The surroundings of the Vihare.
Viscount Torrington ordered the shooting of a Buddhist Priest in the same saffron robes he had worn the previous day for a ‘dumb’ military trial. The Thera was to be shot by a firing squad of three but only one shot the Buddhist Priest on August 24, 1848 on the Sacred grounds of Maha Maluwa. The soldiers did not act as their colleagues did with freedom fighter Scotsman Walsh, whose flesh was cut off and thrown all over the streets of Edinburgh.
The Temple where Kadhapola lived
The only time the Sacred Tooth Relic was brought out of the Sri Dalada Maligawa was in 1828, to the Maha Maluwa at the insistence of the Governor Sir Edward Barnes, which resulted in the famous “Dalada Vatura”.
The Thera also suffered at the hands of the two Maha Vihares, when they denied he belonged to their temples. He lived at Kahalle Temple. Members of the Military forces even shot into the Viharege to bring out the Thera.
President Maithripala Sirisena is to De-gazette formally on the first of March by signing a document in Kandy to wipe out the stigma of being a traitor of Maha Adikaram Monarawila Keppetipola and those who have been gazetted by the British administration at that time.
Maha Adikaram Keppetipola was a traitor to the British but not to the Sinhala Nation, although he was in the pay of the British before he went to Uva to suppress the ‘uprising’ after the shooting of Government Agent Wilson.
It is an accepted fact that Maha Adikaram Keppetipola and those on the list of the British were only a fragment of those who were in the uprising against the British. What about the thousands who were in the uprising in Sabaragamuwa and Uva? What about those who forsook their homeland of Sabaragamuwa and Uva and fled to other areas within the Kandyan Kingdom fearing death at foreign hands? They are part and parcel of history and are equal to the Maha Adikaram and others.
The greatest sacrifice made during the British regime was by a Buddhist monk. The British shot Venerable Kadhapola Thera at Maha Maluwa- the sacred piece of land opposite the Sri Dalada Maligawa. When the British questioned the Chapter to whom he belonged, everyone denied that he was a monk. They did not want to displease the British administration. But even among the British at that time there were persons like the then Queen’s Advocate H.C. Selby, who is reported to have pleaded with Viscount Torrington that the life of the monk should be spared. His blunt answer was “Even if all the lawyers in this place plead, yet he shall die in the morning”. Even an appeal was denied to the monk. He was shot in cold blood in the early hours of the morning the day after the trial in August 1848. The shooting was on the Maha Maluwa with his blood oozing out on to the grounds.
These uprisings against the British really commenced in 1843 with the conviction at Kurunegala of Venerable Chandraguptha, over the knowledge of a ‘Pretender’. The Thera was executed and hung on a tree for four days. The simmering currents against the British continued both at Kandy and Kurunegala until Government Agent Buller nailed it with the tax collection.
What was his charge against Venerable Kadhapola Thera? The monk had refused to give evidence against the rioters and name them. In other words, for not spying on his fellow men. The next charge was that he knew where the Pretender could be found - that was the only other charge and the monk was shot.
That was the only shooting of a Buddhist monk at Maha Maluwa in the history of the country by the British. Of course Viscount Torrington paid for this act with his “ Honorable “ recall and a Committee of Inquiry by the British Parliament.
The British Press also critisised the shooting of the monk which created the background for a Committee of inquiry by Parliament.
Who was this monk? He was the first person who threw the ball which began the famous Matale riots against the British. Kadhapola Thera, a member of the Malwatta Maha Vihare, was born at Kahalle in Katugastota. The Thera was young and a firebrand even within the Chapter and was looking out for someone to lead an uprising against the British. He left the Chapter and went to the wilds of Dambulla where it is alleged that he crowned a Pretender, who wanted to oust the British from Kandyan Territory.
"Who was this monk? He was the first person who threw the ball which began the famous Matale riots against the British. Kadhapola Thera, a member of the Malwatta Maha Vihare, was born at Kahalle in Katugastota"
Monks have been freedom fighters to free the land from foreign domination and also from forces within the country. Even administrators have sometimes forgotten that the clergy in the country have been true freedom fighters from within their own temples. The have always lived with people around them, irrespective of their religion or community.
