Vidyananda’s Contribution to Vanni’s Education

by V P Lingajothy for Vidyanada College old students magazine, London, March 13, 2013

I can clearly see a bright future for Vidyananda. The College Anthem refers to Vidyananda as: “Vanni Ninruyar Tharagai” which translates as: The Ascending Star in the Firmament of Vanni. We who take pride in our Adangapattu Heritage, in order to revive our ancient glory that is Vanni, must strengthen and enhance the status of Vidyananda College as the foremost Educational Institution in Vanni.

File:Vidyananda College logo.gifBeginning of the school.

Professor C. Suntharalingam was elected the Member of Parliament for Vavuniya (Vanni) electorate in 1947, and it was his election pledge to the local inhabitants of Thaniyootu /Kanukkeni, Muliyawallai who were instrumental in electing him to power that he would address the educational needs of the local people once elected.

In keeping with his Election pledge Professor C Suntharalingam started to work on the college project.  Firstly he wanted to select the right place where they can build the biggest college in Vanni.

An interesting personal message from Prof. C. Suntharalingam can be found in the Vidyananda “Silver Jubilee” magazine in 1976 in which he states that when he started to look for a convenient site to build he turned to his good friend Mr Masilamani {incidentally Mr Masilamani is a relative of this writer and a person who originally hailed from Kanukkeni village, maybe as a mark of respect for his local knowledge and acknowledging the Kanukkeni/Thaniyootu inhabitants contribution to his electoral success, Prof. C. Suntharalingam must have chosen him for this task} and it was with Masilamani that he went looking for a suitable place in Thaniyootu area and it was he who selected the land where Vidyananda College is currently standing.

The Crown Deed shows that the area where Vidyananda is currently standing is clearly within the Thaniyootu village boundary, as the Thaniyootu – Muliyawallai boundary according to the Village Boundary map published in 1801 by A Smith was at Sankoothy Aladi near the modern Muliyawallai dispensary, and not by the current Muliyawallai post office as it is now.  This has now become a contentious matter and it appears to be shrouded in some secrecy as to how this boundary was shifted from Sankoothy Aladi to Muliyawallai post office vicinity.


The front view of Vidyananda College at Mu’l’liyava’lai, photo courtesy TamilNet October, 2008

Since the purpose of this article is not to delve into the boundary issue of Thaniyootu / Muliyawallai, I now move onto the early days of the school, it was completed in 1951 and was named at the beginning as Thaniyootu English Junior School. However, later on, at the apparent insistence of the people in the local village council {Muliyawallai} it was re-named Muliyawallai Junior School.

I have in the link below reproduced the original page 200 of the book “Vanniyin Kathai” (Story of the Vanni) by Mr. Mullaimani V. Subramaniam which lends support at least to the contention that Vidyananda College was originally named Thaniyootu English Junior School.

 Vidyananda College 

The Naming of the School

The school was called Thaniyootu English Junior School, to begin with, as it stood in the village of Thaniyootu, however, perhaps due to the controversy about the boundaries of the villages of Thaniyootu and Mulliyawallai, or because they wanted to choose an appropriate name it was subsequently renamed Vidyananda College.

On this subject I am assisted by Mrs. Balarani Shanmugarajah. BA, Dip Education, SLEAS., a retired former lecturer of teachers college (Kopai Jaffna) who was born in Kuala Lampur; Malaysia .  Her father, Mr. Vettivelu Annamalai, a native of Thaniyootu/Kannukerny had the distinction of travelling to British Malacca (today’s Malaysia and Singapore) in the first decade of the 20th Century.  He returned to Ceylon in 1922 and married a teacher from an Illustrious Christian family in Thaniyootu and was baptised into the Christian faith.

However, being a Hindu by Birth and a follower of Swami Ramakrishna, he named his children and grand nephews ending in Ananda or Anandan, e.g. Balakrishnan Vivekanandan, Vijayanandan and Vimalananthan (the current Grama Sevaka from Kannukerny).  He finally retired from the British Malaysian Colonial Railway in which he served and returned to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and became the village Head Man of Thaniyootu as I am told by another retired Village Head Man from Thaniyootu: Mr. Rasiah Selladurai, at the time of King George VI’s coronation.  I checked the records and find that this was in 1936/7.  Mr. Anamalai not only served as a Village Head Man from 1937 but also was elected as Village Council Chairman Muliyawallai subsequently.  I am unable to give the dates of his Tenure as Village Chairman here.

It is Mr. Vettivelu Anamalai who was the then Village Head Man of this area and a close friend of Prof. C. Suntharalingam, who first coined the name Vidyananda: Vidya = Education in Sanskrit, and in keeping with his belief in Vivekananda (Ramakrishna’s disciple) he used the suffix Ananda (n) and thereby the name Vidyananda was born.  Prof C Suntharalingam then helped to rename the institution, appropriately, as Vidyananda College.

*   Mr. Vettivelu Anamalai and the writer’s mother are cousins as their fathers are own brothers.

*        Writers Note: Village Names       Kanukkerny = Kanukkeni

Thaniyootu = Tanniyuttu

The Early Days

The First Principal of this College was Mr. Gnanapragasam, who originally hailed from Batticoloa in the East.

The First Vice-Principal was Mr. K Thiyagarajah (Inter-Science Lon.) who was a son of the soil and his family originally hails from Kanukkeni in Vanni.  Because of these Illustrious men Vidyananda had the privilege of educating its Students through the English Medium at least up to the GCE ‘O’ Level and with Mr. Thiyagarajah’s contribution, Science Subjects (such as Chemistry, Physics and Biology) were taught in English.

The School was nicknamed by the village folk as “English Pallikudam” (English School).  Mr. Gnanapragasam passed away while he was still Prinicipal and was buried on the School Campus, signifying his devotion and love for his adopted village as opposed to the village where he was born.  Unfortunately, Mr. Thiyagarajah also died whilst he was still serving as {Vice-Principal} at school in 1960.  His younger brother, Mr. K. Sivakolunthu also served the College by being a teacher in charge for discipline during the early days.  He also gained a reputation as a clever strategist and a good disciplinarian among the students & the locals (Mr. K. Thyagarajah and Mr. K. Sivakolunthu are this writer’s own maternal uncles, being the elder brothers of his mother, Mrs. T. Paramalingam).

Vidyananda’s popularity grew far and wide and it attracted students from all over Vanni who came to study there.  Vidyananda had boarding facilities which catered for the needs of the students from as far afield as Nedunkkerny area, Thennamaravady and Kumulamunai etc. 

V. Ponnampalam Era

As far as I can recall and remember, from what others also have told me, during V. Ponnampalam’s Stewardship Vidyananda achieved many heights in Education and Sporting activities.  I am told that “VP” as he was popularly known among the locals, although he was from Jaffna, showed a tremendous empathy with the people he had come to serve.  I am told by students of Vidyananda who studied during the Stewardship of VP that he would personally visit students at their homes and talk to their parents to let them continue the education beyond GCE ‘O’ Level.  The parents of the students those days were constrained by many hardships to educate their children beyond GCE ‘O’ Level but VP made sure that that barrier was broken and promising students (both male and female) were made to continue their education to GCE ‘A’  Level and then on to University.  In 1962 GCE ‘A’ Level Arts were brought in to the Curriculum and in 1964 for the first time a student entered the University to the Arts Faculty.

Unfortunately V Ponnampalam’s stay at Vidyananda came to an abrupt end due to some local political / personal conflict with some prominent locals.  It is worth noting that Mr. V Ponnampalam was a consummate politician who was a member of the Communist party (Russia Wing).  I am certain that people still remember with nostalgia the days of V Ponnampalam at Vidyananda College. 

Some Student pioneers 

Although Science GCE ‘A’ Level started at Vidyananda College only in 1975, a few students from privileged family backgrounds or who had the means to have their continuous education in Jaffna managed to successfully complete their GCE ‘O’ Level at Vidyananda and went on to Jaffna in the late 50’s / early 60’s to do their GCE ‘A’ Level in Science Subjects.  Two of those students, namely N. Kailainathan (this writer’s first cousin) & V. Balasingam deserve special mention here. N. Kailainathan went on to Jaffna Hindu College and by obtaining excellent grades at A-Level entered Peradeniya (Kandy) University and obtained a Bachelors in Engineering with Honours (BEng Hons).  Mr. Kailainathan then obtained a post graduate qualification from Tronheim University in Norway and served as an Engineer in West and Southern Africa before settling in Australia.  In Australia he distinguished himself as a Parliamentary Candidate contesting the Bradley Constituency (New South Wales) as an official candidate of the Australian Labour Party obtaining nearly 20,000 votes achieving a positive swing than the previous candidate from the labour party in that constituency.

Mr. V. Balasingam went to Jaffna (I am unable to say which college) and successfully entered the Science Faculty also at Peradeniya University and obtained a Bachelors Honours Degree in Science (BSc. Hons).

I also must mention a third person here, Dr. Suntharalingam (this writer’s second cousin), whom I am not certain had his preparatory or  secondary education at Vidyananda, but from Thaniyootu he went to Jaffna and did his GCE ‘A’ Level also in the early 60’s like the two other gentlemen the details of whom I have mentioned above and gained entry to the Medical Faculty of Peradeniya and obtained the MBBS Degree and became the first Student to become a Doctor from Thaniyootu / Kanukeny / Mulliyavallai area to have at least received part of their education locally to the best of my knowledge.  Dr. Suntharalingam now lives in the United Kingdom where he has been an anaesthetist.

Two students successfully obtained entrance to Medical Faculty in 1977 from Vidyananda College and two other Students successfully obtained entrance to the Engineering Faculty from Vidyananda College that year. 

