The Life and Work of Dharmapala

Few national Leaders of Ceylon had left behind such a wealth of autobiographical information as Anagarika Dharmapala. A well-prepared chronology of his life was published in the Mahabodhi Journal Vol. XXXV (January, 1927) and it is reproduced here with additions to bring it up to the time of his death :

January 1886

Left Government Service to work in the interest and welfare of the Buddhist Theosophical Society wherein he was engaged as General Secretary of the Buddhist Section, Manager of the Sandaresa (newspaper) and the Buddhist Press, Manager of Buddhist Schools and Assistant Secretary of the Buddhist Defence Committee from March 1886 to December 1890.

2nd January, 1891

Visited Isipatana now called Sarnath, Benares and Buddhagaya. Seeing the deserted condition of the Holy Temple at Buddhagaya, he made avow before the Bodhi Tree that he would surrender his life of rescue the Holy Place from neglect.

March, 1891

Left Buddhagaya for Rangoon via Calcutta. At the latter place he was welcomed by the late Babu Neel Comul Mookerjee, who showed hospitality.

March, 1891

Arrived in Rangoon and had no place to stay and passed the night in the room occupied by a Sinhalese goldsmith. Suddenly met a Burmese who took him to the garden house of his sister where the Anagarika stayed for two weeks expecting to meet the late moung Hpo Mhyin. Met him and he welcomed him in whose house the Anagarika stayed for month, and started for Colombo.

May, 1891

Started the Maha Bodhi Society on the 31st of that month under the name of Buddhagaya Maha Bodhi Society, which for brevity’s sake became known as the Maha Bodhi Society. 

July, 1891

Got four Ramanna Nikaya Bhikkus to go to Buddhagaya. He escorted the to Cacutta by steamer Rosetta and thence Gaya by train. Three of the four Bhikhus were Chandajoti, Sudassana and Sumangala.

October, 1891

Gave his first English lecture ar the Calcutta Albert Hall on the kinship between Buddhism and Hinduism. Stayed in the house of the late Babu Neel Comul Mookerjee who became his Dayaka for the next twenty years. Secured the friendship of Mr. Noredronath Sen, Editor, Indian Mirror. Until his death he remained a friend of the Biddhists.

January, 1892

Established the Maha Bodhi Journal. A demy quarto size journal of 8 pp. It was welcomed by many, and led to the invitation to attend the Chicago Parliament of Religions.

October, 1892

Visited Akyab with Col. Olcott and the formation of the Akyab Maha Bodhi Society. Arakan Buddhists were the first to give help to the work of the Maha Bodhi Society whose aid gave the Society a hired  house in Calcutta, 2 Greek Row, where the work was carried on until May, 1904, and then closed for a time.

June, 1893

Visited Rangoon.

July, 1893

Left India for London and America via Sri Lanka to attend the Congress of Religions.

August, 1893

Arrived in London, was the guest of Sir Edwin Arnold and Mrs. Besant. Accompanied her to New York.

September, 1893

 Delivered Address at the Parliament of Religions on behalf of southern Buddhism. Met with a cordial reception. 

17th October, 1893

Met Mrs. Mary Foster on board the S. S. Oceanic in the harbor at Honolulu.

November, 1893

Arrived in Japan and was received by Secretary of the Ido Busseki Kosukai. Received beautiful Japanese Image from the congregation of the Tentokuji Temple, Shiba, Tokyo headed by the late Revd. Asahi. 

January, 1894

Visited Shanghai. Delivered lecture at the Temple which was translated by Revs. Edkins and Dr. Franke.

February, 1894

Visited Bangkok and was the guest of Prince Rajsaki and a branch of the Maha Bodhi Society was formed with help of Prince Vivit and other Princes.

April, 1894

Arrived at Colombo and received promises of help from wealthy Buddhists for the purchase of the Maha Bodhi village.

September, 1894

Started the Buddhagaya Fund and received generous help from Buddhists.

December, 1894

The first organized pilgrimage by Ceylon Buddhists to Buddhagaya and other places. The ladies of the party wore the Sari for the first time. At Madras they wanton shore and visited Col. Olcott at Adyar.

February, 1895

The Japanese Buddha Image was placed in the shrine at Buddhagaya, but the Mahant’s servants had it forcibly removed and thrown out into the open.

February, 1895

Instituted case against the Mahant’s men for disturbance of worship. The case was widely known as the great Buddhagaya Case. The Burmese rest-house was placed at the disposal of the Maha Bodhi Society and the Japanese Image was places therein where it remained until 1910 when it was removed to Calcutta in accordance with  the order of the High Court of Calcutta, and the Burmese resthouse became the property of the Mahant. The government helped the Mahant to secure the resthouse, which ever since has remained in the hand of the Mahant, who has closed it for the Buddhists.

May, 1986

First Vaisakha Celebration held in Calcutta.

July, 1896

second visit to America to preach Buddhism.

