Mahinda College

Mahinda College is a Buddhist boys' school in Galle, Sri Lanka. The school was established on 1 March 1892 by the Buddhist Theosophical Society led by Colonel Henry Steel Olcott.[1] Today it is a national school, which provides primary and secondary education across 13 grades. Mahinda College is the leading Buddhist Boys' school in Southern Sri Lanka.[2][3]

Mahinda College
"ඛිප්පං වායාම පණ්ඩිතෝ භව"

Coordinates6°03′00.5″N 80°12′55.2″E
TypeGovernment School
MottoKhippam Vayama Pandito Bhawa
Meaning: ("Strive hard and be wise")
FounderColonel Henry Steel Olcott
PrincipalP. M. G. Gamini Jayawardhane
Grades1 to G.C.E. (A/L)
Age6 to 19
Color(s)Black and Gold         
PublicationSahasa Magazine
AlumniList of Mahinda College alumni


Colonel Henry Steel Olcott, a retired United States army officer was in search of truth. He studied various philosophies and listened to the sermons of various religious dignitaries. But his inquiring mind did not find an answer. In his search he came across a comprehensive report of the Panadurawadaya.[4] It was a report of a religious debate between Buddhist monks and Christian clergy. Olcott appreciated the contentions of the Buddhist monks and started corresponding with the outstanding Buddhist monks of Ceylon. This correspondence eventually led him to visit Ceylon.

Col. Olcott landed in Galle on 17 May 1880 in the company of Madame H. P. Blavatsky. They became Buddhists at the Wijeyananda temple in Galle.[5] Olcott and Blavatsky were grieved at the treatment the Buddhists, their institutions and the religion received at the hands of the colonial rulers and the Christian hierarchy. They identified that the greatest danger came from the proselytization of the children of Buddhist parents through education. To combat this they founded the Buddhist Theosophical Society and set about opening up Buddhist English schools. He opened up the B.T.S. English school at Pettigalawatta on September 15, 1880. This school had a short existence and later with the arrival of Dr. Bowles Daly (LLD), an Irish clergyman and a theosophist, Mahinda College was opened on 1 March 1892 at Pedlar Street in Galle Fort.[6] The school was named after Arhant Mahinda Thero, the Buddhist monk who brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka.

Dr. Daly was a good disciplinarian and a tireless worker. But he left after a very short period of one year. The ensuing period of nearly a decade saw the school simply drifting with a number of principals serving for short periods. However, with the arrival of Frank Lee Woodward as principal on 1 August 1903, things took a turn for the better.[7] From the day Woodward became the principal, the school had slowly but steadily progressed. By December 1903 within four months after Mr. Woodward's assumption of office as principal, the average attendance of the school had risen to 142 from 89. In the same month students had been sent for the Cambridge examination and in July 1904, a student of Mahinda, G. W. Perera had won the university scholarship. By 1905 there had been 246 boys on the roll. It was during that period that Col.Olcott visited the College twice in 1904 and 1906. The year 1907 had been a dark year for Mahinda. Both Olcott and Muhandiram Thomas Amarasuriya had died in that year. On 25 June 1907, Henry Amarasuriya, the son of the later had been elected as the manager of the school.

In this time Woodward had been active with a plan to move the College to a place with surroundings more conductive to its healthy growth. D. F. de Silva of Minuwangoda with the assistance of the members of the Weerasiri family, purchased and donated a land called “Devatagawatta” far from the madding crowd, in a salubrious and elevated plot of land. It was a magical charming hillock with enlivening beauty of the central highlands painted on its eastern sky. It had attracted the attention Woodward who had a high sense of aesthetic beauty. The panoramic view of the Sripada (Adam’s peak) also said that it is the most suitable place to a Buddhist school.[6] On 15 January 1908 at 2.14 p.m, Woodward had laid the foundation stone of the Olcott hall. In July and October of the same year, the foundation stones for the Amrasuriya block and Matara blocks had been laid by H. Amarasuriya, E. S. Balasuriya and D. N. Weeratunga respectively. On 1 August 1912 the new building had been ceremonially opened. With the shifting of the school to its present abode, the number of students had risen to 300. The first prize giving commemorating the 21st anniversary of inauguration of the school and the ninth anniversary of Woodward’s arrival was also celebrated in 1912. A. D. Jayasinghe joined the staff in 1917 and was later appointed as the headmaster of the school.

In 1919 Woodward left for Tasmania to devote the subsequent 33 years of his life to the task of editing and translating Buddhist texts to be published by the Pali Text Society, London.[7]

Unlike in the 1890s Woodward was succeeded by capable men like Kalidas Nag, F. G. Pearce, W. A. Troupe and P. R. Gunasekara. But they served Mahinda College only for very short periods. They were succeeded by an eminent old boy of the college, Edgar Albert Wijesooriya in 1932. This can be termed the golden age of Mahinda. He retired in 1962 with the taking over of assisted schools by the government. Thereafter Mahinda College became a government Sinhala medium school.

