In the early decades of the 19th century, Christian missionaries envisaged that the most effective way of converting Buddhists was through church-based schools. The British colonial administration encouraged and assisted this venture. The Buddhists and Buddhist education were subjected to serious intimidation and threats during this period and Buddhist monks and leaders were struggling against this movement. As a result of intimidation, a wave of debates sprang out and the most famous Panadura Wadaya (1873) was a face to face debate of which the Buddhists were recorded as the clear winners. The news spread across the globe which compelled Col. Henry Steel Olcott to come to Sri Lanka. He arrived in 1980 with Madam H.P. Blavatsky, converted to Buddhism and led the Buddhist movement. He established the Buddhist Theosophical Society (BTS) in Colombo, Kandy and Galle. Col. Olcott’s and Migettuwaththe Gunananda Thera’s counter measure for church-based Schools was to start English Buddhist Schools. Col. Olcott started to collect money for the Buddhist Educational Fund touring around the country. He was instrumental in starting Buddhist Sunday schools by following the success of Catholic Sunday schools. Then the first Sunday school was converted to a day school and was named Ananda College, Colombo.

Dawn of a new College:

On the 30th of June 1887, Dharmaraja College was started as the Kandy Buddhist High School with 12 students under the auspices of the Kandy Theosophical Society. The Buddhist revival started by Col. Olcott, inspired Kandy Buddhist leaders who helped this educational movement either as the members of the BTS or as sympathizers. To clear the land for the new school, Wadugodapitiya Punchirala Korale; the Kapu Mahatthaya of Natha Devalaya cut down the Bo tree overnight and prepared the land. This made the British rulers furious and removed the Korale from all government posts under the pretext of sacrilege of Buddhism and confiscated the lands he owned. The real reason for his removal was to send a message to the leaders of the movement who were starting Buddhist Schools since the British rulers realized that this movement was not conducive for the Christian missions.

Mr. A. de Silva (1887-1890):

Mr. Andris de Silva was appointed as the first headmaster. Though Mr. Silva’s contribution for the school was excellent, in order to register the school for funding, the education department required to replace Mr. Silva by a qualified headmaster.

Mr. D.B. Jayatilaka (1890-1898):

BTS has obtained the service of Mr. D.B. Jayatilaka (later Sir. D.B. Jayathilaka) in June 1890 as the headmaster of the College. The registration of the department was successful in the next attempt. During Mr. Jayatilaka’s period all classes were held in the first permanent building called “Bana Maduwa” which had no separate classrooms. In 1989 Mr. Jayatilaka was transferred to Ananda College as the Vice-Principal.

Mr. H. Banbury (1898-1899):

He was a theosophist and was educated in York. He has travelled around the country; even to the faraway places such as Bintanne and Wellassa for collecting funds. Construction of a new building was started during the principalship of Mr. Banbury. The new building was named after Mr. H. Banbury and the upper floor was used as the hostel. Mr. Banbury named the school as Dharmaraja College.

Mr. W. Hack (1899):

Mr. Wilton Hack was also a theosophist and he devoted most of his time for fund collecting activities which caused him to retire within a couple of months as he was down with Malaria during that exercise, travelling in remote areas.

Mr. C.S. Rajarathnam (1899 – 1902):

Mr. Rajarathnam was not a Buddhist, but he continued to maintain the Buddhist ideologies and was responsible for obtaining excellent results in government examinations.