October, 1901

Visit of the Lt. Governor Woodburn to Buddhagaya when representations were made by the Maha Bodhi Society to have a Dharmasala (Pilgrims’ Rest) built. The Lt. Governor sanctioned the acquisition of land the money for which was provided by the Maha Bodhi Society of Mandalay and Colombo. But for the accommodation provided for the Buddhist pilgrims in this resthouse today there would be no place for the Buddhists to rest at Buddhagaya. The Temple remains under the dual control of the Government and Mahant. What is needed is the presence of Bhikkhus at Buddhagaya. There is freedom of worship in the Temple. The Bhikkus can stay at the resthouse which is known as the Maha Bodhi Dharmasala.

January, 1895

  Purchased land at Isipatana (Sarnath) Benares. 

April, 1902

Third visit to Japan.

October, 1902

Third visit to America. Landed in San Francisco.


Tour all over United States visiting Industrial School.

January, 1904

Started Industrial School Fund at San Francisco, Mrs. Mary Foster contributing Rs. 10,000.

January, 1904

Arrived in London. Visited the Industrial Schools in London. Liverpool, Holland, Denmark and Italy.

April, 1904

Arrived in Colombo.

July, 1904

     Started Industrial School in Sarnath, Benares.

October, 1904

Left Benares for Colombo. On the way went to Adyar to see Col. Olcott. With whom he had an altercation because Col. Olcott insulted the feelings of the Buddhists by showing disrespect to the Tooth Relic, a copy of which he had placed under a shelf. Col. Olcott showed bad temper and broke off friendship with him after a period of twenty years. The Anagarika was initiated by him in January 1884 into the Theosophical Society.

March, 1906

Began campaign against the Theosophical Society as the local Theosophical Society’s being under Buddhist it was suggested that there should be harmony with Theosophy and Buddhism, and wanted the name Theosophy to be eliminated. Certain members wished to retain the name, and the campaign was therefore started. 

May, 1906

   Established the Sinhala Bauddhaya and Maha Bodhi Press.

October, 1906

Started the Hiniduma school


Erection of school building at Rajagiriya on the land purchased from the donation received from Mrs. Mary Foster of Honolulu.

May, 1907

Burmese Resthouse Case instituted by the Hindu Mahant at Buddhagaya for the removal of the Japanese Image from the Burmese Resthouse. The case was dragged for a long the Mahant on the report of the Government Custodian, and the Buddhists had to remove the Image and also the resident Bhikkhu. who was living there since 1896. in February 1910.

July, 1908

House in Calcutta, Baniapooker Lane, purchased from donation received from Mrs. Foster of Honolulu. 


   Started National Revival and toured all over Sri Lanka.


Left for Japan and Honolulu. Met Mrs. Foster at Honolulu in June 1913 and from her received a splendid donation to establish a Free Hospital.


Dedicated the house and ground at Darley Lane which was given to him by his father for the use of the Buddhists under the name of Mallika Santhagara.


Opening of the Foster Robinson Free Hospital.


Removed the Maha Bodhi College to the Mallika Santhagara.

May, 1915

Sri Lanka Riots. Many Buddhists shot and he was interned in Calcutta from June 1915 to 1920.

July, 1915

Purchased property in 4, College Square to build a Vihara.

July, 1916

Received communication from the Government of India and they are prepared to present a Relic of the Lord Buddha to the Maha Bodhi Society if the latter would build a Vihara in Calcutta.

July, 1918

Work started at College Square No. 4, to erect a Vihara.

November, 1920

The Vihara Complete and it was ceremoniously opened by the Governor of Bengal, Lord Ronaldshay. A grand procession started from the Government House bringing the Relic to the Vihara.

November, 1922

Laying of the foundation stone to build a vihara by the Governor of the United Provinces, Sir Harcourt Butler, at Sarnath Benares.

July, 1922

Restarted the “Sinhala Bauddhaya” (newspaper) which was suspended by order of Sri Lanka Government in 1915 during the Riot period.

July, 1923

  Founding of the Mary Foster Permanent Fund with a capital of 150,000 dollars.

September, 1925

Started for America on a visit to Mrs. Mary Foster who was then staying in San Francisco. Met her and was cordially received, and she promised to give a monthly donation of 61 pounds sterling for the London Buddhist Mission.

December, 1925

Lecture at the Town Hall, New York, organized by Mr. Kira, a Sinhalese Buddhist.

January, 1926

Arrived in London to establish the British Buddhist Mission.

July, 1926

     Permanent headquarters  established at the Foster House, Ealing, London W. 5. The house was purchased from the money from the firm of H. Don Carolis who are the Trustees of his father’s estate and the personal gift from Mrs. Foster. The sum of 2,600 pounds the house and ground.

December, 1926

Arrived in Ceylon to raise a Fund for the British Buddhist Mission.


Re-turned to India and proceeded with the building of Mulagandhakuti Vihara, Sarnath. 


    Completed Mulagandhakuti Vihara.

13th July, 1931

Ordained as a Bhikku with the name Sri Devamitta Dharmapala.

16th January, 1933

Received Higher Ordination.

29th April, 1933

Died at Sarnath, Benares. His last word were:

“Let me be reborn on leaving this life in the noble Rose-apple Continent. I would like to be born again twenty-five times to spread Lord Buddha’s Dhamma.”