Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Taking Wing to Scale Great Heights - The Saga of the Kotagama Family

I was requested to contribute on the history of the Kotagama family of Yalkumbura Bibile to a booklet that the University of Colombo, Zoology Department published on Professor Sarath Wimala Bandara Kotagama Titled "Kota's Nature" on the eve of his retirement from the University of Colombo.
I would like to thank Dr. Nihal Dayawansa for extending me an invitation to contribute to this felicitation volume and to Dr. Hemasiri Bandara Kotagama and Ms. Aditha Dissanayake for providing information and advice that was needed to compile this article
The article is uploaded for your reading pleasure only as the University of Colombo Zoology Department has a copyright  on the book "Kota's Nature."

Prof. Sarath Kotagama is credited with introducing the birds of Sri Lanka to the non-English speaking masses, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest environmentalist of our times.  There is no doubt that most of us have met him already in some form or another. But do any of us know the story behind the successes of this renowned personality? How, where, when did he take wing to scale such great heights?
It is 1817. The inhabitants of the entire Badulla region are writhing in anger. They are dissatisfied over the British rulers who promised to uphold and foster the Buddhist religion and observe the traditions and norms that had prevailed in the Kandyan Kingdom prior to the signing of the Kandyan Convention. The appointment of a Malay Muhandiram named Hadji to the Uva Wellassa territory by Major Wilson, the Resident Agent in Badulla, is also against the wishes and displeasure of the Sinhalese.
By October 1817 a rebellion brakes out and on October 12th, Major Wilson himself marches to Uva with a Malay troop under his command and is killed 4 miles off the village of Kotagama, at Unagolle near the present town of Bibile when an arrow aimed by the Sinhalese rebels pierces his chest. The difficult terrain makes the forward march difficult and slow.
The situation prevailing in Uva and Wellassa becomes more precarious with the major's death promoting the British to remove the ailing elderly Millawe the Disawa of Wellassa, and appoint Keppetipola as Disawa of Wellassa.
Keppetipola who remained in Kandy until October 17, 1817 is sent to Uva to bring the situation under control. When Keppetipola arrives in Wellassa he finds the Sinhalese engaged in a fierce battle with the British soldiers. In a breath-stopping turn of events, Keppetipola sends back all his arms and ammunitions to the British Agent and joins the Sinhalese rebels to lead the battle. With this dramatic change, other Sinhalese leaders including Pilamatalawe Disawa of Sathkorale, Madugalla, Uda Gabada Nilame, Ellepola (the leader of Viyaluwa), Ehelepola (a brother of Maha Adikaram Ihagama), Godagedara Adikaram, Badalkumbure Rala also join the rebels.
When events get totally out of control a worried Governor Robert Brownrigg orders troops from India to quell the rebellion. When British troops finally arrest most of the leaders, properties of 18 rebel leaders are confiscated. Pilimatalawe, who was ailing at the time of arrest, is exiled to the islands of Mauritius. A fate more cruel await Keppetipola and Madugalla. Both are beheaded in Bogambara after a trial on November 18, 1818.
The rebellion is suppressed and remains the last uprising of this kind against the British in the country. The brutality of the massacre of the rebels comes as a warning to the rest of the Sri Lankan community and annexed the Kingdom of Kandy to British Ceylon in 1817.
Uva-Wellassa now remains uninhabited. Those who survive the brutality of the British take with them whatever valuables they possess and escape into the deep jungles, some even to the eastern coast. The area known as Wellassa meaning a hundred thousand paddy fields is charred down. The irrigation tank system and the aqueducts and the network of canals feeding the paddy fields are destroyed beyond redemption. Dwellings and livestock, anything and everything that moves are destroyed. The message driven home is simple and tragic. Those who manage to escape would die of starvation. No one should survive.