Mr. K.F. Billimoria (1902 – 1932):

Mr. K.F. Billimoria; a Parsee who came for a short commercial visit to Sri Lanka was convinced by Mr. Jayatilaka to take up the post of the Principal of the College in 1902. During this period, the ground floor of Banbury Building and the Bana Maduwa was used to conduct classes. The upper floor of the Banbury building was used as the Principal’s residence. Since the space was barely sufficient for the increasing number of students. Mr. Billimoria had started collecting funds for the third permanent building in 1910. It was said that during this period, from those who came to see the Kandy Perahara, everyone was compelled to donate a cent by pinning cards. The construction work started in 1914 and was completed in 1915 and the work was supervised by Mr. P.B. Ratnayake (Father of Mr A. Ratnayake; Old Rajan, MP for Wattegama and then became the President of the Senate of Ceylon). The building was ceremonially opened in 1915 by Sir Ponnambalam Ramanadan; a member of the Legislative Council. Mr. Billimoria envisioned the requirement of spacious location for the expansion of the college and purchased the Lake View Estate in 1922 even though the cost was not affordable to the College. The Ardnaree was the estate bungalow of Lake View Estate. The famous British writer D.H. Lawrance stayed in Ardnaree in 1922. On the retirement of Mr. Billimoria, his son Mr. Beram Billimoria started a scholarship spending Rs. 25,000 in memory of his father. After purchasing the Lake View estate, in 1923 the hostel which was in Lambert House in Malabar Street (Now Anagarika Dharmapala Mawatha) was moved to Ardnaree. Prior to that the hostel was in Banbury which was moved to there from a building at Castle Street (Kotugodella Veediya). A playground, two buildings and a swimming pool was built in 1926 for the hostellers. Chief Justice Anton Bertram later named this as Dharmaraja Hill.

Mr. P. de S. Kularathna (1932-1936):

To fill the space of Mr. Billimoria and to uplift the financial and administrative stability of the college, the service of Mr. Kularathna was obtained temporarily releasing him form the Principalship of Ananda College in Nov 1932. He managed to control the debts of the College that incurred primarily because of the purchase of Lake View. Mr. Kularathna’s arrival increased the influx of new students and the space for the classes was soon become insufficient. Therefore principal’s residence was moved from upper floor of Banbury to Ardnaree which became the bungalow of the principal thereafter. At that time the hostel buildings constructed by Mr. Billimoria called A and B with the dining hall were not in use. Mr. Kularthna renovated these building to move the hostel from the Ardnaree. He had renovated the road and foot path leading to the hostel as well. The half way constructed Sri Chandarasekera; “C” dormitory of the hostel by Mr. Billimoria was also completed during this period. Mr. Kularathna managed to provide pipe born water to bathrooms and toilets using cemented tanks and electric pumps. The upper floor of Banbury building was used for classes and the ground floor was converted to a science laboratory. In addition, another hall with couple of class rooms were constructed in front of the Banbury building. This building was later removed after handing over to Cultural Triangle in 1980s. Ever increasing student population forced Mr. Kularathna to start classes in Lake View estate. A permanent building was constructed on the western bank of the hostel and a temporary build was constructed near the hostel kitchen. Later this permanent building was made a part of the hostel. Two huts were also made during this period for two English Buddhist lady devotees. At present they are used for scouting. Two tennis grounds were constructed during this period and the swimming pool constructed by Mr. Billimoria was renovated and new swimming pool was constructed for young students.  

Mr. L.H. Mettananda (1936 -1945):

Since Mr. Kularathna resumed duties as the Principal of Ananda, then Acting Principal; Mr. Mettananda of Ananda was appointed as the Principal of Dharmaraja. Mr. Mettananda had to face multifaceted problems at the same time. The college was still in heavy debts due to the purchasing Lake View. The space was not sufficient to cater for the influx of students and hence in need of new buildings. In parallel to 1937 Golden Jubilee ceremony, he started collecting funds through an Industrial Fair and started the construction of a two storied building. With the donations of well-wishers the building was completed in 1940. Names of top six donors are inscribed on the plaques mounted on the walls of the building. On 2nd March 1940, this two storied building (later named as Mettananda Building) was declared opened, the foundation stone for a new Science Lab was laid by the Governor of Ceylon; Sir Andrew Caldecott. The science lab was donated by Mr. James Senannayke in memory of his late son Milton Senannayake who died in Paris in 1937. The other problem Mr. Mettananda realized was the new threat looming to convert poor Sinhala Buddhist students to Christianity. Since the English Buddhist schools such as Ananda and Dharmaraja only catered for upper and middle class students who can afford the school fees, the poor Sinhala Buddhist students were attracted by the Catholic schools by charging less school fees. These students are eventually converted to Christianity. In order to teach poor Sinhala Buddhist students, the Elementary Department was started in 1940. From Kindergarten to grade five was near Maligawa and grade six to senior classes were at Lake View. The debts were transferred to State Mortgage and Investment Bank and restructured in order to pay off the debits, thus saving the Lake View. While the objective of taking over private schools to government was still remaining, Mr. Mettananda had to go back to Ananda to take the principalship after the retirement of Mr. Kularathna.

