The arrival of American Theosophist, Col. Henry Steel Olcott and Madam Blavatsky in Galle on 17th May 1880 and the establishment of Buddhist Theosophical Society is synonymous with the Buddhist revival in the then-Ceylon. Having read a copy of “Panadura Vadaya” – a debate held in Ceylon between Ven. Migettuwatte Gunananda Thero and French born Catholic Priest, Fr. Legg – Col. Olcott saw the plight of majority Buddhists due to suppression, in the hands of Christian Missionaries and the ruling colonial masters.
The establishment of the Buddhist Theosophical Society was pioneered by patriots like Anagarika Dharmapala, Ven. Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera, Valisinghe Harischandra and Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thera. Their primary task was to set up English schools for majority Buddhists who were not endowed with a good English education. The fruits of the hard work done by those fearless leaders were amply manifested when, on 1st November 1886 an English Buddhist School was opened at No. 54, Maliban Street, Pettah with only 37 students. Mr. C. W. Leadbeater was its Principal and the staff consisted of 7 teachers. The average attendance in the first 6 months was only 111, according to a report by Mr. W. Blair, Inspector of Schools.
From Maliban Street it was shifted to no. 19, Prince Street, Pettah in August, 1889, before Ananda found its permanent niche at Maradana in 1895. By this time the student population had risen to over 130. The Head Master and the Boarders resided in the upper floor. Mr. A. E. Bultjens, a graduate from Cambridge University was in the staff. The formal registration in order to be identified as “The daily Buddhist English Academy” was realized in March, 1889 and it coincided with the arrival of two new staff members, namely, Mr. Oliver James & Mr. Bath from Madras, India. History was created when young J. P. R. Weerasuriya Silva from this Academy was successful at the Cambridge Junior Examination. The site at Paranavadiya in Maradana, bought for a sum of Rs.35000/= lent by the Buddhist Theosophical Society in India, is the location where Ananda stands today. This loan was repaid from the proceeds of Golden Jubilee Celebrations held in 1936.
1890 saw the arrival of the school’s second Principal, Mr. A. E. Bultjens, a product of St. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia. A Christian by birth, Mr. Bultjens converted himself to Buddhism by conviction, facing the wrath of the Christian clergy who were furious. On 18th January 1894, a Buddhist Philanthropist, Mr. Tudor Rajapakse donated a land 3.4 acres in the adjoining area & on 17th August, 1895 the school was moved to this space after spending Rs. 8000/= on the construction of the school building and dormitories.
D. B. Jayatilleke, later Sir, the first Sinhala Buddhist to become Ananda’s Principal, assumed duties on 15th December 1898. The first “Old Anandian Society” which developed into its present day glory as the Old Boys’ Association had its beginning during Sir D. B. Jayatilleke’s era where he functioned as its President.
With the departure of Sir D. B. Jayatilleke on 10th March 1910, Irishman, Mr. M. U. Moore was appointed in his place on 15th April of the same year. During Mr. Moore’s tenure, a large number of constructions including the now demolished Moore building took place. A small upstair
building attached to the Old School Hall by the side of Paranvadiya Road (now Ananda Mawatha) was put up by Principal Moore.
Mr. Fritz Kunz followed Mr. Moore by taking over the reins on 30th January 1914. During Principal Kunz’s time development projects such as setting up a Hostel in a private house, initiation of the primary classes and the addition of Olcott Hall took place.
In 1918, Mr. P. de S. Kularatne assumed duties as the Principal of Ananda and that was the beginning of a golden era. The school celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 1936. With his perseverance, the university curricula were revised mentioning provisions for Sinhala, Pali, Sanskrit and Buddhism and that paved the way for many Anandians to enter universities. It created the beginning of a new era at Ananda and henceforth Anandians started excelling in all fields including Medicine, Engineering, Arts, Science and so forth. Other important achievements during Kularatne era are the creation of the first Cadet Battalion (1920), construction of the Hostel Building and its opening (August, 1922) and the construction of Harischandra Memorial Building (1920).