Time goes by till the jungle swallows up the once productive paddy lands and the villages of Uva -Wellassa. Towards the mid-19th century the British become stable in the country and are busy opening land in the hills for plantations. Those who fled Wellassa during the rebellion now trickle back from hiding and start rebuilding life from scrap. They battle with the thick jungle on every direction infested with wild beasts. The only source of water in the region is the Gal Oya which springs at Dorapoda Mountains above the village Kotagama, continues to flow on its usual path not diverted for cultivation anymore. People open up land and settle alongside Gal Oya to start life anew.
The Village called Kotagama in Bibile
It goes without saying that the survivors of the 1817 rebellion who returned to these areas were true patriotic Sinhalese, persevering, courageous and the decedents of a special bloodline. Among them were a group of people known by the name, Kotagama. The earliest record of the surname Kotagama in the village of Kotagama, Bibile, is discussed in a record of Sinhala folktales by D P Wickramasinghe. It was common for people to be named by the village then and was the preferred surname of the aristocracy. Many are the Sinhala surnames related to their birth places.
According to Wickramasinghe, the village Millawa (now Mallahewa) was the central location then in the region of Bibile today. This was the same locality of the Millawe Dissawe who was succeeded by Keppitipola Dissawe, as discussed before. The Village Kotagama is to the south of Millawa. Kotagama was a very prosperous ancient village and home to many a noblemen with riches. The Gal Oya which commenced in the Dehiyagal hills [Dorapoda – the small world’s end today] flowed down gently irrigating the lands in Millawa and Kotagama and was the common border separating the two villages. Wickramasinghe discusses a person by the name ‘Kotagama Sitano’ who lived in Kotagama - a philanthropic nobleman with riches, owning large extents of land in Kotagama. He had a single daughter who inherited all his wealth and who, through wedlock gave birth to three sons. The folk tale centers around the lady’s final wish to worship “Sri Paada” [Adams peak]. The two elder sons dismiss the request as she was too feeble for the strenuous journey. However, the youngest son replicated a Sri Paada in a location close to Ravana Elle in today’s Ella area and took the mother on a false pilgrimage fulfilling her wish and becomes the sole heir of all the land and riches. However, he later splits them equally with his two brothers.
My schoolboy friend Hemasiri Kotagama [a sibling of Sarath Kotagama] touching on the finer details that Wickramasinghe discusses in his book, feels that their ancestral home in Madawal-kumbura, Kotagama, Bibile, has great similarities to the description in the story. The ancientness of the structure and the short walled low roof structure of Sinhala clay tiles in the ‘Kotagama Wallawwa’ is a common characteristic of the simple dwellings that came up with mud walls after the rebellion.
Fascinated by this story Hemasiri wonders if their family hailed from this sitano [nobleman] even though there is no definitive evidence of proof! However, the family possessed some treasured items that had been passed down the line that might prove their links to this nobleman. Until recent times the family had possessed and treasured several artifacts that were said to have been used during the rebellion.
The insignia of the Uva –Wellassa region that was carried during the rebellion with some other items used in the war including clothing of the leaders were treasured and preserved safely in the Kotagama family till the present generation decided to hand over this flag and the rest to the Colombo museum where they are now on display to everyone. The only replica of the flag produced before it was given to the museum is retained in the family and is currently with Professor Sarath Kotagama.
The Kotagamas’ of Bibile
I recall here what my friend Hemasiri had been told by his paternal grandfather or Lokuaththa.
Our Lokuaththa lived in Madawala-kumbura in Kotagama. The house in Madawala-kumbura had existed until recent times. It had been in the midst of paddies and the Lokuaththa carried the title of Athanayake Sri Rajakaruna Anawlangu Mudiyanselage which all of us also carry but hardly use. Thereby the full name would be as Athanayake Sri Rajakaruna Anawlangu Mudiyanselage Sarath Wimalabandara Kotagama. “Wimala” comes from our mother; ‘Bandaranayaka Herath Mudiyaanselage Wimalawathi Katugaha Manike,’ says my friend Hemasiri.
