WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka

King Vijaya (B.C. 543-504) and his successors

(Source: A SHORT HISTORY OF LANKA by Humphry William Codrington)

The traditional first king of Lanka is Vijaya. His grandmother, Suppadevi, according to the legend was the daughter of the king of Vanga (Bengal) by a princess of Kalinga (Orissa). She ran away from home and in the country of Lala or Lada, the modern Gujarat, mated with a lion (sinha); hence the names of her children and ultimately that of Sinhala, the designation of Lanka and of the Sinhala. At the age of sixteen her son Sinhabahu carried off his mother and his twin sister to the haunts of men; the lion in his search for his family ravaged the country, and for the sake of the reward offered by the king of Vanga was slain by his own son. The king dying at the time, Sinhabahu was elected as his successor, but abandoned Vanga and built the city of Sinhapura in his native country Lada. His son Prince Vijaya and his boon companions committed such outrages in his father's capital that the king was compelled by popular clamour to drive them forth.

They set sail and, touching at Supparaka, a famous port on the west coast of India (Sopara, north of Bombay), ultimately arrived at Tambapanni. Vijaya is made to land at Tambapanni on the very day of Buddha's death. Here they found the country inhabited by Yakkhas or demons, and one of them Kuveni, entrapped Vijaya's followers, but was compelled by the prince to release them. She then became Vijaya's mistress, and assisted him to exterminate her fellow-demons, whose chief seats are given as Sirivatthu and Lankapura. These were identified later with the hills Loggala and Laggala, though it is clear from the narrative that Sirivatthu was quite close to Vijaya's landing place, as he heard the noise of the wedding festivities, of which he took advantage to attack the Yakkhas. Vijaya now settled at Tambapanni, a port on the south of the river, perhaps the Malwatu Oya, and his followers formed various villages in the neighbouring country: these were Anuradhapura on the banks of the Malwatu Oya; Upatissa, seven or eight miles further north; Uruvela, a seaport to the west of Anuradhapura, perhaps at Marichchikatti; Ujjeni and Vijita. His followers now wished Vijaya to assume the crown, and dispatched an embassy in search of a queen to the Pandyan king at Madura. The princess and her retinue landed at Mahatittha (Mantota); she espoused Vijaya and her women his companions, while the discarded Kuveni with her two children wandered to Lankapura, and was slain by her enraged kinsfolk. The children fled to Adam's Peak and became the ancestors of the Pulindas (hill-men or Veddas).

Shortly before his death, Vijaya, who was without an heir, sent a letter to Sinhapura, asking that his brother Sumitta should be sent to succeed him. Sumitta, however, was now king in his father's place, and dispatched his youngest son, Panduvasa, who in due course arrived in Lanka and reigned at Vijitapura.

A late legend tells how the perjury of which Vijaya had been guilty in repudiating Kuveni was visited on his nephew, and how the god Sakra, to whom Lanka had been entrusted by Buddha, obtained his cure. Isvara instructed by Sakra called upon Rahu, who, turning himself into a boar, ravaged the garden of Mala Raja. The last named summoned his men to surround the garden and beat the jungle; but the boar escaped, and, pursued by Mala Raja, leaped into the sea at Tuticorin, and swam, still pursued, across to Uratota (`Boar landing-place,' or Kayts) in Lanka. When Rahu had enticed Mala Raja into the heart of the country he disappeared, leaving in his place a rock at which Mala Raja stood gazing in wonderment. Sakra now appeared and bade him cure the king, which he did.

Panduvasa married the daughter (Buddhakachchana) of the Sakya Pandu, the first cousin of Buddha, who was followed to Lanka by her brothers. To them also is attributed the foundation of Anuradhapura, Uruvela Vijitapura, as well as of Dighayu and Rohana, identified later with Magama in Hambantota District.

Panduvasa was succeeded by his son Abhaya, and he in turn after an interregnum of seventeen years by his nephew Pandukabhaya, who made Anuradhapura his capital. Here he constructed the Abhaya tank, now called Basavakkulam, and also established two Yakkha princes, one of whom sat on a throne of equal eminence with the king's. From this it is clear that the Yakkha or aboriginal population was not treated as a conquered race. Vijaya's followers espoused Pandyan women, and it seems probable that in course of time their descendants married with the people of the country, on whom they imposed their Aryan language. Further dilution of the original Aryan blood undoubtedly has taken place in later ages, with the result that, though the Sinhala language is of North Indian origin, the social system is that of the south. In the twelfth year of his reign Pandukabhaya `fixed the boundaries of the villages in all parts of Lanka.' He was succeeded by his son Mutasiva (276-50 BC).

WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka