Dr. Senerat Paranavitana (1896-1972), Sri Lanka
Senerat Paranvitana, was trained in epigraphy under the guidance of K.V. Subrahmanya Ayyar at the Office of the Government Epigraphist of India, Ootacamund, South India, in the years 1923-1926. In 1936, he obtained the doctorate of Philosophy from the University of Leyden, the Netherlands, on the first four chapters of his monograph on The Stupa in Ceylon. His supervisor for this thesis was J. Ph. Vogel, a leading authority on Indian archaeology.
In 1940, Senerat Paranavitana became the first Ceylonese Archeological Commissioner. He held this post for sixteen years. In 1958, he became the Professor of Archeology in the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya, the first chair of its kind to be established in Sri Lanka.
A self-taught prodigy in the field of archaeology, Senerat Paranavitana combined his talent with other aspects of culture such as history and linguistics, in which he excelled equally. Possessing indigenous vision and intuition, he comprehended with exactitude the nature and design of edifices concerned and conserved then accordingly. Such monuments as the Kantaka Cetiya at Mihintale, the Vatadage at Madirigiya and the rock-citadel at Sigirya are among the main contributions of Paranavitana to the archeology of Sri Lanka. Since his first edition of an inscription in 1926, he made innumerable contributions to foreign and local journals which dealt not only with epigraphy, but also with various other branches such as history, art, religion, languages and literature.
His untiring work on aspects of Ceylonese culture brought him many distinctions. Senerat Paranavitana was awarded the Silver Medal by the Royal Society of Arts, London in 1950 and the Gold Medal by the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society in 1955. He was the honored possessor of three D. Litt.s from the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya at Kandy, the Vidyodaya University of Ceylon at Colombo and the Vidyalankara University of Ceylon, Kelaniya. The British government honored him by making him an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (1951) and Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (1952). Senerat Paranvitana, held the post of President, Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society for three consecutive years (1957, 1958 and 1959). He served as Editor of Epigraphia Zeylancia (from 1929), Member of the Editorial Board of the Annual Bibliography of the Kern Institute, Leyden (from 1935), Corresponding Member of I’Ecole Francaise d’Extreme-Orient, Member of the Consultative Committee of Artibus Asiae, Associate Editor of the Ceylon Journal of Science (Section G) (from 1933), Editor of the University History of Ceylon, vol 1 pt. 1 (1959) and vol. 1 pt. 2 (1960) and joint Editor of A Concise History of Ceylon (1961).
Senerat Paranvitana,’s magnum opus is his work on the Sigiri Graffiti (graffiti on the mirror wall of Lion Rock Citadel Sigiriya), published in two monumental volumes by the Oxford University Press in 1956. Among his other publications are The Shrine of Upulvan at Devundara (1953), The God of Adam’s Peak (1958), Ceylon and Malaysia (1961), Inscriptions of Ceylon –Vol 1 (1970), The Greeks and the Mauryas (1961) and Arts of Ancient Sinhalese (1971). Vol 2 of the Inscriptions of Ceylon and The Story of Sigiri were published posthumously.
Above extract from the book Sinhalayo is published herein by courtesy of Ratna Paranavitana
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