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The Great Chronicle of Sri Lanka

Chapter 37 - King Mahasena

After king Jetthatissa’s death, his younger brother MAHÁSENA[1] ruled twenty-seven years as king. And to consecrate him as king, the thera Samghamitta came thither from the further coast, when he heard the time (of Jetthatissa’s death).[2] When he had carried out the consecration and the other ceremonies of various kind, the lawless (bhikkhu) who would fain bring about the destruction of the Mahavihara won the king to himself with the words: `The dwellers in the Mahavihara do not teach the (true) vinaya, we are those who teach the (true) vinaya, O king’, and he established a royal penalty: `Whosoever gives food to a bhikkhu dwelling in the Mahavihara is liable to a fine of a hundred (pieces of money).’

The bhikkhus dwelling in the Mahavihara, who thereby fell into want, abandoned the Mahavihara, and went to Malaya and Rohana. Thus was our Mahavihara desolate for nine years and empty of those bhikkhus who (else) had dwelt in the Mahavihara. And the unwise thera persuaded the unwise king: `Ownerless land belongs to the king,’[3] and when he had gained leave from the king to destroy the Mahavihara, this (bhikkhu), in the enmity of his heart, set on people to do so. 

An adherent of the thera Samghamitta, the ruthless minister Sona, a favourite servant of the king, and (with him) shameless bhikkhus, destroyed the splendid Lohapasada seven stories high, and carried away the (material of the) various buildings from hence to the Abhayagiri (vihara), and by means of the many buildings[4] that were borne away from the Mahávihára the Abhayagiri-vihára became rich in buildings. Holding fast to his evil friend, the thera Samghamitta, and to his servant Sona, the king wrought many a deed of wrong. The king sent for the great stone image from the Pácinatissapabbata (vihára) and set it up in the Abhayagiri (vihára). He set up a building for the image, a temple for the Bodhi-tree, a beautiful relic-hall and a four-sided hall,[5] and he restored the (parivena) called Kukkuta.[6] Then by the ruthless thera Samghamitta was the Abhayagiri-vihara made stately to see.

The minister named Meghavannábhaya, the friend of the king, who was busied with all his affairs, was wroth with him for destroying the Mahávihára; he became a rebel, and when he had gone to Malaya and had raised a great force, he pitched a camp by the Dúratissaka-tank.[7]

When the king heard that his friend was come thither, he marched forth to do battle with him, and he also pitched a camp.

The other had good drink and meat, that he had brought with him from Malaya and thinking: `I will not enjoy it without my friend the king,’ he took some, and he himself went forth alone by night, and coming to the king he told him this thing. When the king had eaten with him, in perfect trust, that which he had brought, he asked him: `Why hast thou become a rebel ?’ `Because the Mahavihara has been destroyed by thee’ he answered. `I will make the vihara to be dwelt in yet again; forgive me my fault,’ thus spoke the king, and the other was reconciled with the king. Following his counsel the king returned to the capital. But Meghavannábhaya, who persuaded the king (that it was fitting to do this), did not go with the king that be might collect in the meantime the wherewithal to build.

One of the king’s wives, who was exceedingly dear to him, the daughter of a scribe, grieved over the destruction of the Mahavihara, and when she, in bitterness of heart, had won over a labourer to kill the thera who had destroyed it, she caused the violent thera Samghamitta to be done to death as he came to the Thuparama to destroy it. And they slew likewise the violent and lawless minister Sona. But when Meghavannabhaya had brought the building-materials (that he had collected), he built several parivenas in the Mahavihara. When this fear had (thus) been calmed by Abhaya the bhikkhus coming from here and there again inhabited the Mahavihara. But the king made two bronze images and set them up on the west side of the temple of the great Bodhi-tree.

Being well-pleased with the hypocrite, the plotter, the lawless thera Tissa, his evil friend, who dwelt in the Dakkhinarama, he, although he was warned, built within the boundaries of the Mahavihara, in the garden called Joti, the Jetavana-vihara.[8] Then he called upon the brotherhood of monks to do away with their boundaries, and since the bhikkhus would not do this, they abandoned the vihara. But now, to make the shifting of the boundary void of effect, if others should seek to do this, certain bhikkhus hid themselves in various places.[9]

Thus was the Mahavihara abandoned for nine months by the bhikkhus, and the other bhikkhus thought: `We will begin to shift (the boundaries).’ Then, when this attempt to shift the boundary was given up,[10] the bhikkhus came back hither and dwelt again in the Mahavihara. But within the brotherhood of bhikkhus a complaint touching an offence of the gravest kind[11] was raised against the thera Tissa, who had received the (Jetavana) vihara. The high minister, known to be just, who decided (the matter) excluded him, according to right and law, from the order, albeit against the king’s wishes.

