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Sunday, 27 February 2011





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Government Gazette

Anagarika Dharmapala - a noble son of Sri Lanka

There are a few patriots, whose names live in our memory, even after their death. Anagarika Dharmapala is one such outstanding National Hero.

Like Mahatma Gandhi of India he too fought in a peaceful manner against the colonial rulers.

Many Buddhist devotees pay homage to the Buddhagaya Temple and the Jayasiri Maha Bodhiya.

Anagarika Dharmapala was born on September 17, 1864 at Hittetiya in Matara to Don Carolis Hewavitharana and Mrs. Mallika Hewavitharana. He was named David Hewavitharana.

David had his early education at S. Thomas College, Mutwal which was later shifted to Mount Lavinia, St. Benedict’s College, Kotahena and Royal College, Colombo 7. He learned the Bible and sang hymns. His mother, Mallika Hewavitharana, sent him to Vidyodaya Pirivena, Maligakanda, the great seat of Buddhist learning, where he learned Sinhala, Pali and Buddhism. This changed his entire lifestyle.

During his childhood and thereafter as a ebullient youth, he came under the influence of the great bhikkhus such as Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thera, and the fiery orator Vadibhasingha Migettuwatte Gunananda Nayaka Thera. He also pursued his studies

under erudite scholar bhikkhus such as Walane Siddhartha Thera, Ven. Ratmalane Dhammaloka Thera, Ven. Waskaduwe Sri Subhothi Thera and Ven. Bulathgama Dhammalankara Thera.

The great religious debate, the - Panadura Vadaya between the Christians and the Buddhists took place during this time.

This debate was reported internationally and after reading it in the foreign media Colonel Henry Steel Olcott, an American, and Madame Blavastky, a Russian came to then Ceylon to study Buddhism.

They were mainly instrumental in setting up the Buddhist Theosophical Society.

The arrival of Olcott was a landmark in the history of Buddhist renaissance in Sri Lanka. There were a few schools in Sinhala areas of the country at that time. Together with Colonel Olcott, and W. Ledbeater, a great Buddhist leader, Anagarika Dharmapala set up Buddhist schools such as Mahinda in Galle, Dharmaraja in Kandy and Ananda, Nalanda in Colombo.

Later Buddhist education flourished under the patronage of P. de S. Kularatne, Dr. Gunapala Malalasekere, L. H. Mettananda, Billmoria and S. A. Wijetilleke. He wanted Sinhala children to be given Sinhala names and not British names. He changed his own name David to Dharmapala. He campaigned against cattle slaughter and advocated the abolition of the liquor trade in the country.

In 1891, when Anagarika Dharmapala was on a pilgrimage to India and Buddhagaya Mahabodhi, where Prince Siddhartha Gautama attained the Bliss of Buddhahood, he was shocked to see the Mahabodhi Temple in a dilapidated state.

Under the administration of the Saiva priest Mahantha. Dharmapala, was accompanied by a Japanese bhikkhu, Cojin. They went to India at the invitation of Henry Steele Olcott. They arrived in Saranath - Isipatana via Chennai and Buddhagaya on December 7, 1890. They found that a Hindu priest, Hemanarayana, the Mahantha held sway at Buddhagaya. From then, he campaigned to save Buddhagaya from Mahantha. He returned to the island, on March 31, 1890, and set up the Lanka Mahabodhi Society on May 31, 1891, a landmark in the history of Buddhism.

Welcome plaque at Bodhgaya - Buddhagaya International Airport.

The resident Bhikkhus of Isipathana Migadaya Sarnath recite the
Dhammachakka Pavaththana Sutta.

The entrance to the Anagarika Dharmapala Museum constructed by the Mahabodhi Society at Isipatana in memory of this great religious leader.

Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thera a much renowned scholar bhikkhu was the first President of the Maha Bodhi Society of Sri Lanka and Anagarika Dharmapala himself, the Secretary.

Dharmapala visited Buddhagaya with bhikkhus such as Ven. Lunuwila Chandrajothi Thera, Ven. Galle Sudassana Thera and Ven. Anuradhapura Pemanande Thera on July 10, 1891.

The Hindu priest, Mahanta, opposed the presence of the bhikkhus who had been assaulted.

Anagarika Dharmapala pursued legal action against Mahanta.

He was resolute in his struggle to achieve his life-long ambition of opening the doors not only of the Buddhagaya Temple, but also Saranath, Kusinara and Lumbini to Buddhists world over.

His battle to take possession of Buddhagaya launched in 1893 concluded in 1935, When the Bihar Parliament passed the “Buddhagaya Act” which conferred equal rights to the Buddhists in the administration of the sacred Buddhagaya.

Due to Anagarika Dharmapala’s untiring efforts, eventually the administration of the great temple became the sole right of the Buddhists. Dharmapala who was gifted with a powerful voice tought whenever, he saw injustices being meted to Buddhists. Sinhalaini Avadiweyan, Buddhagayawa Beraganiw was his famous slogan.

After the great emperor Asoka, it was Anagarika Dharmapala who propagated Buddhism throughout the world. A great missionary, he made a magnificent contribution in the literary field having launched an English, Buddhist journal in 1930, to educate Buddhist the world over.

The main objective of the Mahabodhi Society which he pioneered was to restore Buddhist control over Buddhagaya, the site of the Buddha’s footprint. He established a trust in 1930 and launched the Buddhist journal, Maha Bodhi . He toured Japan and later participated in important

Buddhist seminars in the USA, London and Japan.

A man of principles he was also a strict disciplinarian, a perfectionist and a man of integrity.

In the history of Sri Lanka, Anagarika Dharmapala’s name is written in letters of gold. Sri Lankan Buddhists are ever indebted to Anagarika Dharmapala who championed the cause of Buddhism.

It is interesting to note that, Mulagandhikuti Vihara - the Buddhist temple - a place of worship was constructed by Bodhisatva Anagarika Dharmapala, a noble son of Sri Lanka, Founder of the Maha Bodhi Society of India in the Isipatana Deer Park, Saranath at the very site where Sakyamuni Buddha preached His first sermon.

The construction work on the Vihara commenced in 1904 was sponsored by Mrs. Mary Foster of Honolulu, USA and it was opened on November 11, 1931. This vihara, the pride of the Buddhist World, enshrined with the Sacred Relics of the Sakyamuni Buddha, were discovered by the Archaeological Survey of India during the excavation at Nagarjuna Konda of the Madras presidency and Taxila of Punjab, presented to the Mahabodhi Society of India during British rule by the Earl of Wellington, Viceroy of India representing King George. The internationally famous wall painting of the vihara was done by the renowned Japanese artist Josetsu Nosu assigned by the Emperor of Japan at the request of Shri Devapriya Walisinghe who was the General Secretary of the Mahabodhi Society of India after Anagarika Dharmapala.

It was opened to the public in 1936.

The exposition of the sacred relics enshrined in this Vihara for the public is followed by a procession carrying the casket containing the relic around the city of Saranath annually on the Mulagandhikuti Vihara, anniversary day which falls on the full moon day in November.

Grateful Buddhists in India, honoured Anagarika Dharmapala.

If not for the great sacrifice, commitment and the efforts on the part of Anagarika Dharmapala, Buddhist in Sri Lanka or abroad would have been denied an opportunity of visiting important places of Buddhists worship in India.

Anagarika Dharmapala, who was ordained Ven. Sri Devamitta Dharmapala passed away on April 29, 1933 at the age of 63.



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