Wednesday, 16 November 2011


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Uva rebellion

The last vestige of colonial rule, the Kandyan Kingdom was annexed to the British with the signing of the historical Kandyan Convention on March 2, 1815. This change in the administration of the country brought vast social cultural and economic changes and changes in the lifestyles of the people. The people who frequently saw their king and walked with him in the Senkadagala Esala festival parade now owe allegiance to a monarch whom they never saw and lived across many an ocean.

The people observed that in course of time the conditions under which they handed over the country to the British were observed in the breach. For instance the Clause IV of the treaty which guaranteed the safeguard of the traditions and conventions when appointing holders to the posts of Disawe, Korala, Vidane, etc. were not observed. After the annexation the Kandyan Kingdom was placed under a Board. The British resident was John de Oyly. He had Simon Sawers, Col. Kelly and James Sutherland to assist him. First Adigar was Milligoda who was also the Disawa of seven Korale, second Adigar was Kapuwatte.

He was also the Disawa of Sabaragamuwa. Pilimatalawa was the Disawa of four Korale, Uva was under Keppetipola who was also known as Monarawila due to his binna system of Kandyan marriage. Matale was under Ratwatte, three Korales under Molligoda (junior) Nuwara Kalaviya under Galagoda, Walapane under Dullewa, Tamankaduwa under Galagama, Udunuwara under Mampitiya, Yatinuwara under Pilimatalawa, Ulapane under Kobbekaduwa and Wellassa and Bintenna placed in charge of Millawa. This was the administrative set up in the Kandyan Kingdom after the convention. In the meantime the Muslims who were trading in arecanuts and salt who paid large amounts of taxes, gifts and presents to the Dissawa were able to persuade the British to get one of their men appointed as a chief to Uva Wellassa.

The Assistant Resident at Badulla Sylvester Douglas Wilson through the military commissariat was able to get Nina Markair Kariyappa as Head Moorman over the Madige of Wellassa while Unambuwe Ekanayake Wahala Mudiyanse was the Chief of Kotmale, Halpe Chandrasekara Ekanayake Wijesundara Wahala Mudiyanse was in charge of upper Bulathgama, Dodantale Kandure Mudiyanse at lower Bulathgama and Tikiri Appuhamy Mudiyanse was in charge of Minneriya. This appointment over the Madige of Wellassa was contrary to the accepted convention and the customs and rituals prevailing at the time and caused agitation unrest and displeasure among the people of Uva-Wellassa.

The Muslims of Wellassa repudiated the authority of the Disawa and abstained from paying the customary dues and taxes to the chiefs.

Meanwhile one Duraisamy claiming to be a relation of the deposed king along with several Buddhist monks arrived in Badulla and the people rallied round him. But Clause III of the Kandyan Convention categorically denied and rejected such claims to the Kandyan Kingdom. Wilbawe an ex-Buddhist monk too joined these people who by now started to rebel against the British rule. By now the rebellion spread to Wellassa, Bintenna, Ulapane, Hewaheta, Kotmale and Dumbara.

In October 1817 Douglas Wilson dispatched the newly appointed Naina Marikkar to investigate into the matter. This move by the British was akin to sending Naina Marikkar to Digamadulla to inquire into land disputes in Deegavapi. The people armed with bows and arrows captured him. After this incident Wilson himself went there with a small gang of soldiers. He could not face the rebels and on his return to Badulla he was shot down and his interpreter captured. Wilsonís body could not be found and this place is to-day known as Wilson plain or Wilsontenna. A corporal and two privates carrying a dispatch from Fort Macdowell in Matale too were killed in this melee.

The British government had to bring additional troops from Colombo to face the situation and were sent to the rebellion districts. Governor Brownrigg declared martial law in the Kandyan district and set up eighteen military posts. The rebellion reached its peak and the British were preparing to evacuate Kandy. Lady Brownrigg was sent to Colombo accompanied by a large garrison in advance.

Three and four Korale people loyal to Molligoda did not join the rebels. Additional troops were brought from Madrass and Bengall to reinforce the British troops and the Sinhalese could not meet this situation. Madugalla fell out with Keppetipola and set up another group under him. The crops were burnt and the people faced a famine. The leaders fell one after another, Ehelepola was court martialled and beheaded. With the capture of Madugalla and Keppetipola the rebels either surrendered or captured. The rebellion lasted for nearly one year and thousand British soldiers died in battle while the Sinhalese who died were estimated over ten thousand.

All Kandyan chiefs were either beheaded or vanished. Kepperipola who was sent to Wellassa to settle the insurrection joined the rebels and was captured and beheaded. His skull was taken to the Phrenological society of Edinburgh and brought back to Ceylon. The villages in Uva Wellassa were burnt with livestock and whatever food grains and no human settlement in the area for over ten years. Those who escaped the carnage fled to far away places like Dambagalla mariarawe Panama, Lahugala, Kotiyagala Etimale Udikkapu-ara, Kolonwinna while some others came along the bank of Kumbukkan Oya and crossed the Walawe river and settled in areas now coming under deep South. Rambukwella family went to Urubokka, Seneviratna family settled in Tangalle and the Dissanayakas, Ratnayakas, Ekanayakas, Illangakoons, Tennakoons, Bandaras, Senaraths settled in various places in the South after the Rebellion. The lesson we have to learn is that craze for power, mistrust, suspicion jealousy are some of the qualities that ruin a nation. It is true even to-day.


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