Keppetipola dynasty in Matale | Sunday Observer

Keppetipola dynasty in Matale

19 June, 2022

It has been more than 200 years since the death of Monerawila Keppetipola Disawe, who served as a leader in the Kandyan uprising of 1818. Keppetipola Disawe, who is still being remembered by the people with utmost respect, was born in Matale and relatives of the Keppetipola dynasty still live in the Keppetipola Walawwa in Matale.

Monerawila Keppetipola was born in the village of Monerawila in the Matale District. His father, according to sources, is Golahela Nilame alias Keppetipola Nilame who was the Diyawadana Nilame during the reign of King Rajadhirajasinghe.

Golahola Nilame was married to Monerawila Kumarihami and the couple had a daughter and two sons. Their daughter was Ehelepola Kumarihami and Keppetipola was their eldest son.

Liberation struggle

The British rule in Ceylon was on the verge of collapsing due to the Kandyan Uprising from October 1817 to October 1818. Keppetipola Disawe is considered to be the heroic commander of the national liberation struggle of 1818.

The uprising in the Uva Province intensified, following which the British Government sent Keppetipola Disawe, who was serving under the British to suppress this revolt. However, instead of suppressing the insurgency, Keppetipola Disawe joined the rebels and took the lead.

After the uprising, all the rebel leaders were arrested and Keppetipola Disawe and 47 others out of the arrestees were sentenced to death. The British were able to take the uprising under control as the Molligoda and Eknaligoda Disawes were loyal to the British and provided intelligence, and there was no consensus among the rebels.

Following the defeat of the insurgency, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Keppetipola Disawe. The British Government also announced that anyone who tipped off about him would be given a gift. According to a tip received by Lieutenant William O’Neill of the Anuradhapura Army Camp, Keppetipola Disawe was arrested in Kandy on October 23, 1818. He was then sentenced to death by a court-martial.


He and Madugalle Nilame were beheaded on 26 November 26, near the Bogambara Lake and it is said that their bodies were buried on the banks of the lake.

During the time he was in charge of the Matale District, Keppetipola Disawe lived in Monerawila and he had built a Walawwa in the Hulangamuwa Village in Matale to rest on his way to the royal palace in Kandy. The Walawwa was not harmed by the British and can still be seen. It is said that he spent the last days of his life as the Uva District Officer in this Walawwa.


As Keppetipola Disawe was angered by the British rulers, his only son did not get any rank from the Government. Later, one of his grandsons named Muthubanda Monerawila Keppetipola had been appointed as the Disawe of Matale and he is said to have renovated the Keppetipola Walawwa in Hulangamuwa and settled there.

He has also used this Walawwa for litigation. He has again renovated the Walawwa, which is a two storied building for his son’s wedding.

The Keppetipola Walawwa, where many historical events had taken place, was built about two centuries ago. It has been built on a land of more than 100 perches and consists of 16 rooms.

Characteristics of 18th century Kandyan architecture can still be seen there.

The building is about 30 feet high, 40 feet long and 25 feet wide. The wall is 16 inches thick and valuable wood has been used for roof beams and for doors and windows.

The front entrance of the Walawwa is arch-shaped and has two main entrances.

There are two wooden doors through which one can enter the living room. The living room is about 40 feet long and 15 feet wide. There is also a dining room nearby, which is as big as the living room and it has two doors.

The upper floor of the Walawwa consists of two terraces. The upstairs is made of wood and the fence on one terrace is also made of wood. There are two staircases leading up to the upper floor on either side of the main building.