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OlcottDharmaraja College, Kandy is one of the premier National Schools in the country boasting a prolific history of more than 120 years since 30th of June 1887, in which it has gifted the Nation with thousands of good citizens excelling in all disciplines. Dharmaraja, with the rare privilege of being named after Lord Buddha himself, has been a beacon of knowledge and intellect providing hope and guidance for the whole of Sri Lanka during its struggle for independence, and later in its quest of building itself as a nation.

Dharmaraja College, as well as the other Buddhist Schools in Sri Lanka, owes its existence to Colnol Henry Steele Olcott, philanthropist and the founder of the Theosophical Society. Having read a printed version of the ‘Panadura Vadaya’ of 1873, a public debate between Buddhist and Christian representatives on the correctness of each belief, Sir Olcott was really impressed of the teachings in Theravada Buddhism, which were in line with his vision as a theosophist. It resulted in him arriving in Sri Lanka to study more on Buddhism, and starting a branch of the Theosophical Society, first in Colombo and then in Kandy and Galle. He was ably supported by the Venerable Migettuwatte Gunananda Thero - hero of the ‘Panadura Vadaya’, the Venerable Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thero, the Venerable Walane Sri Siddhartha Thero and the Venerable Ratmalane Dhammaloka Thero, along with Anagarika Dharmapala, Walisinghe Harischandra, and Sir D.B. Jayathilake.

DRCKWith Sir Olcott’s initiative and guidance, the theosophists identified that a major factor for the decline of Sinhala Buddhists was the lack of proper education facilities, and the best solution was to make available educational institutes with a solid Buddhist religious background. It was under this theory that foundations were laid to the beginning of the ‘Buddhist Schools’ in Sri Lanka, which include the likes of Dharmaraja, Ananda, Nalanda, Mahinda, Dharmapala, Maliyadeva, Rahula etc. In 1887 Sir Olcott visited Kandy and expressed his wish to start an English-medium Buddhist School. Several Kandyan nobles were very supportive of the idea, and it was decided that the plot of land in front of the Old Palace, adjoining the Natha Devalaya was the best for building the school. But there was an obstacle in that the plot was covered by a Bo tree, held sacred by the Buddhists, which had to be felled for putting up a school building. The British Administration opposed the felling citing that it would be an action against Buddhism. But Wadugodapitiya Punchirala Korale, regardless of the consequences, felled and removed the tree in one night, and leveled up the plot for the building. This act, which cost Punchirala his position as Korale, was a good example to the sacrifices made by hundreds of patriots during that time in order to re-establish Buddhism and its teachings and liberate the island from foreign influence.

It was under this pretext that in the morning of Thursday, the 30th of June 1887, Dharmaraja College, under the name of Kandy Buddhist High School, was opened. This occasion was graced by Sir Olcott and several Kandyan nobles including Dullawe Adhikaram, Wadugodapitiya Punchirala Korale, T.B. Panabokke and A.D.J. Gunawardena.

Andiris De SilvaMr. Andiris de Silva was the first principal and the only teacher of the school at that time, which had enrolled 12 students. The number of students reached the 50’s and the staff increased to three under Mr. Andiris de Silva, who was an efficient leader and an accomplished teacher. Many of the local nobles supported the school by enrolling their children in, having faith in the staff and headmaster.
DB JayathilakeHowever, by 1890, the necessity of a more qualified principal emerged and The Colombo Theosophical Society appointed Sir D.B. Jayathilake as principal. The school had around 80 students by then, and Sir Jayathilake’s popularity as a leader and his multi-disciplinary fluency and knowledge boosted enrolments as well as the quality of the school. The foundations of transforming Dharmaraja from a mere educational establishment to one of the best schools in Sri Lanka were laid by Sir Jayathilake through his inspirational leadership and selfless devotion. Sir Jayathilake was appointed the deputy principal of Ananda College in 1898, and later went on to become the Governor of Ceylon.

H. BanburyMr. H. Banbury succeeded Sir Jayathilake as principal and he brought forth a campaign to raise funds for a permanent school building, traveling even in remote villages collecting donations. He used the money to build a single storied building near the city premises of the school, which was later named the ‘Banbury Building’ in his honor. One of the most notable events during his time was officially changing the name of the school to ‘Dharmaraja College’. Mr. Banbury left to India in 1899 to further pursue his studies.

