Sat, 01 Apr 2023 Today's Paper

Remembering the Uva rebellion

26 November 2018 12:20 am - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Today November 26 marks the day when Maha Adikaram Keppetipola and Maha Nilame of the Uva Madugalle were executed on the banks of Bogambara Wewa on the orders of the British Governor.


The marketing phrase that the Independence for Sri Lanka had been won without a shedding a drop of blood is a fallacy


Today November 26 marks the day when Maha Adikaram Keppetipola and Maha Nilame of the Uva Madugalle were executed on the banks of Bogambara Wewa on the orders of the British Governor.
It was left to Dr Henry Marshall, a friend of Maha Adikaram Keppetipola to take away the head of Keppetipola and send to the Edinburgh Phrenological Society to study the head. Later it was handed over to the museum of the medical faculty and it lay there until a relative of Keppetipola, Upali Keppetipola, petitioned the British Government for its return.

This cranium of Keppetipola is the link of the Kandyan kingdom and present independent Sri Lanka. Credit should go to President Maithripala Sirisena to freeing the Kandyan Freedom Fighters from the stigma of Traitors.
It was the brilliant swordsman of the Kandyan kingdom Udagabada Nilame and Dissawa of Wellassa Madugalle who set the ball rolling on December 7, 1816 for the freedom of the country.
He was sent twice to prison by the British for these acts and they feared him for his skill in warfare. He was in prison for two years in Jaffna Fort but was released on the birthday of George IV.
No doubt that the cranium of Keppetipola lies at the foot of the stone pillar, but Madugalle also should be commemorated on the same day at this very place, because both were executed on the same day on the banks of Bogambara Wewa.


"Realising that entire Sinhala people were misled, Keppetipola thought that the time had come to avenge the plot of Robert Brownrigg"


The head or the decapitated body of the warrior was buried in cognition by the British army who was in charge of the execution and no one has found where he was buried. But the fact remains that both were executed on the same day.
Then why not we commemorate both at this spot - Keppetipola and Madugalle.
The marketing phrase that the Independence for Sri Lanka had been won without a shedding a drop of blood is a fallacy.
Over the years, since the advent of foreigners to Sri Lanka’s shores from around 1505 MANY HAVE fought to regain the Independence of the territory they had forsaken.
Among them comes Keppetipola Maha Adikaram born at Matale. But unfortunately, he was “A Traitor” to the country he was born and sacrificed his life for the country, fighting the ruthless British of that era.
It is recorded that officers like Lieut. J. Maclaine of the 73rd Regiment used to hang captured prisoners in front of him while taking his breakfast. So was another Lt. Col. Hook.

Keppetipola Maha Nilame was a heroic fighter, who fought the British in the 1818 rebellion. Governments after Independence have come and gone, which promised that the name of Keppetipola would be De-gazetted from the Gazette of the British, which had declared that Maha Nilame was a Traitor, to the Imperial Government of Britain.
The blood and the toil of the people of the country went to force the Colonial powers to restore Independence back to the people
It brings us to mind the way the British treated one of their own kinsmen William Walsh a Scotsman, who resemble the Kandyan freedom fighters when he was quartered on the orders of Edward the First and his flesh thrown around. In the case of Keppetipola, his Cranium was stuffed with salt for preservation and was taken away to the British Empire and kept in the Tower of London first and later taken to Edinburgh.
The Cranium was later returned, to Sri Lanka and kept in the Colombo Museum for nearly ten years before this valuable property was brought to Kandy - Thanks to Upali Keppetipola.

