St. Mark’s church of Badulla, the Christian Church with a Buddhist Foundation

St. Mark’s church of Badulla is one of the oldest churches in Sri Lanka, which is also a significant monument that show the religious harmony in a country, where the majority of people are Buddhist. Its origin is going back to the British colonial era, which was built on a suggestion of a Buddhist devotee. The church was built with contributions made by Buddhist as well as Christians, as a respect to the valuable service rendered by Major. Thomas William rogers to the country.

St. Mark’s church of Badulla

Every year, a large number of devotee’s flock into the St. Mark’s church of Badulla ahead of the midnight Easter mass, which is one of the most important celebrations of the year. St. Markus church is small in size but still fully functional until today since it was consecrated 25 April 1857 by Bishop James Chapman.

Christianity in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country and majority of the people believing in Buddhism. However, Sri Lank is home to a large number of religious groups. About 7% of the population of Sri Lanka are Christians. The Christian is mainly to be found on the maritime regions, where colonial rules had their firm grip. A small number if Christian is living a few cities in the mountain such as Badulla, Bandarawela and Nuwara Eliya.

Origin of St. Mark’s church of Badulla

St. Mark’s church of Badulla stands out from the rest of the churches in Sri Lanka due to a few reasons. Most important reason being its origin, which is attributed to a Buddhist. Rambukpotha dissave, who had been a provincial leader, attached to the government of that time, was Sinhalese Buddhist. Rambukkana disave suggested building the church as a reminiscence of Thomas William rogers, upon his demise. Disave suggested to build the church and name it after Major Thomas William Rogers, who had been working as the commander in the Badulla division from 1828 to 1833.

Major. Thomas William rogers

Major. Thomas William rogers arrived on the island in early 18s and started his carries in the British-Ceylon army as a 2nd lieutenant. This deft state servant had been able to make huge progress in his carrier within a short period of time and became an assistant agent of Badulla in British-Ceylon government in 1834.

William Rogers was not only a government agent but also, he rendered his service to the society as a district judge. Due to the valuable and friendly service rendered to the society by Rogers, he became very popular among the people, not only in Badulla but also over the entire country. There had been a huge development in Badulla under the guidance of Rogers, which was a small remote town before the arrival of Roger. Has was taking the forefront to improve the infrastructure of Badulla by building roads, introducing coffee plantations and buildings.

Many leading Sri Lankan roads that render a very valuable service to the people of the region until today such as Hambantota-Wellawaya main road, Ratnapura-Nuwara Eliya main road, the old road to Batticaloa, the road that to Dunhida fall came to be due to his dedication. Many state buildings such as Badulla rest house also built on his guidance.

Despite the busy schedule backed by overwhelming work, he had dedicated entire time on his work and fulfilled his duties without any lapses. Rogers had been an affluent horse rider and he was roaming in the areas on his horse very often.

He had also directed the planters to cultivate coffee in Badulla. Many coffee plantations were started on the Haputale-Kahagolla main road under his guidance.

Elephant killing by Major. Thomas William rogers

On one hand, he had been a very friendly civil servant and also rendered very valuable service to society. However, one of the very serious shortcomings of Roger was his attachment to hunting. Hunting was his favourite past time activity and ventured on hunting trips with his old rifle very often. His attachment to hunting was further enlightened, as he was surrounded by thick jungle, which was infested by wild animals such as elephant, deer, bear and many other wild animals.  

It is said that Roger was carrying a gun all the time as he was on the move. He had even killed many wild animals as he was on his official journeys. He was clever to find the direction of the wind by tossing a piece of paper, and afterwards, he was reaching the wild elephants from the opposite direction of the wind as to animals would not sense the nearing hunter. It is said that Rogers had killed about 1400 wild elephants.

According to the daily notes of William Rogers, he had killed about 200 wild elephants in the Puwakgodamulla jungle along, which had been a thick forest near the Badulla town. Major Roger was killed in 1845 June 7 at the age of 41 years in Haputale. The people in the areas believe that his sin due to the killing of wild animals had triggered his untimely death.

Major. Thomas William rogers killed struck by lightning

On one day, Major Roger was on an official journey in Badulla as an unexpected, sudden downpour started. He was looking for a safe place to stop as it seemed the rain would continue for some time. He halted his horse at the Haputale resthouse and spent some time. As the rain reduced considerably and things improved Roger decided to leave. Major roger took a few steps, went to the garden and just about to continue with his journey, alas, he was struck by lightning and killed at the spot.

St. Mark’s church of Badulla a reminiscence of major roger

Despite his habit of killing wild elephants, a majority of people in Badulla were shocked by his sudden demise. His death would halt the rapid development in the regions.

A large number of people in the areas gathered to the court premises of Badulla after the death of Major Rogers, to declare their condolences. A large number of people gathered to the court premises without any religious and racial differences.

At the gathering, It was suggested to build a monument to memorize exitance of Major Rogers, who had provided an invaluable service to the island. Some suggested to build a tower like Dowson tower in haputale, however, in a meeting that took place later, it was suggested to build a church as he was a Christian.

The suggestion was tabled by Rambukkan a dissave, who was a Sinhalese Buddhist, lived in the area. He further justified his suggestion, saying that major roger, who committed a sin by killing a large number of wild animals, Building a religious monument like St. Markus Church, by the name of Rogers, is the best monuments because it helps to create a disciplined society, good practices for the life.

The church was built on collecting money from the people, Christian as well Buddghits had contributed for the constructions of the Church. Many hundreds of years later the death of major Rogers, he still serves the people in the region by causing to build a church that helps the people to carry on their spiritual activities.       

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