Senerath Paranavitana

Senerath Paranavitana was a pioneering archeologist and epigraphist of Sri Lanka. His works dominated the middle-part of the 20th century, when he became the archeological commissioner in 1939, after the time of H. C. P. Bell, and D. M. de Z. Wickremasinghe.

He was born on 26 December 1896 at Metaramba, Galle. He had his early education at the Metaramba Government School and later entered Bona Vista School in Galle. He studied oriental languages at Ranweligoda Pirivena in Heenatigala. He was a school teacher at the Udugampola Government School and joined the Department of Archaeology in 1923. He married in 1930. Senarath Paranavitana received his Ph.D. degree in 1936 from the university of Laiden, Holland. and was appointed Commissioner of Archaeology on 1 October 1940 in which capacity he served diligently till December 1956. The next year (1957) he was appointed Professor of Archeology at the Peradeniya campus of the University of Ceylon.

Even though Paranavithana’s period began with the on set of the Second World War, his erudition and energy resulted in a very fruitful 17 years as the Archaeological Commissioner of Ceylon, when he retired in 1956. Today, Sri Lankan history and prehistory are illuminated by his highly-regarded academic and popular writings. The most well-known “magnum opus” of course was “Sigiri graffiti”, published in two monumental volumes by the Oxford University Press.

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