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Ven. Aggamaha panditha Madihe Pagnaseeha Mahanayaka Thero Memorial Museum - Maharagama
2012-Feb-19 - Siri Vajiraramaya library gets a new look

The library at Siri Vajiraramaya, Bambalapitiya has been completely refurbished. A newly constructed reading room using funds from the Deshamanya N U Jayawardena Trust was opened on 5 October 2011 to mark 2600th Sambuddhatva Jayanthi. It has been designed as an extension to the main library with office space for a librarian, a reference section and a reading room.

After the declaration of the Siri Vajiraramaya Scared Area, it was decided to rebuild and restore the Siri Vajirarama Library to take its rightful place among the Buddhist libraries in Sri Lanka for use by local and foreign members of the Maha Sangha and lay researchers, says the Vajiramadhiptahi, Venerable Tiricunamale Ananda Anu Nayaka Thera.

The Library and Information Science Department of the University of Kelaniya formulated a proposal for computerizing the library. All the books have been categorized into three groups as rare, scheduled reference and permanent reference. Computerization was started based on this grouping. A library science graduate has been recruited as the librarian.

Meanwhile, restoration work of some of the very ancient and valuable books which were in a dilapidated condition was begun under the guidance of the Department of National Archives.
At least 210 ola leaf books that were stacked in two cupboards have been cleaned with the assistance of Dr. Saroja Wettasinghe, Archivist and her staff. Steps have been taken to keep the floors clean and tidy and prevent them being attacked by white ants.

The history of the Siri Vajirarama library dates back to 1924 when the exiting library building at Vajira Road was opened. On the invitation of the founder of Vajiramaya,  Venerable Pelene Vajiranana Maha Nayaka Thera, Cecil Clement, Colonial Secretary of Ceylon opened the building which was donated by G.J. de Silva and James Peiris with 200 books and two rooms for two resident monks. Being himself a great scholar, Pelene Mahanayaka Thera encouraged his pupil monks to follow his path. Most of his pupil monks became well known both nationally and internationally. Among them were venerable theras Metteyya, Narada, Madihe Pannasiha, Mahanama, Piyadassi, Kassapa, Denipitiye Sumanasiri, Ampitiye Rahula, Soma and Kheminda. They were prolific users of this library. Prof. Gunapala Malalasekara, Sir D.B. Jayatilake and W.A. Silva were among the first generation of Vajirarama library users.

Gradually it developed to be one of the best oriental libraries in Sri Lanka with a large collection of Pali, Sanskrit, Burmese, Sinhala and English books on Buddhism as well as other related subjects. At present, the library has 7000 books and 210 Ola books, some of which are very rare.

Due to years of neglect, the library went to rack and ruin until the new Viharadhapathi, Venerable Tiricunamale Ananda Anu Nayaka Thera realized its value and the need to restore it. On his initiative and under his guidance, the Vajirarama Karyasadhaka Society planned the restoration work in earnest and over the past two years worked on the project. The advice of Dr. K.D.G. Wimalaratne, former Archivist of the Department of National Archives and one of the users of the library in the 1950’s, was sought in the first instance to identify how to set about the task.

The Society gratefully acknowledges the inputs by the project team comprising Prof. Piyadasa Ranasinghe, Dr. W.A. Weerasuriya and Ms Priyanwada Wanigasooriya from the Faculty of Library and Information Science, University of Kelaniya who visited Vajirarama and drew up a comprehensive action plan. The Society is also thankful for the initiative of Mr Milinda Moragoda for his valuable assistance in getting funds from DeshamanyaN U Jayawardena Trust to do up the reading room which has been named after Deshamanya Jayawardena.
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