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 Post subject: Ehelepola dug his own grave
 Post Posted: Thu Sep 22, 2005 1:13 am 
Ehelepola dug his own grave

by Godwin Witane

The Kandyan Sinhalese had successfully maintained their freedom against foreign forces from the time of Vijaya while the low-country Sinhalese were in the grips of Portuguese, Dutch and British. But man’s deadliest foe, dissent and jealousy within the ranks of the Kandyan Chiefs brought about that which for three centuries foreign armed might could not achieve - the capitulation of the Kandyan kingdom changing the course of history . King Rajadhi Rajasingha died in 1798 without issue. It was the lot of Pilimatalawa, the First Adigar to select a descendant from the Royal family to succeed the Crown. When there was Muttusamy, who had a better claim to the throne, Pilimatalawa chose Kannasamy, the son of Venkata Perumal Naik and Supammal, the younger sister of Pendrammal, the third queen of Rajadhi Rajasingha.

There was doubt as to Kannasamy’s parentage as Pilimatalawa denied parentage of Kannasamy when there was a strong belief, that Kannasamy was a natural son of Chief Pilimatalawa. He alleged that Kannasamy was an illegal son of Rajadhi Rajasingha. When Kannasamy’s father died Kannasamy had been brought to Sri Lanka by Kondasamy (Gampola Deviya) and resided at Malabar Street, where all the Royal family Nayakkars lived. Pilimatalawa’s crafty intention for selecting Kannasamy as the King was his deep ambition to Crown himself believing he could easily usurp the throne for him as Kannasamy was an inexperienced youth of 18 years. Kannasamy never aspired to become King but scheming Pilimatalawa made him wear the Crown. To Pilimatalawa’s dismay he found that Kannasamy once crowned King was steadfastly holding it in princely ferver and was wary of the British, who were constantly desirous of adding the Kandyan Kingdom to their sea-coast possessions. As a last resort, Pilimatalawa tried to give his daughter in marriage to the King but failed when he married the two daughters of Gampola Deviyo.

This may be the origin of the agitation which made Pilimatalawa to plot against the King. Heavily disappointed Pilimatalawa sought the aid of the British to evict the newly crowned King from his throne. He contacted Governor North and Mac Donald but failed in his secret plans. Thereafter Pilimatalawa tried to rouse the British against the Kandyan Sinhalese by instigating some misguided Kandyan peasants to molest a group of British subjects consisting of Muslims engaged in trade who happened to come to Kandy. The Kandyans recruited by Pilimatalawa mutilated with impunity the itinerant traders with the hope of gaining a part of the loot. They were also in fear of disobeying the Country Chief. When this news reached the British in Colombo they were so infuriated that they demanded compensation for the misdeed through Pilimatalawa himself, whose main intention was to bring about dissension between the British and the Kandyan Court. Then in 1803 the British under Major General Mac Dowell and Col. Barbut invaded Kandy to find the city deserted. Thereupon the British crowned the Prince named Muttusamy King of Kandy. But the Kandyans harassed the British in guerrilla warfare and defeated them when Muttusamy too found his grave. Meanwhile in 1806, the Second Adigar Meegastenne died and his Division was divided and given over to Ehelepola and Molligoda. But the Kandyans rebelled over this appointment of two persons to manage one District, which resulted in a rebellion. It was the able Pilimatalawa who was successful in suppressing this uprising that the King felt jealous of him and disliked his authority and powers. The King was ever vigilant to his misdeeds and soon Pilimatalawa was imprisoned.

After he was released he planned to assassinate the King by raising a rebellion at Uda Nuwara and Yati Nuwara but having failed in his attempt he was beheaded in 1812 after a trial for high treason. Ehelepola suspected Molligoda as being the cause of Pilimatalawa’s execution. Thereafter Ehelepola, who was 2nd. Adigar and Disawe of Seven Korales was made the First Adigar on his 32nd year and Molligoda was made the 2nd Adigar. The British had first contacted this remarkable man Ehelepola on April 7th, 1800 when Col. Mac Dowell was on his way to the Court of Sri Wickrama Rajasingha was received by him at Gannoruwa. To win over the British, Ehelepola delivered to Mac Dowell gifts of rice in large quantities, cakes, sugar, sweetmeats and various other dishes explaining that the Sinhalese should live in amity with the British. The British were overwhelmed by this unusual kindness.

