The history of Ceylon in the next three centuries followed the path of usual ups and downs. Mahācuḷa-Mahātissa succeeded Vaṭṭagāmaṇī as king of Ceylon and ruled for fourteen years (76-62 B.C.). He was the son of Khallāṭanāga and Anulā-devi. Vaṭṭagāmaṇī adopted him. The child Mahācūḷa-Mahātissa was taken by Vaṭṭagāmaṇī when he was forced to flee from the Damiḷas.
Mahācuḷa worked in a rice field and in a sugar mill near Soṇṇagiri for three years disguised as a labour, and donated the wages so earned to the thera Mahāsumma and to the Mahīpati Bhikkhu-Saṅgha. He built the Vihāras known as Maṇḍavāpi, Abhayagallaka, Vaṇkāvaṭṭagalla, Dīghavāhugallaka, and Jālagāma. Mahācūḷa had two sons, Tissa (poisoned by the notorious Anulā) and Kuṭakaṇṇatissa.
He was succeeded by Vaṭṭagāmanī’s own son Coranāga or Mahānāga (62-50 B.C.). He was hostile to the Saṅgha and destroyed eighteen vihāras where he had not been given refuge during the days of his rebellion against his cousin Mahāculika-Mahātissa. Laṅkā is said to have suffered a famine during this era. He was poisoned by his queen Anulā after a reign of twelve years. The damage done by him to the cause of Buddhism was so great that the author of Mahāvaṃsa was convinced that “the evil doer was reborn in Lokantarika-niraya”.
After the death of Coranāga, Mahācuḷa’s son Tissa (50-47 B.C.) ruled three years as king and took Anulā as his wife. In the mean time Anulā developed a passion for the senior gate-watchman Siva at the king’s palace and killed the king Tissa giving poison. Then in succession she had as husbands Siva, the palace guard; Vaṭuka, a Tamil carpenter; Tissa, a woodcarrier; the Damiḷa Niliya, a palace priest;—all of whom she removed by poisoning. After Niliya, Anulā ascended the throne and became the first queen of Laṅkā for four months. In the end she was killed by Kuṭakaṇṇatissa, the second son of Mahācuḷa-Mahātissa.
Kuṭakaṇṇatissa was the second son of Mahācuḷika and reigned for 22 years (41-19 B.C). He entered the Saṅgha being affraid of infamous Anulā, but later he laid an army against Anulā and slew her. Kuṭakaṇṇatissa burned Anulā in the palace with royal honour, and built a new palace.
On the Cetiya mountain, he ercted an Uposathagara, a thupa of stone and planted a bodhi-Tree. He founded the Pelagama vihāra, made the Vaṇṇaka-canal, Ambadugga-tank, and Bhayoluppala and laid out the Padumassara-vana. He erected for his mother a nunnery called the Dantageha and also constructed seven cubits height wall and a trench, round Anurādhapura.
The Dīpavaṃsa referred him as Kuṭikaṇṇa-Abhaya, and described him as a very devoted supporter of the nuns. Kuṭikaṇṇa had a horse of Ājaneya race called Guḷavaṇṇa. The Vibhaṅga commentary mentioned two theras named—Cūlasudhamma Thera of Girigāmakaṇṇa and Tipitaka–Cūlanāga Thera as being honoured by the king specially.
Bathikābhaya was the son and successor of Kuṭakaṇṇa-Tissa and reigned for twenty-eight years (19 B.C.- 09 A.D.). He was called Bhatika or Bhatiya because he was the elder brother of Mahādāṭhika Mahānāga. He was very virtous. He repaired the Lohapāsāda, and built two vedikās for the Mahāthūpa, and an uposathāgāra for the Thupārāma.He planted sumana and ujjaka flowers at cost of the tax appointed for himself.