The king built also the Manihira-vihara[12] and founded three viharas, destroying temples of the (brahmanical) gods: the Gokanna (vihara), (and another vihara) in Erakavilla, (and a third) in the village of the Brahman Kalanda;[13] (moreover he built) the Migagama-vihara and the Gañgásenakapabbata (vihara). To the west, he built the Dhátusenapabbata (vihára); the king founded also the great vihára in Kokaváta. He built the Thuparama-vihara and the Hulapitthi (vihara) and the two nunneries, called Uttara and Abhaya. At the place of the yakkha Kalavela[14] he built a thupa, and on the island he restored many ruined buildings. To one thousand samghattheras[15] he distributed alms for theras, at a cost of a thousand (pieces of money), and to all (the bhikkhus he distributed) yearly a garment. There is no record of his gifts of food and drink.

To make (the land) more fertile, he made sixteen tanks, the Manihira,[16] the Mahagama, the Challura, and the (tank) named Khanu,[17] the Mahamani,[18] the Kokavata[19] and the Dhammaramma-tank, the Kumbalaka and the Vahana, besides the Rattamalakandaka,[20] the tank Tissavaddhamanaka,[21] that of Velangavitthi,[22] that of Mahagallaka, the Cira-tank and the Mahadaragallaka and the Kalapasana-tank. These are the sixteen tanks. On the Ganga he built the great canal named Pabbatanta.

Thus did he gather to himself much merit and much guilt.

The Mahavamsa is ended.

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- Footnotes:

1.

After verse 50 in chapter 37 the old Mahavamsa breaks off. But the later author, who continued the work, carried on this chapter and added 198 verses, giving to the whole the subscription Sattarajako = ‘the Seven Kings (However, there are in reality six : Mahasena, Kittisiri-Meghavanna, Jetthatissa II, Buddhadasa, Upatissa II, and Mahanama.) Our section (verses 1-50) has thus no conclusion, neither the usual memorial verse, nor a subscription. The substance of the former ought to have corresponded to that of the closing verses of the Dip., but was clothed in a more artistic form. The writer who continued the Mah. put the last two verses of the Dip. at the head of his own work and thus connected the new part of the poem with the old one. On the whole process, cf. GEIGER, Dip. and Mah., pp. 18-19.

2.

Tika: kalam natva, Jetthatissassa matakalam janitva.

3.

A play on the words assamiko and pathavisami ‘owner (ruler) of the earth ‘.

4.

Pasada means here, in quite a general sense, the habitations of the bhikkhus in the Mahavihara, which were demolished here and the material of which was conveyed to the Abhayagiri-vihara.

5.

Catu(s)sala. A certain building of this name in Anuradhapura is mentioned, Mah. 15. 47, 50 ; and 35. 88. In our passage the word is evidently an appellativum.

6.

By this is probably meant the Kukkutagiri-parivena erected by Kanitthatissa. See 36. 10.

7.

See note to 33. 9. Meghavannabhaya evidently marches from the central mountain-district of Malaya to secure the province of Rohana.

8.

According to 15. 202, Jotivana is a name for the Nandana park which, according to 15. 1, 7-8, was situated immediately before the south gate of Anuradhapura. From this and from our passage it appears quite certain that the Jetavana-vihara must be the monastery the thupa of which was mistakenly (called) the Abhayagiri Dagaba. On the other hand the present Jetavana Dagaba to the north of the city belonged to the Abhayagiri. Cf. note 33. 81.

9.

Namely, within the old boundaries of the Mahavihara, possession of which was thus formally maintained. Tika: antosimaya eva annatthaagantvatasmim tasmim thane paticchanna hutva niliyimsu.

10.

Evidently since the bhikkhus remaining behind raised a protest.

11.

Antimavatthu is a matter that involves expulsion from the order. Cf. M.V. II. 22. 3 ; 36. 1 ; S.B.E. xiii, p. 276, note 1.

12.

Now Minneriya, the name of a tank (see below, v. 47) not far from Polonnaruwa.

13.

According to the Tika the Gokanna-vihara is situated on the coast of the ‘Eastern Sea’, the two other viharas in Rohana. The Tika then adds : evam sabbattha Lankadipamhi kuditthikanam alayam viddhamsetva, Sivalingadayo nasetva buddhasasanam eva patitthapesi ‘everywhere in the island of Lanka he established the doctrine of the Buddha, having destroyed the temples of the unbelievers, i.e. having abolished the phallic symbols of Siva and so forth ‘.

14.

Cf. 10. 84.

15.

I. e. superiors of the communities of bhikkhus. Cf. 3. 4 ; 4. 56.

16.

See above note to 37. 40.

17.

A Khanugama is mentioned 25. 14.

18.

In 36. 3 the construction of a Mahamani-tank is ascribed to Bhatikatissa.

19.

Cf. the Kokavata-vihara in 37. 42.

20.

Maharatmala is the older name of the great Padaviya-lake in the North Central Province, 25 miles north of Anuradhapura. Arch. Survey of Ceylon, XIII, 1896, p. 40. There is, however, also a Ratmala-tank 2 1/2 miles south of Anuradhapura. ED. MULLER, Ancient Inscriptions of Ceylon, p. 27.

21.

A village or district of this name is mentioned in 35. 84.

22.

A vihara of the same name, see 33. 8.

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