Wilton HackMr. Wilton Hack took over from Mr. Banbury, and took over the challenge of developing the school’s resources. His selfless devotion to the school ultimately cost him his health, when he caught a fever forcing him into retirement within few months of taking office. However, he shall be remembered in Dharmaraja history for his selfless devotion towards the school.

Later in 1899, following the retirement of Mr. Hack, Mr. C.S. Rajaratnam was appointed principal. Though he himself was not a Buddhist, he was an acclaimed scholar and continued to guide the school along Buddhist principles and attitudes, while giving more emphasis to improve the standard of the education. He won high acclaim from the Educational authorities.C.S. Rajaratnam

Dharmaraja’s golden age began with the appointment of Mr. K.F. Billimoria as principal in 1902. Mr. Billimoria gave priority to shaping Dharmaraja into a strong institution which could ably compete with the other Missionary Schools at that time. He recruited many able educators as dedicated as himself towards heightening the standards of Dharmaraja, and also identified the need of developing the physical resources to match the educational achievements. In 1915, a two storey building was completed at the city premises, which later was named in honor of Mr. Billimoria. By 1922 Mr. Billimoria had raised enough funds to purchase the ‘Lake View Estate’, a 37 acre land overlooking the Kandy Lake, and built the A and B wings of the College Hostel in 1923. The actual hostel began at the Principal’s quarters in 1921.K.F. Billimoria The College Scout Group began in 1914, under the patronage of Mr. Billimoria and many sports and other extra-curricular activities were encouraged. The Cricket Big-Match between Kingswood and Dharmaraja also began in this time. Several world renowned figures visited Dharmaraja during his office, including Mahatma Gandhi and Lord Baden Powell. Mr. Billimoria served an astounding 30 years as principal, and deserves a separate history written for him. But after doing such a memorable service to bring Dharmaraja to a place of standing he was forced to retire in 1932, which led to the beginning of another important chapter of Dharmaraja History.

Mr. P. de S. Kularatne, who had served as the principal at Ananda College, took over duties from Mr. Billimoria in 1932 and continued good work of Mr. Billimoria. However, Dharmaraja was facing a financial crisis when Mr. Kularatne assumed duties, and even the Lake View premise was under threat of being sold. But Mr. Kularatne, with his experience and expertise, was able to save the land and secure a home for Dharmaraja to shine in all its grace for centuries to come. He restored the Hostel and transformed the Principal’s quarters at the city premises to classrooms and a laboratory complex, and Dharmaraja started teaching science subjects in 1933. P. de S. KularatneThe first academic buildings in Lake View were built around this time and a part of the students were taken there. The roads and other facilities were also developed so that Lake View transformed from a shrubbery into a property any school would be proud to own. Cadetting in Dharmaraja also began during Mr. Kularatne’s office and so did many other sports including Tennis, Swimming etc. In 1935 Dharmaraja was visited by four distinguished visitors from India, Rabindranath Thagore, Nandalal Bhose, Udaya Shankar and Krishnamurthi. By the end of 1935 Rajans had excelled in all disciplines including education, sports, scouting, cadetting and the arts, and Dharmaraja had become one of the best schools in the island.

L.H. MettanandaIn 1936 Mr. Kularatne was re-appointed as the principal of Ananda, and Mr. L.H. Mettananda, who was Ananda’s principal at that time, was appointed principal of Dharmaraja. Mr. Mettananda immediately identified the necessity of more buildings for the College and set off to build two two-storey buildings at the Lake View premises. It was funded using proceedings of the Golden Jubilee Carnival in 1937 and other fund-raising projects. Dharmaraja started its Advanced Level classes in 1940, and around this time the Secondary Section of the college was moved to Lake View, leaving only the Primary Section at the original premises. Mr. Mettananda served Dharmaraja for nearly ten years, and those would be put as an exceptionally important chapter of the college history. In 1946 he was appointed principal back at Ananda, but his service to Dharmaraja would be remembered for years to come, especially with the ‘Mettananda building’ which now houses the College Offices and the Library.

S.A. WijayathilakeMr. S.A. Wijayathilake was appointed principal of Dharmaraja in November 1945, the same year that free education was established in Sri Lanka. Mr. Wijayathilake faced the challenge of maintaining the momentum set by Mr. Mettananda and Mr. Kularatne, a task he took into with all heart. He added several more buildings to the school and also developed the laboratories and the library. Mr. Wijayathilake, who was a scholar of Buddhist studies and Classical Languages, emphasized on developing the literary activities of the students. Academics saw marked progress within this time, and Mr. Wijayathilake’s vision and actions assured Dharmaraja held its place as one of the best schools in the country.

