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.
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.
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
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
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.