Matale Rebellion

Matale Rebellion

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The Matale Rebellion, also known as the 'Rebellion of 1848' took place in Ceylon against the British
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 colonial government under Governor Lord Torrington, 7th Viscount Torrington
George Byng, 7th Viscount Torrington
George Byng, 7th Viscount Torrington , was a British colonial administrator and courtier.Torrington was the son of Vice-Admiral George Byng, 6th Viscount Torrington, and succeeded his father in the viscountcy in 1831 at the age of eighteen. In 1847 he was appointed Governor of Ceylon, a post he...

. It marked a transition from the classic feudal form of anti-colonial revolt to modern independence struggles. It was fundamentally a peasant revolt.

Background


The Kandyan provinces were in a state of turmoil. They had been under British rule for 32 years. Under the wastelands ordinance
Wastelands Ordinance
The Cultivation of Wastelands Ordinance, also known as a Wastelands Ordinance, is an ordinance that presumes that, in a given area, there exists the problem referred to as a tragedy of the commons...

, the British had expropriated the common land of the peasantry and reduced them to penury. In the 1830s, coffee was introduced into Ceylon, a crop which flourishes in high altitudes, and grown on the land taken from the peasants. The principal impetus to this development was the decline in coffee production in the West Indies, following the abolition of slavery there.

However, the dispossessed peasantry were not employed on the plantations: The Kandyan villagers refused to abandon their traditional subsistence holdings and become wage-workers in the nightmarish conditions that prevailed on these new estates, despite all the pressure exerted by the colonial state. The British therefore had to draw on its reserve army of labour in India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, to man its lucrative new outpost to the south. An infamous system of contract labour was established, which transported hundreds of thousands of Tamil 'coolies' from southern India into Sri Lanka for the coffee estates. These Tamils labourers died in tens of thousands both on the journey itself as well as on the plantations.

An economic depression in the United Kingdom had severely affected the local coffee and cinnamon industry. Planters and merchants clamoured for a reduction of export duties. Sir James Emerson Tennent
James Emerson Tennent
Sir James Emerson Tennent, 1st Baronet FRS , born James Emerson, was an Irish politician and traveller. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society on 5 June 1862....

, the Colonial Secretary
Chief Secretary
The Chief Secretary is the title of a senior civil servant in members of the Commonwealth of Nations, and, historically, in the British Empire. Prior to the dissolution of the colonies, the Chief Secretary was the second most important official in a colony of the British Empire after the...

 in Colombo recommended to Earl Grey, Secretary of State for Colonies in London that taxation should be radically shifted from indirect taxation to direct taxation, which proposal was accepted. It was decided to abolish the export duty
Duty (economics)
In economics, a duty is a kind of tax, often associated with customs, a payment due to the revenue of a state, levied by force of law. It is a tax on certain items purchased abroad...

 on coffee
Coffee
Coffee is a brewed beverage with a dark,init brooo acidic flavor prepared from the roasted seeds of the coffee plant, colloquially called coffee beans. The beans are found in coffee cherries, which grow on trees cultivated in over 70 countries, primarily in equatorial Latin America, Southeast Asia,...

 and reduce the export duty on cinnamon
Cinnamon
Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the inner bark of several trees from the genus Cinnamomum that is used in both sweet and savoury foods...

 leaving a deficit of £40,000 Sterling which was to be met by direct taxes on the people. A new Governor, 35 year old Lord Torrington
George Byng, 7th Viscount Torrington
George Byng, 7th Viscount Torrington , was a British colonial administrator and courtier.Torrington was the son of Vice-Admiral George Byng, 6th Viscount Torrington, and succeeded his father in the viscountcy in 1831 at the age of eighteen. In 1847 he was appointed Governor of Ceylon, a post he...

, a cousin of Prime Minister Lord Russell
John Russell, 1st Earl Russell
John Russell, 1st Earl Russell, KG, GCMG, PC , known as Lord John Russell before 1861, was an English Whig and Liberal politician who served twice as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the mid-19th century....

 was dispatched to Colombo by Queen Victoria
Victoria of the United Kingdom
Victoria was the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death. From 1 May 1876, she used the additional title of Empress of India....

 to carry out these reforms.

On 1 July 1848, license fees were imposed on guns, dogs, carts, shops and labour was made compulsory on plantation roads, unless a special tax was paid. These taxes bore heavily not only on the purse but also on the traditions of the Kandyan peasant. A mass movement against the oppressive taxes was developing. The masses were without the leadership of their native King (deposed in 1815) or their chiefs (either crushed after the Uva Rebellion
Uva Rebellion
The Great Rebellion of 1817-1818, also known as the 1818 Uva-Wellassa Uprising, , or simply the Uva Rebellion was the third Kandyan War with the British, in what is now Sri Lanka...

 or collaborating with the colonial power). The leadership passed for the first time in the Kandyan provinces into the hands of ordinary people
Common People
"Common People" is a song by English alternative rock band Pulp. It was released as a single in 1995, reaching number two on the UK singles chart. It also appears on the band's 1995 album Different Class. The song is about those who were perceived by the songwriter as wanting to be "like common...

