The renowned Sinhala hero and patriot, Kudahapola Hamuduruwo was born in the village of Kadahapola in Kuliyapitiya. Hence he was popularly known as “Kadahapola Unnanse”. Little is known about his date of birth or his parents.
Along with other freedom fighters as Ven. Hikkaduwe Siri Sumangala, Veera Puran Appu and Gongalegoda Banda this monk was in the vanguard of the struggle against British domination in the mid nineteenth century.
The Governor at the time was Lord Torrington. He was an insensitive and intolerant ruler whose greatest ambition was to please the Queen of England. He showed a callous disregard for the burdens heaped on the people of the country.
When the coffee blight destroyed the plantations resulting in a steep decline in revenue to the British Empire, the Governor devised manifold ways to extract revenue by way of taxes. As a consequence there was deep dissatisfaction and animosity against the rulers.
The abolition of the feudal service system known as the “Rajakariya” and the imposition of various taxes such as the land tax, the gun tax and grain tax enraged the people to think of rebellion.
Although the British, with the signing of the Kandyan Convention on 2nd of March 1815, had given a solemn undertaking to safeguard and honour Buddhism and the Sacred Tooth Relic and protect the rights of the Sinhala nation, the promises were never kept.
By his scant disregard and arrogant attitude towards the feelings of the Sinhalese, Governor Torrington made many enemies among the Buddhist clergy and the Sinhalese chiefs. All this in turn added for militancy among the people and they began to look for leaders who could mobilize them into action against unjust imperial rule.
By the year 1848, as conditions had come to a head, inviting mobilization of forces and strong, dedicated leadership against the British, Kudahapola Hamuduruwo provoked the Governor by crowning Gongalegoda Banda as the rightful King of Sinhalese. Veera Puran Appu was appointed as Chief Adigar to the new king.
Leading an unostentatious life the Chief Incumbent of the Kahalla Temple, Kudahapola Unnanse did an incomparable service to uplift the peasantry and also to inculcate a deep sense of pride and devotion in the youth for the motherland. And so he became a thorn in the eyes of the British Government.
He was openly critical of the injustices perpetrated on the Sinhalese by the government. His monks garb was no hindrance to him to gather forces to confront the British. He found unwavering support from many a Buddhist monk and village chief to organize a revolt against the arrogant rulers.
Kudahapola Unnanse was arrested by a British Officer, Buller by name, at his temple on 24th of August 1848. Allegations against the monk were too many, foremost among them being treason which was punishable with death.
He was charged with attempting to overthrow Her Majesty’s Government and capture the Kandyan Kingdom, failure to report on the treacherous activities of Gongalegoda Banda and organizing opposition against the government. Lord Torrington lost no time in getting the death sentence passed on the venerable monk before the Sinhala people got incensed. And so the chapter ended with Kudahapola Hamuduruwo being shot in his robes on 26th of August 1848.
This act of grave injustice came under heavy fire from many quarters. The news sheet “The Madras Crescent” carried a strong criticism against the Governor’s action. Even H. G. Selby, the Attorney General at the time had deplored Torrington’s action.
Kudahapola Unnanse’s untimely execution dealt a death blow to the aspirations of the people of all four corners of the country and the pain of mind thus inflicted on them was very keenly felt. The monk’s abiding love for his country and his burning desire to liberate the nation immortalized him in the annals of mother Lanka’s history.
The echoes of this dastardly act reverberated in the English Parliament. So the British Government was compelled to appoint a Commission of Inquiry to report on Governor Torrington’s rule. There were too many allegations of misrule and Torrington was recalled to England.
During this dark period in mother Lanka’s history when the people were denied the right to their own country, the memory of Kudahapola Hamuduruwo stands as a beacon that lit up the way for succeeding generations to carry forward the struggle to free the land from foreign masters.
This great but simple man of religion stood up against the might of a super nation that Britain was and made the supreme sacrifice for the freedom that we enjoy and cherish today.
So, Kudahapola Hamuduruwo’s name will always be remembered with devotion, pride and gratitude.
Follow the perpetual qualities of the undying heroes for the protection of motherland in the future.