Mr. S.A. Wijayatilake (1945-1954):

Mr. Wijayatilake was first appointed as a teacher of Dharmaraja in 1924 by Mr. Billimoria, and soon taken by Ananda College. Then he moved to Nalanda. In 1943 he was appointed as the Vice-Principal of Dharmaraja and then appointed as the Principal in November 1945. With the introduction of free education in 1945 it was not easy for anyone to take charge of a school. However he managed the situation and organized carnivals, put up building and had plans for further extensions by collecting funds. Mr. Wijayatilake had made the temporary class rooms permanent and constructed temporary class rooms for increasing number of students. He organized a carnival in 1947 and collected funds to renovate the road and to improve the laboratories. The remaining funds and the funds collected in the 1951 carnival were allocated to construct an auditorium and was never allowed to be used, even if it was for urgent School needs. He has improved the college library by collecting large number of books. His service, especially in creating a cordial relationship between the Buddhist schools and other schools, when it was perilously closing to rivalry and hostile, has to be recorded and remembered. Before realizing all his dreams he was taken back by Ananda College again; this time as the Principal.

Mr. C. Godage (1955 -1959):

Mr. Charles Godage was one time a teacher of Dharmaraja and had worked as principal in other schools before assuming duties at Dharmaraja. His period is also renowned for building constructions. Though free education was introduced to schools, despite the effort of previous principals in constructing new building, Dharmaraja could not implement free education effectively due to insufficient buildings to accommodate new students. As a solution he started Dharmaraja Development Board and with the Esala carnival in 1955 he managed to collect about Rs. 40,431.34. He added two buildings of 9 classes for the middle section and made a temporary building a permanent one. A building with 5 classes was added to the primary section. He made the temporary roof of a science lab permanent, added another section to the hostel, completed the geography section, introduced the workshop section, completed the physics and chemistry laboratory provided radio facilities to senior hostels and primary section and provided hundred chairs to the primary auditorium. The lavatory system of the hostel was modernized and the kitchen was renovated. The library was also improved and a cinema projector was acquired. The sports ground was expanded to make 330 yards track and the pavilion was constructed during this period. The foundation of the pavilion was placed on April 1957. The role of joint-secretaries of OBU Mr. D.M. Dharmathilake and D.K. Jayawickrama in constructing the pavilion is specially appreciated in the school magazines. In 1959 Mr. Godage left for England for further education and after spending two years, he joined Moratuwa Vidayala as the Principal.

Mr. D.B. Tewarapperuma (1959-1961):

To cover the duties of the principal post, Mr. Tevarapperuma was transferred to Dharmaraja from the principal post of Maliyadeva College. Since the government funded schools had to follow the government rules which governed the Christian schools, the difference between the missionary schools and the Buddhist schools was limited to the religious environment. Though Mr. Mettananda lead the battle for absorbing the government funded schools, after the government change in 1956, the pledges to implement Buddhist Commission report and to take over the funded schools to the government was not implemented. Therefore, the Kandy Educational Front, formed in 1957 started a guerrilla war through public meetings and publications. However, BTS had decided not to handover Ananda and Dharmaraja to the government and to keep them under their control. Therefore Mr. Tevarapperuma led a long and heated battle against this decision and presented the case to the Senior Assistant Secretary to the Ministry of Education Dr. Ananda Guruge (a distinguished old boy). As a result Dharmaraja and also Ananda were announced as government schools on 1960.12.01. Mr. Tewarapperuma had restructured the library and improved sports and other social activities. The dental clinic was started by the government in the primary section in 1960. He was appointed as the Principal of Walala Central College in 1961.