.

Rebellion


On 26 July 1848, the leaders and the supporters entered the historic Dambulla
Dambulla
The city of Dambulla is situated in the Matale District in the Central Province of Sri Lanka, situated 148 km north-east of Colombo and 72 km north of Kandy....

 Vihara
Vihara
Vihara is the Sanskrit and Pali term for a Buddhist monastery. It originally meant "a secluded place in which to walk", and referred to "dwellings" or "refuges" used by wandering monks during the rainy season....

 and at 11.30 a.m., Gongalegoda Banda was consecrated by the head monk of Dambulla, Ven. Giranegama Thera. Gongalegoda Banda was called "Sri Wickrama Siddapi" and spoke fluently in Sinhala. He asked the people, whether they were on the side of the Buddhists or the British. On the same day Dines, his brother was declared the sub-king and Dingirala as the uncrowned king of the Sat Korale (Seven Counties). Veera Puran Appu was appointed as the prime minister or the sword bearer to Gongalegoda Banda and attended his consecration ceremony with 400 others.

After the proclamation of the king, he with his army left Dambulla via Matale to capture Kandy from the British. They attacked government buildings including the Matale Kachcheri
Kachcheri
Kachcheri is a Hindustani word initially used for the Revenue Collector's Office in the early years of the British Colonial Administration in Ceylon. Revenue collection was a main feature of the Dutch pattern of colonial administration...

and destroyed some of the tax records. Simultaneously, Dingirirala instigated attacks in Kurunegala
Kurunegala
Kurunegala , is the capital of the North Western Province, Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka and the Kurunegala District. Kurunegala was also an ancient royal capital for 50 years, from the end of the 13th century to the start of the 13th century. The town itself is a busy commercial and a transport hub...

, where eight people were shot dead by the British army. Governor Torrington immediately declared Martial Law
Martial law
Martial law is the imposition of military rule by military authorities over designated regions on an emergency basis— only temporary—when the civilian government or civilian authorities fail to function effectively , when there are extensive riots and protests, or when the disobedience of the law...

 on 29 July 1848 in Kandy and on 31 July in Kurunegala.

Puran Appu was taken prisoner by the British troops and was executed on 8 August. Gongalegoda Banda and his elder brother Dines escaped and went into hiding. Gongalegoda Banda lived in a cave at Elkaduwa
Elkaduwa
Elkaduwa is a village in Sri Lanka. It is located within Central Province.-External links:*...

, 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) from Matale. Torrington issued a warrant for his arrest with a reward of £150 for information on his whereabouts. On 21 September, he was arrested by Malay soldiers - although he offered resistance before his arrest - and was brought from Matale to Kandy where he was kept a prisoner.

The trial of Gongalegoda Banda commenced on 27 November at the Supreme Court sessions in Kandy. He was charged with high treason for claiming to be King of Kandy and waging war against the British. He declared that he was guilty of all the charges. The Supreme Court condemned him to be hanged on 1 January 1849.

Subsequently, a proclamation was issued to amend the death sentence to flogging 100 times and deportation to Malacca
Malacca
Malacca , dubbed The Historic State or Negeri Bersejarah among locals) is the third smallest Malaysian state, after Perlis and Penang. It is located in the southern region of the Malay Peninsula, on the Straits of Malacca. It borders Negeri Sembilan to the north and the state of Johor to the south...

 (Malaysia). By deporting Gongalegoda Banda, Governor instilled in the inhabitants a permanent fear of rebellion against the British rule, since deportation was deemed worse than hanging.

Leaders


The movement for the liberation of the island in 1848 was led by leaders such as Gongalegoda Banda
Gongalegoda Banda
Wansapurna Dewage David alias Gongale Goda Banda was the leader of the 1848 Rebellion, pretender to the throne of Kandy and a National Hero of Sri Lanka.-Early life:...

, Puran Appu
Puran Appu
Weerahennadige Francisco Fernando alias Puran Appu is one of the notable personalities in Sri Lanka's history. He was born on November 1812 in the coastal town of Moratuwa. He left Moratuwa at the age of 13 and stayed in Ratnapura with his uncle, who was the first Sinhalese proctor, and moved to...

, Dines and Dingi Rala who were supported by the people and the village headmen of Matale. These were workers with links to the low country, with rather broader vision than the Kandyan peasants they led.

Gongalegoda Banda


Gongalegoda Banda
Gongalegoda Banda
Wansapurna Dewage David alias Gongale Goda Banda was the leader of the 1848 Rebellion, pretender to the throne of Kandy and a National Hero of Sri Lanka.-Early life:...

