Skip to main content


Professor Leelananda Prematilleke was the recipient of several National Awards / Titles in recognition of his service to the field of archaeology in Sri Lanka.

This title which translates to “Sri Lanka’s precious gem” is a National Honour of Sri Lanka awarded to Professor Leelananda Prematilleke in 2017. It is a Civil Honour conferred by the President of Sri Lanka on behalf of the Government of  Sri Lanka,  in recognition of his service to the nation.

Deshanethru Award

“Deshanethru” is a once-in-a-lifetime title awarded by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and National Heritage, Sri Lanka, in honour of service rendered to upliftment of  the Arts in Sri Lanka. Professor Leelananda Prematilleke was conferred the title at the National Literary Art Festival in 2005, in appreciation of his services to the field of Archaeology.

Puravidya Chakravarthi Award

This award was conferred upon Prof Leelananda Prematilleke in 1990 by the Department of Archaeology, Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Sri Lanka, in recognition of his outstanding  lifetime contributions to the field of Archaeology.

Uruma Prasada Pranama

Also coined ‘The Heritage Award’, it was bestowed upon Prof Leelananda Prematilleke in 2012 by the Ministry of National Heritage, Sri Lanka,  in recognition of his devotion to the conservation and preservation of Sri Lanka’s National heritage. 

His citation for this award reads as follows:

‘Professor Prematilleke is a senior savant who has contributed an extremely valuable service for about 30 years as a University Lecturer and Professor & Head of the Department of Archaeology. Born on 07th June 1922, Professor Prematilleke, after his Secondary & University education, joined the Peradeniya University in 1960 as an Assistant Lecturer under Prof. Senarat Paranavitane. He researched under the well known British Archaeologist, Prof. B. Codrington for his Doctorate at the Institute of Archaeology, University of London. At the same time, he was able to undergo practical courses in new Archaeological technology at Wiltshire near the world famous Stonehenge and at the Hadrian Wall site, Corebridge, conducted by the University of New Castle. He was also the first Sri Lankan scholar to follow a Museology course conducted by the Museum Association, London.

He was the first lecturer to be appointed to the newly opened Department of Archaeology, University of Peradeniya and had the opportunity of working with Prof. Paranavitane for nearly five years. After the retirement of Prof. Paranavitane at the end of 1964, Prof. Prematilleke, as Head of the Department, was able to develop the teaching of Archaeology to its full fledged status by introducing undergraduate courses. The   commencement of the UNESCO – Sri Lanka Cultural Triangle Project in 1980, paved the way to popularize the teaching of archaeology at the University at practical level. Prof. Prematilleke was selected by the authorities of the Cultural Triangle to handle two major sites, namely, Polonnaruwa and Kandy. His team work was able to bring back the sites of Alahana Parivena at Polonnaruva and the Palace Complex to their ancient glory though as ruins.

During his tenure as Lecturer, Associate Professor and Professor, Prof. Prematilleke managed to develop   the Department of Archaeology with his able staff, who were originally the students of Professor and are now qualified Archaeologists themselves. The opening up of the Cultural Triangle Project enabled the students of archaeology to get employment immediately after their graduation and gain practical experience. The services rendered by Prof. Prematilleke to the projects he undertook are ranked as the best programmes organized by the Cultural Triangle. He completed the two projects under the UNESCO programme after 20 years, and the good work carried out by the Professor is being continued to the present day. 

Amongst the many valuable works carried out in Polonnaruwa Alahana Pirivena, the excavation and conservation of the first monks’ hospital at Polonnaruwa, together with medical and surgical equipment, is acclaimed as an esteemed archaeological discovery. The Chinese ceramics of the Sung period and the Hindu bronzes which are now exhibited at the Archaeological Museum, Polonnaruwa, are unique art treasures.  At the Kandy project, Prof. Prematilleke has been able to excavate and expose a 18th century Palace complex of Kirthi Sri Rajasighe. Yet another important feature of the projects handled by Prof. Prematilleke is the completion of the excavation reports twice a year, which is imperative in excavations. 

