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Dharmaraja scouts score many firsts

Lord Robert Baden Powell organised an experimental camp on Brownsea Island in Pearl Harbour, England for a group of 20 boys in 1907. This was not a scout camp, but the birth of the Boy Scout Movement which has now spread its wings all over the world.


Lord Baden Powell with the founder of the 1st Kandy Dharmaraja Scout Group and Chief Commissioner of Sri Lanka Scout Association, J. H. de Saram at the Kandy Railway Station on the 19th November, 1934, soon after his arrival in the hill capital.

Dharmaraja College, Kandy did not take long to follow his footsteps, and in 1913, the 1st Kandy Scout Troop and the second in the Ceylon was formed, the first being the one at Christchurch College, Matale. It was due to the enthusiasm and drive of the then Principal, Mr. K. F. Billimoria when the troop flourished during his reign until his retirement in 1932. At the time the scout master was the late J. H. De Saram a Sinhalese, who became the first native Chief Commissioner of Scouting in Ceylon, and his assistant was G. H. De Saram.

The 1st Kandy Dharmaraja Scout Group has a remarkable 95-year history in the local and international scout arena with its very first great achievement, the "King's Flag" which they won for three consecutive years, 1917, 1918 and 1919. This flag was traditionally awarded to the troop in any one of the British Colonies that had the largest number of King Scouts, on September 30 that year. In those years the number of colonies in the British Empire was quite a considerable number and no other troop in the Colonies could emulate that achievement. Mr. J. H. De Saram holds the unique length of time.

The Troop had the unique distinction of providing a guard-of-honour when His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) visited Ceylon in 1921. The guard-of-honour was drawn up on the platform of the Kandy Railway Station and was personally inspected by His Royal Highness who paid tribute to the Rajans on the very smart turn-out, thereby being the only troop in the East to receive this recognition up to that date in 1921.

1st Kandy Scouts had the rare opportunity to honour the founder, Lord Baden Powell in 1921 on his visit to Dharmaraja College. The Summit which is on a promontory in the Lakeview Park within the 57-acre land belonging to Dharmaraja, provides a panoramic view of the surroundings, which had been allocated for the scout troop by the then Principal, the late Mr. P. De S. Kularatne in 1924. Later, in 1984 this scout centre was named the Lakeview Park International Scout Centre. The Park which is modelled on the famous Gilwell Park in London which was designed by an Old Rajan Scout Mahendra Nambuge, was given a new look with contemporary amenities and will accommodate the foreign delegates who are due here for the anniversary celebrations.

Dharmaraja scouts, again had the honour of hosting Mr. Dale Sylvester, Asia-Pacific Scout Commissioner of the World Scout Bureau, during his visit to Sri Lanka in 1971, when Mr. B. N. B. Dolapihilla was the Group Scout Master. The present incumbent Mr. M. B. Weerasekera had also received the award from the Royal Highness for his admirable leadership, creating another record during the Dolapihilla period.

When Dharmaraja College celebrated the Centenary year in 1987, 1st Kandy Scout Group and the Old Rajans Scout Association organised the 'Centenary JIM 1987' to commemorate 100 years on a grand scale. It was the very refreshing and fascinating programme which any scout can remember with pride.

President J. R. Jayewardene, the chief guest at the 'Centenary JIM' paid tribute to the then principal A. P. Gunaratna and the Group Scout Master Bandara Weerasekera and the organisers for conducting a Jamboree of an exceptional standard.

Mr. Sarath Mataraarachchi succeeded Mr. Weerasekera in 1993 as the Group Scout Master, who had accumulated more feats which were impressive honours for the Group. His scouting expertise and domination had targeted several feats.

From 1993 up to 2006, Dharmaraja Scouts won the Island Merit Flag for being the Best Scout Group in Sri Lanka, consecutively and today scouting at Dharmaraja is actively supported by the current Principal Mr. S. M. Keerthiratne.

Thirty-one Dharmaraja scouts of the 138-member Sri Lankan contingent participated in the 21st World Jamboree (Centenary Celebrations of World Scouting) from July 27 to August 8 in Gilwell Park, London, England in the Keerthiratne Era, breaking the Jamboree record.

This is the first time in the history of scouting in Sri Lanka that such a large number of scouts from one school was represented at a world jamboree.

Our scouts brought honour to the motherland on several occasions, climbing the Himalaya Mountain seven times from 1985 to 2007. Expert Explorer Ajith Jayasekera, master of the Himalayan Expedition guided the scouts with his wide experience.

Dharmaraja's distinguished old scout, Shantha Madurawe was appointed Deputy Chief Commissioner of the Sri Lanka Scout Association by the Chief Scout, President Mahinda Rajapaksa on July 7, 2008 which is an added feather in the 95th year of Dharmaraja Scouting cap and Madurawe is recognised as the 'Best Scout' produced so far at Dharmaraja.

1st Kandy Dharmaraja Scout Group will celebrate its 95th anniversary this year by organising an adventure and leadership program. `RANSAI 2008', Rajans Ninety-fifth Scout Anniversary International, the scout leadership and adventure program, the first ever fully sponsored scouts international adventure event in Sri Lanka will be held at the Lakeview Park International Scout Centre, Kandy from December 26 to 30.

RANSAI 2008 is being organised by the 1st Kandy Dharmaraja Scout Group and Old Rajans Scout Association as their sixth international event to mark the 95th anniversary of the Group and the 30th anniversary of the Association.

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