Lokuaththa’s elder brother was then the Chief Prelate or the Mahanayake Thero of the Malwaththa chapter in Kandy. The Malwaththa Chapter had a strong link with Kotagama in Bibile and with the influence of the Mahanayaka Thero, Lokuaththa was appointed as the Lekam [Headman] of the Vasama [Region] and had been the recipient of or Nindagam [Manor] land by the British rulers. The metallic script of the offering is preserved with historic value and is currently retained with Professor Sarath Kotagama.
Hemasiri continues to say that, Lokuaththa had three sons and three daughters. The eldest son was educated at Trinity College Kandy and his brother [Hemasiri’s father] was educated at the Dharmadutha College in Badulla. The other son was not educated as he opted not to. The general norm then was to have an heir to the land and property that needed to be protected and retained within the family and this person was expected to remain unexposed to a western education as this might mean an exodus from the village. The eldest son George Kotagama the Trinitian, was appointed the Ratemhattaya for the Uva-Wellassa region. This appointment he says as heard over family gossip was competing alongside the applicant of the famous family by the surname Bibile. The Bibile family is the other aristocratic bloodline in the region from which hails the eminent Professor Dr. Senaka Bibile.
This again was with the strong influence of the Mahanayaka Thero says Hemasiri who goes on to say that they had a photograph of the Mahanayaka Thero hung high up on the wall of the Issthoppuwa [front verandah] and if they were ever to leave home they had to get on their knees and pray before the photograph.
Athanayake Sri Rajakaruna Anawlangu Mudiyanselage Madduma Bandara Kotagama or M.B Kotagama for short their father; married Bandaranayaka Herath Mudiyaanselage Wimalawathi Katugaha Manike from Katugaha village Bandarawela. She was the daughter of the Lekam of Katugaha Walawwe in Bandarawela.
Madduma Bandara Kotagama
M.B Kotagama's affection for social work incited him into politics. He contested the Aluthnuwara Electorate in the General Elections of 1952 under the UNP-elephant symbol and was defeated by J.A. Rambukpotha who challenged him under the Key symbol. That was his first and the last attempt at taking up politics. From then on he devoted his time to social service.
He joined the cooperative movement and establishes the Kotagama-Bibile Cooperative Union and was always elected to the village council and hence was referred to as the Sabapathi Nilame. A much respected social worker he improved the roads to Kotagama to a motorable state. The road across Kotagama village connecting to the Badulla road and to the Mahiyangana roads were completed with tar macadamizing.
In fact he had got the village road done up in order to drive his Kumarihami to the Kotagama home on his wedding day. Unfortunately the inclement weather on that day did not permit the car to negotiate the steep hill and she had had to walk the distance all the way to the home under a parasol. The author was fortunate enough to get to know this very dignified lady while working with Professor Sarath Kotagama. Sadly, she passed away on 22nd April 2007. The villagers called her Kumarihamy with respect and some did say she was a look-alike of Madam Sirimavo.
Hemasiri describes their father to be the simplest person that he ever knew; a man who possessed the least requisites and needs. He led a simple lifestyle and owned only two Khaki trousers and cotton shirts turned out at home by the seamstress mother. An umbrella would always go with him as did the rubber flip-flops. A special occasion would be grazed by the cloth and baniyama which again was home made. Professor Sarath Kotagama’s official suite today is similar to what his father used to wear then.
As for habits, he went early to bed and was up early as well and would never let his children sleep beyond sunrise. Only Sarath who had a fortunate symptom of sneezing continuously if up too early before the sun came up was excluded from this strict rule.
Madduma Banda Kotagama and Wimalawathi Katugaha Manike had six children through wedlock. Four boys and two girls. The eldest was Sarath Wimalabandara followed by Pushpasiri, Hemasiri, Indrani, Kalyani and Keerthi all had the Kotagama surname and the boys all had the Bandara name.