The restoration of the Nalanda Gedige for the Department of Archaeological survey by Prof. Prematilleke remains one of the best conservation projects of Sri Lankan Architecture. This marvelous piece of ancient architecture was in danger of being inundated under the Mahaweli hydraulic Scheme. The rescue of this monument by Prof.Prematilleke after working relentlessly   has been rated as a project in par with the Abu Symbol project of the Aswan Dam in Egypt though it varies in size and purpose..

The Buddhist world including Sri Lanka hardly knows that Prof. Prematilleke was the scholar who achieved the most noble religious feat in getting Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha, recognized as a   World Heritage Monument by UNESCO, by his successful assessment and presentation of the site on behalf of Nepal.   

Prof. Prematilleke is a prolific researcher and a writer. Together with two other scholars, Dr. Nandana Chutiwongs and Dr. Roland Silva, he has produced a voluminous series on “Sri Lankan Paintings’  consisting of 30 volumes, which is now internationally recognized as a great series of the writing of the world. In similar vein, the same trio has commenced another similar series on “Sri Lanka Sculpture ” of which two albums on Buddha and Bodhisattava are already published and two others on Siva and Visnu are almost ready for the press. 

As in the field of Archaeology, Prof. Prematilleke has also contributed much to Museology as well, utilizing his knowledge and expertise gained in London. Pemathilleke has produced a string of internationally acclaimed Museums. His first attempt was the establishment of the Archaeological Teaching Museum together with Prof. Pranavitane at the University. As the Archaeological Director of Pollonnaruwa he was able to establish the site Museum there together with Technical Cooperation of the Ethnology Museum, Lieden. The architectural drawings were readily made available by Archt. L.K.Karunaratne, who was the Conservation Director of the site. Prof. Prematillake was responsible for the establishment of the Painting Museum at Dambulla, as well. The first ever International Buddhist Museum at Sri Dalada Maligawa Kandy and the Refurbishment of Art and Archaeology galleries of the National Museum, Colombo, are the most notable achievements of Prof. Prematilleke in this field. At present, he is functioning as Consultant of the National Irrigation Museum at the Mahaweli center, Colombo.  

Prof. Prematilleke has been a visiting Professor at the Institute of Archaeology, University of London, Faculty of Architecture, Waseda University, Tokyo, and Senior Fellow, Institute of South Asian Studies, Leiden. He is also the Founder President of the Sri Lanka Council of Archaeologists and Co-Director of the Postgraduate Archaeology Centre (now Postgraduate Institute of Archaeology).

It is with great pride, the Ministry of National Heritage presents Prof. Leelananda Prematilleke for the award of “Uruma Prasada Pranama”, for his inestimable services for the National Heritage of Sri Lanka.’

Fellowship and Gold Medal of the Sri Lanka Council of Archaeologists

Professor Prematilleke  was awarded the Fellowship of the Sri Lanka Council of Archaeologists (FSLCA) in 1996 and subsequently the Gold Medal of the FSLCA in 1998 in recognition of his services to Archaeology in Sri Lanka and abroad.

He was also awarded the Past Presidents medal in 2018, in honour of his contribution as its Founder President

Fellowship of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain

Professor Prematilleke was awarded the Fellowship of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain for “the encouragement of science, literature and the arts in relation to Asia”. Many distinguished scholars such as the Chief Justice of Ceylon Alexander Johnston and the first Asian Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore were Fellows of this prestigious society. 

Degree of Doctor of Letters (D.Litt – Honoris Causa)

Professor Leelananda Prematilleke was the recipient of the Degree of Doctor of Letters, the highest doctorate awarded in recognition of superior accomplishment in the Arts, Social Sciences or humanities, from the University of Peradeniya on 25th February 2010. It was conferred honoris causa to recognize his lifetime of academic and professional excellence.

In his acceptance of the D.Litt, Prof. Prematilleke states: ‘The main objective of a University is considered as the creation of good citizens of the country. To the best of my ability, I have strived to inculcate good habits and sustain cultural values through the medium of the discipline they followed. In this regard, concern for each other, brotherhood and student evaluation are of primary importance.’

Photos: Welcome at his beloved Department of Archaeology in Peradeniya, after the DLitt Award

Professor Prasanna Kumar Acharya Memorial Award

Conferred in 2011 by the International Association for Asian Heritage, in appreciation of his excellent services to the field of Art and Architecture. This is an academic association formed by the Centre for Asian Studies, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka.