Ananda College

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Ananda College Crest on letter by principal Fritz Kunz on March 7, 1915.
Ananda College Crest from Facebook, 2016.

Ananda College (Sinhala: ආනන්ද විද්‍යාලය) is a Buddhist school in Colombo, Sri Lanka that accommodates over 6000 students. It was founded by Henry Steel Olcott and Sri Sumangala Thero in an effort to restore Buddhist education to South Asia. In over 130 years of operation, the school has nurtured generations of leaders for Sri Lanka. It was named after a chief disciple of Gautama Buddha.

Origins and early history

The school was started with 37 students in Maliban Street, Colombo, on November 1, 1886, with the support of Colonel Olcott. The school was soon moved to Paranavadiya in Maradana. The name became Ananda College.

The first principal was Charles Webster Leadbeater. In 1888 he met 13-year-old student Curuppumullage Jinarājadāsa, who exhibited "keen intelligence and determination to learn."[1] During the years 1900-1901, after completing his Cambridge education, Mr. Jinarājadāsa returned to his native Ceylon to become Vice-Principal of the College. A.E. Bultjourns was principal beginning in 1889.

By March, 1943, the school had grown to over 1000 in the student body.[2]

Gift book given to Fritz Kunz in 1917.

Fritz Kunz as Principal

Late in 1913, Charles Webster Leadbeater sent a telegram offering Fritz Kunz a position as principal. Kunz had visited Ceylon during a world tour with Leadbeater in 1905-1906. Although Kunz was a young man of 25 years, he was well educated, energetic and hard-working, with a strong background of activity in the American Theosophical Society. Mr. Leadbeater knew him well, and had great confidence in his abilities. During the Kunz tenure as principal, from 1914 to 1917, he instituted many improvements at the school, raised funds, and supervised several construction projects. His older sisters Alma and Minna joined the school faculty to teach the youngest children. His brother-in-law Hervey Gulick, a mining engineer, introduced the sciences to the older boys. Hervey brought an Encyclopedia Britannica with him from America. It was a treasured resource that only the upper classmen were allowed to use under heavy supervision.[3][4]

After the students heard that Mr. Kunz would be departing (under pressure from the British government), the Ananda College Boarders' Good-Will Fraternity presented Mr. Kunz on March 19, 1917 with a little book with an affectionate message in beautiful calligraphy and a listing of 45 student names.[5]

Recent developments

2008 Olcott Memorial Oration

Ananda College now offers 13 grades of education on a campus of over 20 acres. The student body is over 6000, with an academic staff of about 200. Students participate in many sports and other competitions with other schools. The team name is the Maroons.

The college holds an annual Olcott Memorial Oration organized through the Old Boys' Association:

This oration is in honour of and dedicated to the vision and far-sightedness of the founder of Ananda College, Colonel Henry Steele Olcott. He left behind a legacy of immense accomplishments in many fields, including education, agriculture, law and order, diplomacy, and journalism. He was a great visionary, a philanthropist of the highest degree, who dedicated his entire life to the peace and welfare of his fellow human beings (volunteerism). All this he did for humanity in general and not for personal gain. He set the bar high for all of us by his selfless dedication in the service of humankind.[6]

Here are examples of recent lectures:

  • 2013 – "Water Pollution-Associated Ill Health: Special Emphasis on Chronic Kidney Disease in Sri Lanka" by Sunil J. Wimalawansa.
  • 2016 – "Unreasonable Success of Mathematics and Role of Information Technology in driving National Economics" by Professor Rohan Attele of Chicago State University.
  • 2019 – “Achieving Social Justice through the Rule of Law” by Maithri Panagoda.
Evans-Wentz lecture at Ananda College

Lecturers and visitors

Notable Buddhists and Theosophists have visited the college over the years, and some have delivered significant lectures. One example is Dr. W. Y. Evans-Wentz, whose lecture (about 1921) was published by the Maha Bodhi Society in Colombo.

Other resources


  1. C. W. Leadbeater, "C Jinarajadasa" The American Theosophist 31.3 (March 1943): 54.
  2. C. Jinarajadasa, "Autobiographical Sketch" The American Theosophist 31.3 (March, 1943), 49.
  3. Telephone interview of Sumith Matugama by Janet Kerschner on March 12, 2012. Mr. Matugama, a member of the Milwaukee Lodge of TSA, related stories of his family.
  4. Various archival documents from the Kunz Family Collection. Records Series 25.01. Theosophical Society in America Archives.
  5. Kunz Family Collection.
  6. Wimalawansa, Sunil J. "Water Pollution-Associated Ill Health: Special Emphasis on Chronic Kidney Disease in Sri Lanka." Olcott Oration 2013. Downloaded from ResearchGate.