Saturday Magazine

In Quest of Ehelapola Dissawe’s Walauwa and his other exploits Part I
Madduma Bandara’s Memorial and what remains of Ehelapola’s Walauwa

Script & Pix: Gamini G. Punchihewa

At a crucial time in the history of the Kandyan kingdom and with the impending entry of the British forces into Kandy, Ehelapola, First Adigar, became the Dissawe of the Sabaragamuwa Province. This was in 1812. He succeeded Pilimatalawa as second Adigar. Pilimatalawa was beheaded for treachery against the last king of Kandy, Sri Wickremarajasinha.

Aftermath of the Uva revolt

Hot on its heels came the Uva-Welessa Revolt of 1817-18. It was led by Moravila Keppettipola Dissawe. It was a well known fact to king Sri Wickremarajasinha that Ehelapola, while being the Dissawe of Sabaragamuwa, was aiding and abetting in fanning the flames of this rebellion against British rule. Thus, fearing reprisal from the king, Ehelapola, with the consent of Governor Bronwrigg sought asylum in the British occupied territory of Colombo. Ehelapola Dissawe remained in Colombo but in 1825 he and his other accomplices were sent into exile on the isle of Mauritius, where he died on 8.4.1829. These details would be dealt with in Part IV of the last series of these articles.

Execution of Ehelapola’s

family

At this dangerous moment, the king could not arrest Ehelapola, as he was in the custody of the British forces of Colombo. So in a rush of rage, the king arrested Ehelapola’s wife and children (one an infant). All his children except the females were beheaded. Ehelapola’s wife and daughters were forcibly drowned in the Bogambara Wewa by tying huge stones around their necks!

These old Kandyan laws, decreed by the kings, said that women offenders sentenced to death, should not be beheaded, but be forcibly drowned in the Bogambara lake in this most cruel and inhumane method.

Beheaded one by one!


A lone stone pillar with an oval slab on top. This is said to be the remains of an Attuwa (barn).

The rest of this awful story is history. The three children (including the infant) were forcefully put into a mortar (wangediya), to be pounded by the mother herself. But the grief and horror stricken mother could not bear to carry out this gruesome task and as she took the pestle into her hands, it fell down and she too fell to the ground senseless.

Later, the sorrow filled mother told her elder son, who was an 11-year-old, to face the cruel destiny of death at the hands of the executioner, as commanded by the king. But

the nervous child was clinging on to his mother and crying aloud. Then came the historic moment. The younger son, Madduma Bandara, who was a 9-year-old, gallantly stepped forward and told his elder brother not to be frightened of facing the execution as his fate too would come next.

Finally the blade of the executioner fell on the heroic son (veera putha), Madduma Bandara. The bloody act was done and he was followed by his elder brother.

This awful blood curdling tragedy came to a dastardly end when the innocent infant, still clinging to the mother’s bosum while sucking milk, was snatched away and duly beheaded, like the other two.


The bronze statue of Madduma Bandara, heroic son of Ehelapola Dissawe

Madduma Bandara’s memorial

Now we come to the stone memorial and statue of Ehelapola’s younger son, Madduma Bandara, erected in remembrence of his heroic deed, in giving his life to the executioner’s blade.

This stone memorial and statue is situated on the outskirts of Matale and on the road to Galewala from Matale. It is at a place called Pallepola junction.

Words etched for

posterity

The late Ranasinghe Premadasa, a former Prime Minister and later President of this country, was a great statesman who always remembered and duly honoured such patriots, of the historic past, by erecting statues of them and stone memorials to record their heroic deeds. Thus, former Premier and later President, the late R. Premadasa in the process of honouring such bygone patriots came to erect a full size bronze statue of this heroic son (veera putha), Madduma Bandara, of Ehelapola Dissawe and his Kumarihamy, with the apt words etched on the plaque below it, at this very identical spot by the roadside junction of Pallepola, on the road from Matale to Galewela.

As in the past, in my wanderings, in quest of such historic spots, I stumbled upon this stone memorial referred to above.

I have an old friend and colleague of mine, Laxsana Singa, living off Ukkuwela, which is close to Pallepola junction. Hence, one day, he took me there in his vehicle. On this plaque below, is engraved the following undying words in Sinhala:- "This statue is erected in eternal memory of Ehelapola Madduma Bandara, younger son (veera lamaya - heroic boy).It was inaugurated by The President R. Premadasa on 25.3.1986, at the invitation of the Member of Parliament for Dambulla and Minister K. A. M. Ekanayake.

Remains of Ehelapola’s Walauwa?

This historic find did not end there. In order to satiate my ‘craving’ to find more and more information, close to this historic spot, off Ehelapola Mawatha, I again and again found more ruins which they say, according to oral tradition in this very locality, to be those of Ehelapola’s Walauwa.

Off this road - Ehelapola Mawatha, overlooking a tank (then dried up at the time of my visit), I was directed by some village patriarchs to meet one Mr. Shane Molagoda, who it is claimed was an ancestral relation of this Ehelapola Dissawe. He was the Grama Sevaka Niladari of Ehelapola itself - a veritable source of informantion to ascertain the past relics of Ehelapola Dissawe. Yes, undoubtedly, it came from the very ‘horse’s mouth’!

Mohan Molagoda disclosed to me that some oral traditions have it that the ancestral Walauwa had stood in the very premises on which his own house now stands. But no spectacular object or authenticated ruins existed there, save for some mounds of earth scattered here and there.

But he pointed out with his hands to show me two standing stone pillars. He told me that according to folklore these were the remains of an Attuwa (a large barn to store grain and paddy) that had stood in those years gone by. On the top of one of these stone pillars, was placed what looked like a basal stone (circular in shape) with a hole bored in the middle, probably to anchor the upright stone pillars.

In the past, officials from the Archaeological Department had inspected this site and the two standing stone pillars.

Mr. Molagoda showed me a burrowed pit which he said was the place where some earth was excavated to build this Walauwa, or it still may have served as a moat around the Walauwa premises. During the rainy season, it gets filled with water. Far across a (opposite the frontage roadway), stretched paddy field. He told me that there had been some stone pillars standing there, which were the remains of an Ambalama (a wayside resting place) that had stood from Ehelapola’s time, as it was on the old road to reach Matale overland.

Next Ehelapola’s exploits around Sabaragamuwa


NEWS | FEATURES | OPINION | BUSINESS | EDITORIAL | CARTOON | SPORTS