Major E.A. Perusinghe (1962-1964):

The principal of Maliyadeva College; Major Perusinghe was appointed as the principal of Dharmaraja in Jan 1962. A new building with 5 classes was added as soon as he assumed duties. The funds collected by Mr. Wijayatilake for a hall was used for these 5 classes. Later two buildings with 16 rooms were added to the middle section. The sports ground was expanded by collecting funds from the Esala carnival in 1963. Since the government had accepted the proposal to make the premisses around Dalada Maligawa a scared area, and since the College needed to expand the primary section, at the 1963 prize giving where Minister of Education and Cultural affairs Mr. P.B.G.Kalugalla was the Chief Guest, Major Perusinghe proposed to acquire 2 acres at the bottom of the hill and to shift the primary. Mr. Kalugalla had promised to acquire 2 acres and to construct buildings for the primary and for an auditorium. Major Perusinghe also proposed to the Dharmaraja Development Board to construct a shrine room using the building fund of Rs. 16,000 collected during Mr. Godage’s period. Since the funds were not sufficient, additional 18,000 was collected from the parents and started designing the plans. Major Perusinghe was appointed as the principal of Ananda in Oct 1964.

Col. S.L.B. Amaranayake (1964 -1971):

Mr. Amaranayake studied during Mettananda and Wijayatilake’s periods and Obtain BA from University of Ceylon. He served as a teacher in Gampola Jinaraja and then in Dharmaraja and became the Vice-Principal during Mr. Godage’s perod. In 1964 he was appointed as the Acting Principal and was the first old boy to become the Principal of the college. Capt. Amaranayake was appointed as the principal in Augest 1967. The playground expansion work started during Maj. Perusinghe’s period and was completed by Capt. Amaranayake but the levelling and drainage system was remained incomplete. Though Rs. 20,000 was approved and the contract was awarded to a contractor, the completion of the remaining work was stopped and then completed by the students through Shrama Dana. The foundation for the Shrine Room (Budu Madura) was laid on Dec 1965 and Benthota Mr. T.A.T. Silva constructed the Buddha statue and Mr. George Keet had promised to do the paintings. In 27th June 1965 the road leading to Dharmaraja was named as Dharmaraja Mawatha. Since the College had to face water problems during dry seasons, the College obtained the service from newly constructed pipe born water service of the Kandy Municipality Council. However the pressure was not sufficient to feed the hostel and hence new tanks were constructed at the college premises and electrical pumps were installed to feed the hostel in 1968. The swimming pool was constructed by Mr. Billimoria and was restored and used by the students. Three class rooms of the Mettananda Building were converted to laboratories and equipment was provided.

Mr. A.B. Samarajeewa (1971 -1973):

In this period, following the national agriculture program, Mr. Samaajewa utilized the college land for agriculture optimally. The main hall of the college was allocated for the library and funding for purchasing books and periodicals and daily papers was provided.

Mr. A.P. Gunaratne (1973 -1987):

Mr. Gunratne was the second old boy to become the Principal of Dharmaraja. His student administration method was to guide students to make them proud for being a Rajan. He wanted the students to be self-disciplined as well as patriotic. He trained students to hold responsibility and teachers to only guide students. Therefore many student movements were born during that period. The Centenary anniversary was celebrated in a grand scale. The international scout centre inaugurated at Dharamaraja hill which attracted many international visitors. With the donation of 4.5 acres for the primary section and the auditorium by the government and 14 acres from Pattiya Kele (later given to Army Signal Corps) by Hon. Prime Minister Mr. R. Premadasa, the land area of the school was extended to 55 acres. Freeing the land given for the primary from the illegal squatters was a serious battle that was won by Mr. Gunaratne amidst the threats to his life. In 1985 the college was declared as a National School. In 1987 Model Daham Pasala was started. Two storied building for science laboratory was constructed. He has started to expand the playground and also planned to build four storied pavilion, two storied hostel complex and the auditorium which was designed by Mr. Piyasiri Gattepola. In 1987 Mr. Gunaratne was appointed as the Principal of Ananda College.

