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Department of Pali and Buddhist Studies

The origin of the most of the educational institutions of the world is centered on religious institutions. Educational institutions were established in the various provinces in Sri Lanka during the Anuradhapura Era. About eight such institutions are mentioned in Mahawansha. Moreover there are details of about 38 of other educational institutions and the education of those institutions was centered on Pali and Buddhist Studies where the Buddhist monks played a major role. In addition to education they provided guidance in the Social, Economic and Political fields of the country. In the history of Sri Lanka, during the times of ancient kings, the tradition of the monarchs consulting the Maha Sangha before taking crucial decisions in governance was well known. The monastic education of the Buddhist tradition, initiated by Buddhist education, was thus intricately linked with the development of the country. Therefore in describing the history of the Department of Pali and Buddhist Studies of the University of Kelaniya, it is necessary to mention about the political background which prevailed during that era.

During that time the University of Kelaniya played a role model of a leading educational institution in the country under the guidance and the influence of the religious luminaries. Since its inception, the University of Kelaniya has been a shining example of a leading educational institution that was set up and administered with the guidance of leading Buddhist luminaries and Buddhist philosophy. In the history of our university which is over half a century old, the Venerable Maha Sangha has significantly contributed to the shaping of the socio economic progress of the country through its contribution not only to the administration of the university but to student activities through the student unions was well. Thus the Department of Pali and Buddhist Studies can be described as a department with a back ground of influencing the education and the political trends of the country.

Vidyalankara Pirivena which is considered to be the mother institution of the University of Kelaniya marked its birth in 1875 and it was established as a university in 1959 under the provision of an act submitted by Mr. W.Dahanayake. The Faculty of Buddhism was also included in the first five faculties and the position of the Dean was held by most venerable Bambarande Siriseewali Thero.

The subjects of Buddhism, Sutta, Discipline, Theravada Abhidhamma Studies and Buddhist Culture were taught in the Faculty of Buddhism. During that era the Department of Pali was functioning under the Faculty of Buddhism. At the very beginning Buddhist Philosophy was taught by the Venerable Professor Rahula Sanskruthayana Thero, Buddhism by Venerable Kosgoda Dhammavansa Thero and Mr. Y.Karunadasa was serving as the permanent academic staff of the Department of Pali. The position fo the Head of the Department of Buddhism was chaired by Venerable Kosgoda Dhammavansa Thero. Apart from that Buddhist Culture was taught by Venerable Wellawatte Ananda Thero, Sutta by Venerable Bataduwe Siddhartha Thero and the Discipline by Mudukatuwe Gnanarama Thero. Meanwhile Venerable Rerukane Chandavimala Thero and Venerable Polvatte Buddharathne Thero served as the lecturers in Theravadha Abhidhamma.

Once the Faculty of Buddhism was established as a separate faculty, a considerable number of well known academicians joined it immediately. Though a standard education was maintained at the Faculty of Buddhism because of the expertise of the academic staff, the educational standard of the Vidyalankara Pirivena was at a poor level. Most of the lecturers who joined the Vidyalankara University were the students of the Vidyalankara Pirivena, specially the lecturers of Pali and Buddhist Studies and the eastern languages. Under the restructuring procedure of the Ceylon Universities which took place in 1972, Mr. W.S.Karunarathene was appointed as the Head of the Department of the Pali and Buddhist Studies of the University of Kelaniya. Later on he was appointed as the Dean of the Faculty of Arts.

Mr.N.A Jayawickrama joined the academic staff in 1973 and served as the Head of the Department offering a valuable service till 1985.Venerable Kamburugamuwe Vajira Thero who was a lecturer in Buddhist Culture was appointed to Vidyalankara Pirivena as an Assistant Lecturer in 1963 and was gradually promoted to the position of Senior Lecturer and the Professor respectively.

Mean while Mr. Y. Karunadasa joined Vidyalankara University in 1969 - at the early period of the university's history as the professor and as the Dean of the Faculty of Languages and Arts as well. Mr. A.A.Jayasuriya is an outstanding academician who served the Department for 42 years continuously since 1959. Mr. M.M.J.Marasinghe is also a distinguished luminary who joined the university at its initial stages and was bold enough to take the challenge of undertaking the position of the Vice Chancellor in 1988, a crisis period of the universities in Sri Lanka and he worked with great unflinching perseverance. Moreover the scholars such as Venerable Kakkapalliye Anuruddha Thero, Mr. H.S.Cooray, Mr. G.Panabokke rendered an outstanding service on the betterment of the Department. Mr. Oliver Abeynaike is one of the alumni of the Department who offered a 25 year service. Mr. Thilak Kariyawasam who joined the Department in 1975 as a Senior Lecturer was later appointed as the Head of the Department and rendered his valuable service for eight years.

Mr.Sumanapala Galmangoda, another outstanding BA (Special) Degree Graduate produced by the University of Kelaniya, joined the Department as a probationary lecturer in 1981.  As the Head of the Department during the period of 1997 – 2000 and as the coordinator of the International Students he offered a great service. At present he serves as one of the most senior lecturers of the Department. Also he has done a pioneer service in developing the internal and external degree programmes of the Department, especially by introducing a two year MA Course, A course based on Ethics for the freshers of the University and an external degree programme in Singapore as well.

Mr.Ananda Wijerathne started his career as an Assistant Lecturer to the Department in 1978 and offered a commendable service with regard to the formulation of the Website of the Faculty of Humanities. Venerable Rotumba Upali Thero who currently teaches the subject "Buddhist Philosophy", first joined as an Assistant Lecturer in 1990.

Venerable Dewalegama Medhananda Thero who joined the university in 1992 held the position of Head of the Department from 2004 to 2006. Further, Venerable Kollupitiye Mahinda Sangharakkitha Thero must be mentioned for taking the necessary measures in expanding the Department during his tenure as the Head of the Department. He was able to acquire a spacious building for the Department in the Faculty of Humanities. Therefore the period he served as the Head of the Department of the Pali and Buddhist Studies has turned a new leaf in the history of the Department.

The lecturers such as Ven.Prof.Nabiriththankadawala Gnanarathana Thero, Ven.Prof.Tharale Dhammaratana Thero, Ven.Dr.Dodamkumbure Dhammadassi Thero, Ven.Prof.Makuruppe Dhammananda Thero and Prof. Uditha Garusinghe are currently offering their valuable service for the betterment of the Department. Among them Ven.Dr.Dhammadassi Thero rendered a precious service as the Senior Student Counselor (2005-2007). And also the Venerable Thero has chaired many positions namely the positions of the Secretary of the University Teachers' Association (UTA), Member of the Arts Council, Faculty member to the Senate, Faculty webmaster, President of the Bodhi Re-establishment Committee of University of Kelaniya,Member of the Examination Discrepancy Committee of University of Kelaniya and etc. Also the Thero has actively contributed to the smooth construction procedures of the Day Care Centre, Buddha Shrine, Dharmaloka Statue and the new building of the Department of Pali and Buddhist Studies.

Currently Ven.Dr.Deniyaye Pagnaloka,Ven.Alubomulle Dhammalankara and Ven.Dr.Naotunne Wimalagnana,Ven. Welimadagama Kusaladhamma Theros  and Mr. Aruna K. Gamage are serving in the permanent staff panel of the Department. At present Prof. Uditha Garusinghe holds the position of the Head of the Department.

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