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Sunday, 12 October 2014





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The saga of King Dutugemunu

Developing agriculture and filling the stores, strengthening the army and turning out new weapons, Dutugemunu The Great got ready for battle.

Dutugemunu also known as Duttagamini or "fearless king" was a Sinhalese king of Sri Lanka. He ruled from 161 BC to 137 BC. He is well known for defeating and overthrowing Elara. Elara was the Tamil prince from the Chola Kingdom. He invaded the Kingdom of Rajarata in 205 BC.

Dutugemunu expanded and beautified the city of Anuradhapura. He projected the power of his native Rajarata region across the island.

Dutugemunu's story is found in myth and legend due to his significance as one of the potent symbol's of Sinhalese military power.

According to historical chronicles King Dutugemunu descended from the ancient royal family of Rajarata through Devanampiyatissa's brother Mahanaga. Dutugemunu's father was King Kawantissa, the ruler of the Rohana Kingdom. His mother was Vihara Maha Devi, daughter of Tissa, king of Kalyani. The Mahavamsa describes how as a youth he mocked his father for refusing to wage war against Elara.


Elara was the sole king of Anuradhapura who usurped the throne by killing the native kings. Dutugemunu made his father furious by sending him a piece of women's jewellery symbolising that if his father was a man he would not have refused to wage war.

The resulting fury of the king caused many of his friends to flee to Malaya region and the prince himself was dubbed Dutthagamani (disobedient.) By 16 Dutugemunu was 'vigorous, renowned, intelligent and a hero in majesty and might.' Determined to expel the invading king of Rajarata, he raised an army from around Rohana and declared his intention to regain the north to his father. The king forbade this stating that 'the land on this side of the river is enough.' It resulted in an exchange of words between father and son. Gamani's friends fled to Malaya and he himself was incarcerated in a royal prison. Kavantissa is known as a brilliant strategist who recognised early that he needed to make his kingdom powerful before waging a war against the invaders. He assembled armies and made his kingdom self-sufficient in "rice and betel leaf." This meant that the people had a lot of agricultural surplus.


The legendary ten "great giants," men who had great strength were recruited to the army. Kavantissa repeatedly made Dutugemunu and Tissa swear that they would never fight one another and that they would always respect and listen to the advice of Bhikkhus. He also made the ten giants swear never to pick sides in a war between the brothers.

Upon Kavantissa's death, Dutugemunu found himself having to defend his crown against his younger brother Tissa, who had seized possession of not only the elephant Kandula, but also queen

Viharamahadevi as well. The war between the two began with the defeat for Dutugemunu at Culanganiyapitthi, where many thousands of the king Dutugemunu's men perished.


Dutugemunu was forced to flee back to Mahagama where he raised another army and engaged Tissa in yet another battle in the vicinity of the city. Legend has it that as Tissa, fought his brother riding the royal elephant "Kandula," Dutugemunu rode a mare. Dutugemunu at one point made the mare jump over the elephant causing the elephant to recognise its master and attempt to kill Tissa who hastily dismounted. Dutugemunu was victorious and Tissa was smuggled off the battlefield disguised as the corpse of a Bhikkhu.

It is said that Dutugemunu recognised the ploy and called out to his brother "Are you not ashamed to be carried on the back of these Bhikkhus?" Sometime afterwards, however, Dutugemunu and

Tissa were reconciled through the efforts of Viharamahadevi and the Bhikkhus, and Tissa became one of the king's foremost Generals.

Having secured his position Dutugemunu then planned his operations to regain the North, which included not only Rajarata but also numerous smaller semi-independent kingdoms. The king's army consisted of 'chariots, troops and beasts for riders', soldiers and a number of war elephants, as well as a number of Bhikkhus and a relic placed in his spear for luck and blessings.

In addition, he was accompanied by the famed ten giant warriors who had been recruited from all over the island by his father Kavantissa. The campaign reached a climax at the eastern gate of Anuradhapura, where Dutugemunu, riding Kandula, finally confronted the aged king Elara, on his own elephant Mahäpabbata, and slew him with a dart. This encounter is one of the most famous in Sri Lankan history.

Dutugemunu's victory at Anuradhapura put him in the unprecedented position of ruling nearly the entire island. Despite this his position was far from problem-free. Elara, despite being an invading Tamil from the Chola empire of south India, was renowned as having been a just and righteous ruler. Dutugemunu went out of his way to ensure that the memory of the old king was revered as he cremated Elara's body and built a tomb for his ashes and made rules for travellers to pay their respects to his tomb.

Furthermore, looking back upon his glorious victory, great though it was, he knew no joy, remembering that thereby was wrought the destruction of thousands of enemies and his soldiers.

This is attested by the sheer number of religious foundations attributed to him by the chronicles which include magnificent stupas, monasteries and shrines.


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