The golden jubilee of
Dawn of a new era
The term Sarvodaya denotes the spiritual and the material development
of not only the individual, but also the entire population. For this
purpose, Sarvodaya is committed to share labour, expertise and
resources. In 1958, a team of a few teachers and students of the Nalanda
College, Colombo, under the guidance and leadership of A.T. Ariyaratne,
then a teacher of that college, conducted a Shramadana (voluntary
service) camp at Kanatholuwa, which was then an impoverished and
marginalised hamlet in the Kurunegala district. This was the origin of
the massive people-oriented development movement now known as the `Sarvodaya
Movement' by the local as well as the international community.
Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne
Dr. Ariyaratne's relentless efforts in the field of development have
invariably been focused on elimination of poverty amongst the rural
masses through awakening of their latent capacities. His concept
envisions making the lives of the marginalised poor rural communities
more meaningful and sustainable by providing easy access to their basic
needs. Various programs and activities have been implemented in the past
to achieve this objective. Under his able leadership and guidance, many
programs have been conducted throughout the country for providing the
people with basic amenities and essential infrastructural facilities
such as lavatories, roads, schools and drinking water wells etc. These
programs had to be conducted within the limited resources available.
Steps had been taken in the past to provide educational facilities and a
nutritious meal to schoolchildren. Throughout this long period, the
focal objective of the operations based on his vision has been the
advancement of the human kind.
He is highly talented speaker who possesses ingenuinity for
addressing any gathering with eloquence and clarity so that every body
could easily comprehend the vital elements of his speech.
He cleverly designs his lectures to suit the perceptibility of the
audience. Though highly occupied, he is an ardent rewader who is keenly
interested on widening his perception and knowledge on ever changing
trends of the local and international arenas. Dr. Ariyaratne has proved
to be a source of inspiration. The views of grassroots communities reach
him directly without intervention by any intermediary channel. He is
familiar with the village and the villagers and is very quick in
identifying the village problems. This is the clear reason why the
village communities have accepted and welcome the development schemes
conceived by Dr. Ariyaratne and implemented by the `Sarvodaya Movement'.
Facing various constraints, the Sarvodaya Movement has reached 50
years since its inception in 1958.
Sarvodaya is not something which can be or should be assessed through
what is seen at the Moratuwa Headquarters. The innumerable benefits
enjoyed today by the previously neglected rural communities are
considered by many as the fruits of Sarvodaya efforts to empower the
people to improve their capacities. They applaud Dr. Ariyaratne as an
angel who had come to rescue them from misery.
Ghandian policies and Buddhist doctrine have inspired the Sarvodaya
Movement, to a greater extent, to emerge as a people - oriented
development organisation committed with the responsibility of
stabilising peace and spiritual awakening, and improvement of the living
standards and livelihoods of poor rural masses that form the majority of
the population of Sri Lanka.
Sarvodaya is geared to empower and inspire the people to take the
responsibility of planning their own lives and uphold self reliance in
stead of depending on others to fulfil their needs.
Dr. Ariyaratne had very good reasons being influenced by tenets
envisaged in the Buddhist doctrine in the implementation of the social
development programs. The majority of the rural populace in Sri Lanka is
Buddhist. Therefore, Dr. Ariyaratne visualised that the best and the
easiest approach to the development of the rural areas is through the
gateway of the village temple and mobilising the Buddhist Monks and
local leaders, both young and old. This approach has been successful.
Dr. Ariyaratne's keen interest in fostering the traditional cultural
values and utilising them in the creation of a new society is vividly
demonstrated in almost all the development programs executed by the
Sarvodaya Movement. He believed that transformation of the attitudes of
the people is vital in effecting any reforms in the society and that it
is no easy task.
Many multi-faceted social development programs are being conducted
covering over 15,000 rural villages and urban areas. These programs,
based on Gandhian principles and Buddhist doctrine, have been designed
to achieve a comprehensive improvement of the society encompassing the
spiritual and material advancement the individual, the family, the
village, city, country and finally the entire world.
The successful achievements of the Movement could be directly
attributed to the superior insight of Dr. Ariyaratne, and the
commitment, diligence and the resolve of the employees and also on the
extensive operational network.
Today, Sarvodaya has focused its special attention on furthering the
concept of Grama Swarajjaya, a process which envisions empowering and
inspiring the village communities to make their own liberal decisions
for developing their respective villages and prevent exploitation of
village resources by external forces.
Sarvodaya anticipates establishing a network of thousands of similar
village Swarajjayas which will ultimately serve as the basic structure
for the creation of a comprehensive system of participatory
Sarvodaya Central Library,