Dharmaraja College Kandy is a leading Buddhist school in Sri Lanka. More than 120 years old, the school was founded in 1887 through the collective efforts of leading Buddhist public figures such as Dullawe Adhikaram, Wadugodapitiya Punchirala Korale, T.B. Panabokke and A.D.J. Gunawardena who received critical support from Colonel Henry Steele Olcott, a prominent figure in the 19th century Theosophical movement. Olcott, who became a Buddhist after visiting Sri Lanka ,along with local Buddhist activists helped establish a network of Buddhist schools fulfilling a long felt need in the country for modern Buddhist educational institutions. Many of these schools including Dharmaraja have evolved to become centers of educational excellence and a key part of the public education system in Sri Lanka.
Dharmaraja College had very humble beginnings when an abandoned bana salawa (Buddhist hall for preaching) was converted and the school was started with just eight students and Mr Andiris de Silva as its headmaster. The original site of the school in Kandy town which eventually became the Primary Section as the college expanded is today preserved as a historic site located in close proximity to the world famous Temple of the Tooth (Dalada Maligawa
Throughout the early and mid twentieth century the school expanded. Following Andiris de Silva D.B. Jayathilaka who went on to become the Vice President of the Ceylon Legislative Council became headmaster succeeded by three committed headmasters: Harry Bambury, William Hack (after a brief break with C.S. Rajaratnam) and K.F. Billimoria. Billimoria a parsi gentleman from Bombay (present day Mumbai) was principal for nearly three decades and during his time the school acquired much needed physical resources including a 37 acre (now expanded to 55 acres) hilltop called Lake View.
Some of the key infrastructure projects during the Billimoria period:
- New building to accommodate the collegiate section.
- A swimming pool.
- Provision of electricity to the complex.
- Providing a hostel for boarders.
- Play ground.
Following the Billimoria period the school faced some financial difficulties but was able to overcome these to position itself as a key player in education post-independence Sri Lanka.