The sole objective of the father was to give the boys and girls the best of the education that was available in the country then. So they all went to the best schools available. All the boys were sent to S Thomas’ Collages as boarders while the two girls also had their schooling in Bandarawela, Badulla and Colombo again as boarders. Private education was not affordable to everyone even during that time and to have six children educated this way with no fixed income or a salary was definitely a mystery.

The income for the family was from whatever that was harvested from the lands; paddy, coconut, areca-nut, betel leaf, black peppers etc. Even with these commodities it is hard to understand how he financed their education. He did have to mortgage and even sell off some unproductive land at times in order to meet deadlines.
Hemasiri recollects his father seated in the arm chair in deep thought, probably planning out the payment of the coming month’s school fees of the three boys at St Thomas’ which will be due very soon. He saved carefully….he would turn the envelopes around and re-use them. Today we are passionately preaching its recycled usage….. His sacrifices and determination to educate the children did payoff. Of the six children five are graduates; among the boys, two are University Professors, one is an engineer while the youngest a very successful business professional. Both the girls are teachers. No doubt he breathed his last on 21st September 1987, a happy man.
Of all the children one turned out to be special and different in thought. Sudu Aiya the fairer one of the lot, Pushpasiri the Engineer was different from the rest even during school days. He broke the line while in Mt Lavinia and came home saying he needs to change school and insisted admission to Ananda College. This been fulfilled he excelled in the mathematics stream, entered the Peradeniya University, passed out as a full-fledged Mechanical Engineer and joined the state run National Milk Board. When the legislators decided to privatize the National Milk Board he was the Chief Engineer.  Just as Keppetipola gave up his rank to join the Sinhalese, he too simply left his profession with a paltry sum of Rupees 35,000 as compensation.
Today Sudu Aiya lives in the ancestral home educating his children in schools in Bibile living the same simplistic lifestyle that his father had practiced tending the same lands that had once given them the income to succeed in life.

Once at the annual Dhaana Pinkama [Alms giving] now held for the 75th year or so the monk in the sermon said “Of all the children of this family whatever their professions are and whatever positions they may hold in society, the most to be appreciated out of them all is ‘Sudu Nilame.” The monk went on to say that even he too could learn from Sudu Nilame of how to practice and live an “Alpeachcha” life. [A form of moderate asceticism]. One cannot understand Sudu Aiya, and he could only be compared to Aravinda in Viragaya says Hemasiri concluding his part of this story.

Sarath Kotagama of Bibile in Colombo
The author has followed Sarath Kotagama at school with his brother Hemasiri Kotagama. Sarath however was never in any of the schools with us for he was five years our senior and was always ahead of us at all S Thomas’ Collages then. The schools were for different levels at Bandarawela, Gurutalawa, and Mt Lavinia split for the primary, secondary and senior school education respectively.
St. Thomas’ College Gurutalawa, the first ever outbound school in this country paved the way to nurture his interest with birds and his favorite sport; basketball and swimming. An average student in academic activities, but an enthusiastic founder member of the Birdwatching club formed by the school chaplain Rev. Father Canon A J Foster in 1960. He played basketball for the school as a member of the school team but treated swimming as a pastime but represented his house at the school swimming meets. It is no secret any Thomian is quite alive and comfortable when in water, for swimming was in the school curriculum even during the late 1950’s in this country.
Having completed his secondary education and passed his General Certificate of Education [Ordinary Level] he proceeded to Mount Lavinia for senior school education. He sits for the university entrance examination from St. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia in 1969 and gains admission to the University of Ceylon – Colombo campus as it was known then, where he graduated with honors in Zoology in 1974.
In the year 1977, he proceeded to the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, for his post graduate studies, and in 1982 he was awarded the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy for his thesis on the “behaviour and feeding ecology of the Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula kramerii) in Polonnaruwa”. He returned home to serve as a lecturer in the Department of Zoology, University of Colombo, in the Faculty of Natural Sciences.
His Doctoral research at the University of Aberdeen, in association with Professor George Mackenzie Dunnet ensured his childhood dream had come true; to be a professional ornithologist in this country.
