Venerable Weligama Sumangala Thero (1825-1905)
Venerable Weligama Sumangala Thero was born in the year 1825 at Weligama to wealthy parents and they wanted to see him qualified as a medical doctor when he finish education. But he suffered from a serious health problems from his toddler age and parents had to give up that dream. When he was twelve years old in the year 1837, he was ordained under the tutelage of Ven Bentota Aththadassi Thero the abbot of the Bentota Puranarama Temple, who was renown to be an expert in Pali and Sanskrit languages. Novice Sumangala studied Sanskirt, Pali and Tipitaka from his teacher Ven Aththadassi Thro and completed his studies excelling himself as an expert in Dhamma.
But the most important trait in his character was his earnest desire to serve the mankind. During this era there were great hardships for educating buddhist children as only the converted children were admitted to the schools run by the state. The concerned Buddhists on this grave situation were directed by Ven Sumangala Thero to establish the first School for Buddhist Children in the premises of Rankoth Vihara at Panadura. It was named Sugathodaya Viyalaya. It was the impetus for the revival of buddhist education in the country.
Ven Thero was a prolific writer and books like Hitopadsesa Padarthavykanaya, Upadesa Vinischaya, Siddanta Sekaraya are great scholastic works to his credit.
Ven Weligama Sumangala Thero was an associate or a friend of Sir Edwin Arnold 1832 — 1904 (the world famous book “Light of Asia“) who was working as an Editor in the London Telegraph Newspaper in England. He explained the importance of Buddagaya the place of enlightenment of the blessed one, and invited him to visit Buddhagaya to see for himself the calamity and destruction of this holy place under the Hindu ownership under the control of Hindu Mahant.. Sir Edwin visited and was shocked and saddned to see the most important Buddhist location being vandalised by people of a rival faith. He published several news and articles and published them in London Telegraph in the year 1885. After reading these Anagarika Dharmapala himself made his resolution to free Buddhagaya and once again make it the buddhist shrine, it is. With this determination and with the patronage of Sir Henry Olcott and others Anagarika Dharmapala established “The Mahabody Society” and carried out many exercises to persuade the government of India to resolve this issue. As a result the Indian government took over the ownership of Buddhagaya in 1949.
Ven Weligama Sumangala Thero was accepted as a holy person even by the Ceylonese of other faiths including Catholics and Christians due to his unique coincern for the welfare of all people. He did not discriminate anyone on the basis of religion or race. His was a life free of an iota of blemish and only comparable with an Arhant (Saint)
Weligama Sumangala Thero was elected as the Maha Nayaka (Chief Prelate) of the Amarapura Nikaya in the year 1894.
After serving the people and the country on such great feats Maha Thero closed his eys at the age of 85 on the 13th March 1905.
May Venerable Weligama Sumangala Thero attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana.