"Unveiling Tagore's Impact: Nurturing Sri Lanka's Educational Landscape

Rabindranath Tagore, the distinguished poet and the first Asian Nobel Prize laureate in Literature, holds a unique place in the hearts of Sri Lankans. Beyond his poetic brilliance, Tagore was a multifaceted individual— an educator, philosopher, musician, artist, novelist, and a scriptwriter for dramas. His profound influence on Sri Lanka's educational arena traces back to his historic visit in 1922.

During the School Prize Giving ceremony at Ananda College, Tagore delivered a speech that resonated deeply, sparking a transformation in Buddhist Education in Sri Lanka. In a bold critique of the prevailing "college concept" of the time, Tagore's words left an indelible mark. It is believed that P. de S. Kularatne, the Principal of Ananda College at the time, responded to Tagore's comments by founding Nalanda Vidyalaya as a separate institution.

Surprisingly, this pivotal moment in history remains unacknowledged in the annals of both Ananda College and Nalanda Vidyalaya. The historical information, found in newspapers from 1922 and preserved in the National Archives, sheds light on the evolution of educational concepts during that era. The establishment of Nalanda Vidyalaya by Kularatne, a Buddhist, rather than Colonel Henry S. Olcott, a Theosophist, reflects the forward-thinking spurred by Tagore's insightful critiques.

As we reflect on this overlooked chapter in Sri Lanka's educational history, it prompts us to consider the nuances of educational terminology and the evolution of educational concepts during that transformative period. Tagore's legacy, often celebrated for its literary contributions, unfolds a lesser-known chapter in the educational landscape of Sri Lanka, where his words catalyzed the birth of Nalanda Vidyalaya and shaped the trajectory of progressive education."

"The Evolution of Ananda: Navigating Identity and Resisting Foreign Influences

Ananda College, born in 1886 during the peak of British rule, underwent a transformative journey that echoes the complex socio-political landscape of its time. Rabindranath Tagore, during his critical visit to Ananda College's prize-giving ceremony 36 years later, unleashed pointed criticisms against the prevailing 'college concept.' The roots of Ananda, initially established as a Buddhist English school in 1886 and later handed over to Colonel Olcott's Buddhist Theosophical Society, found themselves entangled in an identity crisis.

Examining Sinhala newspapers from the 1920s reveals a myriad of terms used to refer to Ananda, such as 'Shastra Shalawa,' 'Maha Vidyalaya,' 'Vidya Peetaya,' and 'Viduhala.' Each of these Sinhala terms held the connotation of 'college' in English, a concept introduced during British rule. The term 'Vidyalaya,' associated with anti-colonial sentiments, was favored by Indian activists fighting against British rulers.

Tagore, a staunch advocate of local education, openly declared that progress would not arise through colonial education systems, aligning himself with the anti-colonial struggle. His criticisms of the 'college concept' at Ananda in 1922 coincided with the establishment of a branch of Ananda by P. de S. Kularatne in the same year, evolving into Nalanda Vidyalaya.

Records from that era consistently refer to Nalanda as 'Nalanda Vidyalaya' in both languages, suggesting a deliberate choice in nomenclature. Tagore's influence, coupled with the religious and political context of the time, set the stage for Nalanda's emergence as a separate school, resisting foreign influences and fostering an environment close to nature.

The evolution of Ananda, as guided by Tagore's criticisms and the establishment of Nalanda, stands as a testament to the nuanced interplay of educational concepts and identity in a colonial backdrop, revealing the intricate layers of Sri Lanka's educational history."

"Roots of Nalanda: Cultivating Tagorean Ideals and Forging a Visionary Path

The establishment of Nalanda Vidyalaya, an extension born from the esteemed Ananda College, unveils a fascinating chapter in Sri Lanka's educational legacy. As Ananda College transitioned from Pettah to the bustling Maradana area, the birth of Nalanda necessitated the clearing of shrubs that veiled the serene Campbell Place. Dr. Gunapala Malalasekara's historical documents reveal his instrumental role, alongside students, in this transformative endeavor.

Rabindranath Tagore, known for his unfiltered critiques aligned with his ideology, delivered a seminal speech at the Ananda College prize-giving. Among his critical observations was the disapproval of singling out brighter students for special awards—an approach he speculated might have been introduced by foreign invaders. In his comprehensive critique of the 'college concept' during the same speech in 1922, Tagore outlined the essential features an educational institution should embody.

P. De S. Kularatne, with his forward-thinking ethos, might have responded to Tagore's ideas by crafting a separate school, Nalanda Vidyalaya. The Venerable Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Thero, serving as 'Dharmacharya' on Ananda's staff, played a pivotal role in naming the new institution. Borrowing from the ancient Indian University, Nalanda in Bihar, India, the Thero suggested 'Nalanda' as the school's name. He also proposed the motto 'Apadana Shobhini Panna,' translating to 'Character Illumines Wisdom.'

Kularatne, driven by a vision for excellence, meticulously selected the best students and appointed Dr. Gunapala Malasekera as the inaugural Principal. This strategic approach aimed at laying the foundation for Nalanda's success from its inception, embodying Tagorean ideals and paving the way for a visionary educational journey."

"In retrospect, the genesis of Nalanda Vidyalaya emerges as a dynamic response to the shifting educational landscape influenced by Rabindranath Tagore's critiques and visionary ideals. The clearing of shrubs at Campbell Place, documented by Dr. Gunapala Malalasekara, symbolizes the tangible transformation that accompanied the birth of Nalanda. Tagore's penetrating insights, expressed during the Ananda College prize-giving, not only questioned prevailing educational practices but also set in motion a forward-thinking response.

P. De S. Kularatne's strategic decision to establish Nalanda, guided by Tagorean principles, signifies a departure from the 'college concept' and a commitment to crafting an institution aligned with progressive educational philosophies. The naming of Nalanda and its motto, proposed by the Venerable Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Thero, adds a layer of cultural and historical resonance, drawing inspiration from the ancient Indian University.

The meticulous selection of students and the appointment of Dr. Gunapala Malasekera as the inaugural Principal underscore Kularatne's vision for Nalanda's excellence from the outset. As Nalanda Vidyalaya embarked on its educational journey, it carried the torch of Tagorean ideals, fostering an environment where character illuminated wisdom.

In this captivating narrative, the roots of Nalanda not only intertwine with the socio-political context of its time but also reflect the foresight and resilience of its founders. The legacy of Nalanda, shaped by Tagore's influence and the commitment to progressive education, stands as a testament to the enduring impact of visionary ideals on Sri Lanka's educational tapestry."