University of Oxford

Castle Rock of Sri Lanka Holidays and Robin Hood of Ceylon

Mawanella located in between Kegalle and Kandugannawa along the Colombo-Kandy main road of Sri Lanka Holidays is home to Utuwankanda Hill or Castle Rock that rises 1410 feet (427 meters) above the sea level. With the shape of the summit of the hill replicating a castle, the British colonialists of Ceylon, baptized the hill, Castle Rock. Being an isolated outcrop of a hill, the Castle Rock at its summit dishes out  vantage views all around. Furthest is Kadugannawa Kandy mountain pass; on the other side are hill range of Batalegala, Urakanda and Aranayaka; behind that is Gampola mountain range. Among the hills are Asupini Ella Water Falls; far down is Ambepussa -Mawanella section of Colombo Kandy road.

Uthuwankanda Hill, which was once, at once the sanctuary and stronghold of Saradiel (1832-1864), the Robin Hood of Ceylon. Saradiel, waylaid stage coaches of British colonialists and Bullock carts of Moorish traders traveling from Colombo, the emporium of the beautiful island of Sri Lanka to Kandy, the gateway to Central Highlands of Sri Lanka at the foot of the Castle Rock, robbed and helped the peasants.

Saradiel was born to a lady by the name of Pichohami, who was once a consort at the harem of the last king of Ceylon, Sri Wickrema Rajassinghe, by a tobacco trader named deekirikege Adasi Appu, who used to call it day during his travel in trade at the bullock cart depot of Utuwankanda. Saradeil began his schooling at the Buddhist temple of Beligammana and then continued at the temple of Illukgoda. While studying at Illukgoda, Saradiel ran away from his home at Mawanella following his assault on a son of an aristocrat of the village. He ran all the way to Colombo and got to work as a laborer at the Colonial British military barracks of Ceylon Rifle Regiment at Slave Island. It was at the military barracks Saradiel became a skilled hand with guns with a little help from Malay soldiers of the colonialist British rulers. Saradiel didn’t hold the fort for long. Instead, he got hold of few rifles and coins of the British colonial soldiers at the barracks, returned to his village and found sanctuary in a rock cave on a slope of Castle Rock. Then onwards Saradiel robbed all men of wealth who traveled to Kandy with the exception of “Rothschild of Ceylon”, Sir Charles Henry de Soysa of Moratuwa (1836-1890). De Soysa family, the Ceylon Coffee planters, who prided in running its estate by the Ceylonese, with no Europeans at all in the payroll, was well known for their philanthropy. In no time Saradiel became the most daring brigand of Ceylon and named Robin Hood of Ceylon by the Colonilists. There was no respite to the rich traveling along Colombo Kandy road: it was stand deliver, your money or your life. Saradiel held everybody up, robbed them of all valuables, money in coins and gold. The spoils from those daring robberies, when not lost in gambling, were distributed among the poor by Saradiel. Saradiel’s hatred against the suppressive jackboot of the British Colonialists was manifested to the hilt in is numerous robberies. Sinhalese were suffering to no end with excessive taxes imposed on them ranging from bullock carts to dogs. The villagers loved Saradiel. Sardiel was arrested thrice; once released for the want of evidence; once escaped from the remand prison at Hulftsdorp, Colombo; once escaped at Mahara with handcuffs still on while being taken to Colombo.

Following a massive manhunt that began at Kegalle, with a 3000 strong search party bolstered by a detachment of Ceylon Rifles led by Assistant Government Agent of Kegalle, F. R. Saunders, Saradiel and his close aide Mammale Marikkar the Moorman were arrested on 21st March 1864. On 4th April 1864 Utuwankande Soora Saradiel and Mammale Marikkar was charged in courts of law conducted in the alien language of English, sentenced to death by hanging at Gallows Hill, Kandy on 7th May1864. Saradiel nor Mammale knew not a single word in English.

In the year 1956, Christian aristocrat S.W.R.D Bandaranaike, who was christened Silver bell of Asia at Oxford University, stormed into office of Prime Minister on a nationalist platform. In spite of the independence from the suppressive colonial British in the year 1948, in spite of the massive irrigation projects carried out by the first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Don Stephen Senanayake, the Sinhalese masses suffered under the administration in English by the elite class of Ceylonese from Western, Southern coastal belts (Burghers and Christian Sinhalese) and Jaffna (Hindu and Christian Tamils) peninsula where the English Medium missionary colleges took root. The suffering of the Sinhalese was brought into the limelight of the English educated elite by Leonard Wolfe, a British civil servant of Ceylon (husband of Virginia Wolf) with his famous narrative fiction “A village in the Jungle” composed in English language. Banadaranayake’s word was his bond: within 24 hours of assuming power, Sinhala, the language of the majority (72% of the population) was made the language of the State.

The remains of Utuwankande Soora Saradiel and Mammale Marikkar were buried at the Mahaiyawa cemetry in Kandy. Close to bridge over river Maha Oya, by the road side was erected a stone monument in memory of Utuwankande Saradiel, the Robin Hood of Ceylon.

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