Having achieved his childhood dream and being appointed an academic in higher education as a profession he wanted to do more with regard to bird studies and bird conservation in the country. And so, together with his longtime friend Rex I de Silva a proficient naturalist and an expert on seabirds, he applied to be members of the Ceylon Bird Club in 1975. However due to the restrictive membership policy of the Ceylon Bird Club they were denied membership in keeping to the colonial attitudes of the club and the need to qualify on a standard of bird knowledge that was to be tested by a selection committee.
This led to the forming of the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka [FOGSL] in 1976, with a few other academics. Thus, the founding members of FOGSL are Dr Sarath Kotagama, Dr. S U K Ekaratne, Mr. P B Karunaratne, Mr. Rex I De Silva, Mr. L B Ranasinghe and Mr. G L de Silva.
The FOGSL which reached the masses had a much broader social base than the Bird Club. He was now free to go ahead with his conservation work through his own organization and enhanced the interest of bird lovers by publishing a number of field guides in Sinhala and Tamil. This made birding accessible to a larger population who was not conversant in English. The Field Ornithology Group today is the largest birding organization in Sri Lanka, a major conservation NGO and the national affiliate of Bird life International and has truly displaced the Ceylon Bird Club as the authority for birds in the country.
For all his successes, life had not been rosy for him as the eldest in a family of six siblings when the resources at home were dwindling, when his father had to be assisted for the higher education of his brothers and sisters.
I remember an incident where he recalled the constraints he underwent as an undergraduate. The day was the launch of his first Sinhala Bird Book the “Sirilaka Kurullo” at the Mahaveli Center in Colombo. The Chief Guest was his Botany Professor and the then Vice Chancellor of the Colombo Campus (1969 - 1974), Professor B. A. Abeywickrama. It was a strict requirement that an array of lead pencils that are categorized and coded for softness and thickness be used for sketching and shading techniques for drawing botanical subjects under the microscope. Sarath was humble enough to tell his audience that day that he could not afford to own such a set of pencils due to the difficulty and responsibility that he had to shoulder due to the difficulties at home bringing up and educating his siblings. He was not embarrassed to explain this to his professor who understood and had been very generously considerate. In gratitude and with due respect for this gentleness he selected Professor B A Abeywickrama as the first person to be presented with his book as a mark of respect for his consideration that day which did not go waste.
The mid-seventies and early eighties finds him a very busy man in the University as an academic, deep in the humid forests in Sinharaja absorbed in research work, in the Accelerated Mahaveli Development Scheme a member of the EIA team and with all this penning a series of articles to the then famous science based newspaper the ‘Vidusara” on Conservation, Environment and the Fauna of the country. These were very popular among the advance level students and these articles became collector’s items that were passed down the line to the siblings pursuing education in the science stream. Young Dr Sarath Kotagama sporting long hair something that was strictly restricted in schools then was a special person in the leading schools in Colombo; especially among the girls’ schools in the city. He was the most sort after resource person to address the school’s science societies.
My friend Dr (Mrs) Jayantha Dayasena once narrated of an incident to me when on a birding trip in Akuressa to see a solitary Comb Duck that preferred to hang on a full winter migration in the Maramba tank.  
They were university entrance students in Visakha Vidyalaya Colombo then and had gone to the Colombo University to invite the young long haired Doctor for a lecture at school. Directed to his office room the girls found the room empty and started looking for him inquiring of his ware about when someone pointed them to where he was last seen. The girls followed in the direction and ended up in the rat house of the Zoology Department. Being girls they were nervous and was offended with the reedy odor of the vermin. A person in a ponytail and trousers rolled up to the knee clad in a worn out ‘T ‘shirt was attending to the cages and washing off the rat droppings from the floor was the only one around. The girls asked him if Dr Kotagama had come this way. The man looked over his shoulder, smiled broadly and said ‘I am Kotagama …please be at my office I will come over after finishing this work.” The girls were petrified. They had never expected a University Don to be doing such work.