Valiant fighter Monaravila Keppetipola was one outstanding man who did not seek pardon from the British, even though they were very willing if he did ask for it. Instead, he gave his life for the people of Sri Lanka on the Banks of Bogambara Wewa, which area is now within the Keppetipola Memorial Hall.
Keppetipola’s cranium lies buried at the Sacred Mahamaluwa in Kandy over which there is a monument.
The cranium is within a glass case, which was deposited after it was exhibited to the public at the Kandyan audience hall, behind the Sri Dalada Maligawa.
Keppetipola’s birthplace is in the district of Matale and this is the only connection. It is alleged that he had a son who was from a second bed, but fearing the British would destroy him after Keppetipola, he entered into Sangha hood and has since then his whereabouts are not known He is alleged to have died while been a priest and the direct descendent of Keppetipola expired.

But, there are many who are connected to his ancestry. But, in the recent past, there is a number of people who are trying to claim relationship to this nobleman. The only man who could ever be thought of was Upali Keppetipola who was instrumental in getting down the cranium which had been removed to the Edinburgh Phenomenological Society. In fact, there was a time, when Upali Keppetipola alone paid homage at the monument at Maha Maluwa, Kandy, by placing a wreath of flowers.
The background of Monaravila Keppetipola begins with Governor Robert Brownrigg who avoided the issue of placing a Kandyan on the Throne of Kandy or even allowing to administer the Kandyan Provinces.

The fact remains that after the disposal of the King, it was said that the reins of the administration of the Kandyan Provinces would be handed over to the Kandyan Chiefs. But they did not realise, the cunning British Diplomacy and the trained Civil Servants who were sent to Sri Lanka and also the spies like Sir John D’ Oyly.
An innocent set of Kandyan Chiefs was ‘caught’ in the intricacies of British administration and lost the country through a set of rules that the Britishers called “Treaty”. 
The Kandyan Chiefs only realised that they were taken for a ride by the British State of Art of conquering the countries through diplomacy.
It was an unwritten promise that British would place one of Kandyan Chiefs on the Throne. But, Brownrigg, did not honour his word and was at one time questioned in the British Parliament for his acts.  

Realising that entire Sinhala people were misled, Keppetipola thought that the time had come to avenge the plot of Robert Brownrigg, with his posting to Uva to quell the riots of Wellassa. Monarawila Keppetipola tried to redeem the land of his birth. Thus began the Rebellion of 1817-1818 with Monaravila Keppetipola at the helm.
The shameful nature of bringing down the rebellion by the British, especially on the orders Sir Robert Brownrigg, was such that even law officers of Britain recorded that it was unimaginable horror and ruthlessness of the British.

Kandyan Families were completely wiped out and the best of the Kandyan gentry went into hiding, while some sought toed with the British and earned their favours and also converted themselves into the faith of Christ. So much so it is recorded that pandemonium reigned in House of Commons. It was debated by British Parliamentarians even to the extent of condemning their own King for having a representative who knew no decency - that was Robert Brownrigg.
Most of the people, who after the British - Kandyan Treaty thought it fit to enter into the service of the British, had plum offices, while others were stripped of their positions. 

When the Kandyan Treaty was signed, Keppetipola Maha Dissawa was the Dissawa of Matale and subsequently the British appointed him to Uva as well. While he was in Uva, a chance utterance to the Translator David de Alwis, cost him his future and his life. He had one day told the translator in conversation that it was time for the British to bid goodbye to the country and place a Sinhala King on the Throne of Kandy. 

There was also a time when Keppetipola, punished officers under him who were trying to curry-favour  with the Government Agent of Badulla. The Governor became so vexed that he told the Kandy Commissioner and the resident representative Doy’ly that the people were rising against the Representative of the British King.
Keppetipola also frowned on the methods employed where his work was being interfered with the British. The British on the other hand had their own favourites in Sabaragamuwa, where the people of these areas helped the British to find their way into Kandyan Territory. 