Jayasena H. Gunasekara succeeded Wijesooriya. During his tenure of office many buildings came up and the school population was almost doubled. After the departure of Gunasekara C. K. Waidyarathne acted until the arrival of B. K. Silva. After him W. A. D. S. Gunathilake served Mahinda College for five years. His elevation to a higher post in the department of education led to the appointment of C. K. Waidyarathne as a permanent principal. He was succeeded by another old boy of Mahinda College, D. D. Jayasundara in 1987. With his departure in 1991 another old boy, M. Wickramasinghe was appointed principal in 1992. The centenary celebrations were held that year on a very grand scale. He went back to the department in 1994 and was succeeded by yet another old boy D. C. Nissanka de Silva who too joined the department in 1996. De Silva was succeeded by D. K. Athukorala as the principal. Athukorala served Mahinda College for eight years. After him K. A. Susil Premanath and L. C. Karunasena served as the acting principals. During the period of three years from 2008 to 2011, R. M. Werahara served as the principal and after his retirement in 2011, M. A. Jinadasa took duty as the acting principal. In 2012 another old Mahindian, W. M. Wasantha Siriwardhane, assumed office as the principal but his tenure lasted for only two years. Since August 2014 Gamini Jayawardhane has been serving as the school’s principal.

Henry Steel Olcott

Mahinda College, as well as many other Buddhist Schools in Sri Lanka, owes its existence to Col Henry Steel Olcott, philanthropist and the founder of the Buddhist Theosophical Society. Having read a printed version of the ' Panadurawadaya ' of 1873, a public debate between Buddhist and Christian representatives on the correctness of each belief, Col Olcott was really impressed of the teachings in Theravada Buddhism, which were in line with his vision as a theosophist.[4] It resulted in him arriving in Sri Lanka to study more on Buddhism, and starting a branch of the Theosophical Society, first in Colombo and then in Kandy and Galle. He was ably supported by Venerable Dodanduwe Piyarathana Thissa Thera, Venerable Migettuwatte Gunananda Thera, Venerable Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thero, Venerable Weligama Sri Sumangala Thero, Venerable Walane Sri Siddhartha Thero and Venerable Ratmalane Dhammaloka Thero, along with Anagarika Dharmapala, Walisinghe Harischandra, and Sir.D.B. Jayatilaka.[4][8][9]

With Olcott's initiative and guidance, the Theosophists identified that a major factor for the decline of Sinhala Buddhists was the lack of proper education facilities and the best solution was to make available educational institutes with a solid Buddhist religious background. It was under this theory that foundations were laid to the beginning of the "Buddhist Schools" in Sri Lanka, which include the likes of Mahinda College in Galle, Dharmaraja College in Kandy, Ananda College in Colombo and Maliyadeva College in Kurunegala.[4]

Frank Lee Woodward

Frank Lee Woodward (1871–1952)[10] was born in Saham Toney in Norfolk, England, as the son of an Anglican vicar. He had an archetypal Victorian boyhood and attended a traditional English public school. He won a scholarship to Cambridge and later turned to teaching, which secured him a deputy headmastership. He joined the London Theosophical Society and was a great friend of Olcott. Olcott offered him the principalship of Mahinda College, which he accepted and nursed for sixteen years.[7]

He was the principal of Mahinda College from 1903 to 1919. Woodward’s work at Mahinda College included taking classes in English, Latin, Pali, Buddhism and Art, in addition to the administrative duties associated with the position of principal of the school. With the assistance of Mudaliyar Gunaratne, Muhandiram Thomas Amarasuriya, Muhandiram Wickremasinghe and the benevolent Buddhist public, Woodward shifted the College to its present site and made it one of the leading colleges in the Southern Sri Lanka. His involvement went much further. He was the designer and architect of its buildings, personally supervised their construction, and often worked alongside the masons. Woodward who has not only built buildings for Mahinda College gave it a soul – the Woodward tradition. This was done through precept and practice. He decided to leave the college in 1919.

Woodward spent his retirement in Rowella, Tasmania, translating Buddhist scriptures from Pali to English. A vegetarian, a mystic and a man of whimsy, he practiced yoga, wore a turban and lived alone, surrounded by Buddhist scriptures on thousands of palm-leaves.[7] He translated eighteen of the forty-two volumes of the Pali texts into English and compiled the vast concordance of the Pali canon, which occupied the last fifteen years of his life.[7] He was an erudite Pali scholar and translator.[10] Woodward died in 1952.