Ehelepola’s marriage to the daughter of Maha Disawa Keppitipola, the sister of the valliant Keppitipola of the Uva rebellion was celebrated with great pomp and ceremony. Ehelepola who was entrusted with the work of the Kandy Lake and its completion in record time in 1806 pleased the King that he bestowed presents on Ehelepola which made Molligoda jealous that he conspired to inform the King that Ehelepola was going from village to village in Sabaragamuwa preparing a rebellion against the King. At this time Ehelepola was in touch with D’Oily in Colombo, who was aware that there was dissension in the Kandyan Court. The people of Sabaragamuwa were also antagonised against Ehelepola for imposing heavy fines on them forbidding the drinking of arrack and the ban on killing wild pigs that destroyed their fields. The King sent Ehelepola to Sabaragamuwa for two reasons.

First, to keep him away from cospirators who planned to kill the King and secondly to keep him away from home with the ulterior motive of seducing Elapatha Kumarihamy. The King had been known for his emotionally vulnerable morals and termed ‘Val-Rajjuruwo’ among the Kandyan circles. Once again the King heard of preparations a rebellion in Sabaragamuwa by Ehelepola, while on a visitto collect revenue. Thereupon the King, at once ordered Ehelepola to meet him in Kandy which he disobeyed. As a result Molligoda was made the First Adigar. When Molligoda was ordered by the King to seize Ehelepola, he without making any effort to do so informed the King that Ehelepola had joined the British. Ehelepola left for Colombo leaving his wife and children at the mercy of the King and met Governor Brownrigg at Mt. Lavinia on 4th May 1814. He was provided with a house at Silversmith Street and had even access to the Governor, who treated him with great hospitality. Ehelepola was in contact with the Kandyan Chiefs who were ever willing to betray the King- Brownrigg was thus emboldened to invade Kandy. Meanwhile in Kandy. The King was boiling with rage over Ehelapola’s cospiracy. He asked the Diya Wadana Nilame regarding the law that prevailed in the Kandyan Kingdom against treason to which he replied that in the event of treason Kandyan interprets that the males are executed and the women were drowned. Sri Wickrama acted accordingly. He gave the gruel order to behead the children and have their heads pounded by the mother in a mortar and the women drowned in the lake. On 17th May 1814 Ehelepola’s eldest son Loku Banda 11 years, Madduma Banda, 9 years hailed as the hero of Kandy, Dingiri Menike 5 years and Podi Menike 1 year were beheaded while sadiat Molligoda watched these gruesome actions. As Ehelepola Kumarihamy did not accede to the King’s improper wishes she was ordered to pound the decapitated heads of the children in a morter. When she refused to carry out the King’s orders she was threatened that she would be cast over to the low cast Rodiyas. The King further declared that the penalty will have to be paid by her and his progeny.

This tragic story has been composed in verse called "Ehelepola Hatana" by Kavisundara Mudali in 1816,. The words she uttered at the execution have been illustrated as follows:

"Piriye Niridun maa dekumen uyana sita,
Heriye panividaya yana men Vasalata,
Sariye neti bevin gedera yaama pita,
Beriye kee nisaa me duk une mata.

The King lustfully watched me when he was in the garden, and sent me a message to go to the Palace. Since I replied that it was not proper for me to go out of my house, therefore I have to suffer this sorrow.

When Ehelepola learnt of this cruel action of the King, he vowed to take revenge. The Kandyans too rose against the King. On January 9th 1815 British Divisions arrived at Sitawaka to go to Kandy, while another Division took a different route. On arrival in Kandy they found that the King had fled to Doraliadda in Meda Maha Nuwara. An armed party led by Ekneligoda Disava accompanied by an angry mob with lighted torches arrived at his hideout, tied him with rope and dragged him along when D’Oily arrived at the scene and saved the King and the two Queens from the indignities they suffered and from certain death.

