools like Royal, St. Thomas', St. Joseph's, Wesley and Trinity.

It was during his time Ananda produced the first university scholarship winner in Mr. G. K. W. Perera. "Mr. Tysul Davies succeeded Mr. D. B. Jayatilaka. He came from Adyar and with his interest in Theosophy he continued to maintain the traditions set by the founder Col. Olcott for a period of two years. He was followed by Mr. D. B. Jayatilaka in May 1909 and an year later Mr. M. U. Moore assumed duties as Principal.

He was an Irishman also interested in Theosophy. He was recognised as a very learned Cambridge graduate versed in the Classics and Modern Languages but rather uncertain of his aims and views. Thereafter Ananda was distinctly fortunate when Mr. Fritz Kunz was appointed to Principal in January 1914. He was also a Theosophist, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, USA. During his tenure of office he emphasised the necessity to make the Dhamma a living religion and he went all out to set a very high standard of discipline and efficiency all round.

"After Mr. Kunz left in April 1917 Mr. C. V. Ranawaka acted as Principal very successfully till January 1918, when he was succeeded by a human dynamo - Mr. P. de S. Kularatne. He had excelled in his studies at Richmond, Wesley and at the London University. He was also called to the Bar. With his assumption of office Ananda stood upright, shoulder to shoulder with the other foremost educational institutions in the Island, and Buddhists who were keen to admit their children to missionary schools now made a bee-line to Ananda.

"He was distinctly fortunate in having as his partner in life a very cultured English lady who stood by him and gave him the necessary assistance and encouragement in all his enterprises. He also had an able lieutenant in Dr. G. P. Malalasekera, often described by him as "a man after his own heart".

Bhikkhus were appointed to the staff and this created an atmosphere all to the good.

The parents of the children realise the value of our religion and our national culture. Dr. Evans-Wendtz an American Buddhist visited Ceylon on the invitation of Mr. Kularatne and there followed a series of debates at Ananda College on Rebirth, Karma and allied topics. It is significant that priests of the standing of Rev. Highfield of Wesley College and Rev. Father Legoc of St. Joseph's College contributed to this discussion. The people began to realise the truth of our philosophy and the value of the Way of Life as shown by the Buddha.

"His term of office was indeed the most fruitful and he left no stone unturned to set a very high standard in every new venture he launched on. It is significant that he was able to win the co-operation of His Excellencies Graeme Thompson and Sir Herbert Stanley and Sir Murchison Fletcher in fostering his determined effort to acquire more breathing space for Ananda and Nalanda.

"Mr. Kularatne retired in 1943 and he was succeeded by Mr. A. B. Perera. To his credit he initiated a Women's College of Higher Education with the emphasis on the study of science subjects as a subsidiary of Ananda College. It was during the war and it had its internecine side effects on Ananda too with a disastrous fire. Thereafter in 1945 Mr. L. H. Mettananda became principal.

"For well nigh time years he was Principal and he boldly inaugurated a series of building schemes with the Vihara as a nucleus. Thus the frontal aspect of Ananda assume lofty proportions. "Mr. Mettananda was succeeded by Mr. S. A. Wijayatilake in 1955, who in his quiet way carried on the good work despite the various problems which developed in the political sphere with the proposed take-over of the assisted schools by the State. He stressed the necessity of maintaining the personality of Ananda - a personality nourished so tenderly and diligently by Col. Olcott and his successors who were dedicated to Ananda College, which was not a mere educational institution like any other but a guiding light to all others.

"The building programme initiated by Mr. Mettananda had to be completed and he was able with the generous assistance of the Government to complete the Olcott Memorial Buddha Jayanthi Building and the Leadbeater Memorial Building.

"Mr. Wijayatilake was succeeded by Mr. M. W. Karunananda, who developed the Science Department to a very high degree of perfection, so much so that several students from other well-known institutions sought entrance to Ananda.

"He was followed by Mr. E. A. Perusinghe, who carried on this good work with an additional stress not only on academics studies but on sports, cadeting, scouting and other extra-mural activities. He was able to complete the Vihara, which now affords so much consolation to the staff, students and their parents.

"Colonel G. W. Rajapakse succeeded Mr. Perusinghe. His task was not easy with the population explosion and the industrialisation of the country. The number of students soared to over 5,000. He had to find the accommodation for them and for the several departments - Arts, Science and Commerce. Thanks to his positive approach to every problem and his powers of persuasion the State has very graciously responded; and we now see a grand new building springing up, perhaps the tallest in the area. This five-storied building will house the Science departments, which we believe will be a model to all other schools.

The school sessions start with a puja at the Vihara and the singing of the National Anthem and the school song. We are also happy to note that Mr. Rajapakse is making a determined effort to acquire a suitable playground exclusively for Ananda. We are confident that this will soon materialise and that Ananda will be self-contained in every respect.

"When we contemplate on Ananda - her past, present and future - what strikes us most is its unique personality. It is this which has won the affection not only of the educated classes but the multitude. It set a pattern out of the ordinary and thanks to Col. Olcott and other pioneers Buddhist education was saved from extinction.

To the credit of the Principals who were at the helm right through these ideals were not forgotten and various programmes were inaugurated with a view to creating a truly Buddhist environment in this institution, I propose to deal with a few in this context. It would also be most apt for me to remember Brevet Colonel G. W. Rajapakse who spent most of his life at Ananda as a student, teacher/hostel warden, vice-principal and principal and passed away on October 3, 1999.

He was one of the greatest patriots who adorned this country. The message titled "A Just Society" he issued as principal to the special issue of "Anandaya" to mark the opening of Kularatne Hall on December 6, 1978 bears ample testimony to his love for the people of our beloved motherland.

"There can be no higher principle of social morality than that of justice, which could be said to include within itself all that is best and noblest among human aspirations. It is the only principle which will not only seek to ensure for everyone at least a minimum of the essential requirements of life, but will also act as a more effective check than any other on the selfish extravagance and other anti-social attitudes to which human beings are often prone.

"The first aim that we must set ourselves is, of course, to make certain that no man, woman or child of whatever race, caste or creed and in whatever district, province or electorate suffers regularly, or even occasionally, from the gnawing pangs of hunger.

Brevet Colonel G. W. Rajapakse's last words to me when I said that I work for a newspaper was "Help College".


Sumith Wickramasinghe joined Ananda in the 1940s

Hon. Minister Dharmadasa Banda MP
Sumith's best friend at Ananda College

Dr. N.M.Perera, old boy of Ananda College with President John F.Kennedy in the White House

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Sumith Wickramasinghe was an old boy of Ananda College Colombo