gift for Dharmaraja
College, Kandy, a premier Buddhist school in the country, will
be celebrating its 119th anniversary on June 30, 2006. Tracing her
roots, it may have been the good fortune of Buddhist education and
karmic force that attracted the great Col. Henry Steele Olcott to
the island in 1886. He lost no time in founding Ananda College in
1886 and Dharmaraja in 1887 through the auspices of the Buddhist
From its modest beginning with only 12 students,
the growth of Dharmaraja over these 119 years is phenomenal. Today
her student population stands at 5,000 with a tutorial staff of
160. To this end, credit is due to many great men of the calibre
of M/s De Silva, Banbury, Jayatilake, Rajaratnam, Billimoriya, Kularatne,
Mettananda, Wijeyathileke, Godage, Amaranayake, Gunaratna and Herath,
who shone as principals of a bygone era.
However, it was K. F. Billimoria, a Parsee gentleman
from Bombay with roots in Iran, who blazed the trail for Dharmaraja.
He acquired the 37-acre hill top (now 55 acre)
presently called ‘Lake View’, to build the infrastructure
for a new Dharmaraja. The immaculate planner and an illustrious
builder Billimoria set his priorities thus,
1. New buildings to accommodate the collegiate
2. A swimming pool
3. Provision of electricity to the complex
4. Providing a hostel for boaders
5. Play ground
Reference is made in a ‘speech day’
presentation in 1929 of the Swimming Bath (as it was called then),
constructed by him, giving details of dimensions viz. 50’x
30’ with a 7’ deep and 3 ½’ shallow ends.
He even built a smaller pool for kids subsequently.
What stands out is the memory that Dharmaraja
did have a swimming pool way back in 1929 or earlier. Now how many
public schools can boast of such a facility! Perhaps it is this
fact that has re-kindled the embers of a past history, where the
Old Boys Union has pledged an anniversary gift to the Rajans of
today and for those of tomorrow on her 119th birthday.
Plans are already afoot for the construction of
a swimming pool to match national standards, complete with a stadium
and other amenities. Work will be carried out in stages, depending
on the financial support expected.
A sum of Rs. 20 million will have to be spent.
For this purpose, the Colombo branch of the OBU inaugurated a fund
on August 4, 2001.
The OBU Colombo branch is now appealing to old
boys, students, their parents, friends, well-wishers, businessmen
and others to contribute lavishly – “To give till it
hurts” (as the phrase goes) to make this project a great success.