Ven Wariyapola Sumangala Thero
Among our Sangha fathers We had eminent Excellent Dhamma preachers, Scholars, Meditators, Writers. The name of Ven Wariyapola Sri Sumangala Thero generate a sense of pride in any Sri Lankan even today. He was the brave bhikku who protected the sacred tooth relic from being captured by the English.
Ven Sumangala was born somewhere around 1795 as Bamunakotuve Ralahamige Kirihami, in the village of Wariyapola in the Kurunegala district. His father’s name was Herath Mudiyanselage Bamunakotuve Rala. Kirihami was ordained as a Buddhist monk when he was 12 years old in the Asgiriya Chapter of the Siam Nikaya by Ven Navinne Dhammadassi Thero and was named Wariyapola Sumangala. He quickly rose through the hierarchy of the Nikaya, and was eventually appointed a Anu Nayaka—a Deputy- of the Asgiriya Chapter. He was the chief monk of the Sailathalaarama in Wariyapola, now named after him as Sri Sumangala Pirivena Raja Maha Viharaya.
In 1815, Sinhalese leaders drew up the Kandyan Convention , handing over control of the country to with the British. Ven Sumangala Thero was very much against this convention and handing over of the country to an invader.On the day this agreement was to be signed (2 March 1815) at the Temple of the Tooth, a British soldier had taken down the Sinhalese flag and hoisted the Union Jack before the document was signed. Ven Sumangala Thero who was the caretaker of the Temple of Tooth relic had taken down the English flag and raised the Sinhalese flag again, declaring that until the convention was signed the country still belonged to the Sinhalese and their flag will fly until that time. This “Sinahalese flag” is believed to be the lion flag used by the last rulers of the country, and this event is mentioned in the books recording the history of the Asgiriya Chapter
In 1818, a rebellion started in the central hill country against the British rule. The British were being challenged militarily and politically. The possession of the Tooth Relic was traditionally regarded as a symbol of the right to rule the country. Venerable Wariyapola Sumangala, who was the Anunayake of Asgiri Chapter, was ‘in service’ at the inner shrine room of the Sri Dalada Maligawa when the British took over Kandy from the Chieftains, took no time to ‘spirit’ away the Sacred Tooth Relic from the Sri Dalada Maligawa, hiding it in the seam of his robe.
He went into hiding in Hanguranketa and later handed it over to Keppetipola Disawe, who was leading the rebellion against the British. This acquisition of sacred tooth relic was a huge morale boost to the patriots, who intensified their activities after that.
However, the British captured Ven Sumangala Thero in November 1818 in Matale after a tip off by a Sinhalese Disawe, and recovered the Tooth Relic, which they ceremonially brought into Kandy again. The rebellion ended soon after this. Ven Sumangala was convicted for treason and imprisoned in the Fort Prison in Jaffna. Some accounts say that he was released on 13 April 1821 by order of the then Governor of Ceylon. After he was released, he did not come back to his Temple at Sudu Humpola or to his hometown Wariyapola Temple. It has been reported later that Venerable Wariyapola Sumangala Thera lived the life of an ascetic in Jaffna for the rest of his life, despising the Sinhala people for their ungratefulness.
To commemorate the brave bhikku a statue has been erected on the premises of the sacred tooth relic (Maha Maluwa of the Dalada Maligawa) in Kandy and is an annual thanks giving is done on 2nd March every year.