After a few preceding debates such as Baddegama Debate (1865), Udanwita Debate (1866), Gampola Debate (1871), etc., the well-known Great Debate of Panadura took place 148 years ago, from 26th to 28th of August 1873, which was a very important milestone in the annals of Buddhist education in the island.
This debate gained wide publicity in the West, due to the great commitment and extraordinary oratory skills of Ven. Mohottiwatte (Migettuwatte) Gunananda. The news reached Colonel Henry Steel Olcott in the USA. Impressed with the content of the debate, along with Olcott, several others such as C W Leadbeater, Helena Blavatsky et al arrived in Sri Lanka in 1880, and converted to Buddhism at the Wijayananda Viharaya in Galle.
Olcott then, with his close associates, tirelessly worked hard to establish hundreds of English medium Buddhist Schools, through the Theosophical Society, for the Sinhalese elite. To name a few – Ananda College Colombo (1986), Dharmaraja College, Kandy (1887), Maliyadeva College, Kurunegala (1888), Mahinda College, Galle (1892) etc.
The year 2023 will mark 150 years from the date that the Pānadurā Wādaya was held, and it fully deserves appropriate attention and remembrance.
Prof ANANJDA JAYASINGHE
University of Peradeniya