Two classic examples are the land given to build the present Meera Macan Mosque in Kandy, which is Asgiri Maha Vihare property. Then the Church in the centre of the city - St Paul’s Church stands on Sri Dalada Maligawa Land. These two buildings remind us and those who visit Sri Lanka that Buddhists and other religions live side by side in the country.
The rebellion was initiated by the people of Uva on the death of Government Agent Sylvestor. The Maha Adikaram was ordered by the British to quell the riots of the people. It is here that the people surrounded him and questioned whether he was with them. It was then that the Maha Adikaram sent back the arsenal to Kandy and joined the people. Therefore the people in these areas should also be regarded as freedom fighters and not only those who had been gazetted for death or banishment.
The President on the recommendation of the Minister of Justice has taken a correct decision which was brewing over for years. The first ball rolled in recent times was made by then Miniser of Heritage Affairs Vijitha Herath under the Chandrika Kumaanatunge government. He was at the Keppetipola Commemoration day during that year, when he made the remark that a traitor stigma of the Maha Adikaram should be removed. It did not reach the light of day, as a number of questions were brought before the government of the day as to how it could be done.
Thus, it was left to President Maithripala Sirisena to step into this void and make it a reality. It is a fitting tribute to sign this de-gazette or whatever you may call it, the document under the seal of State at the Audience Hall or Magul Maduwa. The President has taken a bold step, making way for the peoples of Uva and Sabaragamuwa to call themselves ‘Freedom fighters’ of the Nation.
Asgiri Maha Vihare has always ‘fought’ for the rights of the people. This Maha Vihare did not take any active role in the so called “ Treaty “ , but kept away from it . They were not a party.
In passing, it is important to remember that when Late Madam Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike was deprived of her civic rights during the reign of the government of J.R. Jayawardene, the person who came forward to protect her rights was Enabler Palipanne Chandananda Thera.
He was a stalwart of the ideology of the United National Party but that did not deter him from spearheading to safeguard the rights of a woman whose stature is even now spoken above all others.
What did President J.R. Jayawardene do? He directed the Government Agent A.B. Damunupola to take over the land which once housed the Carpentry complex of the Department of Labour, if I am correct, which had been vested with Asgiriya Maha Vihare. It is on this land which now sits the Pallipanne International Centre.
The land was gazetted and taken over by the government, which was once donated to the Mahanayake of Asgiriya.
The hole from which a British soldier shot into the Vihare
To make a long story short, the period came when the then Crown Prince and Princess of Japan was to visit the country and it was the same President who was to escort the Royal couple. They were to attend an exposition of the Sacred Relic as well. Then Late President J.R. Jayawardene realised the gravity of the situation. Should the Mahanayke refuse to attend the exposition, the Royal couple would be deprived of the most looked-forward-to event - the exposition of the Sacred Relic. Had the Mahanayake, Venerable Palipanne Chandananda refused to attend the exposition, they would have been deprived to view the Sacred Tooth Relic because the key to this inner casket was with the Maha Vihare of Asgiri. So he was in constant contact with the Government Agent of Kandy A.B. Dammunupola, whose breed is yet to be seen in contemporary administrators. A man who could speak face-to-face with politicians because he had no gain. So a jittery President continually used to ask the Government Agent whether the Asgiri Mahanayake would open the doors for the Exposition.
The government Agent assured the President. It became a headache to the Government Agent as he was continually seeking confirmation.
"To make a long story short, the period came when the then Crown Prince and Princess of Japan was to visit the country and it was the same President who was to escort the Royal couple"
At this point it should be brought to the notice of the reader that the inner shrine room of the Sri Dalada Maligawa is the right of the two Chapters of Asgiri and Malwatta, where the Diyawadana Nilame plays only second fiddle.
So on the day of the exposition to the Royal couple, the Mahanayake of Asgiriya came to the Sri Dalada Maligawa, as the custodian of the sixth key to bring out the Sacred Tooth Relic. The exposition was over. On the way out of the Sri Dalada Maligawa, President J.R. Jayawardene before entering into the vehicle, told GA Damunupola to “give that land back to the Mahanayake “ This was only to portray that the clergy
was not petty. They always stand for the rights of the people, though most do not. So Venerable Kadhapola Thera, though being convicted wrongly as a traitor, should be published as a hero of the nation for shedding blood to free the country of foreign yoke.