Panadura Vadaya or the world famous Panadura Debate conducted by Venerable Megettuwaththe Gunananda with the help of the rich Buddhist people of Panadura opened the eyes of Sri Lankan Buddhists to revive the Sinhalese Buddhist cause. As a result of this debate, a number of English medium school were established in the major town of the island. Ananda and Nalanda Colleges in Colombo Dharmaraja College in Kandy, Mahinda College in Galle etc. Panadura was the seat of a predominantly rich Sinhala Buddhist population but lacked an English Medium school for their children.
This void was pointed out to the people of Panadura by the then Head Priest of Rankoth Vihara temple reverend Gnavimalatissa thero. As a result of this with the blessings of the then Chief Priest of the Amarapura sect Walpita Gunarathanatissa thero, with the help of Buddhist philanthropists of Panadura, established an English Medium School in the premises of Rankoth Vihara Temple. This school was named in memory of a great Buddhist Scholar and the head of the Amarapura Sect, Reverend Sasana Wanasalankara Kavidhaja Weligama Sri Sumangala Thera.
Sri Sumangala College was started on March 3rd, 1909 with 77 students. In the year 1911 when this school was registered as an Assisted School, there were 325 students on roll. The first Principal was Mr. Thomas E. Gunarathne.
The land for the school was donated by the Rankoth Vihara temple while the buildings were constructed out of public funds. The school was managed by a Board of Management and funds for the running of the school were met by philanthropists like Mr. Maththes Salgado, Mr. Luis Dias, Mr. M. K. Perera, Mr. P. Domingo Dias , Mudliar Thomas Rodrigo etc and the general public.
Out of a large number of Principals who served and guided the college, a few names are noteworthy Mr. R. S. S. Gunawardane, Mr. Abeseela Ginige, Mr. M. W. Karunananda, Dr. K. L. V. Alagiyawanna, Mr. R. A. Mathos, Mr. A. G. Weththasinghe, Mr. A. G. De Silva, Mr. H. S. N. K. Fernando and Mr. D. E. Jayaneththi.
Three old boys of the school had the distinction of administering the College as the principal. They are Mr. R. A. Mathos, Mr. Wilson Kahandagamage and Mr. J. K. P. Asokarathne.
Due to the rapid expansion of the College, the Rankoth Vihara premises become congested and there was the necessity to relocate the College. The Mr. P. De S. Kularathne the then Manage of the Board of Management of the College has tried his level best to acquire Walaw Waththa for the proposed relocation in 1942 where Sri Sumangala College is presently located. But when he failed,the management decided to shift the college to Nalluruwa. The first old boy of the college Mr. Walter Salgado donated the land for the main buildings Mrs. M. C. Fernando has donated an about 2 1/2 acres to be used as the playground of the college.
For the building complex the main hall was donated by Sir Leo Fernando ex M.P. and a leading philanthropist Physics, Chemistry and Bio laboratories were donated by Mrs. P. C. H. Diasin memory of her son and the main building and the classrooms by public donations.
All the classes from grade six upwards were taken to Nalluruwa new buildings on 7th August 1942. Grades 3,4 and 5 were continued at the Rankoth Vihara premises and it was popularly called Town Branch of the college. The principal or the Head of this section was Mr. A. C. Morawaka who served the college until his retirement.
With the transfer of the college to Nalluruwa it becomes one of the leading educational institutions where laboratory facilities were available for the students to do science subjects in the medium of English. Advance level students of the Sri Sumangala Girls School used the laboratories in the afternoons to do their practicals. During Mr. A. G. Weththasinghe’s principal-ship the plot of land between the main college and the playground which was acquired by the Education Department.
In 1961 a large number of schools were taken over by the government and at that moment Town Branch was registered as a separate school and a principal was appointed by the Education Department. A precedent was created to admit all the children who leave Town Branch after they passed the Grade Five test. In 1992 due to inclement weather the retaining wall of the Rankoth Vihara collapsed damaging the main hall oh the Town Branch. The school had to be kept closed for a few months. The O.B.A., parents and well wishers constructed 18 semi-permanent classrooms and the Town Branch was amalgamated to the main college with the untiring efforts of Mr. D. E. Jayaneththi who was the principal at that time.
On May 25th, 1993 the College was declared a “National School” by the Ministry of Education.
On the 26th of December 2004 the Tsunami which destroyed the southern and eastern coastal areas damaged part of the semi-permanent buildings of the college. As a Tsunami struck during a school vacation Sri Sumangala Boys were spared.
All together 182 schools were damaged by the Tsunami. Out of these damaged schools, the government has decided to relocate 98 schools including Sri Sumangala College. Donor partner JICA has granted a sum Rs.330 million to build a completely new school with all the modern facilities. At last Walauwaththa, Wekada which the Sri Sumangal Board of Management tried to acquire in 1942 has become the new site of Sri Sumangala College.
Mr. L. W. Somathilaka took a bold decision to shift the college immediately to the existing Army and CTB buildings at Walauwaththa, Wekada. Even though the children go through a lot of hardships presently they are assured of a completely new school which can be called a real “College”.
The year 1922 is a remarkable one because under the guidance of the then principal Mr. Abeyseela Ginige the Old Boys’ Association was inaugurated.
Read the Wikipedia article on Sri Sumangala College for more information.
Go to the website of Old Boys’ Association, Sri Sumangala College.
This brief history of the college was compiled by Mr. J. K. P. Asokarathne, An old boy, who has served the college as a teacher, Deputy Principal, and Acting Principal. Any omissions are deeply regretted.