Bishop Jebanesan

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The Right Reverend Subramaniam Jebanesan (born 28 March 1940) is the third Bishop of the Church of South India.

Early life

Bishop Jebanesan was born on 28 March 1940. He was the son of teachers N. Subramaniam and Kanagammah from Chavakachcheri in northern Ceylon. He was educated at Drieberg College and Jaffna College. After school he joined the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya from where he graduated in 1962 with BA degree. Later he obtained three MA degrees in Tamil, English and philosophy. He then received a PhD from the University of Jaffna. Jebanesan married Vimala, daughter of Rajakulendran, Member of Parliament for Nawalapitiya. They have two daughters (Nirmalene and Geethanjely).


Jebanesan started teaching at St. Anthony’s College, Kandy in 1962.  In 1969 he joined Jaffna College as a teacher of history and civics. He served as vice-principal of Jaffna College before becoming principal in 1988. Jebanesan became the third Church of South India Bishop of Jaffna in 1993.  He retired on 28 March 2005. Jebanesan has been a member of the University of Jaffna’s council since 1992.

IN the true sense of wisdom, human life has a distinctive attribute that it should be employed for the well-being of others rather than a mere self oriented journey of illusions and this universally acknowledged truth of maturity governs the lives of many a great personality, and one of whom is the Rt. Rev. Dr. S. Jebanesan, the third Bishop of the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India, who has retired on his 65th birthday, the 28th of March, 2005 after rendering magnanimous services to the society and the church.

The more he chose the path of humbleness and altruism the more he has risen today as one of the internationally acclaimed Sri Lankans of this century.

Moulding the means of his life according to the noblest impulses of true Christian commitments, he widely and effectively utilizes his immeasurable talents which he is endowed with, in their manifold varieties, for the progress of the society, the church and the sphere of intelligentsia of the country and abroad.

His personality is a multi dimensional one and beyond any doubt sets an example to the world. As an excellent teacher, an efficient Principal, a prolific writer, an inspiring orator, an outstanding scholar and above all as the Bishop he seems a beacon of light of guidance for those who are looking for the right channel for their progress and a redeemer for those who are embedded in despair and despondency.

Like The Rt. Rev. Dr. S. Jebanesan his family too is academically sound and artistically expert. His parents were teachers and his brothers too are highly learned; his wife is an excellent teacher of western music and his children too hold lofty positions.

In the scholarly line of C. Y. Thamotharampillai, Carol Visvanathanpillai, Arnold Sathasivampillai and Wyman Kathiravetpillai the Rt. Rev. Dr. S. Jebanesan is one of the outstanding products of Jaffna College of this century. He had his earlier education at Chavakacheri Driberg College and afterwards joined Jaffna College from where he entered the then University of Ceylon and obtained his B. A. Degree in 1962. Later he added himself with three M.A. Degrees, one in Tamil, and one in English and the other one in Philosophy. Due to his abiding interest in Theology he obtained a degree in Theology as well and to fulfill his quest for education he obtained a Ph. D. Degree from the University of Jaffna.

He started his teaching career at St. Anthony’s College, Kandy. Having been instinctively stimulated by his passion towards his Alma Mater, he joined Jaffna College in 1969 as a teacher of History and Civics. He served the College for its progress and took unyielding efforts to build up an outstanding student community. The students who passed through his hands authenticate the profound aspects of his teaching dexterity.

His talents were not bounded only within classroom teaching but he employed them in order to achieve great objectives to retain the religious traditions of the school and encourage creative thinking among the students, and brought about many innovative events and a favorable atmosphere for the processes of learning and teaching at the College. He is an aficionado of Tamil Literature as well as English Literature.

Due to his boundless inspiration towards Bharathi, a revolutionary Tamil poet, he inaugurated a festival at Jaffna College to celebrate Bharathi and his great literary works which places Jaffna College at a unique position among the other schools since Jaffna College is the only school which celebrates Bharathi Day in the peninsula and it is none other than the Rt. Rev. Dr. S. Jebanesasn who deserves the distinction of it. He is a good dramatist and a fascinating actor.

He acted in many dramas and the film “Kalluri Vasanthathil” which was produced by the College under his guidance as he served the patron of the Tamil Union of the College. He had been the editor of the College Miscellany from 1974-1993 and served as the Faculty Advisor to the ‘Young Idea’, a student magazine of Jaffna College, from 1979-1993.

