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Ananda Sastralaya Kotte celebrates 115 years

Ananda Sastralaya Kotte celebrated its 115th anniversary yesterday. The following is compiled by Mahinda Makalanda President of the Past Pupils Association (1952 - 1965).

The drive way within the precincts of the school.

Since Sri Lanka was under British rule, Buddhism and Buddhist culture were almost in the dark. No one dared to challenge missionary education. But during the 19th century, an American by the name Col. Henry Steel Olcott realised the value and vision of the Buddha's teachings after hearing the famous Buddhist debates held in Gampola Panadura, Udanvita, Baddegama, and Urugodawatte.

Anagarika Dharmapala, Venerable Mohittiwatte Gunananda Thera, Col. Henry Steel Olcott and Venerable Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thera inaugurated some Buddhist schools, like the Maradana Buddhist English School (later Ananda College), Dharmaraja College, Kandy and Mahinda College, Galle.

Some eminent Buddhist leaders in Kotte during that period, too realising their responsibility towards Buddhist activities set up a school by the name of Kotte Bauddha (Buddhist) mixed school on November 4, 1880. This was the primary step.

Educational Facilities

On January 1, 1890, Ven. Embulgama Wimalatissa Thera along with eminent leaders in the Dayaka Sabha the Rajamaha Viharaya, Kotte, headed by Thepanis Perera Appuhamy and a few others, further enhanced the educational facilities of the school and renamed it Kotte Bauddha (Buddhist) English Mixed School And this was the beginning of Ananda Sastralaya.

It was located in a plot of land transferred by the Raja Maha Viharaya. The first headmaster was C. Ranasingha, for the period 1890-1903.

Entrance to the school 

Then D.B. Jayatilaka, (later Sir D.B.) was the head master from 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 (B.T.S.) was founded for the rehabilitation of Buddhist activities and for the proper administration of Buddhist schools. They took over the administration of Jayawardena Shasthra Shalava and renamed it as Ananda Sastralaya, Kotte. They appointed S.P. Perera who was the head master of Ananda College as the headmaster at Ananda Sastralaya.

After his retirement in 1934 the BTS appointed Dr. E.W. Adikaram, as head master. He was a distinguished scholar and had obtained his degree from Oxford University. He organised Ananda Sastralaya by adding laboratories, a main hall, hostel and a play ground. He left the school in 1934, and Bernard Wickramasingha succeeded.


This was the period when cricket was first played here. The team was coached by a Professional, A.G.K. Gunatilaka. During his period, the school had to be decentralized and many branches were started in various places of the country such as Matugama, Badulla, Maharagama, Karawanella and Battaramulla.

This was done in consequence to the decision to take over the school for the Ceylon Army to have an Army Camp within the school premises during the Second World War as Ceylon was still under British rule. After the war the school restarted.

We see a galaxy of distinguished personnel by the names of N.W. de Costa, Professor Mahinda Palihawadana, Gunapala Wickremaratna, C.M. Ariyaratna, A. Pasqual and W.T.P. Tillekeratne among them who are productions of the school.

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

In 1963, a re-organisation took place by amalgamating some primary schools around Ananda Sastralaya who had classes from 1st to 6th standard to the 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 the Sastralaya, which was obtained by Dr. E. W. Adikaram way back in 1940. Ananda Sastralaya became a Boys' school in 1971.

Ananda Sastralaya is located on a very valuable archaeological site belonging to the Portuguese period. There is a tunnel erected in the 16th century to pass through to the Portuguese Fort situated in Colombo. It has been revealed that there were three entrances to the Fort. One runs through a pond belonging to Balapokuna Viharaya, at Kurulapone and the other two are beyond our search.

Educational background

Presently Ananda Sastralaya comprises two major divisions. The primary section and the post primary section. Grade 1 to grade 5 classes are in the primary division and grade 6 to grade 13 are 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 2300 students are enroled and every year quite a good number of students sit for the G.C.E. O/L and A/L examinations. Quite a few get through to the Universities, but when compared with the early years, it is not satisfactory.

The science laboratories were constructed in the Adikaram era, but a zoology laboratory was built in 1962.

Presently four laboratories for, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Zoology are maintained. The school has an excellent library with a 50 per cent collection of new books. The library is equipped with some modern amenities but has yet to be improved, further by adding electronic devices to match modern libraries.

Consequent to the decision taken by the Ministry of Education to equip all schools with information technology, there is a separate section for IT with about six computers.

It has also been suggested to make a computer centre at Ananda Sastralaya in the near future. Apart from these, a multi-purpose building was opened last year for oriental dancing, classical music, classical art, electronics, indoor sports, agriculture and Life Skills.

The staff

The academic staff consists of 96 and there are about 10 persons in the non academic staff. For the first time, a Buddhist priest was appointed as the principal of Ananda Sastralaya. Venerable Abeysekaragama Gunaratana Thera has been working as the principal at Ananda Sastralaya since 2002.

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


During the period prior to the takeover of schools the main sport at Ananda Sastralaya was volley ball, while all the big schools in Colombo focused on cricket. Majority of all the Ceylon players during that era were selected from Gampaha and Kotte where the old boys excelled.

In 1953 the Ceylon team was captained by H.P. Siriwardena on old Sastraliyan who was the senior Hansard Editor of the Senate (the Upper House of Legislation). Suriyapperuma and Gunasekara Banda were among the others.

