Dipavamsa (study)

by Sibani Barman | 2017 | 55,946 words

This page relates ‘Invasion of the Tamils’ of the study on the Dipavamsa conducted by S. Barman in 2017. The Dipavamsa is the base material of the Vamsa literatures of Ceylon (Srilanka or Sri-Lanka) writtin the Pali language.

Chapter 4f - Invasion of the Tamils

[Full title: Invasion of the Tamils and restoration of the Sāsana by King Duṭṭhagāmaṇī]

The origins of the Tamil presence of the Island are not clear. But due to the countries close proximity to India, it is very likely that the people had travelled back and forth throughout human history. Historians conclude that during the king Tissa’s reign a large number of Hindu Brahmins came to Sri-Lanka and the Sinhalese named them ‘Damiḷas. From the excavasions made so far and particularly by the German scholars that Tamils had been living in the northern and eastern parts of the island from the time immemorial. Several small fragments of pottery with a few Tamil-Brāmhi letters scractched on them have been found from the Jaffna region. A pottery inscription of about 200 B.C. found in the South-eastern coast of Sri-Lanka contain fragment of high quality black and redware flat dish inscribed in Tamil Brahmi script. The inscription also speaks of a local Tamil marcantile community organised in a guild to conduct inland and maritime trade of about 3rd century B.C.

During the early period there was considerable stability between Sinhalese and the Tamils. In spite of occasional fight there was peace and harmony. The systematic history of the Tamil’s rule in Sri-Lanka starts about the middle of the 2nd century B.C., under the spell of the rule of prince Eḷāra (205-161 B.C.) from the Coḷa kingdom in South India.

Eḷāra seized the northern Sinhalese kingdom and ruled it for forty-four years. Eḷāra tried his best to establish a pious and peaceful kingdom.His Tamil kingdom extended to the south till it reached the kingdom of Kākavaṇa-tissa. The two kings co-existed peacefully.

The son of Kākavaṇa-tissa and Vihāradevi was Gāmaṇī-Abhaya (161-137 B.C.). The Dīpavaṃsa gives a brief description of this renowned king. But the Mahāvaṃsa asserted vivid description of his life. The antenatal cravings of his mother showed that he would be a great warrior, and his father gathered at his court the most famous warriors of the land skilled in various ways. Chief among them was Nandhimitta, Suranimila, Mahāsona, Gothaimbara, Theraputtābhaya, Bharana, Velusumana, Khanjadeva, Phussadeva, and Labhiyavāsabha. Being resented by the confined limits of his father’s kingdom, bounded on the north by the Mahāvaluka-nadī, on the further bank of which lay the Sinhalese country ruled by the Damiḷas, Abhaya at first made plans to campaign against the Tamils. His father opposed the plan constantly. This made Abhaya angry, whence he sent his royal father a woman’s garment, to indicate that he was no man. His father ordered to bind him in chains but he escaped and went into exile until his father’s death. This earned for him the nickname Duṭṭha, which always stuck to him. After his father’s death he had to fight with his brother Tissa (afterwards Saddhā-Tissa) for the possession of the throne. At first he was defeated at Culaṅganiyapiṭhi, but later he won the battle, and the Saṅgha brought reconciliation between the brothers.

Taking full prepartion, Duṭṭhagāmaṇī declared war to regain the country from the Damiḷa king Eḷāra. He rode his state elephant, Kaṇḍula, born on the same day as himself.

He started operations at Mahiyaṅgana, captured a number of forts and killed many of Elāra’s generals. He led his troops down to Mahāvāluka-nadī, and north to Anuradhapura. People of Elara’s forces who survived took shelter in the fortified city of Vijitapura. Duṭṭhagāmaṇī pitched his camp at Kandhāvārapiṭṭhi, near Vijitapura. After a seige of four months Vijitapura fell and Duṭṭhagāmaṇī advanced through Girilaka and Mahelanagara to Kāsapabbata near Anurādhapura, the capital. In the battle, Eḷāra was defeated and fled towards the capital, but Duṭṭhagāmaṇi followed him and kill him near the southern gate of the city. Eḷāra’s body was burnt with great honour, and Duṭṭhagṭmaṇī built a monument over the ashes and proclaimed that no music should be played by people passing it. This decree was long honoured. ‘This act of chivalry, so much in contrast with the usual conduct of victors, earned for Duṭṭhagāmaṇī great honour’. Later, he defeated Bhalluka, a nephew of Eḷāra, and restored Sinhalese control over the entire Island.

Defeating the Damilas, Duṭṭhagāmaṇī repented very much for the destruction of many thousands of human lives. Knowing the thoughts of the king the Arahants in Piyaṅgudīpa tried to comfort him. They sent eight arahants to him.

