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University of Ceylon, Peradeniya – its glorious past

University of Ceylon, Peradeniya was the first institution of its kind, the most picturesque attractive in the whole of Asia. It was founded on July 1 1942 as an autonomous corporation by the Ceylon University Ordinance No.20 of 1942 and it was the fulfilment of hopes and aspirations of many who were vociferous for a university.

This was fulfilled by the Founder Vice Chancellor Sir Ivor Jennings who arrived in Sri Lanka then (Ceylon) with the idea of selling up the first residential university in the country.

He assumed duties as the Principal of the Ceylon University College. Even since his main aim was to move it to Peradeniya for which he submitted a memorandum to C.W.W. Kannangara, the then Minister of Education. University College and the Medical College were thus amalgamated and the University of Ceylon was established on 1st July 1942 as mentioned above.

Majestic glory

Peradeniya in good old days was an estate of tea and rubber plantation owned by a British company. It had been utilised by the Imperial Masters for a cantonment during the second world war as the head quarters of the allied forces. When the war was over in 1945, the dream of the founder became a reality.

The initial planning was undertaken by Sir Patrick Abercrombie and his team who with the gifted Architect Shirley de Alwis made it a heaven on earth, well-renowned for its architectural supremacy, combined with its natural beauty.

On completion of the first phase October 1952, saw the transferring of the university to Peradeniya with the land mark establishment of the first even residential university in the country. Located on a site of great natural beauty, just 8 kilometres from the historic capital of Kandy and in very close proximity to Peradeniya Botanical gardens, it is said to cover about 700 hectares of land on the plains of River Mahaweli as well as the lower slopes of Hantane Range. Set among the salubrious hills with majestic trees full of greenery with hanging creepers of dazzling flowers with Mahaweli winding it’s way through it was without a rival in its charm splendour and serenity-on ideal creation for intellectual development a marvellous symbol of wisdom to be made use of by the intelligentsia. At the beginning the university in it’s true sense was a perfect one. Enchanting natural gift was not the only possession academic excellence, quality of education and culture and the services offered were beyond value inestimable. In short it was the most prestigious with highest academic discipline. It was world class in every sense of the word.

Those fortunate ones who were blessed with their admission when the newly started, magnificent university was at the height of her glory still have pleasant re-collections of their stay at Peradeniya, with deep gratitude to it’s founder. The university premises on the whole, at the time was a true wonder unfolding the majestic performance and the service it rendered. This was well-supported by the late Lakshman Kadirgamar who, in an address to the Peradeniya . Alumni had proudly mentioned that it was the University of Peradeniya and not Oxford that gave the academic finish and requisite character for his successful achievements in life.

Nostalgia

Almost all her alumni look back nostalgically to their university days. One can hardly forget the best period of their lives spent there, backed by very strong friendship. There were very closely knit groups of friends whose friendship continues even to date. Our friendship made encouraging progress every successive year and it flourished in a more fruitful way is, well illustrated by the fact that they are meeting often in their residential halls.

For example conveniently located “Arunachalam” has been the meeting placealmost every year. It is very interesting to note that several batches have been fortunate in commemorating their 50th anniversary going back to their good old days reminiscing the nice time they have had while at the same time showing their gratitude to the most esteemed institution, the only university, like no other which gave them that education which has enabled them to stand in good-stead today.

That was indeed a unique occasion and their get togethers took them back to the dream world in reality 50 years ago when they were new entrants (raw freshers) entered the university heralding luxury living. Many batches time and again rise to the occasion and take a great interest in bringing the old faces together. 1956 group was an exception.

Occasion

The most esteemed widely read popular journal today Daily News was carrying the most interesting tale of theirs. “1956 entrants celebrate 50th anniversary” Daily news. It was really a wonderful one. It was no doubt a historic and unique event for all the participants (August 20th 2006) Thanks to Somasunderam, popularly and affectionately known as Jolly to his colleagues, friends and everyone who knew him. He sent a rallying call to the batch mates of 56.

The trip to Peradeniya from Colombo was quite a success. It gave great pleasure to think of the glorious past. On arrival at the “lodge” the most impressive was meeting all, after half a century.

The experience was just amazing. The day was packed with commemorative events. We visited the Halls of residence and other places of interest. The older times spent was flowing into the mind. Though there was no visible change in the physical environment the privileges enjoyed by the 56 entrants were non existent.

We may attribute it to the changing times and the rapid rise in population. We posed for a photograph and after lunch, there were a few items to keep the guests entertained-a sing song party etc. Later we returned gazing at the Mahaweli till it disappeared. Thanks to Jolly for the jolly day given to all.

The other most remarkable event to mark the occasion was the souvenir “And quietly flows the Mahaweli” dedicated to the then Vice Chancellor Sir Nicholas Attygalle. It exclusively deals with the nostalgic memories, reminiscences and the interesting episodes of the 1956 entrants.

1961 batch, was yet another which had celebrated their Golden Jubilee on a grand scale recently. According to Thilak Ranaviraja their get together had been marvellous “infusing new life into us making us feel younger at least in heart”.

In their colourful souvenir, the university is referred to as an academic and cultural heaven and it is rightly described as the best they have come across anywhere in the globe. After a duration of 50 years they seem to be very happy to see; the old faces. They are anxiously waiting to meet again, making it an annual event.

1966 batch, the most recent to meet after four decades states that “they were enjoying a real, the best university life full of ecstasy, respect and enhancing knowledge.” As senior citizens the organising committee headed by W. Thilakaratna has conveyed very valuable messages to the present university generation to serve the motherland. May all their hopes and wishes be fulfilled.

 

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