No one would think that Chandradasa Jayawardena, who was born on May 23, 1897, was a pioneer of higher education in Sri Lanka. It was Ven. Welivitiya Sri Soratha Thera who founded the Vidyodaya University.
In compiling this article the present Vice-Chancellor proposed to me to do so on the occasion of the 57th Commemoration of Ven. Welivitiya Sri Soratha Thera. It is with great pleasure and respect that I dedicate myself to write this article.
Sumangala Thera’s philosophy made it clear that various subjects should be studied. One example of this is teaching English and Tamil as subjects in the Vidyodaya Pirivena
The Vice-Chancellor, Senior Professor Sudantha Liyanage will lay the foundation stone for a statue of Ven. Welivitiya Sri Soratha Thera at the Sri Jayawardenapura University Faculty of Technology. It was in recognition of the philosophical, academic and technical skills of the Thera.
Ven. Sumangala studied at the Parama Dhamma Chaitya Pirivena in Ratmalana under Ven. Valane Sri Siddhartha Thera.
Sumangala Thera’s philosophy made it clear that various subjects should be studied. One example of this is teaching English and Tamil as subjects in the Vidyodaya Pirivena.
What is clear is how relevant that vision of Sumangala Thera is relevant today.
Soratha Thera had managed and put into practice the vision of Ven. Sri Sumangala Thera to create work with great love, not to give up on heroism and to create an educated, virtuous and intelligent student community that tends towards the truth
Sri Soratha Thera, when a layman, was ordained on October 15, 1912 under the supervision of Ven. Kahawe Premaratne Thera. Sri Soratha Thera commenced his education at Maligakanda Vidyodaya Pirivena. Ten years later the priest became the lecturer at the Vidyodaya Pirivena.
Sri Soratha Thera, who excelled in his Pandita degree, entered University of Calcutta in 1932 for further studies. He was able to equip with expertise in History, Archeology, Pali, Sanskrit, English and Classical Oriental languages during the study at the University of Calcutta. In 1957, he was awarded the title of
Vidyodaya Parivenadhipati. In 1959, he started Vidyodaya University and became its first vice chancellor.
The vision of Sri Sumangala Thero was strengthened by Sri Soratha Thera.
Soratha Thera’s Vidyodaya University initially consisted of five small faculties: 1. Faculty of Buddhism -Taught philosophy of Theravada, Mahayana and Buddhist civilization, 2. Faculty of Philosophy- taught Indian and Western philosophy, 3. Faculty of Languages - taught Sinhala, Pali, Sanskrit, Tamil, Hindi, Burmese and English, 4. Faculty of Arts - taught Archeology, Anthropology, Economics, Geography, Education, Sri Lankan
History, Indian History and World History, 5. Faculty of Science - taught Ayurveda, Mathematics, Astrology and Science.
Prof. P.G. Wickramarachchi was appointed as its first Dean. The
Maha Sangha knew Ayurveda and Astrology. It seems to be a valuable example set by Soratha Thera.
Soratha Thera had managed and put into practice the vision of Ven. Sri Sumangala Thera to create work with great love, not to give up on heroism and to create an educated, virtuous and intelligent student community that tends towards the truth.
The Vidyodaya University, which was established in a rented eight-room building, has now become the
largest university in Sri Lanka with eight faculties imparting knowledge to a large number of students due to the vision implemented by Soratha Thera. No one could have imagined that Vidyodaya University would grow into eight faculties.
The Faculty of Management was established in 1972 as the third faculty with the aim of producing skilled management graduates. Today it is on par with the management faculties of
other top universities in the world. A faculty was added to the University of Sri Jayewardenepura again in 1993. That is the faculty of medical sciences.
The Postgraduate Faculty was established in 1996 with the aim of promoting post graduate research and producing postgraduates of international status.
The Faculty of Technology as the 6th Faculty and the Seventh Faculty of Engineering commenced in 2016. After nine months, the curriculum was prepared and the necessary funds were allocated from the 2015 budget and approved by the University Grants Commission. The Faculty of Technology was established in January 2016 and the Technology faculty establishment team following the Sorata Thera’s vision to achieve massive success within a short period.
The Faculty of Allied Health Sciences began in 2019 as the eighth faculty. As the University of Jayawardenepura grew in buildings and faculties, it expanded to other spacious areas.
Soratha Thera also produced some excellent literary works. The Sri Sumangala Dictionary is considered by him to be an excellent work in the field of literature. Ven. Sumangala Thera died when Ven. Soratha Thera was a small child. Therefore, Ven. Soratha Thera never had the opportunity to learn from Ven. Sumangala Thera. However, Ven. Soratha Thera was able to become a distinguished student of the first generation of students of Ven. Sumangala Thera.
Ven. Soratha Thera called Ven. Sumangala Thero as ‘the Sun who come from the heaven to the earth’. In honor of Ven. Sumangala Thera’s philosophy, Ven.Soratha Thera dedicated his Dictionary in the name of
Ven. Sri Sumangala.
Technology is derived from the word “thakshina”, which is the word used in the carpentry industry during those days. The carpenter of the day demonstrated the ability and skill to design everything from a chair to an airplane and a land-based chariot. Technology later became the bridge of all subjects.
Soratha Thera thought about differently-abled people decades ago and provided the necessary facilities. Looking at the Sumangala building it seems that Russian architecture has been used for the designing of the structures of the buildings.
Soratha Thera had stated in his own words about the mission and the objectives of a university.
“A Vice Chancellor of a university should have the consciousness, the knowledge and the understanding about the mission of the university than any other. I do have the consciousness, the knowledge and an understanding of the Mission of the Vidyodaya University. I do not measure the development of our University, by heads of its students, or how big our buildings are, or by the number of graduates we produce annually or by the number of our qualified academic staff. These might be features of development in a university; however, they are not the mission of its existence”.
Ven. Weliwitiye Sri Soratha Thera was passed on July 17, 1963 and Friday marked his 57th commemoration.
(The writer is attached to the Faculty of Technology
University of Sri Jayewardenepura)
*When penning this article references were made to Vidudaya Athpotha - Edited by Prof. Saman Chandra Ranasinghe, Dilini Walisundera, Deshana Sampradana - Executive Edition by Prof. Shirantha Hinkenda, Sri Sumangala Sri Soratha Sahithaya Praveshaya: Edited by Ven. Medagampitiye Vijithadhamma Thera and Saman