Three-storied Siri Vajirarama Library Building opened today | Daily News

Three-storied Siri Vajirarama Library Building opened today

The Vajiraramaya temple, down Vajira Road, Colombo 4 that had its beginnings in a Bana Maduwa or Preaching Hall on July 27, 1901 became well known within and outside the shores of Sri Lanka firstly, because of the erudition and far-sightedness of its originator, the Most Venerable Päläne Siri Vajiranana Mahanayaka Thera, secondly, because of the contributions made by an impressive array of pupils such as Narada Maha Thera, Kamburugamuwe Mahanama Maha Thera, Madihe Pannasiha Mahanayaka Thera, Ampitiye Sri Rahula Maha Thera and Piyadassi Maha Thera and thirdly, because of its very valuable Library.

Around 1904, when Päläne Siri Vajiranana Mahanayaka Thera completed his studies at the Vidyodaya Pirivena, it is stated that he had in his possession only about 100 books and narrated how the library grew. To quote from the speech made by him at the opening ceremony of the Vajirarama library in 1924, “I had an insatiable longing for wide reading and in trying to satisfy the desire I was compelled to borrow extensively from others. Consequently, I was subjected to much hardship and inconvenience. These circumstances led me to launch upon the task of collecting books. To us, bhikkhus, entirely supported by the generosity of the Buddhist laity, this laudable enterprise becomes an exceedingly difficult task.

But I was not to be deterred by any obstacles from my resolution. It was my Kamma to be able, slowly and steadily, to work towards the accomplishment of my cherished project. I inherited from my father (Pandit Don Andreas Tudawe Panditagunawardhana, known widely, as Pandit Tudawe) his entire library, and consequently, I was favoured with many valuable books presented by my mother and brothers. My relatives, dayakas, and other Buddhist well-wishers, who came to know of the deep interest I took in books, began to help my work. Two or three broad-minded Christian friends of mine were also kind enough to present me with a series of valuable treatises on Sanskrit Grammar.

Nor must I fail to mention the help I received from my brother bhikkhus, who also furnished me with books whenever possible. I may also mention that the donation of the publication of the Pali Text Society made by the Colonial Secretary, on behalf of the Government of Ceylon, is a royal gift which I highly prize.”It is in this manner the story of the Vajirarama library began.

The building where the original library was housed was constructed by Mr. and Mrs. G.J. Silva of Havelock Town and subsequently it was ceremonially declared open on July 15, 1924 with the Colonial Secretary, Cecil Clementi as the chief guest. The other distinguished guests who were present included Sir James Peiris, who was a member of the Legislative Council and Mrs. Peiris, T.Reid, the Mayor of Colombo, Mr. Macrae the Director of Education, D.B. Jayatilaka, R.L. Pereira a reputed lawyer at the time and E.C.de Fonseka.

The following is an excerpt from the speech made by Cecil Clementi, Colonial Secretary and it is relevant even in today’s context. He said “I am not one of those who thought the aim of education was to produce eventually a generation to speak English instead of their native language. I would like to hear every child in this Island and every grown-up man and woman speak English in addition to and not instead of their native language. I wish to see poets arise in the future and prose writers who could rival the glorious Indian literature and I think that then the hopes and aspirations of those who contributed to this library would be abundantly fulfilled.”

It is recorded that the Vajirarama Library, which, indeed,could be said to be a repository of Eastern classical knowledge, was on par with the Museum Library, the Vidyodaya and VidyalankaraPirivenalibraries. Because of the close association Professor G.P.Malalasekera had with Vajiraramaya, students following diploma and undergraduate studies at the University College were allowed to use the Vajirarama Library for their research.

Renowned scholars and writers, during that time, were frequent visitors because they cherished very much the scholarly discussions that they were privileged to have with the Most Venerable Päläne Siri Vajiranana Mahanayaka Thera, besides the use of the library. Among those visitors were Venerable Kalukondayave Pannasekhera Maha Thera, Venerable Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Maha Thera, Sir D.B. Jayatilaka, Kumaratunga Munidasa and Professor Malalasekera.

It is with gratitude that I wish to mention,on this occasion, ofthe monetary contributions made by the current High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to the Republic of India, Milinda Moragoda, who financed the development of the reference library section, which was named ‘N.U. Jayawardena Nuvana Kutiya’, in memory of his grandfather N.U. Jayawardena.

The new three-storied building to house the historic Siri Vajiraramaya library, which has grown since its inception 98 years ago and will commemorate its centenary,is a generous gift of Ishara Nanayakkara, who realised the dire need for a new building for the library. It was under his direction that the construction work was undertaken by LOLC Holdings and Browns PLC. His firm resolve to revitalise the national economy and his keenness to contribute for the future advance of the Buddhasasana urged him along.

Such a single-handed gift is unthinkable at a time like this and his noble intention is to bestow the merit accruing to late Most Venerable Madihe Pannasiha Mahanayaka Thera and his late father Rajah Mahinda Nanayakkaara and to wish long life to his mother, Mrs. Indra Nanayakkara, whose birthday falls on June 21.

May the Siri Vajirarama Library last for ever and a day, as a stimulation for a deeper study of the Tipitaka and a motivation for the sangha community. May it be a beacon light on the Path of Liberation through seeking knowledge in accordance with the Dhamma.

- Most Ven. Tirikunamale Ananda Mahanayaka Thera


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