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Freedom fighters - Veera Keppetipola and William Wallace of Scotland - Part I



Veera Keppetipola

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.

Horrible sight

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.

Sinhala warriors

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 government.

 

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