Oldest newspaper’s press consigned to cobwebs

By Gamini Mahadura

The press that printed Sri Lanka’s oldest newspaper, the “Lanka Lokaya”, over 150 years ago in Galle, despite its historic value, now lies decrepit at the Purana Ranwela Viharaya in Kathaluwa, through sheer neglect,.

It was the brainchild of the Viharadhipathi of Paramananda temple in Minuwangoda, Galle, Ven. Bulathgama Dharmalankara Thera, who, with the consent of King Chulalankara of Siam, had got the machine down from London through a friend.

It was a time that the spread of Buddhism was in danger, and the new press was used to respond to those seeking enlightenment. In June 1860, from a house in Fort, Galle, the first issue was printed.

A copy of the first issue can still be seen today at the Kumara Maha Viharaya in Kumarakanda, Dodanduwa. Besides printing the “Lanka Lokaya”, the press was used to print the replies for the “Panadura vadaya” and Badegama vadaya controversies.

It did yeoman service in the spread of Buddhism at the time. The press later shifted to the Giniwella Purana Viharaya, where it remains in a state of decay.

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