"So, it should be noted that the real force for the freedom of the country were people like Keppetipola and other Chieftains"

He also indicated that as the Dissawa, he had the right to obtain the dues from Kataragama Devale. These led to the events of the Rebellion. 
A relative of Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe was roaming the area named Doaraiswamy, whom the British suspected as a claimant to the Kandyan Throne.
In the meantime, the Assistant Government Agent Sylvester Wilson sent Hadji (Who was appointed Dissawe of Uva) to capture Doraiswamy.
From the very commencement, the people of Wellassa did not take a liking over the appointment of Hadji. When he went to Wellassa, he had to face an armed gang, where he was taken into custody and his brother who accompanied him was hurt.
Wilson who heard about these incidents made an attempt to arrest the armed gang with a band of Java soldiers. But, he could do nothing and he succumbed to a fatal shot of the gang by bow and arrow. Not content with these incidents, Brownrigg offered to pay 2000 pagodas to anyone leading to the arrest of anyone who killed Wilson.

It is recorded that the British who recruited the scum of their country for adventure, had people like Lt. O’ Neill and others of their kind used to hang prisoners of the rebellion before their breakfast table and eat in front of them. That was the scum that entered the British Army at that time.
So by first January 1818, the entire Kandyan Province was under war, with the British. A quick discussion was held at the Audience Hall of Kandy by Robert Brownrigg and it he was told that under no condition, would the Kandyan Provinces be handed over to the Sinhala People. 
At this meeting, it was also stated that Robert Brownrigg declared that if anyone brought the Head of Keppetipola, he would be offered 2000 Pagodas (The type of currency at that time )

By February 18, the British moved, declaring that anyone who should bring the head of Madugalle or Pilamatalawa was offered 1000 Pagodas. But, with more troops of the British being brought in to quell the rebellion it became a failure, with the intrigue within the rebels. By August, the rebellion was an utter and miserable failure.
But on 28 October, Lt. O’Neil captured Keppetipola, due to a sneaking trader who had gone to barter goods to the village where Keppetipola stayed. Three days later Madugalle was arrested, and by November 4, under a heavy guard, both were brought to Kandy. By November 13 both were brought before a Kangaroo Court.  
Both were executed on November 25, 1818 with several other Kandyan chiefs. Ellepola Nilame was executed on October 27. 
So, it should be noted that the real force for the freedom of the country were people like Keppetipola and other Chieftains. The lands and properties of those who were in the rebellion were confiscated by  in January 1818. as belongings of Rebels, Outlaws, and Enemies of the British. 
The list of eighteen whose lands was confiscated to the Crown was head by Keppetipola, the former Dissawe of Uva.

  Comments - 1

  • ceylonese Monday, 26 November 2018 08:27 AM

    An excerpt from the Account of Execution written by Dr Henry Marshall : "Kappitapola then tied up his hair in a knot on the top of his head, and sat down on the ground, beside a small bush, grasping it at the same time with his toes. From the folds of the cloth which encircled his loins, he took a small Banna potta, (prayer-book) and, after reciting some prayers or vases, he gave the book to a native official who was present, requesting him to deliver it to Mr. Sawers as a token of the gratitude he felt for his friendship and kindness, while they were officially connected at Badulla,—Mr. Sawers as agent of government, and Kappitapola as dissawa of Uwa. The chief continued to repeat some Pali verses; and, while he was so employed the executioner struck him on the back of his neck with a sharp sword. At that moment he breathed out the word Arahaan, one of the names of Boodhoo."....... May the nation salute his memory.

Add comment

Comments will be edited (grammar, spelling and slang) and authorized at the discretion of Daily Mirror online. The website also has the right not to publish selected comments.

Reply To:

Name - Reply Comment

How Lanka’s National anthem was amended due to superstition

Sri Lanka is presently experiencing a tremendous economic crisis. Several k

Import of South Indian eggs: Sri Lanka walks on Indian eggshells

With the increase in egg prices the government decided to import eggs to regu

Wokeism: Is it destructive, or are you afraid of change? A response

In order to critically discuss a movement, we must first understand its etymo

Defeat in Ananthapuram Battle denoted the LTTE’s end

Many battles were fought during the long war between the Sri Lankan armed for