Sri Sumangala College, Panadura turns 102


by Walter Wijenayake

One of the greatest educational institutions in Sri Lanka, Sri Sumangala College, originated at the Panadura Rankoth Viharaya premises on March 03, 1909, under the patronage of Ven. Walpita Gunarathanatissa Thero, P. Lewis Dias, M. Mathes Salgado, P. Domingo Dias, P. C. H. Dias, M. Cornelis Perera and Mudliyar Thomas Rodrigo. It stands firmly at Wekada in the same town area.

The school’s first Principal was Thomas E. Gunaratna. He had under his charge 77 students, including the two sons – Walter and Richard - of one of the founders, M. Mathes Salgado. It was named after the late Rt. Rev. Sasanavansalankara Kavidhaja Vinayachariya Weligama Sri Sumangala, the Maha Nayake Thero of the Amarapura Maha Nikaya.

The Alma Mater had 325 students when it became a government- assisted school on May 16, 1911 and was managed by a Board of Management, of which the manager was Mudliyar Thomas Rodrigo, one of the founders of the school.

My father, the late W. S. M. Wijenayake, a student there at the time, told me that all six founders and teachers of the Alma Mater, together with the people, well- wishers of the area and parents of the students came there in a colourful procession of buggy carts, single and double bullock carts, horse drawn carts, on horses, walking and on rickshaws, accompanied by drummers and flag bearers on May 02, 1912 and accorded a grand farewell to Thomas E. Gunaratne, the Principal who bade farewell to the Alma Mater. It was on the same day that Charles de Silva took over the reins as the Principal.

The school management collected funds in many ways for its development. On July 27, 1940 a stage play ‘Jayakiharana’ was staged at the Panadura Town Hall. Rukmani Devi, the first actress of the country who played the role of Ranjini in ‘Kadavunu Poronduwa’, played the role of Seetha, while the Principal of the College, A. M. de Silva, gave life to the role of Rama. At the time there was no college anthem for the purpose of opening the play. Owen Peiris composed a tune and music and the co-writer of the play M. E. Fernando wrote the lyrics. Finally it became the college anthem for the purpose of opening the play. Mr. Owen Peiris composed a tune and music and the co-writer of the play M. E. Fernando wrote the lyrics. Finally it became the college anthem.

All the students of the college, which was in Panadura town (Town Branch), from the 6th Standard up to the H. S. C., were shifted to the buildings constructed in Nalluruwa in a land to the extent of two acres donated by Walter Salgado. In addition, Mrs. Ceciliya Perera donated the adjoining block of land. Leo Fernando, the chairman of the Panadura Urban Council as well as the owner of the Panadura Motor Transit Bus Company (PMT), an old boy, erected the Assembly Hall and Mrs. P. C. H. Dias presented the laboratory block. The public of the area, especially of Panadura, contributed towards the construction of the buildings.

The students of the Sri Sumangala Girls’ school used the laboratory of the College for their higher studies at the initial stages.

The primary classes, from the kindergarten up to the Fifth Standard, which had been retained at the town branch adjoining Rankoth Viharaya, were headed by A. C. Morawaka, a tough disciplinarian. This branch was also shifted to the Nalluruwa promises, making it one institution in 1965. On May 25, 1993 the College was graded as a National School.

As soon as the Principal, Karunananda, left the post to take over as the Principal of Nalanda College, A. J. Fernando took the post on December 08, 1947. It was the year that I was admitted to the Alma Mater. It comes to my remembrance how I was admitted to Sri Sumangala College and was handed over to A. C. Morawaka, the Head Master of the Town Branch, by my father, the late W. S. M. Wijenayake, whose contemporaries were Mrs. Richard Salgado, Walter Salgado and Sir U. A. Jayasundera.

The golden era of the College was when the pioneer in Buddhist education, P. de S. Kularatne, was manager in 1943.

The Alma Mater has nurtured and moulded an enormous number of excellent citizens, such as Prof. S. A. Kulasuriya, Prof. P. A. de Silva, Sir Isaac Fernando, Noel T. Mendis, D. W. J. Perera, A. P. Jayasuriya, Alec Robertson, Walter Salgado, Richard Salgado, Selvyn de Fonseka, Mervyl Kariyawasam, T. Jason Peiris, N. Q. Dias, Dick H. Dias, Sarath Rodrigo, Keerthi Sri Perera, Linton Wijenayake, Padma Sri Pandit W. D. Amaradewa, Sir Ukwatte Jayasundera, Dr. Linton Salgado, Dr. Malinga Fernando, Dr. Premasiri Khemadasa and Prof. Ranjith Ruberu, to mention a few.

When on Boxing Day of 2004, the tsunami ravaged its buildings at Nalluruwa, the school had to be relocated at Wekada in the Panadura area, on the Panadura-Ratnapura Road. The indefatigable assistance rendered by the president of the Old Boys’ Association Sarath Rodrigo, supported by the organizational ability of its other officials, enabled the school to open phase 2 of the new building complex, comprising the primary school, the new auditorium and sports complex by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. In this process, the devotion extended by the Principal Somathilaka Vithanage is much appreciated.

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