The Friend Of The Poor – The Highway-Man

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Utuwankanda Soora Saradiel, A highway-man, distributed his stolen goods among the poor before disappearing into his hiding place in the forest around Utuwankanda.

Saradiel was born in Utuwankanda on 25 March 1832 to Adissi Appu and Pichohami in the heart of Mawanella. This town located in Kegalle District when Ceylon was under British rule. He is the eldest of five children, and he completed his primary schooling at an Illukgoda temple. Mischievous and incorrigible character by nature, as he was stubborn and wanted to do things on his own in a very notorious way. His notoriety stories started from there when a boy from an upper-class family was the target. The boy and his friends were bullied and were continually picking on Saradiel and weaker village kids, which eventually caused a reaction.

Saradiel fled to Colombo. Afraid of the consequences of his actions. Working as a barrack boy among Malay soldiers, he learned the art of using weapons during this time, a skill that he used quite often later in his life. However, His army period did not last long .Saradiel presumably robbed his employer of some silver utensils and then fled the barracks. On his return to Utuwankanda, he met with a group of friends and led a group of highwaymen who became the island’s bane of colonialists and wealthy merchants.

Mohommeda, Sirimala, Modaratenne Henda, Mammalay Marikkar, Nasaradeen, and Saradiel became close friends. All of them belong to the group that has bravely fought against the traitors, but Mammallee Marikkar was the only friend who was with Saradiel till the end.

Their robberies targeted wealthy coaches crossing the Colombo-Kandy road, and officials who served the British, more often than not at gunpoint. His activities became so well known that warrants issued for his arrest, along with a reward for the gang’s capture, and further police reinforcements were soon deployed not only to Utuwankanda but also to the surrounding villages.

Soon Saradiel and his friends were among the country’s most wanted people.

His village community loved Saradiel despite his stubborn nature and tendency to get into trouble because he never stole or took anything from them. He was someone who cared for the poor. Villager’s see Saradiel as someone who stood up against the British who took their resources away. Some will call him “A friend of the poor” till present.

A special unit of the Police assigned to capture him as stories of his exploits grew, the colonial authorities were infuriated and were eager to see the man was arrested and put away. For many years, the man who barely 5’3″ tall, was able to escape and avoid capture. ‘Saradiel’ was named the most wanted man along with his childhood friend ‘Mammale Marikkar’ who had been his accomplice throughout the years.

On 21 March 1864, Police began a capture plan for Saradiel and Marikkar. They knew that the two robbers were visiting Saradiel’s mother. At an encounter with the Police here, gunshots exchanged, and Saradiel was wounded, but with help from his friend, he managed to escape. However, Mammale Marikkar started the fire at the Police in which a Policeman named Sabhan, who got killed. The day is celebrated annually as Police Day.

Queen Victoria announced a reward had set at 150 pounds on their heads, a princely amount at the period, to anyone who could provide information leading to Saradiel arrest. As soon as the news started to spread, His best friend, Sirimala, didn’t hesitate to betray. His best friend. He turned out to become a police informant, and the Police managed to attract Saradiel and Marikkar. Their luck eventually ran out that day when the two finally caught after several years. They publicly executed on 7 May 1864 when Saradiel and his friend found guilty after trial and sentenced to death.

Now, the rocky mountain where Soora Saradiel been his hiding has recreated at the Saradiel Village located at the foothills of Uthuwankanda. A place where the visitors can enjoy a guided tour which will take one through the life of the famous outlaw from childhood to his execution with life-size sculptures bringing to life the important personalities of the time.

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  2. This is such an interesting story to read, he is looks like Robin Hood who became a hero from those less fornate people while a criminal to those rich people. [


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