In recognition of his academic achievements, sincere services to the College and true faith in God he was appointed as one of the Co Vice Principals of the College and later promoted as the Principal in 1988.

As the Principal of one of the prestigious institutions in the island he efficiently handled the administration and raised the College to greater heights in academic and non-academic activities. His teaching career contributed to the University of Jaffna as well for he served there as a visiting lecturer in Christian Civilization from 1979-1988.

In 1993 he shifted from the Principal’s office to the Bishop’s office at Vaddukoddai as he was consecrated as the third Bishop of the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India.

His loyalty, piety, integrity and pronounced trust in God and his versatile attributes and academic excellence made him the unanimous choice for the greatly respectable Bishop position. Under his stewardship the Diocese saw a tremendous growth and several parishes were established in the peninsula and outside.

The Bishop should be applauded as he built up the Diocese during the most difficult periods with fortitude and courage when the nation was confronted with ethnic war and mayhem. His messages rekindled hope in the hearts that have lost their kith and kin in the troubles and emphasized the need for peace in the island. He overcame all the obstacles and successfully carried out his onerous responsibilities.

Bishop the Rt. Rev. Dr. S. Jebanesan is a good bilingual orator. The way he handles the topics is of great fascination, a blend of a good sense of humour and a deep sense of wisdom. His speeches are very meaningful as to touch our hearts with a didactic force. His sermons reflect the true principles of divinity. His writing skills have profound features like his speeches.

He has written several books in both languages which include America Missonum Illakayile Thamil Valarchium, Yaalpanathu Chreesthava Kavignarakalum Keerthanaikalum, The American Mission Seminary (1823-1855) and Modern Education in Jaffna, Ninaithuparkiren, Pazaiyathum Puthiyathum, Perayar Sabapathy Kulendran (Varalatuch Churukkam) and The Bible Trembled (The Hindu Christian Controversies of Nineteenth Century Ceylon in collaboration with Prof. S. F. Young.) His publications vividly illustrate his research capabilities and the power of his deep thinking on a variety of topics ranging from religion to politics and his comparative approach to various issues.

His articles have been published in various magazines and journals. To enhance his wealth of knowledge he always reads books and it is his custom that whenever he goes abroad he returns with a pile of books to his homeland. Not only does he read books but he always encourages others to read to widen their horizon.

To crown his academic excellence and matured wisdom, the Cambridge International Biographical Centre declared him as one of the two thousand outstanding intellectuals of the 21st Century. This rare recognition, he won, brought a great honour to him and a positive reputation to the intelligentsia of our nation, subsequently in 2002 he received the honour to be a Research Assistant at the Princeton Theological Seminary in the U.S.A.

The Bishop also served in various councils and boards locally as well as internationally. He has been a member in cluster IV of the committees of CCA- the Justice International Affairs, Development and Service from the year 2000. In 2003 he was elected as the Chairman of the Solidarity Fund for Theological Education in South Asia. He also served as the Chairman of several committees of the Church of South India. In the educational orbit too his services bear testimony to his great concern over education.

The University Grants Commission nominated him a member to the Jaffna University Council in 1992, a position he is still holding. The achievements of our Bishop cannot be easily carved by words. His loyalty, commitment, dedication, devotion and generosity are significant which have made him unique among the others. His retirement is indeed an irreplaceable one; however his contributions are needed to the society even after his retirement.

He is going to carry out his duties as the Principal of the Christian Theological Seminary, Maruthanarmadam in Jaffna which has paved the way for him to make use of his knowledge in a new manner and many others to acquire its fecundity.

His presence in our society will boost the intelligentsia of the country and the progress of the society. The noble services he has rendered to the Diocese and the society will be undoubtedly and indelibly imprinted in everyone’s thoughts.

Picture by S. Chitrananda

American Mission Seminary (1823-1855) and Modern Education in Jaffna” a book by Rt. Rev. Dr. S. Jebanesan, Bishop in Jaffna, CSI – Jaffna Diocese was launched yesterday at the BMICH under the auspices of Most Rev. Dr. K.J. Samuel, Moderator, Church of South India Synod. Here, Most Revd Dr. K.J. Samuel hands over the first copy of the book to Mrs. Vasanthy Rajaratnam. Rev Dr. S. Jebanesan is at left.

Courtesy: Dr. Thiruvarangan, Jaffna.

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