Charles GodageMr. Wijayathilake retired in early 1955 and was replaced by Mr. Charles Godage, who was also a patron of Arts and an acclaimed poet and writer. He identified the constant need of physical resources for the College to function smoothly, and started the Dharmaraja Development Society in 1955. By 1959, the end of Mr. Godage’s office, the number of students had risen from 842 to 1276. This meant many more buildings, lab equipment and resources were necessary. Mr. Godage, along with the Development Society, added several more classrooms and laboratories, and also repaired many others. Mr. Godage, like his predecessors, also gave a priority to maintain a high standard in academics, and Dharmaraja’s fame only grew. After rendering priceless service to the school, Mr. Godage had to leave for England in 1959 for further pursuing his studies.

D.B. ThewarapperumaMr. D.B. Thewarapperuma took over the duties from Mr. Godage, and continued the progress Dharmaraja had achieved during Mr. Godage’s office. The academic results and performance in sports saw considerable progress during this time, and in 1960 Dharmaraja, along with Ananda, was taken over by the Government, which was a result of strong campaign led by Mr. Thewarapperuma and others. This meant that further development and improvement of the school’s resources could now be done without the cost burdening the school board. Mr. Thewarapperuma retired from his post in 1961.

E.A. PerusingheColonel E.A. Perusinghe took office as principal in 1961, and this period showed a marked improvement in the number of students and the number of staff members. Examination results became very satisfactory with large numbers of students being selected to universities, and Col. Perusinghe improved the infrastructure by building more classrooms for the Middle Section, and encouraged the students to express themselves through school magazines, which he believed would give the students a chance to develop their communicative and literary skills. Under Col. Perusinghe Sports, Cadetting and Scouting activities prospered, with the students achieving National and International level victories. However Col. Perusinghe did not approve Boxing as a suitable sport for a school and removed it as a sport.

S.L.B. AmaranayakeCol. Perusinghe retired in 1964 to be replaced by Colonel S.L.B. Amaranayake, who was an old boy of Dharmaraja. Col. Amaranayake completed the shrine room of the college and opened it. The academic achievements continued their positive trend under Col. Amaranayake, and extra curricular activities including cricket, football, hockey, cadetting and scouting reached very high standards. The hostel facilities too were developed and Col. Amaranayake settled the long term-problem of a water supply to the hostel. On the 27th of June 1965 the Kandy Municipal Council officially named the access road to the school as ‘Dharmaraja Mawatha’ in recognition of the great service rendered by the school. After serving Dharmaraja for nearly six years, Col. Amaranayake retired in 1971.

Mr. D.G.B. Samarajiva took the helm of Dharmaraja from Col. Amaranayake, and was responsible for re-structuring the administration of the College. D.G.B. SamarajivaHe founded the Sports Council, which gave more responsibility to the students in organizing the Sports Meet, Colors Nite and other sporting events. Mr. Samarajiva also restructured the internal administration by giving more responsibility to the Sectional Heads, and distributing the responsibilities of the Principal between Deputy Principals, accommodating them office space. Main BldgHe assigned Teachers as in charge of all the school societies, and also developed the library facilities by assigning a staff member as librarian and reserving funds for expansion. The Commerce section got its own library and Mr. Samarajiva also recruited a library staff to provide a better service to the students. After a short but very important term as principal, Mr. Samarajiva left to Mathara District as the Director of Education in 1973.

A. P. GunarathneMr. A. P. Gunarathne took over office from Mr. Samarajiva in 1973 and he gave priority to develop all aspects of the school so that Dharmaraja could live up to its name as one of the premiere schools in the island. By this time Dharmaraja showed the best academic results in the Central Province, with many students being qualified to University education. Mr. Gunarathne initiated a Career Guidance Unit in 1983, which provided great assistance to school-leavers for building a successful career. In 1985 the College Computer unit was opened, which was in par with the best Computer facilities a school had at that time. In 1987 Dharmaraja celebrated its centenary with a Grand Exhibition, Grand Scout jamboree and many other events, which only boosted the fame Dharmaraja had already acquired through a hundred years of fruitful service to the nation as an education institute.

Principals in the recent history:
U.B. Herath Nihal Herath T.B. Damunupola
W.M. Bndaranayake Asoka Herath S.M. Keerthirathne


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