This snippet summarizes the simplicity of this man from Bibile who came to Colombo, but never forgot his roots. This fact alone is proof enough that the decedents of his generation that rose from the ashes of the Uva-Wellassa rebellion in 1817 do have a concern for the country and they are of a special breed. I have never asked him why he grows his hair and beard long and I have never heard him explain why either, but I have a strange feeling that the true identity and the tradition of the Sinhala folk was to sport long hair and beard and he knows he is a true Sinhalese. He is delighted to say that he is a descendant from the Uva –Wellassa, as for the English language he says one should master it to win the world of knowledge but should only be used as a tool. Linguistic priority should be to one’s own mother tongue.
His brother Hemasiri narrates thus of the elder one, “him being the Loku Aiya [Big brother] had set a grand personal and social image that we brothers and sisters had to follow by having to excel in higher education, become professors, or be ideals in persona as much as possible. In all his books documents etc. from school to university he wrote as Sarath DOD Kotagama. DOD meant ‘Do or Die’. Such was his character in pursuance of what he wanted to be. I believe we too followed his motto apart from growing long hair. We had to always be simple in life following him.” Hemasiri continues to say ….. He was an extreme workaholic and was committed to his passion.
He has also had a very limited involvement in swimming as well during his undergraduate days. This being mainly through his association with Ananda Ranasinghe his undergraduate friend whose family dominated the sport of swimming that was limited to the Colombo schools then challenged only by the Ambalangoda sea swimmers. Ananda Ranasinghe was a scientist at Southern California Coastal Water Research Project in the USA. Both Ananda and Sarath held office in the Amateur Swimming Association in the country. I do remember once at the Annual 2 Mile Sea Swim that the Association conducted from Mt Lavinia to Dehiwala and back in the early seventies in which I too participated. When Sarath Kotagama was ready to give the start off after registering the participants an officio wanted the registration be done differently to what has been in practice before, he vehemently objected to change. However, in the end he walked off the beach with his clip board and I know he relinquished his position in the association and that I feel was his last engagement in the sport.
Time goes by and he is now well known in the whole country. The people in Bibile are contended and proud of his achievements as a man from Wellassa. There was also this hilarious encounter when I was once with him on conservation work and was traveling from Ampara to Colombo via Bibile. Our driver was a Malay by the name ‘Mathin’, the official transport provider to FOGSL then. It was the height of the unrest in the country in early 2000 when we were stopped at the Pitakumbura police checkpoint at the turn off to Nilgala. The police constable approached the vehicle and instructed the driver to go over to the desk and sign the registration book when he recognized the long haired person sitting on the adjoining seat. The constable went round and wished him and said “Sir we have heard of you but it is only today that I saw you in person, we are very proud of you to be one of us” meaning a man from Bibile. He then called back Mathin who was almost at the desk and waved him to proceed through. Mathin now curious of what happed turned towards Sarath Kotagama inquiring if the constable was a school friend. Sarath Kotagama stared far into the cloudless clear blue sky and is still to answer Mathin.
Being a man of principles he would not hesitate to express his feelings at any forum. However, being outspoken in most cases is not that favourable. In the mid-eighties there was a bitter disagreement on policy within the Zoology Department in the university and Dr Sarath Kotagama walked out of the Colombo Campus and joined the Open University and took over a consultancy post at the Council of the Central Environment Authority [CEA].
But not everything ends with drastic results. It was here in the CEA that he met his fiancĂ©e. The Administrative Secretary of the Director General of the CEA was a regular contact point on council meetings. These contacts developed into a lifelong contact and in 1988 he decided to tie the knot with Miss Namalee Perera the DG’s Secretary, only she was not the DG’s sectary any longer. Things got back to normal and he soon was back at the University of Colombo, as the new Professor of Environmental Sciences.