Mahinda College today

The college today provides education to over 3,750 students from grade 1 to 13.[11] Students are divided into five groups namely Primary, Junior, Secondary, Senior Secondary and Collegiate. The current principal of Mahinda College is Pahala Mada Gamage Gamini Jayawardane[12] BA,BEd,National Diploma in Teaching (Science),Diploma in Computer Science, SLEAS. The college academic staff comprising 175 academically qualified teachers,[11] most of them having university degrees or diplomas and some of them having masters. It has a non academic staff of about 30.

Past Principals

  • 1892-1893  : Dr. Bowles Daley
  • 1894  : Lovegrove
  • 1895-1896  : O.A. Jayasekara (Acting)
  • 1897-1898  : M. Balasubramaniya Mudlier
  • 1898  : Gordon Douglas
  • 1899  : O.A. Jayasekara (Acting)
  • 1900  : M.J. Fernando
  • 1901  : O.A Jayasekara
  • 1902  : McDougal
  • 1903-1919  : F. L. Woodward
  • 1919-1920  : Kalidas Nag
  • 1920  : S de S Jayarathna (Acting)
  • 1921-1923  : F. G. Pearce
  • 1923-1926  : W.A. Troup
  • 1926-1932  : P.R.Gunasekara
  • 1932-1962  : E.A.Wijesuriya
  • 1962-1974  : J.H. Gunasekara
  • 1974-1975  : C.K Waidyarathnae (Acting)
  • 1975-1978  : B.K Silva
  • 1978-1983  : W.A.D.S. Gunathilake
  • 1983-1987  : C.K Waidyarathnae
  • 1987-1991  : D.D. Jayasundara
  • 1992-1994  : M.Wickramasinha
  • 1994-1996  : D.C.N. de Silva
  • 1996-2004  : D.K. Athukorala
  • 2004-2007  : K.A.Susil Premanath
  • 2007-2008  : L.C.Karunasena (Acting)
  • 2008-2011  : R.M.Werahera
  • 2011-2012  : M.A. Jinadasa (Acting)
  • 2012-2014  : W.M.Wasantha Siriwardhane
  • 2014 to present  : P.M.G. Gamini Jayawardhane


Students are divided into four houses.

  • Parakrama -     
  • Gamunu -     
  • Thissa -     
  • Pandukabhaya -     

These houses are named after four great ancient kings of Sri Lanka. Annual sporting events are held among these houses.

Lovers' Quarrel

Lovers' Quarrel or Battle of the Lovers [13] also known as Mahinda - Richmond big match is an annual cricket match played between the first XI cricket teams of Mahinda College and Richmond College, Galle. The contest was started in the year 1905 under principals Rev. James Horne Darrel of Richmond College and Frank Lee Woodward of Mahinda College. Out of the big matches played up to now, Mahinda College and Richmond College have won 23 each.[14] Lovers Quarrel was last won by Mahinda College in the 2008 encounter, having broken a 30-year-long deadlock of draws since 1978.[15] Mahinda College also has been the first school in Sri Lanka to webcast their cricket big match.

Notable alumni

Notable teachers

See also


  • A Story of Buddhist Determination: Mahinda College, Galle; Buddhist Annual of Ceylon, Vol I (1920), No. 2, p. 29-30
  1. "Historical Context". Embassy of Sri Lanka, USA. Retrieved 15 August 2010.
  2. , Old boys of Olcott schools UAE
  3. , Daily News Online
  4. Agarwal, Prof. C.V. (18 February 2010). "Revival of Buddhism and theosophists". Daily News. Retrieved 15 August 2010.
  5. Oliveira, Pedro. "BIO". CWL World. Archived from the original on 4 June 2010.
  6. "College Profile". Mahinda Club. 2003. Retrieved 15 August 2010.
  7. Heyward, Nigel (1990). "Woodward, Frank Lee (1871 - 1952)". Australian Dictionary of Biography Online. Retrieved 15 August 2010.
  8. Ranatunga, D. C. (2001). "That controversial clash". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  9. Kaviratne, W. T. J. S. (2004). "The first Buddhist School in Sri Lanka - Piyarathana Vidyalaya of Dodanduwa dilapidated, threatened with closure". Daily News (Sri Lanka). Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  10. Jayetilleke, Rohan L. (3 January 2007). "Frank Lee Woodward erudite Pali scholar and translator" (PDF). Budu Sarana. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 July 2011. Retrieved 15 August 2010.
  11. "School Profile". Mahinda College. Retrieved 15 August 2010.
  13. Richmond looks to break Mahinda stranglehold
  14. Mahadura, Gamini (14 March 2010). "Richmond looks to break Mahinda stranglehold". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 16 August 2010.
  15. Tissera, Charit (24 March 2011). "Southern Sri Lanka awaits action at 106th Lover's Quarrel". ThePapare. Retrieved 24 September 2011.
  16. Saparamadu, Sumana (2006). "Ananda Samarakoon - The composer of our national anthem". Sunday Observer. Archived from the original on 2 February 2012. Retrieved 4 July 2010.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.