They comforted him saying that only one and a half human beings had been slain by him—one who had taken refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and the Sangha, and the other who had observed the five precepts—the rest were the wrong-believers (micchādiṭṭhi) and men of evil life (dussīlā), were not more to be esteemed than beasts (pasusamā). But you will bring glory to the Dhamma in manyfold ways, therefore cast away care from thy heart.

Being comforted by the monks, Duṭṭhagāmaṇī united the Island of Laṅkā in one kingdom. Then he distributed places of honour to his warriors according to their rank. The warrior Theraputtabhaya refused to accept that what had been given to him, instead he had taken pabbaja with the king’s consent and attained arahantship in time.

After that, the king celebrated the kingship festival (chatta-maṅgal sattāha) for a weak and enjoyed the ‘water festival plays’ in Tissavāpī according to the tradition of crowned kings. At the conclusion of the water festival Duṭṭhagāmaṇī built the Marica-vaṭṭi vihāra on the spot where his splendid spear containing the relic of the Buddha, given by the monks at Tissamahārāma remained firmly embeded and none was able to remove it. The vihāra was finished within three years in such wise that a cetiya was enshrined enclosing the victory spear and a vihāra was founded enclosing the thūpa. The vihāra was called Maricavaṭṭi because it was intended by the king as expiation for having once eaten a peeperpod (maricavaṭṭi) without sharing it with the monks thus violating the vow of his childhood. Maricavaṭṭi-vihāra was the first dagoba built by the king Duṭṭhagāmaṇī showing his tremendous dedication for Buddhism.

After that the king started his works of piety. He first rebuilt the Lohapāsāda which was originally constructed by Devānāmpiya-Tissa. Then it was a small building built to round the Mahāvihāra. Duṭṭhagāmaṇī erected on its site a nine-storyed building stood on stone pillars and had one hundred rooms on each story to house Buddhist monks who assembled to observe uposatha or to take decisions on incidents of violating the vinaya rules by the monks. It was the tallest building in ancient Anurādhapura.

The structure of Lohapāsāda resembled the Ambalaṭṭhika-pāsāda of goddess Bīranī which eight arahants obtained from the deva-world. The roof of the building was made up of copper plates, hence its name. The nine storeys were occupied by monks according to the merits they achieved. The first floor was meant for simple beginners, monks having knowledge of Tipiṭaka stayed at the second, those who had entered on the path of salvation, that is, Sotāpannas and other stages of successive developments, each on one of the third and higher storeys and the last four storeys were reserved for arahants. At the centre of the hall there was a pavilion like Vessavaṇa’s Nārivāhana chariot. The generous king had the construction work done by people giving their due wage to them.

After that the king started to build his greatest work the Mahā-thūpa, also knon as Ruvanvalisāya (the dagoba of golden dust), Swarnamali Cetiya, Suvarnamali Mahacetiya, Rathnamali dagoba etc. enshrining the relics of Lord Buddha. The Mahāvaṃsa records the minute details and ingredients required in building the Mahāthūpa.

It was one of the largest creations of ancient world, erected on a site visited by four Buddhas: Kakusandha, Koṇāgamana, and Kassapa in earlier times and by Gautama Buddha during his third visit to Ceylon.

The construction of this Thūpa had been predicted by the Buddha himself and was awaited by gods, arahants and humans. The spot was at the upper end of the Kakudhavāpi, and it was one of the spots where Mahinda did homage with champaka flowers and the earth quaked. Mahinda declared that the site was worthy of a Thūpa. Devānāmpiya-Tissa wanted to build the thūpa immediately but Mahinda resisted him, saying that the work would be carried out in future by Duṭṭhagāmaṇī. A pillar recording this future occurence was established by the king on the spot nearly two hundred years before the foundation of the Mahāthūpa. Duṭṭhagāmaṇī was unwilling to begin the work because after the war his people became too week to bear the money to support such an enormous undertaking.But the Devas, led by Sakka, knowing the thought of the king, provided the necessary materials, found in different parts of the Island, and he began the work immediately.

On a full-moon day of Vesakha, the king removed the inscribed stone pillar that was erected by Devānāmpiya-Tissa, and the spot was levelled. The place for the thūpa was dug to a depth of seven cubits (sattahattha), spread with round stones, which were again crushed into smaller pieces. The stones were then stamped upon by elephants with leather shoes. Fine clay was spread on the layer of stones and bricks, rough cement, ruby (kuruvinda), a net work of iron, fragrant clay (marumba), white stones, rock crystals, and slabs of stones were kept systematically over it.

Then a mixture of mercury, resin of the wood apple (kapittha), and fine clay were placed over the slabs. Above it, eight inches thick sheets of bronze were laid. Over this, arsenic dissolved in sesamum oil and a sheet of silver seven inches thick were placed.