Mr. U.B. Herath (1987-1988):

Before being appointed as the Principal, Mr. Herath was an Assistant Commissioner of Examination and hence did not have previous experience as a principal. However passing initial difficulties and with the help of the staff he managed to provide a good service for the College.

Mr. N. Herath (1989-1991):

Constructing the College Auditorium at the bottom of Lake View hill was a major project initiated by Mr. Nihal Herath. He selected the location with Mr. Gamini Dissanayake and invited him to provide the architectural design for the seating capacity of 1500. Mr. Dissanayake has fulfilled the requirement creating a unique design which blended with the existing landscape. The foundation was laid for the auditorium in 08th Nov 1990 as a project of OBU with initial funding and the leadership of Mr. William Weerasinghe the President of OBU. The construction was done by State Engineering Corporation (SEC). The donation of of Rs. 1 million made by Mr. W.M.P.B. Dissanayake; Chief Minister of Central Province was used for the initial phase. As the collecting funds became difficult, the construction of the auditorium was stalled. In 1991 Mr. Nihal Herath was appointed as a Principal of a National College of Education.

Mr. T.B. Damunupola (1991 -1995):

The Principal of Vidyartha; Mr. Damunupola was appointed as the Principal to become the third old Rajan who was appointed as the Principal of the College. He was a silent and kindhearted gentleman. The work of the auditorium was recommenced using Rs. 150,000 given by OBU in 1993 and he managed to obtain funds of 4 million from the Government through a directive of His Excellency the President Mr. D.B. Wijetunga and 1 million by Mr. Haridranath Dunuwila (Hon. MP) to restart the construction and completed the auditorium. New primary buildings were designed and constructed using the funds provided by the Cultural Triangle and the primary school situated near Natha Devalaya premises was moved to the lower part of the Lake View. Mr. Damunupola left Dharmaraja to assume duties of the Principal of Ananda.

Mr. B.M. Bandaranayake (1995-1999):

Mr. A.B. Herath worked as the acting principal prior to Mr. Bandaranayake. A Tennis Court was constructed during this period with the leadership of Dr. Tilak Abesekara. Building of a Dental Clinic, three storied building with 12 classes for Middle Section, a three storied building for grade 10,11 (top floor was allocated for indoor sports) were the new buildings added during this period. The auditorium, which was almost completed, was inaugurated on 23 Feb 1996 with overnight pirith chanting ceremony and an alms giving for 80 Bhikkus. However it was officially declared open by then Speaker Mr. K.B.Ratnayake one year later.

Mr. A.B. Herath (1999-2001):

Mr. Ashoka Herath was a teacher and a vice principal for a long period of time before before he was appointed as the Principal. He was instrumental in completing the requirements of the auditorium. Amidst the government red-tapes in procuring, the service Mr. Herath rendered is always remembered in purchasing the chairs for the auditorium.

Mr. S.M. Keerthiratne (2001-2016):

