Annual feast of Wahakotte Church
The annual feast of historic Wahakotte church this year was held on
June 16 and 17 with a festive high mass celebrated by Rt. Rev. Dr.
Vianney Fernando, Bishop of Kandy.
The six inch tall miraculous wooden statue of St. Anthony of
This historic St. Anthony's Church is situated in Udugoda Pallesiya
Pattuwa to the North-West of Matale district, four miles south of
Galewela town on Galewala – Matale main road. It is about 140 km from
Colombo, Kurunegala – Galewela and Wahakotte. From Kandy it is 55km via
Matale Palapathwela and Wahakotte. From Negombo through Kurunegala –
Galewela to Wahakotte it is 130 km.
Wahakotte was once known as “Wasala Kotte” castle in the fort and it
is believed that there was a palace and a fort where the present church
is situated. The other legend says that “Waha” (poison) “Kotte” (Pillow)
meaning poisonous pillow because a queen had committed suicide after she
heard that her husband, the king's death at war.
It is also recorded that king Dutugemunu defeated King Elara in 154
BC and had built a small fortress at Wahakotte. One can see the ruins of
this fortress even today on a Rockey – hill called “Maligatenna” Palace
field. Wahakotte was once a prosperous town with all facilities. The
Dambulla Rock temple too can be seen to the North of Maligatenna for
ramparts a deep moat and thoroughfares where sub kings ruled. The Ceylon
Almanac (1834 page 204) records that there were ruins of “Rangalle
Nuwara” and a Hindu Kovil - “Pattini Dewalaya” in the wood close by.
It was also recorded that the first Christian monarch Yamasinghe
adopted son of Karalliyadda Bandara, who later became Don Phillip after
becoming a Christian in Goa India) was received by some rebels from
Kandy and was crowned at Wahakotte by the Portuguese.
It is also recorded that Don Francisco Wijekoon, who organized the
Kandyan rebels too was present on this occation (Pieris PE Colombo 1914
King Rajasinghe of the Kandyan Kingdom who fought against the
Portuguese, captured some rebels and made them settle down in Wahakotte.
These captured people earned their living by doing cultivation, trade
and women sewing dresses for women and men sewing for men (Robert Knox
When the Dutch captured the areas that were under the Portuguese
rule, they confiscated all Catholic institutions, churches, schools and
other religious places while chasing away the Catholic preists and
banned all religious activities.
Visit of Rev. Fr. Joseph Vaz
When Rev. Fr. Joseph Vaz visited Sri Lanka from India, disguised as a
labourer, the people of Wahakotte had built a little hut on a small hill
for Fr. Joseph Vaz, which is still venerated by Catholics.
When king Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe gave permission to Catholics to
perform religious activities and freedom of worship. The king as a token
of good will gave back the statue of St. Anthony which was plundered
from a church in will Kandy during the reign of his brother-in-law
Vijaya Rajasinghe to the Catholics of Wahakotte.
St. Anthony's Church, Wahakotte
Once there was a severe drought around Wahakotte and the poor people
suffered a lot. The Catholics of Wahakotte prayed under this sacred
statue of St. Anthony and the rain came pouring down to the call of
their innocent prayer. The Catholics and Buddhists had organized a
perahera to mark this wonderful miracle.
There is also an interesting legend about this sacred statue of St.
Anthony. Some enemies had destroyed the great church and plundered all
the valuable things in this church but not the statue. The villagers had
somehow hidden this statue made of wood only six inches in height in a
rice pot and were able to save it from the enemies.
The Catholics of Wahakotte faced innumerable harassments from the
Dutch during this period so the Catholics of Wahakotte had erected a
place of worship in a secret place during the time of Fr. Joseph Vaz and
it looked like a cattle shed during the day time but in the night it
became a prayer room.
During the Wahakotte feast celebrations the statue of St. Anthony is
taken in a procession to the sacred place and in holy prayer the
Catholics pay homage to Rev. Fr. Joseph Vaz.
This historic festival portrays the story of Catholics who without
any support from any organized clergy had maintained the Catholic faith
for over 200 years in a purely non Catholic surrounding.
The parish priest of Wahakotte church Rev. Fr. Yovan Sawarimuttu said
that Buddhist, Hindus and Muslims in the area help Catholics and
specially the Buddhist monks from temples around Wahakotte always help
to make this religious festival a success. He further said that this
year there will be more pilgrims from North and East.
They requested the pilgrims to refrain from bringing unnecessary
things with them as the church authorities intend to celebrate this holy
feast in a simple and devout manner and pray for peace and harmony to
our mother Lanka!
History of the Left movement and Catholic community in Sri Lanka
Generally speaking Marxism and Catholic concepts are antagonistic to
each other. Nevertheless Marxism or the Left Movement gained ground
among the Catholic community.
The first centre of the Left movement in Sri Lanka was Negombo where
the majority of inhabitants are Catholics. It is called the ‘Little
Now the story how the Left movement spread among the Catholic
Community is presented in book-form. It is written by former High Court
Judge W.T.A. Leslie Fernando who is a veteran writer both in Sinhala and
English. He has several qualifications for it.
He is also a devout Catholic. The most significant qualification is
that he is the son of Santiago Fernando who formed the branch of the
LSSP in Negombo, the first Leftist party in Sri Lanka.
He was assisted in this task by Dr. Hector Fernando who once became
the first Marxist MP for Negombo.
The book reveals the struggles the duo had to undergo, victimization
they had to suffer and praise they won. They were also a part and parcel
of the author as well.
The articles in the book were first published as a series of articles
in the Divayina – Desapalanaye Methek Katawa. Now it is published in
It would be an attraction to all those who are interested in the
history of the Leftist Movement in Sri Lanka and also others interested
in the recent history of the country.
Christian unity Pentecost rally
Christian unity Pentecost rally was held on June 9 at the Cathedral of
Christ the Living Saviour. Among those who spoke was the Catholic Bishop
of Mannar Rt. Rev. Rayappu Joseph, the Anglican Bishop of Colombo the
Rt. Rev. Diloraj Canagesabey and Rev. Dr. Colton Wickramaratne who spoke
on behalf of the evangelical community. Picture shows the cultural
troupe of the Kithu Dana Pubuduwa, the Catholic Revival Movement
performing at the rally.