Ponnambalam Ramanathan

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Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan
பொன்னம்பலம் இராமநாதன்
Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan (1851-1930).jpg
Solicitor-General of Ceylon
In office
Preceded by Charles Layard
Succeeded by James Cecil Walter Pereira
Unofficial Member (Tamil)
Legislative Council of Ceylon
In office
Preceded by Muthu Coomaraswamy
Succeeded by P. Coomaraswamy
Unofficial Member (Educated Ceylonese)
Legislative Council of Ceylon
In office
Succeeded by James Peiris
Unofficial Member
Legislative Council of Ceylon
In office
Member of the Legislative Council of Ceylon
for Northern Province North
In office
Personal details
Born P. Ramanathan
(1851-04-16)16 April 1851
Colombo, Ceylon
Died 26 November 1930(1930-11-26) (aged 79)
Colombo, Ceylon
Alma mater Presidency College, Madras
Profession Lawyer
Ethnicity Ceylon Tamil

Ponnambalam Ramanathan (Tamil: பொன்னம்பலம் இராமநாதன், translit. Poṉṉampalam Irāmanātaṉ; 16 April 1851 – 26 November 1930) was a Ceylon Tamil lawyer, politician and Solicitor-General of Ceylon.

Early life and family

Ramanathan was born on 16 April 1851 at the home of his maternal grandfather A. Coomaraswamy on Sea Street, Colombo in south western Ceylon.[1][2][3] He was the son of Gate Mudaliyar A. Ponnambalam, a leading government functionary, and Sellachi Ammai.[1][3] He was the brother of P. Coomaraswamy and P. Arunachalam. Ramanathan had his early education at home before joining Royal Academy, Colombo in 1861.[1][2][4] Ramanathan and his brother Coomaraswamy entered Presidency College, Madras in 1865.[1][2][5] The brothers completed the Intermediate in Arts and started the degree course but, following "youthful excesses" by Coomaraswamy, both were recalled to Ceylon without completing the course.[6]

Ramanathan married Sellachchi Ammal, daughter of Mudaliyar E. Nannithamby, in 1874 at Ward Place, Colombo.[7] They had three sons (Mahesan, Rajendra and Vamadeven) and three daughters (Sivakolunthu, Rukmini).[8] After being widowed Ramanathan married Australian R. L. Harrison (later known as Leelawathy).[9] They had a daughter, Sivagamisundhari.[10]


Returning to Ceylon, with the help of his maternal uncle Muthu Coomaraswamy Ramanathan became a law apprentice under Richard Morgan, Queen's Advocate of Ceylon.[11] Ramanathan became an advocate of the Colombo bar in 1874.[1][a] He was responsible for editing law reports for the previous 36 years and later served as editor of the official law reports (the Supreme Court Circular and the New Law Reports) for ten years.[1][13] Ramanathan stopped practising law in 1886 to concentrate on politics and his interest religious studies and philosophy.[14]

Ramanathan was appointed to the Legislative Council of Ceylon in 1879 as the unofficial member representing Tamils, replacing his maternal uncle Muthu Coomaraswamy.[1][15][16] In 1880 he founded the Ceylon National Association, of which he was president, to campaign for constitutional reform[17] Whilst on a tour of Europe Ramanathan, his wife and daughter were presented to Queen Victoria and was called to the bar at the Inner Temple in 1886.[1][18][19][20] He was appointed Solicitor-General of Ceylon in 1892.[1][21][22] In 1903 he became one of the first Ceylonese to be appointed King's Counsel.[1][18][23] In 1905, prior to his retirement in 1906, he went on a tour of the USA where he gave lectures on Hinduism and Hindu philosophy.[1][24][25]

Ramanathan founded the National Reform Association in 1907.[26] He contested the 1911 legislative council election as a candidate for the Educated Ceylonese seat and was elected to the Legislative Council, defeating physician Marcus Fernando.[1][27][28][29] Ramanathan was responsible for the release of the Sinhalese leaders who had been arrested following the 1915 Ceylonese riots, travelling to the UK to make their case.[1][30][31] He was re-elected at the 1916 legislative council election, defeating Justus Sextus Wijesinghe Jayewardene.[1][31][32]

Ramanathan was appointed as an unofficial member of the Legislative Council in 1921.[1][30][33] He contested the 1924 legislative council election as a candidate for the Northern Province North (Valikamam North) seat and was re-elected to the Legislative Council.[1][30][34]

Ramanathan was made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in the 1889 Birthday Honours.[1][21][35][36] He was made a Knight Bachelor in 1921.[1][30][37][b] Ramanathan founded two schools in northern Ceylon – Parameshwara College, Jaffna and Ramanathan College.[1][39] In 1907 Ramanathan rebuilt the Sri Ponnambala Vaneswara Temple at Sea Street in Kochchikade, founded by his father.[1][40][41] He helped establish the Hindu Education Board in 1923 and served as its president and manager of schools.[42][43] He was also president of the Thiruvalluvar Maha Sabai in Madras.[44] Ramanathan and other leading figures founded The Ceylonese, an English-language newspaper, in 1913.[45][46] He was president of the Tamil Union Cricket and Athletic Club from 1917 to 1930.[47] Ramanathan died on 26 November 1930 at his home Sukhastan on Ward Place, Colombo.[1][48][49][c] Future Prime Minister D. S. Senanayake described Ramanathan as "the greatest Ceylonese of all times".[51]


  • On Faith or Love of God (1897)[52]
  • An Eastern Exposition of the Gospel of Jesus According to St. Matthew (1898)[1][53]
  • An Eastern Exposition of the Gospel of Jesus According to St. John (1902)[1][53]
  • The Spirit of the East Contrasted with the Spirit of the West (1905)[54]
  • Culture of the Soul Among Western Nationals (1907)[1]
  • Tamil translation of Bhagavat Gheetha (1914)[1]

