Remains of the Keppetipola Wilson Fort

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In 1817 AD, the uprising known as the Uva Wellassa Rebellion took place, instigated by the people of Uva Wellassa against British rule. This revolt emerged as a response to the persecution resulting from the British conquest of the highlands in 1815 CE. Although referred to as a rebellion by the British rulers, it is more accurately characterized as a liberation struggle by the oppressed inhabitants of the region.

To quell the unrest, the British erected several forts in the area. In 1818 AD, two forts were established on the Welimada plateau. One of these fortifications came to be situated in what is now the Keppetipola area.

Following the counsel of the British Queen, Robert Brownrigg, the Governor of Ceylon at that time, replete with the intent to suppress the escalating Uva-Wellassa Rebellion, Major Douglas Wilson, a skilled general, was dispatched with a sizable cavalry force to the highland. A fort was built to accommodate this cavalry force and a bungalow was erected approximately 1½ miles away for Major Wilson. Presently, this historic bungalow serves as the Gawarammana Sri Piyatissa Pirivena and Viharaya, providing residence for the head of the upcountry Amarapura Maha Nikaya, Shastrapati Nuwaraeliya Chandrajothi Thero. Remarkably, the structure has been well preserved, maintaining its original antiquity. During that era, this fort operated under the command of Major Wilson and was also called Fort Wilson. The McDonnell Fort established in the Uva Paranagama area is not seen today and only its remains are visible.

Moreover, Keppetipola, who served under the British colonial government, was dispatched to Uva to suppress the rebellion subsequent to the demise of Major Douglas Wilson in the Alupota area at the hands of the highland rebels. Keppetipola is to have utilized this location for organizing his military forces and related activities.

Currently, this fort can be found in the village of Keppetipola, situated in the official district of Palugama Keppetipola, within the Badulla District of Uva province. Constructed from stone, the fort measures 90 feet in length, 40 feet in width, and 15 feet in height, featuring walls approximately 18 inches thick. The entrance gate, located on the northern side, is slightly smaller in size and has an arched structure. At present, a minor center of the Textile Department of Uva Province has been established within this fortress.

The appellation “Keppetipola” was derived from these historical accounts. Following the destruction of the Wilson Plain, where this fort was situated, during the 1818 rebellion, the area became desolate, consequently earning the name Palugama. Later, around 1950, it was officially declared as Palugama Keppetipola. Prior to 1816, this fertile region was identified as Kosgaha Kumbura. Subsequently, when Major Wilson assumed control of the area in 1816, it was named Wilson Plain. In the past, it has also been referred to as Tikia Thenna.

In addition, as a result of clandestine negotiations facilitated by Bomburegedara Sudana Duraya, an assistant of Keppetipola Moneravila Disawe, Keppetipola Disawe eventually joined the Sinhalese Army. These secret discussions involved the participation of prominent Uva rebel leaders, including Butawe Rate Rala, Kivulegedara Mohottala, and Dambapane Disawe. Notably, these historically significant clandestine meetings took place in the present-day grounds of Keppetipola Maha Vidyalaya, where a life-sized statue of Keppetipola Disawe now stands.

Following these discreet deliberations, Weera Keppetipola renounced the English army and its weaponry to assume leadership of the Uva-Wellassa struggle within the Sinhalese army. However, the superior firepower of the British forces overcame the arms of the Sinhalese fighters. With the defeat came Keppetipola’s demise, as he was beheaded by the British in the Magul Maduwa in Kandy.

References

  1. බ්‍රි‍්‍රතාන්‍ය අශ්වාරෝහක හමුදාව ගොඩනැගූ කැප්පෙට්ටිපොළ විල්සන් බළකොටුව – dinamina.lk
  2. කැප්‍‍‍පෙටි‍පොළ පැරණි බල‍‍කොටුව – archaeology.gov.lk

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Map of Keppetipola Wilson Fort

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Traveling Directions to Keppetipola Wilson Fort

Badulla to Kappetipola Wilson Fort
Via : Sita Eliya – Hakgala
Total Distance : 18 KM
Time : 30 Minutes
Travel Time : Between 15-30 Minutes
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