In 1955, Mr. S. A. Wijayatilleke joined Ananda as its Principal. During his tenure the Olcott Commemoration Building and the C. W. Leadbeater Commemoration Building were constructed. In 1959 a Fair & Exhibition was organized by the OBA/PTA to celebrate the 80th Anniversary of Ananda College. Two years later, in 1961, Ananda was declared a government school.
In 1962, with Mr. M. W. Karunananda, assuming duties as Principal of Ananda, more emphasis was placed on increasing the educational standards of the School. It was he who pioneered the teaching of Science in Sinhala. Ananda College made a significant stride in improving results at public examinations. During the era of Principal E. A. Perusinghe (1964-69) Ananda was able to achieve a long felt need of completing the construction of the revered “Anada Viharaya” (Shrine Room)
Principal Col. G. W. Rajapakse’s tenure spanning from 4th May 1969 to 1989 saw the setting up of the Police Cadets Corp, completion of the school’s cricket grounds and completion of the work on the Kularatne Hall.
The brief spell of uncertainty that followed with the departure of Col. G. W. Rajapakse vanished with the arrival of Col. V. S. Kudaligama as Principal of Ananda on 11th January 1982. It was during Col. Kudaligama’s period the first ‘Colours Night’ was held in school. The Centenary celebrations were held in grand scale with the support of Old Boys’ Association, parents and well-wishers.
Mr. A. P. Gunaratne (1989-1995) succeeded Col. Kudaligama and was instrumental in renovating the Biology and Physical Science Units, construction of a new Cafeteria and the construction of the College Swimming Pool.
During the tenure of Principal, Mr. T. B. Damunupola (1995-2001) a number of Buildings were re-named after past Principals. During his period the 25m Kids’ Pool was compelted and a Student’s Savings Bank was setup within school premises.
Mr. B. A. Abeyrathna was appointed as the Head of School in 2001. He set about making simple changes that had a far reaching impact on the School. Mr. Abeyrathna firmly believed that a good school needed a good environment and thereby took steps to clean up the school premises and maintain it. Greenery was enhanced through the planting of trees and establishment of flower terraces. More open spaces were created with the demolition of unnecessary enclosures and fences. A notable addition during his tenure was the erection of a statue of Col. Henry Steel Olcott in front of the Centenary building. Mr. Abeyrathna was instrumental in establishing new sports activities such as Rowing and Weightlifting, and he revived the defunct Mountaineering Society. Many other areas also flourished at Ananada during this period such as discipline, examination results, English Drama, Athletics, Gymnastics, Hockey and Cricket. The Kularatne Hall, which had started to show its age was renovated and completed to a high standard during Mr. Abeyratna’s tenure.
Mr. Lal Dissanayake was appointed as the acting Principal in 2008. He was holding office for a short period of time until his successor was appointed in 2009. However, he managed to bring in some stability to College administration during this short term. During his tenure, the Old Boys’ Association and the School Development Society organized the “Anada Viru Harasara” in a grand scale to pay tribute to the brave soldiers of Ananda, who spearheaded the war to eliminate the LTTE terror from our motherland.
In the second half of 2009, the Old Boys’ Association and the School Development Society spared no time in searching for the right person to take over the reins from the acting Principal, Mr. Lal Dissanayake. On 4th November, 2009, Mr. L. M. D. Dharmasena, a Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Education opted to take up the challenge. The School celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2011 under the guidance of Mr. Dharmasena. As the Head of the School and the President of the Old Boys’ Association, he guided all stakeholders to organize a number of events to celebrate this event, including a parade, issuing of a commemorative silver coin, organizing a commemorative dinner along with a number of other functions.
Mr. Kithsiri Liyanagamage was appointed as the principal in May 2013 and during the tenure of Mr, Liyanagamage (2013 – 2016) the “Pas Mahala” (M. U. Moore Building) was demolished and a foundation stone was laid to construct a new building.
Mr. S. M. Keerthirathna (2016 – Present) succeeded Mr. Liyanagamage and was instrumental in establishing a proper waste management system at Ananda. He contributed immensely in regaining the momentum of Ananda by uplifting the educational standards and restoring discipline in School. “Sath Mahala”, the iconic seven-storeyed building of Ananda was constructed and declared open during his tenure.