Clara Motwani first principal of Visakha Vidyalaya Bandarawela


In 1933, Clara Motwani completed her higher education at the Yale University in USA. She married Dr Kawel Motwani an Indian, whom she met at the university and visited India.As a part of their honeymoon trip, they visited Sri Lanka (then Ceylon). The Founder/Owner of Visakha Vidyalaya in Colombo, invited her to accept the post of the principal.

When she was sitting in front of the principal’s office one of the staff members came to her and asked whether she was waiting for a new admission to the school. She blushed and told her she is there to accept the post as the principal. Clara Motwani was only twenty- two years old when became the principal of Colombo Visakha Vidyalaya. She practiced Buddhism and taught the way of life to its students maintaining the strict discipline and values up-to date keeping the owners beyond their expectations.

The book, Chosen Ground

In 1942, during the World War most schools in the heart of Colombo had to close due to the Japanese Bomb attack in Colombo. Few schools relocated temporally to the beautiful hills in Sri Lanka. Clara Motwani was able to find a place for the school where less than hundred students can occupy with the necessity of a boarding house too.

Family portrait: With husband Bunchy and mother Clara Motwani

Clara Motwani’s eldest daughter, Goolbai Gunasekera’ s ( Co-founder and First Principal of Asian International School) “Chosen Ground” has dedicated one whole chapter for Bandarawela Visakha and explains how she managed the two schools after the end of the World War II.Many requests made by the Buddhist parents in and around Bandarawela, especially in the Tea Plantation area highly depended from the well managed boarding house too.

Management ultimately decided to exist Visakha as a private school. There were many non- Sinhala Buddhist students were in school as well as in the boarding house. Those days nobody wants to divide by the nationality or religion.Only way is to get to know when they never observed Pansil in the morning assembly. Visakha Vidyalaya existed as a small private school on a hill -top, until it became a semi-government school in 1961. Clara Motwani’s solid foundation and rules existed including annual overnight Pirith and other rituals.

Goolbai Gunasekera writes in “ Chosen Ground” how her family existed as a loving and secured family. She became a -Buddhist and married a Buddhist.Her only sister mostly grew up with the maternal- grand-parents remained as a Christian.Her father practiced his Hinduism of his own.

Clara Motwani, unforgettable great lady gave up her American Citizenship and became a Sri Lankan. She passed away peacefully at the age of 80 at her daughter, Goolbai Gunasekera’s residence in July 31of 1989.