Most Venerable Bellanwila Sri Somaratana

Born on October 1st, 1905, as the son of Omattage William Perera Appuhamy and Mary Nona Hamine of Bellanwila, he was named Omattage John Perera. He entered the Order on October 20th, 1920 and received higher ordination from the Kotte Chapter in 1927. He was educated at Paramadhamma Cetiya Pirivena, Ratmalana and Vidyodaya Pirivena.

Ven. Somaratana was more a person of ‘action’ than ‘talking’. He was Colombo an exemplary organizer, an innovator, and a leader with vision. Being a visionary he visualized the possibility of developing the dilapidated temple into a major shrine. But he also understood that his devotees , besides being poor were oppressed by constantly recurring bouts of typhoid and diarrhea. The village’s plight was worsened by their cattle been annually subjected to infectious diseases.

Ven. Somaratana decided first to minister to the spiritual and emotional needs of the people. He organized religious programs and rituals to invoke the blessings of the Triple Gem and the protection of the gods. He organized a special procession, a perehera. These activities greatly revived the spirits of the people and consequently their health. The villagers came to believe that this was due to the power of the Bodhi-tree and the gods supposed to be residing in the vicinity. This belief attracted more devotees and the fame of Bellanwila spread throughout the country.

Being endowed with self–confidence and indefatigable courage Ven. Sri Somaratana Nayaka Thera began the staggering task of developing the temple. He himself designed the structural concept of the temple complex taking the image house at Polonnaruwa as the model. The work of restoring the temple he managed accomplish to a great extent; and since his demise it is being continued by Ven. Wimalaratana.

A recent addition has been the completion of a remarkable set of murals, painted by the renowned artist, Somabandu Vidyapathy, that adorn the inner walls of the Shrine Hall. The simple perehera that he started in 1947 has now grown into a colorful pageant.