Today, they are a family blessed with a daughter and son…Tharani and Odatha. When they took a decision to start a living in a house of their own things once again started to defy conventions. They bought land that was affordable in Akuregoda but things did not go as panned from the beginning. The land being a triangle in shape was not favoured by traditional vastu etc. A decision was made to make the land a square, letting an arrowhead shape end to sit out of the premises by doing a gate structure. This was accepted and the house building commenced.
Being a practicing environmentalist he planned to build the house primarily with reused material. This led to problems with the artisans as most were superstitious and did not want to handle material from broken down buildings for fear of bad omen and spells. Finally, a professional Architect Kapila Sugathadasa was consulted and the house came up with almost seventy percent of reuse material.   A twin level abode is their home built primarily of discarded hardwood railway sleepers and hewed cabook stones salvaged from broken down houses. The doors and windows are also units salvaged in total.

Being a man with bare necessities the house only has a refrigerator, washing machine and a gas stove to be called modern-day utilities. All the other furniture is basically what was brought from the ancestral home in Bibile. This decision to use the old family furniture was a blessing to the mother who was delighted to give them away. They are the “Lanu Endha” [timber framed bed with no bed head and woven with coconut fibre rope] that the visitor sits on. The four poster bed the parents slept on and some old pottery and utensils. The traditional ‘koraha’ the ubiquitous item then in any Sinhala home the large rimed bowl in the kitchen in which the rice was washed was also the bath tub for the babies. This bath tub in which almost all the siblings took the baptism is now installed as a hand wash basin and is around 70 years in usage.
The old Kotagama Walawwa in Bibile, occupied by his brother Pushpasiri and the one which Sarath Kotagama built in Akuregoda both have the bare necessities that a Sinhala household consisted of in the past. Only the space usage and land use have changed with time requiring the latter house to go for twin levels.
I was fascinated with this building and the theme used by Architect Kapila Saparamadu and introduced my niece Aditha Dissanayake; the one time features editor of the Sunday Observer for a write up on the house. Aditha published a brilliant photo write up under the heading “Ecstasy of Railway Sleepers” to the paper on Sunday, May 27th 2007 also with a catchy sub heading “Refuse has never looked so good.”
This is all about a unique story of a family that came out of the remote locality in Kotagama, Bibile in Uva Wellassa where even to this day people fear to discuss of the turmoil and perils that the innocent in the year 1817 had to undergo during the suppression of a revolt against an unseen queen that lived many seas away.  Just as it is said the winner takes it all; there is a monument to mark the victory of the British in Wellassa but none for the one who was defeated.
A lone marble monument sits by the side of the road to Kotagama from Bibile about three miles to the Kotagama Wallawwa where Major Wilson was arrowed down by a Sinhala rebel. This valley was later named Wilson's Valley by the British. But was never in usage as there was hardly any survivors to identify the valley by that name.
The Kotagama siblings have excelled in academia… a consolation for the parents, and the return of Pushpasiri back home to live a life as their ancestors did, leave behind all the riches in the city would have also been a pleasure in a different form for the parents. The third generation may only know that their grandparents were from Bibile and they still have an uncle living a different life in that grand old house in Bibile.
But Sarath Kotagama must be a happier man today. His son Odatha Kotagama too sat for his university entrance from S Thomas Collage in Mt Lavinia like the father, but revealing how fate comes in all forms when the father was selected to the University in Colombo, Odatha is selected to the Uva Wellassa University in Badulla. A contrasting coincidence of the third generation going in the opposite direction from Colombo to Uva Wellassa.


  1. Thanks Uditha, as always a story of much interest, well narrated and presented.

  2. Superb article, giving a wealth of information to the reader.
    As a contemporary undergraduate, we all were fascinated and in awe of him. He was , as the article highlights, a very simple and a humble person. Every body in Uni liked him.
    Thank you very much Mr Uditha for this excellent piece of writing!

  3. Hi Uditha a great account of a truly great person. Thanks for documenting this. T.rex

  4. Nice Story. I enjoyed reading this well narrated historical life story.