The inauguration of this massive building was commenced with great celebrations. Interview was taken of various builders before the final choice and no free work was allowed to be done. The thūpa was like a water bubble in shape; its architect was the god Vissakammā who acted through the medium of master builder. During the building period, the arahants using their magical powers caused the three terraces of flower offerings (pupphādānā) to the thupa to sink nine times to the earth, in order to strengthen the Mahāthūpa, that it would stand the worst earthquake or natural disaster.

The relic chamber of the Mahāthūpa, which had never being archaeologically excavated, is said to contain a drona of relics of the Buddha. Thera Indagutta, of great iddhi power had supervised the work of the relic chamber. The Arahant Soṇutara of Pujā-pariveṇa brought the relics from the Nāga world using his iddhi-power. The relic chamber was consisted of four pieces of medavaṇṇa-pāsāṇa; each piece was of lenght and breadth eighty cubits and eight inches thick. Sāmaṇeras Uttara and Sumana brought six of them from Uttara-kuru. In the relic chamber sculptural representation of the chief events of the life of the Buddha as well as pictures of several Jātakas, especially the Vessantara Jātaka, were placed. At the centre was placed a Bodhi-Tree adorned with pure gold, silver and gems.

The relics had been enshrined with gorgeous festival, on the fifteenth uposatha-day of the month of Āsāḷha, under the constellation of Uttārāsāḷhā. The earth quaked and many wonders had happened at the moment.

When King Duṭṭhagāmaṇī was about to place the relics on the throne prepared for them, bearing on his head the casket of relics, the casket opened automatically; the relics rose up and took the form of the Buddha performing the miracle of double appearance (yamaka pāṭihārya), as at the foot of the Gaṇḍamba. Aftert that, as the king desired, the relics assumed the form of the Buddha at the throne, as he lay on his death bed.

The celebration lasted for one week. At the end of the seven days, the two samaneras, Uttara and Kuru, sealed the relic chamber with the medavaṇṇa-pāsāṇa, set apart for it. The treasure enshrined in the Mahāthūpa were worth twenty crores, the rest cost one thousand crores. But before the chatta of the cetiya and the plaster work could be finished, Duṭṭhagāmaṇī became ill.

His brother Saddhā-Tissa was called upon from Dīghavāpi. He took the responsibility to finish the work. To show the king his work in complete form, he cunningly covered the cetiya with white cloth painted with vedikā; rows of filled vases, row of five-finger ornament, at the centre of the vedika, (muddhavedī) a sun and moon of kharapatta, and crowned it with reeds of bamboo.

Getting the news of the king’s illness countless number (96-koṭis) of monks arrived. They chanted for the king group by group. Not seeing the Arahant Theraputtābhaya, who was a former general of the king, he felt sad. Knowing this, the Thera came from the Pañjalipabbata, at the time of his death and consoled him with reminders of the great merit he had accumulated during his life. It appears from the record of the king’s good deeds, that the king had erected 99 other vihāras, besides the buildings already mentioned.

Once Duṭṭhagāmaṇī had tried to preach in the Lohapāsāda, but failed due to emotional nervousness. Realizing the especial skill need for a preacher he arranged special benefication for those who preached the Dhamma.

Two gifts made by him are `very popular and gained merits—firstly, he sold his special earrings to procure food for five Theras during the Akkhakkhaiyka famine; secondly, he distributed his own food during his flight from Culaṅganiya-piṭṭhi. At that time, he was starving, his minister Tissa managed food for him, but as he never ate without offering some of the food to the monks, he wished for a monk to appear before him. When a Thera did so appear, he gave him all he had.He was told later, on his death bed, by Thera-Puttābhaya, that this food was divided among many thousands of Arahants so that the merits of the donor might increase manifold.

It is said that after his death Duṭṭhagāmaṇī was born in the Tusita-world, there to await the appearance of Maitteya-Buddha. He will then become the chief disciple of that Buddha, and his parents will be the parents of Metteya.

In the previous birth, he was a sāmanera of Koṭapabbata-vihāra. He fell ill through his hard work for the Saṅgha at the Ākāsa-cetiya near Cittala-pabbata. He was he lay dying in the Silāpassaya-pariveṇa of Tissārāma. At the suggestion of an Arahant Thera, his mother of present birth, Vihāradevī visited him and after much difficulty he persuaded him to be reborn in this world as her son.

Duṭṭhagāmaṇī is regarded as the national hero in the Dīpavaṃsa and Mahāvaṃsa epic. His son Sāliya was romantic in nature and married a caṇḍāla maiden, Asokamālā rejecting the royal throne. Duṭṭhagāmaṇī’s successor was therefore his brother Saddhātissa.

Duṭṭhagāmaṇī lived to the age of sixty-eight. Once after his conquest of the Damiḷas, he was unable to sleep for a whole month, then at the suggestion of the monks, he took the fast of eight vows, and eight monks chanted to him the Citta-yamaka. He fell asleep during the chanting.

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