Once, he covered the whole Mahāthūpa with sandalwood pastes embedded with sweet-smelling flowers. On another occasion he covered the same with flowers and sprinkled them with water drawn by machines from the Abhaya-vāpi. In the Dīpavaṃsa, the name of the lake was mentioned as Khem which was on the west side of the Thūpa. Again, he made a plaster covering mixed with many cartloads of pearls for the Mahā-Thūpa. A net of coral knotted with golden lotus as large as waggon-wheels was made and thrown over the cetiya. One day the king heard the chanting of Arahants in the relic chamber of the Mahā-Thūpa. He decided to see them. He lay down at the foot of the stone-pillar, fasting, resolving not to rise until he had seen them. The Theras made a door by which he could enter into the relic chamber. The king having seen all the adornment of the chamber, described them for the benefit of the people, making figures modelled with clay in illustration of his descriptions. Bhāṭikābhaya did many other works of merit: held 28 Vesākha-festivals, organized offerings for the Bodhi-Tree, and showed great hospitality to the monks at many places.
Once hearing a skilful judgment given by Ābhidhammika-Godha-Thera, Bhāṭikābhaya proclaimed that all disputes should be taken to the monk for settlement.. To settle a controversy between the monks of Abhayagiri and those of the Mahāvihāra, he appointed Dīghakārāyaṇa, a Brahmin minister, of him.
The idea of taking study as a particular profession or “gantha-dhura” is mentioned for the first time during Bhaṭikābhaya’s reign. The king supplied requisites for bhikkhus engaged in occupation with books or study, at five spots, namely, the three receiving places (upaṭṭhāna), called Citta, Maṇi and Mucala and also in the Paduma house and the beautiful Chatta-pāsāda.
His queen Sāmadevī was the daughter of a cattle-butcher. Once, a large number of cattle-butchers were appointed as scavengers in the palace by the king, as they were unable to pay the fine demanded. One of them had a beautiful daughter and the king fell in love with her and married her. Owing to her, her kinsmen, too, lived in happiness.
Bhāṭikābhaya accepted everything after verification. Once he learned from a sutta that of all perfumes, that of jasmine was the strongest. To verify this, the king placed in a room four kinds of perfume and a handful of various flowers including jasmine. He then left the room and shut the door. After a while, when he opened the door, the first smell which greeted him was that of jasmine. Realizing the truth of the Buddha’s statement, he fell down and worshipped him.
The king once asked a reciter to recite from the jayamangala an auspisious stanza connected with all the three jewels. The person recited the stanza beginning with the words “divā tapati ādicca, ratti ābhāti candimā....”. At the end of each pāda the reciter saluted the setting sun, the rising moon, the Saṅgha respectively, and at last, he stretched his hands upwards in salutation of the Mahā-Thūpa. The king asked him to hold his hands there and placed in them one thousand pieces.
Bhāṭikābhaya was succeeded by his younger brother Mahādāthika-Mahānāga (9A.D.-21 A.D.) and he reigned for twelve years. He extended the courtyard of the Mahāthūpa by kiñcikkhas tones laid on plaster round the Mahāthūpa, and turned the sand pathway into a wide court. He put up, in all vihāras, chairs for the preachers. He built the Ambaṭṭhala-Thūpa, and made it firm at the risk of his own life. He laid out the grounds round Cetiya-pabbata, placed traders shop on both sides of the road, adorned the road here ane there with flags, arches, and triumphal gates, and initiated a great celebration called the Giribhaṇḍapūjā. From the Kadambanadī to Cetiyagiri he laid carpets to comfort the pilgrims.
He built the Maṇi nāgapabbata, the Kalanda, the Samudda and the Cūḷānāgapabbata-vihāras, and donated land for the use of monks in Pāsāṇadīpaka and Maṇḍavāpi-Vihāras in gratitude for favours shown to him by novices of these monasteries.
He had a queen called Damiḷadevi (probably a Tamil lady) who died young.
He had two sons’ Āmaṇḍagāmaṇi-Abhaya and Kaṇirajānu-Tissa, both of whom succeeded to the throne.
He gave himself and his queen, his two sons, his state elephant and his state horse to the Saṅgha. But the Saṅgha refused to take such gifts.