Great Rebellion of 1817–18

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Great Rebellion of 1817–18
Part of the Kandyan Wars
Result British victory
King of Kandy.svg Kandyan rebels  United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
Commanders and leaders
Keppetipola Disawe
Robert Brownrigg
Unknown - From 20,000 to 100,000 in an islandwide network. Unknown
Casualties and losses
Unknown Unknown
Part of a series on the
History of Kandy
Temple of the Tooth, Kandy
Kingdom of Kandy (1469–1815)
Colonial Kandy (1815–1948)
Kandy (1948–present)
See also
Flag of Sri Lanka.svg Sri Lanka portal

The Great Rebellion of 1817–18, also known as the 1818 Uva–Wellassa uprising (after the two places it had started), or simply the Uva rebellion, was the third Kandyan War with the British, in what is now Sri Lanka. It took place in what is now Uva, which was then a province of the Kingdom of Kandy, against the British colonial government under Governor Robert Brownrigg, which had been controlling the formerly independent Udarata (Up-Country in Sinhalese).[1]


Following the annexation of the Kandyan Kingdom by the British under the terms of the Kandyan Convention in 1815, British started to antagonize the Kandyan Chiefs who signed the convention through their actions; this included the breach of promises made by the British chiefs in terms retaining the traditional privileges enjoyed by them during the era of the Kandyan Kingdom. They were further angered by the appointment of a Moor loyal to the British, Haji Marikkar as Travala Madige Muhandiram of Wellassa undermining the authority of Millewa Dissawa sparked the rebellion[2].


Keppetipola Disawe was sent initially by the British government to stop the uprising but ended up joining the rebellion as its leader and is celebrated for his actions even today in Sri Lanka, he assisted many regional leaders in providing men and material from various regions. The other leaders who supported this independent movement were:2nd incharge of Gode Gedara Adikaram, Wilbawe (an alias of Duraisamy, a Nayakkar of Royal blood), II Pilima Talauve Adikaram, Kohu Kumbure Rate Rala, Dimbulana Disave, Kivulegedara Mohottala, Madugalle Disave, Butewe Rate Rala, Galagoda family members, Galagedara Mohottala, Meegahapitiya Rate Rala, Dambawinna Disave and , Kurundukumbure Mohottala.

Keppitipola went up to Alupotha and joined the rebels having returned all arms and ammunition of the British . Rev. Wariyapola Sumangala of Asgiriya fled to Hanguranketa with the relics casket which resulted in a more vigorous phase of the rebellion. By September 1817 two rebel leaders Madugalle Basnayake Nilame and Ellepola Adikaram surrendered to the British and Pilimatalawe led the rebellion; the British captured Ellepola who was the Dissawa of Viyaluwa and a brother of Maha Adikaram Ehelepola and beheaded them in Bogambara on 27 October 1818.


The rebellion was launched by Keppetipola Disawe. Except for Molligoda and Ekneligoda, many Chiefs joined the rebels; the rebels captured Matale and Kandy before Keppetipola fell ill and was captured and beheaded by the British. His skull was abnormal — as it was wider than usual — and was sent to Britain for testing, it was returned to Sri Lanka after independence, and now rests in the Kandyan Museum. The rebellion failed due to a number of reasons, it was not well planned by the leaders. The areas controlled by some Chiefs who helped the British provided easy transport routes for British supplies. Doraisami who was said to have a claim to the Sinhalese throne was found not to have any relation.[3][4][5][6][7]



The British massacred the male population of Uva above the age of 18 years.[8]

They also confiscated the properties of the people involved in the uprising, they killed all cattle and other animals, burnt homes, property and even the salt in their possession during the repression. Paddy fields in the area of Wellassa were all destroyed; the irrigation systems of the duchies of Uva and Wellassa, hitherto the rice-bowl of Sri Lanka were systematically destroyed.[9]


In the 'Journal of Uva,' Herbert White, a British Government Agent in Badulla after the rebellion minuted:

"It is a pity that there is no evidence left behind to show the exact situation in Uva in terms of population or agriculture development after the rebellion. The new rulers are unable to come up to any conclusion on the exact situation of Uva before the rebellion as there is no trace of evidence left behind to come to such conclusions. If thousands died in the battle they were all fearless and clever fighters. If one considers the remaining population of 4/5 after the battle to be children, women and the aged, the havoc caused is unlimited. In short the people have lost their lives and all other valuable belongings, it is doubtful whether Uva has at least now recovered from the catastrophe."[10]

Gazette Notification[edit]

During the rebellion a Gazette Notification was issued by Governor Robert Brownrigg to condemn all those who rebelled against British Rule in Sri Lanka. All those who participated in the uprising were condemned as “traitors” and their properties confiscated by the government under the notification with some executed and others exiled to Mauritius. Several governments after the independence of Sri Lanka in the past have indicated their intention to revoke this Gazette Notification, however could not take action in this regard; the Gazette Notification issued by Governor Brownrigg was brought to Sri Lanka on the instruction of President Maithripala Sirisena.[11] It was submitted to the Parliament and was revoked with the signature of the President in 2017; this allowed all those who participated in the uprising to be recognized as National Heroes, and their label as traitors erased. A National Declaration was awarded on their behalf to their descendants.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Sri Lanka is to revoke British Governor's infamous Gazette Notification". Archived from the original on 2 January 2016. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  2. ^ Monarawila Keppetipola Mahanilame : A true rebellion
  3. ^ Keppetipola and the Uva Rebellion Virtual Library Sri Lanka. Retrieved 2007-10-01.
  4. ^ "Uva Wellassa rebellion - 1817 -1818". Retrieved 23 October 2014.
  5. ^ Wellassa riots in 1818
  6. ^ "Torture tree of the British Army". Retrieved 23 October 2014.
  7. ^ 1818 Uva Wellassa rebellion
  8. ^ "Sri Lanka is to revoke British Governor's infamous Gazette Notification". Archived from the original on 2 January 2016. Retrieved 23 October 2014.
  9. ^ "Sri Lanka is to revoke British Governor's infamous Gazette Notification". Archived from the original on 2 January 2016. Retrieved 23 October 2014.
  10. ^ Karalliyadda, S. B. (2004). "The need for University of Uva". The Island. Retrieved 2013-11-06.
  11. ^
  12. ^ 81 leaders in 1818 freedom struggle declares as national heroes

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]