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Ven. Aggamaha panditha Madihe Pagnaseeha Mahanayaka Thero Memorial Museum - Maharagama
The Beginnings

Year 1878: A third son is born to a family of a distinguished scholar in a village close to Matara in South Sri Lanka. He gets the rare opportunity of associating learned Buddhist monks from his very young days. His keen interest in the religion sees him getting ordained when he was 17. He is given the name Pelene Siri Vajiranana - Pelena being the place of his birth. (It is customary for Buddhist monks to be identified by the name of the place of birth along with the name given to him by the tutor monk).

Year 1897: The young monk gets admitted to Vidyodaya Pirivena, the pioneer institute of Buddhist learning at Maligakanda in the capital city of Colombo founded in 1873. He is awarded the prize for the Best Student in 1900 when he completed the ten year course in just three years. His student days are spent at two temples in the vicinity of the capital city - at Dehiwala and Wellawatta.

Year 1901: The monk is invited to occupy a newly built temple in Bambalapitiya, the village adjoining Wellawatta where he was residing. It had originated as a preaching hall where sermons were held by a Buddhist society called 'Dharma Samagama' established in the 1880's by the Buddhists of Bambalapitya during the Buddhist revival.

The monk accepts the invitation and is brought in procession to the 'bana saalawa' as the preaching hall was identified. He occupies the single room in the premises. A few of his students are given shelter in cubicles separated by robes worn by them.

'Vajiraramaya' is thus born, named after the resident monk, Venerable Pelene Siri Vajiranana who had obtained higher ordination '(upasampada') the previous year (1900). The road is named Vajira Road.

The donation of a block of land by Muhandiram (a title conferred by the then British colonial administration on personalities who were leaders in the community) P J Kulatilleka in 1909 with two rooms and a library provide a little more space for the monks to reside and do their studies under the chief monk.

The story of Vajiraramaya is synonymous with Venerable Pelene Vajirgnana - how he transformed a preaching hall to a world renowned Buddhist institution, how he built up a community of monks who became Buddhist missionaries spreading the teachings of the Buddha worldwide, how he nurtured the Buddhists to be a pious, devoted and committed part of society, how he he guided the younger generation to be useful citizens, and how he moulded the society to follow virtuous lives through his writings and sermons.

There are three main Orders (Nikaya) of the Sangha in Sri Lanka. They are Siyamopali Maha Nikaya, Sri Lanka Amarapura Nikaya and Sri Lanka Ramanna Maha Nikaya. There are sub-orders under these main orders.

Having got ordained under a monk in the Amarapura Nikaya, Venerable Pelene Vajiranana Thera belonged to that Nikaya. Amarapura Nikaya has 23 sub-orders and the venerable monk belonged to the Amarapura Sri Dharmarakshita Nikaya. Taking his erudition and seniority into account, Pelene Thera was made the patron of his sub-order and the following year he was appointed Maha Nayaka Thera (Chief Prelate).

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