Freedom fighters - Veera Keppetipola and William Wallace of Scotland
- Part I
Emperors, kings, queens, national heroes, patriots, military and
political leaders and freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives for
the sake of their countries occupy a prominent place in the history of
the world. Even after their deaths, they live. They are immortal. The
names of the freedom fighters are engraved in gold in the cherished
history of their respective countries.
The great national patriot our own Senadipati Veera Keppetipola, who
was also known as Monarawila, and freedom fighter William Wallace of
Scotland were great national patriots. There was something common in the
lives of these two great men. They fought for a cause - to liberate
their countries. Further, these two majestic personalities were executed
and both of them faced their deaths bravely and gallantly.
William Wallace of Scotland
William Wallace led the rebellion against the Britishers and defeated
the English forces at Sterling Bridge. Later at the Battle of Falkirk,
William Wallace was defeated. Veera Keppetipola led the freedom fight
against British rule in the years 1817-1818. He too was later captured
and punished for treason like William Wallace.
Both these great 'Freedom Fighters' of Scotland and Sri Lanka have
something in common. Ultimately they were executed by King Edward I and
by Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe respectively.
As a student of history I presume, both these men, Great Veera
Keppetipola and William Wallace were great national heroes who faced
their deaths bravely. They knew they were sacrificing the lives for the
Independence of their respective countries, Sri Lanka and Scotland. What
more than sacrificing your life for the sake of your own country or
liberation of your country? They were great warriors.
William Wallaces’ trial was one sided, like Veera Keppetipola's. They
were charged for treason. The trials were not to prove the guilt of
Wallace or Keppetipola, but demonstrated the might of the power of King
Edward I and Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe respectively. The two kings, used
these trials to show the Scottish and Sri Lankans, that anyone who
opposes or challenges the kings will ultimately will have to face the
terrible, fearful consequences at the time of their death.
I presume in the annals of world history, the most gruesome,
shocking, painful death was that of William Wallace. He was supposed to
be taken to the scaffold, on which criminals are executed. Wallace and
Keppetipola were not criminals - they were great freedom fighters in
their respective countries.
William Wallace, who faced the awesome bitterest death in human
history was dragged on a hurdle, behind a horse, for nearly four or five
miles for the London city dwellers to see the horrible sight.
Thousands of people flocked to see this rare sight. William Wallace
wrapped in a shroud dragged alive from Westminster to the Tower, from
there to Aldgate, and final destination of his fate to Smithfiled.
He was still alive. He was to be hanged by the neck, but not until
the last breath. While Wallace was still alive he was cut down. This
great war hero William Wallace was still alive and not unconscious. His
Torso, main part of the human body, not including the head, arms or
legs; trunk was split. His organs removed. They were burnt on a garment
of Wallace's female partner. His head was later displayed on the famous
London Bridge. Four quarters of his body were hung, displayed at New
Castle, Berwick, Perth, and Sterling, where the Great William Wallace
routed Edward's, English Army. King Edward made him a man of yesterday.
When you compare this obnoxious sight and William Wallaces’ brave
march to his death, Veera Keppetipola's execution was quick and swift.
This great patriot, national hero of Sri Lanka marched chained alone the
main street of Kandy with another patriotic leader Madugalle. On a
number of times, Madugalle fainted fearing death, but Veera Keppetipola
faced the executioner bravely.
In front of the Sacred Tooth Relic chamber he stopped in worship.
Here he requested the English Assistant Government Agent, Soyers to
allow him to worship the Tooth Relic. This majestic personality removed
the dresses and ornaments he was wearing. He handed them to a guard, to
be offered to the Tooth Relic. Before, he was executed he worshipped the
Tooth Relic chamber, from a distance and read some verses from the
Dhammapada, the book of 'Treasure of Truth' and bravely faced the
executioner. The signal was given by the Commissioner of Prisons Thomas,
to behead Keppetipola. The executioner landed the sharp sword on
Keppetipola's neck, but, the executioner failed in his first attempt.
His neck was cut half open. Keppetipola turned to the executioner and
said and showed the place of the neck, where he should land his sharp
sword to separate his head. In the second attempt he was successful.
Thus greatest freedom fighter of Sri Lanka fell dead.
The British officers were amazed by the gallantry and braveness of
this national patriot. They say that Veera Keppetipola's head was later
sent to England for examination and research and kept in a British
Museum for many years. This act shows the boldness of the Sinhala
patriots. They were great men who always put country before self.
The story of Keppetipola shows the braveness of the Sinhala Nation.
He was a signatory for the famous English-Sinhala Kandyan Treaty. He
signed his name as Monarawila in Sinhala. King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe,
appointed young Keppetipola Nilame as one of the Commanders. He was
appointed as the first Government Agent of Matale and later as GA-Uva
Province at a very young age.
It was the worst of times. Nobles, such as, Pilimatalawe, Ehelapola,
and Molligoda planned to overthrow the Tamil ruler and established their
power in Kandy.
In the meantime, a relation of Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe, named
Doraisamy, was planning a strategy, motivating the patriotic Sinhala
people in Uva-Wellassa and Bintenna to re-establish a Sinhala kingdom.
Eight patriotic Buddhist monks too supported his cause. Thousands of
Sinhala warriors joined Doraisamy and formed the Sinhala Liberation
Front. They defeated the Britishers and established their power in these
areas for sometime.
When Assistant Government Agent Wilson, heard about the plight of the
British Army, and the threat forced by the 'Sinhala Rebels', Wilson sent
a Muslim Army under Haddji Muhandiram to counter attack the Sinhala
Rebels. The Sinhala Rebels were victorious. When Wilson heard about the
death of Haddji Muhandiram, he led a team of 20 Malay soldiers to crush
the Rebellion of the Sinhala Rebels. In a fierce battle that took place,
AGA - Wilson was also killed.
The situation was tense. Major McDonald despatched an Army from
Badulla to Balangoda to capture Doraisamy.
Another battalion was sent by him, via Talduwa to Wellassa. When the
English Army reached Kiulegedera, the Veddhas attacked them. In the
meantime, the Englishmen, sought the assistance of brilliant warrior
Keppetipola Disawe to crush the rebellion.
Keppetipola, realised that, he should not fight against his own
people and as a true patriot joined hands with the Sinhala warriors and
fought against the Britishers. There were many Sinhala chieftains who
supported the Englishmen for financial gains and positions in the