107th commemoration of Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thero, founder of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura was held on 26th April 2018 in front of the Cultural Center of the University. The proceedings of the Memorial Day began with a religious ceremony.
Vice Chancellor of the University; Prof. Sampath Amaratunge, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences; Prof. D. P. S. Chandrakumara, Dean Faculty of Medical Sciences; Professor Surangi G. Yasawardene, Dean of the Faculty of Applied Sciences; Prof. Sudantha Liyanage, Dean of the Faculty of Technology; Prof. P. B. Mandawala, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering; Dr. S. A. A. M. Subasinghe and Registrar; Mr. Britto K. Gnanasiri participated in the ceremony. As well as heads of departments and academic members of the university took part in the ceremony to pay their tribute to the Ven. Sumangala Thero.
Ven. Hikkaduwe Sumangala Thero was one of the pioneers of Sri Lankan Buddhist revivalist movement in the 19th century. He did a great service to improve the Buddhist Education in the country and was the founder of ‘Maligakanda Vidyodaya Piriwena’, in 1873 which was granted the university status later in 1959 by the Government of Sri Lanka as the ‘University of Sri Jayewardenepura’. Sumangala Thero; a veteran author and a fiery orator was a major figure in the Paanadurawadaya, a religious debate held between Christian missionaries and Buddhist monks in 1873 at Panadura, Sri Lanka.
By 1959 there were two Pirivena traditions in the country begun by two students of Ven. Walane Sri Siddhartha Maha Thero, which were the Vidyodaya Pirivena and the Vidyalankara Pirivena, the two Pirivena traditions complimented each other and have developed into two of the greatest universities in the country today. It is a well-known fact that the once Vidyodaya Pirivena founded by Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thero is now the University of Sri Jayewardenepura.
As the founder of the Vidyodaya Pirivena, Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thero is a much-respected figure. Prof. Sampath Amaratunge, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura stated that Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumngala Thero is not just the founder of one of the two learning institutes open for Buddhist studies at the time, but rather the forefather who laid the foundation to develop education in Sri Lanka.
“When Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangla Thero came to Colombo barefoot with a great concern towards the education of the Sinhalese in the aftermath of the Independence. He was the silent guide behind the opening of many Sinhalese Buddhist Schools, therefore it is my belief, that though Dr. C. W. W. Kanangara is regarded the father of free education, The most Venerable Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thero is the father of Sri Lankan Education,” he said.
Prof. Saman Chandra Ranasinghe of the Department of Languages and Cultural Studies, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences stated that Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thero is a person of many positive traits that helped to mould a number of great figures who enriched the history of this great nation.
“Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thero was an individual with an open mindset, he had a sound knowledge in Languages such as Sinhala, Pali, Sanskrit and English, and he believed that the purpose of any language is to express the truth,” he said.
Prof. Ranasinghe also stated that Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thero believed that the Vidyodayapirivena should expand to different avenues. As the Vidyodaya Pirivena flourished many local and foreign individuals enrolled themselves in the Pirivena to further their education.
“His students and his followers who came after him managed to see his vision through. Today the University has expanded to such an extent that it consists of seven different faculties,” He said.
Prof Ranasinghe further added that it was Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thero’s belief that whatever subject one opts to teach, it should be taught with love. This no doubt is the principle that aided him to mould such a versatile group of young followers such as our very own Ven. Welvitiye Sri Soratha Thero.