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How it all started – story of Arasi Marikar Wapchi Marikar


How it all started – story of Arasi Marikar Wapchi Marikar

Arasi Marikar Wapchi Marikar 1829-1925

Arasi Marikar Wapchie Marikar bought the shares of several heirs of maradana land and donated a portion of it to build a mosque and later built another mosque called the Fareed Thakkiya. He had started off his career as an apprentice working under expert builders. His flair for Islamic architecture can be seen in the many arches used in his architecture. He mastered the building profession and undertook the erection of buildings independently as a building contractor.

So long as brick and mortar endure his name will be long remembered as the builder of the General Post Office in Colombo, the Colombo Museum, Colombo Customs, Old Town Hall in Pettah, the Galle Face Hotel, Victoria Arcade, Finlay Moir building, the Clock Tower, Batternburg Battery etc. The Old Town Hall in Pettah, which is now a busy market, was built on a contract for the sum of 689 Streling Pounds.

Endowed with wealth, Wapchi Marikar contributed to the development of his communities welfare, religious, economical, social, and educational needs and searched for more avenues and opportunities to help them in every way possible. He resided in the vicinity of Marakkala Palliya Watta, the present Maradana Mosque grounds and patronized the mosque. His family residence was acquired by the state for Maradana railway extensions thus compelling him to build a large house at Vauxhall Street where he moved in subsequently. He continued to contribute towards the development of the Maradana Mosque by being a prominent member of the congregation. He also joined hand with and financed M.C.Siddi Lebbe, from Kandy, who started the Muslim educational movement in 1880.

Wapchi Marikar and Siddi Lebbe set about looking for a place to establish a school for the Muslims and eventually selected the abandoned portion of the Maradana Mosque grounds. Since Wapchi Marikar was, at that time, the Vice President of the Management Committee of the Maradana Mosque, he urged the committee to grant a lease of the land in order to build the school.

A society, called the “Jamiyathul Uloom” (Muslim Educational Society) was thus formed.

Wapchi Marikar, at his own cost, erected a building for the school and also built four houses that would be rented and the income utilized for the maintenance of the institution.

During this period, Wapchi Marikar was involved in the construction of Masjid-E-Careem at 4th Cross Street, Pettah, for Carimjee Jafferjee. At his request Jafferjee contributed money for an additional building at the Maradana Mosque grounds for the cause of Muslim education.

The school building was finally completed and Madarasahul Zahira ( Zahira College) began to function. Arabi Pasha conducted the opening.

The houses constructed for the purpose of revenue for running the school were acquired by the government in 1906. Using the compensation received from the acquisition, Wapchi Marikar built a row of houses facing Darley Road, presently T.B.Jayah Mawatha.

Wapchi Marikar was also the Treasurer and Manager of the Colombo Muslim Educational Society.

In 1907, Wapchi Marikar was relieved of the burden of management and Advocate Abdul Cader was appointed as Manager of Zahira College. However, Abdul Cader had to relinquish his position on account of relocating himself to Batticaloa in the Eastern Province.

In 1907, Wapchi Marikar built, at his own cost, an extension building to the existing first school building. A section of the Educational Society collected a sum of Rs. 12,750 and entrusted it to Wapchi Marikar for the construction of houses along the street adjoining the New Olympia Theatre in Maradana. Unfortunately, the Colombo Muslim Educational Society did not function for very long and it became incumbent on Wapchi Marikar to manage the affairs of Zahira College all by himself as a single individual using his own personal finances and the welfare of some other Muslim philanthrophists.

Finding the income from rents of the Darley Road properties insufficient to manage the school he offered the income from his own properties at Wellawatte to augment the revenues of Zahira College. In 1921, being physically unfit to attend to the daily affairs of Zahira College, Wapchi Marikar discussed the matter with two of the members of the now defunct Education Society and handed over the management to the Maradana Mosque.

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