, the son of Wansapurna Dewage Sinchia Fernando was the leader of the 1848 Rebellion and pretender to the throne. He had been employed by the police. He was engaged in transport work on the Kandy road and came to reside at Gongalegoda, Udunuwara where he became a popular figure among the Kandyans. He was seen at the Temple of the Tooth
Temple of the Tooth
Sri Dalada Maligawa or The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is a Buddhist temple in the city of Kandy, Sri Lanka. It is located in the royal palace complex which houses the Relic of the tooth of Buddha. Since ancient times, the relic has played an important role in local politics because it is...

 just before the 1848 Rebellion broke out. Gongalegoda Banda led a protest march regarding unjustifiable taxes on 6 July 1848, near the Kandy Kachcheri
Kachcheri
Kachcheri is a Hindustani word initially used for the Revenue Collector's Office in the early years of the British Colonial Administration in Ceylon. Revenue collection was a main feature of the Dutch pattern of colonial administration...

.

Veera Puran Appu


Hennadige Francisco Fernando alias Veera Puran Appu
Puran Appu
Weerahennadige Francisco Fernando alias Puran Appu is one of the notable personalities in Sri Lanka's history. He was born on November 1812 in the coastal town of Moratuwa. He left Moratuwa at the age of 13 and stayed in Ratnapura with his uncle, who was the first Sinhalese proctor, and moved to...

 is one of the most colourful personalities in Sri Lanka's history. He was born on November 1812 in the coastal town of Moratuwa
Moratuwa
Moratuwa is a city on the southwestern coast of Sri Lanka, near Dehiwela-Mount Lavinia. It is situated on the Galle–Colombo main highway, 18 km south of the capital, Colombo. Moratuwa is surrounded on three sides by water, except in the north of the city, by the Indian Ocean on the west...

. He left Moratuwa at the age of 13 and stayed in Ratnapura with his uncle, who was the first Sinhalese
Sinhalese people
The Sinhalese are an Indo-Aryan ethnic group,forming the majority of Sri Lanka,constituting 74% of the Sri Lankan population.They number approximately 15 million worldwide.The Sinhalese identity is based on language, heritage and religion. The Sinhalese speak Sinhala, an Indo-Aryan language and the...

 proctor
Proctor
Proctor, a variant of the word procurator, is a person who takes charge of, or acts for, another. The word proctor is frequently used to describe someone who oversees an exam or dormitory.The title is used in England in three principal senses:...

, and moved to the Uva Province
Uva Province
Uva is Sri Lanka's second least populated province, with 1,187,335 people, created in 1896. It consists of two districts: Badulla බදුල්ල பதுளை and Moneragala මොනරාගල மொனராகல. The provincial capital is Badulla. Uva is bordered by Eastern, Southern and Central provinces...

. In early 1847, he met and married Bandaramenike, the daughter of Gunnepana Arachchi in Kandy.

Legacy



The Matale Rebellion was the first transitional step towards abandoning the feudal form of revolt, being fundamentally a peasant revolt. The masses were without the leadership of their native King (deposed in 1815) or their chiefs (either crushed after the Uva Rebellion
Uva Rebellion
The Great Rebellion of 1817-1818, also known as the 1818 Uva-Wellassa Uprising, , or simply the Uva Rebellion was the third Kandyan War with the British, in what is now Sri Lanka...

 or collaborating with the colonial power). The leadership passed for the first time in the Kandyan provinces into the hands of ordinary people, non-aristocrats. The leaders were yeomen-artisans, resembling the Levellers
Levellers
The Levellers were a political movement during the English Civil Wars which emphasised popular sovereignty, extended suffrage, equality before the law, and religious tolerance, all of which were expressed in the manifesto "Agreement of the People". They came to prominence at the end of the First...

 in England's revolution and mechanics
Mechanics
Mechanics is the branch of physics concerned with the behavior of physical bodies when subjected to forces or displacements, and the subsequent effects of the bodies on their environment....

 such as Paul Revere
Paul Revere
Paul Revere was an American silversmith and a patriot in the American Revolution. He is most famous for alerting Colonial militia of approaching British forces before the battles of Lexington and Concord, as dramatized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, Paul Revere's Ride...

 and Tom Paine who were at the heart of the American revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

. However, in the words of Colvin R. de Silva
Colvin R. de Silva
Colvin R. de Silva was a former Cabinet Minister of Plantation Industries and Constitutional Affairs, prominent member of parliament, Trotskyist leader and lawyer in Sri Lanka. He was one of the founders of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party – the first Marxist party in Sri Lanka.-Personal...

, 'it had leaders but no leadership. The old feudalists were crushed and powerless. No new class capable of leading the struggle and heading it towards power had yet arisen.'

External links