Electoral history

Electoral history of Ponnambalam Ramanathan
Election Constituency Party Votes Result
1911 legislative council[55][56][57] Educated Ceylonese 1,645 Elected
1916 legislative council[32] Educated Ceylonese 1,704 Elected
1924 legislative council Northern Province North Elected


  1. ^ Another source says Ramanathan became an advocate in 1873.[12]
  2. ^ Another source claims Ramanathan was made a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George.[38]
  3. ^ Other sources claim Ramanathan died on 30 November 1930.[49][50]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y Arumugam, S. (1997). Dictionary of Biography of the Tamils of Ceylon (PDF). pp. 158–159. 
  2. ^ a b c Muttucumaraswamy 1973, p. 1.
  3. ^ a b Vythilingam 1971, p. 24.
  4. ^ Vythilingam 1971, p. 80.
  5. ^ Vythilingam 1971, p. 83.
  6. ^ Vythilingam 1971, p. 87.
  7. ^ Vythilingam 1971, p. 105.
  8. ^ "Sri Lankan Tamil Family Genealogy: Ulaganathar of Manipay". Rootsweb. 
  9. ^ Vythilingam 1971, p. 505.
  10. ^ Vythilingam 1971, p. 506.
  11. ^ Vythilingam 1971, p. 88.
  12. ^ Vythilingam 1971, p. 92.
  13. ^ Muttucumaraswamy 1973, p. 2.
  14. ^ Vythilingam 1971, p. 104.
  15. ^ Muttucumaraswamy 1973, p. 3.
  16. ^ Vythilingam 1971, p. 133.
  17. ^ Vythilingam 1971, p. 394.
  18. ^ a b Muttucumaraswamy 1973, p. 4.
  19. ^ Vythilingam 1971, p. 304.
  20. ^ Vythilingam 1971, p. 305.
  21. ^ a b Muttucumaraswamy 1973, p. 8.
  22. ^ Vythilingam 1971, p. 462.
  23. ^ Vythilingam 1971, pp. 471-472.
  24. ^ Muttucumaraswamy 1973, p. 10.
  25. ^ Vythilingam 1971, p. 516.
  26. ^ Muttucumaraswamy 1973, p. 14.
  27. ^ Muttucumaraswamy 1973, p. 15.
  28. ^ Vythilingam 1971, p. 584.
  29. ^ Rajasingham, K. T. "Chapter 2: Beginning of British Rule". Sri Lanka: The Untold Story. 
  30. ^ a b c d Muttucumaraswamy 1973, p. 17.
  31. ^ a b Rajasingham, K. T. "Chapter 3: Muslim riots and communal rumblings". Sri Lanka: The Untold Story. 
  32. ^ a b Vythilingam 1977, p. 361.
  33. ^ "The London Gazette". The London Gazette (32352): 4635. 10 June 1921. 
  34. ^ Rajasingham, K. T. "Chapter 5: Political polarization on communal lines". Sri Lanka: The Untold Story. 
  35. ^ Vythilingam 1971, p. 415.
  36. ^ "Supplement". The London Gazette (40369): 2875. 25 May 1889. 
  37. ^ "The London Gazette". The London Gazette (32461): 7382. 20 September 1921. 
  38. ^ Vythilingam 1977, p. 479.
  39. ^ Muttucumaraswamy 1973, p. 19.
  40. ^ Muttucumaraswamy 1973, p. 25.
  41. ^ Vythilingam 1971, p. 534.
  42. ^ Muttucumaraswamy 1973, p. 23.
  43. ^ Vythilingam 1977, p. 551.
  44. ^ Maniccavasagar, Chelvathamby (20 April 2011). "National figure with international reputation". Daily News (Sri Lanka). 
  45. ^ Peebles, Patrick (2015). Historical Dictionary of Sri Lanka. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 390. ISBN 978-1-4422-5584-5. 
  46. ^ Edirisinghe, Padma (20 September 2010). "Ghostly beginnings of a famous newspaper". Daily News (Sri Lanka). 
  47. ^ "Presidents". Tamil Union Cricket and Athletic Club. 
  48. ^ Muttucumaraswamy 1973, p. 26.
  49. ^ a b Vythilingam 1977, p. 735.
  50. ^ Seneviratne, Tassie (7 December 2014). "Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan: "The greatest Ceylonese of all times"". The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka). 
  51. ^ Shanmuganayagarn, C. (12 April 2006). "Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan". The Island (Sri Lanka). 
  52. ^ The Annual American Catalog, 1900-1909. Office of the Publishers' Weekly. 1907. p. 252. Retrieved 14 April 2018. 
  53. ^ a b Vythilingam 1971, p. 489.
  54. ^ Sugirtharajah, R. S. (19 February 2018). Jesus in Asia. Harvard University Press. p. 275. ISBN 9780674051133. Retrieved 14 April 2018. 
  55. ^ Wisumperuma, Dhanesh (11 December 2011). "Cast(e) in favour". The Nation (Sri Lanka). 
  56. ^ Ramanathan, P. (2 January 2000). "One of the "greatest" Ceylonese". The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka). 
  57. ^ Sabaratnam, T. "Chapter 16: The Arunachalam Factor". The Sri Lankan Tamil Struggle. 


  • Muttucumaraswamy, V. (1973). Founders of Modern Ceylon (PDF). Uma Siva Pathippakam. 
  • Vythilingam, M. (1971). The Life of Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan (PDF). I. Ramanathan Commemoration Society. 
  • Vythilingam, M. (1977). The Life of Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan (PDF). II. Ramanathan Commemoration Society. 

External links

  • One Hundred Tamils of the 20th Century, Tamil Nation
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