Professor Piyadasa Ranasinghe

His life is a composition of both academic and human qualities 

Piyadasa Ranasinghe who served as a Senior Professor in the Department of Library and Information Science, University of Kelaniya passed away on August 4, 2016. This small comment is given in appreciation and commemoration of his enormous academic and social contribution to society. The demise of this erudite gentleman is a great loss to the country especially for the Library and Information Science community in Sri Lanka. His contribution to society can be illustrated in many ways.

This gentle human being who was born on October 10, 1949 lived in Puttalam, Tabbowa, where he grew up and had his primary education. He was nurtured in an eco-friendly surroundings. He was a man who was one with nature. He has told us he gives particular names on his own for the plants, trees, and animals visible in the suburban jungles. He has expressed to us that he learned a lot from such plants, trees and the animals by staying a couple of minutes whenever he used to visit the nearby jungle.

Piyadasa Ranasinghe also told us that he used to talk to trees and animals sitting beside them. He expressed that we can learn a lot by spending a bit of time in a jungle by sightseeing, contemplating the whereabouts and it is one special type of education according to him. He is a novel opinion maker.

He once said before a welcome ceremony of first year students that you all are my teachers though I am a Professor. He explained that he learned a lot from students by way of preparing notes and getting ready for lectures, visualizing the way of talking, the behaviour of students and so on.

Therefore, his students are teachers for him in this context. One other opinion is that we do not have a direct verb in our vernacular language for the word “Read”. In Sinhala, “Read” connotes “Kiyawanawa” which is passive means one does not do directly but perform indirectly “Kiyawanawa” by the other person. In English the verb “Read” means “Read” which is an active verb that directly does the reading not done by the other person.

According to Prof. Piyadasa Ranasinghe, the philosophy of this Sinhala connotation is that our Sinhala community tended to be the listeners from our ancestors and it has existed from generation to generation making a long-standing oral tradition to which our community acceded more of listening not questioning or criticizing constructively. His opinion is well visible in classrooms, mass gatherings in big political rallies up to COVID-19 pandemic period. This particular behaviour must have supported Professor Ranasinghe to have a balanced education and growth at his later lifespan.

He received his primary education in Tabbowa Tambapanni Vidyalaya in 1953 and secondary education from Delgoda Kalyana Pradeepa Pirivena in 1965. In 1967 he entered the Vidyalankara University presently called the University of Kelaniya and earned a BA Honors Degree offering Sinhala as a subject and with a Second Class Upper Division and secured a Masters Degree in Library and Information Science at University of New South Wales, Australia in 1994.

He began his academic career when he joined as a Temporary Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Sinhala, University of Kelaniya in 1971. Later he served as an Assistant Editor at the office of Sinhala Dictionary where associated with very learned people like Prof. D.E. Hettiarachchi. In 1979, he joined the University of Sri Jayewardenepura as an Assistant Librarian and in 1990 assumed duties as a Senior Assistant Librarian at University of Kelaniya. He was appointed as the first Librarian, Rajarata University of Sri Lanka in 1996. In 1998, he became the Head of Department of Library and Information Science, University of Kelaniya and was later promoted as the Professor and Senior Professor in 2007 and in 2013 respectively. Between 2006 to 2008, Prof. Ranasinghe worked as the Director of Gampaha Wickramarachchi Ayurveda Institute, attached to University of Kelaniya. Now this Institute has been elevated to a separate University called Gampaha Wickramarachchi University of Indigenous Medicine.

His subject specialties are not only limited to Library and Information Science but many other facets like Sinhala Literature, Pali, Sanskrit, English, Buddhism, Manuscript studies, Indigenous knowledge, Intangible Cultural heritage and folklore. To his credit, he also initiated work of the Palm Leaf Manuscript Study and Research Library at the University of Kelaniya in 2010. His life is a composition of both academic and human qualities. This small account is issued in memory of the fifth death anniversary of this genuine scholar.

- Prof. W.A. Weerasooriya

Department of Library and

Information Science,

University of Kelaniya


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