Being the principal for the second highest tenure after Mr. Billimoria, Mr. Keerthiratne has improved the college in almost all aspects. During his period the College playground was widened and new turfs pitches were introduced by the Old Boy’s Union. The effort of OBU President; Mr. Jagath Samarasinghe in executing the project and the personal commitment of old Rajan businessmen in Kandy in securing funds has to be recorded. The construction was started on 18th October 2003 and completed within four years by the Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau (CECB). As the old swimming pool was abandoned, the requirement of a new pool had been in discussion for a long period as a project of OBU, Colombo Branch and initial funding was pledged by E.W. Balasooriya (Rs. 12 million). Initial plan was to construct a pavilion and a swimming pool at the end of the playground where original pavilion was situated. Constructing a road for that site from the Auditorium was started by the OBU during the Presidency of Mr. Gamini Dissanayake. In his period, he designed and constructed a Wahalkada at the entrance of the college premises following Kandyan traditions. Later with the receipt of remaining funds from Tarunyata Hetak Organization with the directive of the president (Rs.15 Million) the site near the Auditorium was selected by removing the kids’ playground of the primary section. By collecting the remaining funds from old boys and well-wishers (Rs. 8 million) by the OBU Colombo Branch and the team, the pool of size 25 m x 17 m with 8 lanes was constructed by Tec Waters (Pvt) Ltd. and Mahinda Builders and declared opened by His Excellency the President of Sri Lanka Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse on 17th Jan 2010. Upon constructing the new science labs and shifting the science section to the buildings above the auditorium, the Milton Senanayake building was allocated for the museum during the past principals. Mr. Keerthiratne requested the Old Rajans’ 79/80 group to construct the College Archives to collect and maintain the historical records of the College. In Oct 2001 the renovation of the building was started and it was refurbished to give a different outlook spending Rs. 2 million. Sir D.B. Jayatilaka Memorial Archives was ceremonially opened on 28th Nov 2003 by Mr. A.P.Gunarthne; former principal of the College. Constructing sick Room, kitchen and the Wardens Quarters for the Hostel was done by Old Hostellers Association. A three storied building for grade 11-12, Sunil Sirisena Art Gallery donated by Mr. Sunil Sirisena (an old boy), Scout Museum by the Old Scouts Association, Computer Aided Learning Centre (CAL) and preparing chairs and fixing a curtain worth Rs. 1.5 million with the help of Colombo OBU and London Chapter for the auditorium were other major infrastructure development projects completed during this period. Following a proposal of Col K.B.S. Welgedara; an old boy and a teacher, the shrine room of primary section was constructed by his family members in 2008. A public addressing system for the primary was installed in 2011 by the parents of the students admitted to school in that year. At the later part of Mr. Keerthiratne’s tenure, the construction of the pavilion was started. Due to the poor condition of the Ardnaree bungalow the Education Department decided to demolish it and to construct a new residence for the Principal. The design was done by the Government. The officers of the College Archives were of the view that if the Ardnaree could not be restored, at least the new design should resemble the Ardnaree bungalow. Therefore with the intervention of the Archives, the new Architectural design was done by Mr. Gamini Dissanayake keeping some of the features of Ardnaree bungalow and approved by the Education Department and its construction was started in Dec 2015. Architectural designs of the new pavilion (which has seating capacity of 280 ) also done by Mr. Gamini Dissanayake and the structural design of pavilion was done by Dr. Udaya Dissanayake.

Mr. W.M.D.T.P. Wanasinghe (2016 to date):

Before being appointed as the Principal, Mr. Wanasinghe was the Principal of St. Thomas College, Matale. Since the Bungalow was demolished, the new Principal has to reside outside the College premises and which is a hindrance for the school administration. The completion of the new Principal’s residence was stalled due to insufficient funds. On the directive of the Education Ministry, the School Development Society approved to release Rs. 5 million from the school development fund to complete the remaining parts of the building allowing the Principal to move in as soon as possible. At present Mr. Wansinghe is planning to make a Building Master Plan for the College, to have it widely discussed and to approve it so that the future development of the College will follow the agreed master plan. This Master Plan is prepared to facilitate the long felt requirement of making well established Master Plan for Dharmaraja College of which importance has been discussed at various forums including at the OBU and professional forums of Old Rajans.

About the document

This article on the History of Dharmaraja Infrastructures is prepared by Dr. Kamalanath Samarakoon; the President of Dharmaraja Archives Foundation using large number of publications available in the College Archives and on the Internet. There are many inconsistencies of the historical activities found in these publications. A complete document, including the inconsistencies with the references, is kept in the College Archives for reference.

Author: Dr. Kamalanath Samarakoon

Last modified: le 2018/02/09 13:45