The King’s Nayakkar Dynasty was erased for ever. The King and his retinue were secretly taken to Colombo via Negombo and after a stay for some time the King was deported to Vellore where he died in 1832 at the age of 52. On February 13 1815 Ehelepola triumphantly reached the Palace although his wife and children were no more. When Sri Wickrama was taken to Madura, his native place, in the British battleship ‘Cornwall’ on 24th January 1816 Ehelepola was full of Joy. But before Sri Wickrama departed he warned the British to be wary of Ehelepola, who had betrayed the King, who at the beginning had immense faith in him. He charged him with ingratitude and deception. Five days after the King was captured Ehelepola was dejected immediately after the fall of the Monarch. Perhaps he expected to be installed as Governor of Uda Rata. Brownrigg offered him high office but he refused.

He offered him 1000 Star Pagades as a present for his services but he would have none. The Kandyan Convention was drawn on 2nd March 1815. Ehelepola did not sign while 9 other Chiefs did so. Subsequently he asked the Governor for 5000 Riks Dollars, several other villages and a suitable title above the other Chiefs, which Brownrigg promised to do and thereafter he put his signature to the Convention which made it authentic then. When Brownrigg visited Kandy, he accompanied Ehelepola in visiting the newly acquired territory. This familiarity was too much for Ehelepola’s enemies. They decided to start a rebellion to oust the British led by Keppitipola, a kinsman of Ehelepola. Brownrigg suspected Ehelepola of favouring the rebels. He suspected him of having secret desires to become King. Hataraliadde Disave sneaked to the British that a few weeks before the revolt broke out Ehelepola accepted a gift of the last King’s clothing and Crown. Once he put on the King’s Jacket and Crown and explained to Velagedera that soon he would be King.

Brownrigg secretly informed D’Oily that he had confidential information that Ehelepola had secret designs to be the King of Kandy. On 28th of April 1815 the Tooth Relic was brought from Hindagala Viharaya and placed in the octagon and in that procession Ehelepola appeared on horseback at the rear of the procession akin to the traditional custom followed by the King. In this instance he was followed by thousands of his adherents. There was no doubt that Ehelepola had a considerable following, who were prepared to acknowledge him as King. He was the Commander in Chief of the army and prime Minister — Maha Adikaram.

This roused the jealousy of Molligoda and the others including Millewwa. Inspite of Brownrigg’s warning D’Oily still romained friendly with Ehelepola. Instead of taking him to custody and imprisoning him D’Oily invited him to the Audience Hall and made him sit by him while the cases were heard. This led to utmost jealousy of Molligoda, who ridiculed him for sitting with an Englishman while being the Maha Nilame listening to cases instituted on the very Sinhalese men. Brownrigg was ready to give him an important place for all his services but Molligoda intrigued against him through jealousy. The 1818 rebellion was reason enough to distrust Ehelepola as he was Keppitipola’s brother in law. He forfeited the trust that the British had on him. When D’Oily questioned Ehelepola about the prevailing rumour he flatly denied it and swore on a Buddha statue his innocence and declared that although Keppitipola was his kinsman he had nothing to do with him. Ehelepola requested D‘Oily to send him to Colombo forthwith to remove any doubt. While D’Oily believed in his innocence Molligoda pictured him as a traitor of the highest rank. So on 9th.March 1817 Brownrigg summoned Ehelepola to the Audience Hall and had him arrested for high treason as Keppitipola was using his name to encourage the rebellion. Ehelepola was immediately taken to Colombo, guarded by soldiers. In Colombo he was kept prisoner but it was doubtful that Brownrigg and D’Oily both were not convinced he was guilty. The fate of Ehelepola was a bitter one. The King dismissed him as untrustworthy and the British too found him vacillating. Later on the advice of the Commissioners Ehelepola was deported for life to Mauritius. He was respectfully lodged and provided for his maintenance. The English residents of the Island respected him and addressed him as ‘Prince’. He had leave to travel anywhere in the Island. He died on April 24th 1829, perhaps through loss of company of his countrymen. He was cremated at Audre Mon Choicy where a monument now stands.


Ehelepola was a patriot of no mean order, whose triumphant entry into Kandy in February 1815 lost the Independence of Kandy Uda Rata till 1948. It took 133 years for Lanka to have another Prime Minister.

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