Vidyananda’s Growth following the Introduction of Science GCE ’A’ Level 

Taking full advantage of the Government’s policy of giving students from rural areas equal opportunities the Vanni Students (primarily from the Vidyananda catchment area) excelled in studies.  The political strife in Sri Lanka also brought many displaced Tamil students from other areas to study at Vidyananda College.  This confluence of students and teachers from Jaffna onto Vanni gave the much needed educational resources to the Vanni educational establishment.  Quite apart from this I must make mention of some leading teachers from the local area who have enormously contributed to the growth of Vidyananda’s Stature as an educational Institution par excellence in Vanni.  Mr. A. K. Mahalingam (BSc) comes to mind, he was a Science teacher from Thaniyootu (also a son of the soil).  He tirelessly taught students in the GCE ‘O’ Level and GCE ‘A’ Level Science classes preparing them for University entrance, he has been a Vice-Principal, Acting Principal and also Principal of Vidyananda College.

Mr. V. Balasingam also a son of the soil (coming from Muliyawallai), returned to Vidyananda after being a pedagogue in other districts and focussed on teaching students primarily Chemistry at Advanced Level.

He earned a reputation as a good Chemistry teacher and later became Principal of Vidyananda College (I believe in the 1990’s).

Mr. V. Kathiravelu (BSc) (this writer’s uncle, father’s own younger brother), also a son of the soil from Thaniyootu having been a pedagogue in other districts (including Jaffna) joined Vidyananda College as a Science teacher, teaching Biology at GCE ‘O’ Level and Botany at GCE ‘A’ Level.  He was later made Vice Principal of Vidyananda College.  Sons of soil such as Mr. Thirungnanam, (Mulaitivu) & Mr. Kanagayan BA.(Lon) from Kanukkeny (East) , Mr. Sivanantham MA (I am not certain about his place of origin) and Mr. Thangarajah from Jaffna were other gentlemen who contributed greatly as Principals of Vidyananda College.  Last but by no means least the current Principal of Vidyananda College: Mr. Sivalingam (BSc.) is also a son of the soil from Thaniyootu.  I recently met him (during my visit to Vidyananda in November 2012).

I have seen the enormous strides Vidyananda has taken in education over the last three decades (I am not old enough to comment about the first two decades of Vidyananda’s existence, any reference I have made to this period are based only on other sources of information and hearsay).  Vidyananda I am sure will continue to grow and achieve greater heights in the field of Education, not only in Vanni / Northern Sri Lanka, but also in the country as a whole.

One of the strong features this Institution has is its Illustrious Alumni all over the world.  Furthermore, there are other connections that this Institution can call on to draw sustenance from, locals who are not Alumni of Vidyanada but who are in the educational field can give the expertise, knowledge and their own connections in the promotion of Vidyananda’s well being.  One such person is Rev. N. J. Gnanaponrajah, a distant relative of mine who is the current Principal of St. John’s College Jaffna who is also a son of the soil from Thaniyootu (although not educated at Vidyananda) is keen and willing to assist in the betterment of Vidyananda College.  This writer was only a sourjourner at Vidyanada but being an Old-Johnian and son of the soil from Thaniyootu / Kanukenny is another who has Vidyananda’s best interests at heart.

My Older brother, Dr. P. Lingathas, who is a Consultant Surgeon in Australia is similarly an Old Johnian but who may have better connections to Vidyananda.  I am sure Dr. Lingathas and many of his associates from Vidyananda would gladly contribute to the propagation of the good name of Vidyananda College overseas.

When I last met Rev. Gnanaponrajah in London only a few months ago, and related my story of visiting Vidyananda and meeting its current Principal he said that Mr. Sivalingam is his childhood friend and neighbour from Thaniyootu and he talked about assisting the students in Vanni and Vidyananda and enhancing their English Education.  This writer also only too willing to assist in this endeavour.

Future of Vidyananda 

I can clearly see a bright future for Vidyananda.  The College Anthem refers to Vidyananda as: “Vanni Ninruyar Tharagai” which translates as: The Ascending Star in the Firmament of Vanni.  We who take pride in our Adangapattu Heritage, in order to revive our ancient glory that is Vanni, must strengthen and enhance the status of Vidyananda College as the foremost Educational Institution in Vanni.

Vidyananda and Vidyanandians have shown resilience in the face of Adversity during the war years (Sinhala -v- Tamil War).  Much remains to be done not only in the sphere of Education but also in other areas such as Nation Building, i.e. rebuilding the fragmented, enslaved Tamil Nation of Eelam in Ceylon.  In that respect this territory has a spiritual significance for Tamils all over the world; this is where the final decisive battle between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan Armed forces occurred in May 2009.  This soil has now assumed sanctity that has no parallel in Tamil history and every one of us from this area must document our memories of this area by writing of our own experiences for the benefit of future generations to come.  I see a parallel between the Vanni people’s development and that of Vidyanada College.

I wish Vidyanada College every success in the years to come. 

Mr. V P Lingajothy

LLB (Hons). MSc. Criminal Justice ACILEX

Human Rights Lawyer

Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine




Comments are disabled on this page.