With the introduction of cricket, volley ball gradually diminished. There are several records broken by our cricketers but due to lack of space they cannot be mentioned. Over the years Sastralaya players excelled in inter-school cricket by winning almost every tournament they participated.

They were the winners of the first ever Sharona Trophy in 1991. Young Sastraliyans also emerged champions in the Astra Margarine Trophy for under 13. Although cricket was started, it was in 1991 that the Big match coinciding with ten centenary celebrations was played. Sastraliyan Mohan de Silva claimed all 10 wickets in an innings 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 innings in a big match.

Test cricketer Ruchira Perera is a Sastraliyan.

The playground is situated at Beddegana, along Thalawatugoda Road. Dr. E.W. Adikaram obtained it from N.E. Weerasuriya OC in his era and the present generation has benefited from it. There were students who excelled in the field of athletics as well.

W.K. Vimukthi Nanayakkara won the first place in the 400 metres under 15, at the national schools meet in 2002, in the 400 metres at Sir John Tarbet Shield, junior championships held in 2002, and in 400 metres under 15, at the Western Province Athletic Meet.

Chulanga Chetiya Edirisingha won the first place in 100 metres, at Sir John Tarbot Shield Championships by finishing the game by 11.1 seconds and winning the athletic colours.

In the early 1950's there was a drama society which staged many plays. Some of them were Rattaran, Elowa Gihin Melowa Awa, Sanda Kinduru, Sura Panaye Adinawa and Kedunu Karattaya.

The well known dramatist late Gunasena Galappatti a member of academic staff started his drama carrier at Ananda Sastralaya by producing and staging Sanda Kinduru.

Later he produced Muhudu Patthu and became one of the best in the island. During the period 1960-70, the drama society was supervised by the patrons Mrs. Trilicia Abeykoon (Gunawardena) and Mrs. Welikala. Trilicia was the queen in Prof. Sarathchandra's famous stage drama Maname.

The structure

Only sheds covered by cadjan branches were there for buildings. But with the emergence of Dr. Adikaram as principal, so many permanent buildings were constructed. A two storeyed building in which the laboratory and the hostel were located was built.

The other was the main hall which was used to stage dramas as well as classrooms. The principals who resumed duties after Dr. Adikaram also built more classrooms.

One such building, built under the supervision of late Mr. Wickramasinghe was opened by late Dudley Senanayake, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka in 1953. He was the only head of State who joined any function held in Ananda Sastralaya. Presently there are 11 permanent buildings in the post primary and 4 in the primary section.

The Past Pupils Association

The Past Pupils Association was inaugurated way back in 1971, and considered as the live-wire of the school. Whenever the school has any needs, the PPA has always supported.

The first president of the PPA, was late W.B. Gunawardena who was one of the early students, a member in the academic staff, Vice Principal and then became the Acting Principal in 1961. He was the Member of the Urban Council Kotte, for two successive terms.

During the last 34 years there were 9 past pupils who held the post of PPA president. Gamini Mayadunne and K.V.S. Perera are the Joint Secretaries, and Ajith Jayasinghe is the Treasurer in the present PPA. There is an executive committee of 40 members.

The Past Pupils Association was able to gift a passenger coach last year with the assistance rendered by the S.D.S. and the school children. They organised a walk to raise funds to make some urgent repairs to the pavilion.

The Late Prof. K. Jinadasa Perera, Prof. Mahinda Palihawadana, Prof. J.M. Jayasinghe. Prof. Desmond Mallikaarach- chi, ex-Registrar of University of Ceylon W.A. Jayawardena, Chairman of the Tourist Board and ex-Chief Editor of the Hansard of the Senate H.P. Siriwardena, ex-Additional Secretary Ministry of Planning Implementation, Amaradasa Gunawardena, ex-Director General of Statistics late A.D. Cyril Yasasiri, ex-Governor Central Bank of Sri Lanka, H.B. Dissanayake, ex-Director Budget Division General Treasury, H.A. Abeygunawardena, ex-Chairman Gem Corporation Mr. W.M.P. Weerasingha, Mr. M.B. Ratnayaka ex-Principal Seevali MMV Ratnapura, late H.M. Gunasekera, ex-Director Sinhala Service SLBC, Mr.Y. Ratnapala de Silva, Secretary Parliamentary Affairs, Ananda Gunasekara, Senior Assistant Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs, M.G. Kularatna, Chairman/ Managing Director MAGA Engineering Co Ltd., Mahinda Ramanayaka, Upali Jayasuriya and Nelson Perera are a few from the Business community. Some lawyers like Jayatissa Herath PC and Nimal Weeraratna are also the products of Ananda Sastralaya.

The only doctor that Sastralaya ever produced is Dr. D.H.K. Karunatilaka, Deputy Director of Lady Ridgeway Children's Hospital. Rahul Perera an artist produced by the school was honoured by the Queen Elizabeth II for his work in Art and Sculpture.

Kalabhusana Lionel Gunatilaka, Late Milton Mallawarachchi and Dr. Dayaratne Ranatunga are among the high reputed musicians. Reggie Ranatunga, (Minuwangoda), Gamini Lokuge, (Kesbewa), Dharmadasa Banda, (Bibile), the late P.R. Ratnayaka (Mawanella), late Mrs Soma Wickramanayaka (Dehiowita), Daya T. Pasqual (Matugama) and D.M. Gunasekara Banda (Bibile), were always remembered as eminent politicians who emerged from Ananda Sastralaya.

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