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Sunday, 24 May 2009





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The fifteenth century route to Yapa Patuna

Many a bird flew across Lankan skies somewhere between the 14th and 16th centuries in the style of busy messengers. They always took care to fly over popularly used routes for obvious reasons as provision of food, security and opportunity to feast eyes on places of popular interest. The Sandesha poets were most keen on the last factor as these provided a venue to ventilate their descriptive powers.

The Kokila Sandeshaya written during the reign of Parakramabahu the 6th (1415-1470) is said to encase the longest route taken by any Sandesha bird. From the Southernmost point of Dondra or Devundara, the cuckoo flies all the way to Jaffna to hand over a message to Prince Sapumal who conquered the North for a father who adopted him. After his successful invasion he becomes Yuvaraj of the peninsula and settles down there. He returns to take over the crown of Kotte, that entailed the title of Chakravarthi, on the death of King Parakramabuhu. It was however a short reign.

Like it or not, according to scholar poets like Repiel Tennekoon, now forgotten Sapumal himself was a Tamil earlier carrying the name Sembagappaperumal. How come? Racism seems to have taken a back seat in that by-gone century. Ironically people in court and outside seemed to have been more broad-minded than in this enlightened age. Sapumal's father served in the royal court of Sri Jayawardenapura, Kotte and the little son was soon to attract the attention of the monarch who adopted him and brought him up as his very own. Both father (Sapumal's biological father) and son seem to have been of the consensus that the island should be under one Chatra and the King reigning in the capital city of Kotte had to be the sole monarch.

The break way of the North had begun a good many years back and with the divisive cleavages in the South increasing. By the dawn of the 15th century the North had become almost independent under the Arya Chakravarthi line. Prince Sapumal by a triumphant invasion subjugated the terrain.

What was the route taken by him? No war records exist to indicate the route and one can assume that the route taken by the cuckoo and indicated in Kokila Sandesha was the same triumphal route. Of course Sapumal began his march from Sri J'Pura while the cuckoo has to fly from Devinuwara in the South. So a long sea side trail or flight is added well to put first things first what was the message? Author of Kokila Sandesha was a Monk - poet residing at Irugalkula Thileka Pirivena in Devundara according to a verse in the text and he celebrates the conquest of the North in his own way i.e. by invoking the blessings of the Gods on Prince Sapumal and his warriors and then informing the prince via the cuckoo that he has done so.

This was the conventional pattern of messages of many of the Sandeshas. Flambeau carrying, one could say. Maybe to some extent, but they served many other purposes especially in indicating historical, geographical and social factors of the times including the study of place names. Some of the names indicated below have gone into oblivion while some names have stuck on defying the vast trek of time. This study of place names or `Toponymy' is in itself a fascinating area.

Starting from this South city off the bird flies through Aluth Veediya (New Street), Vallemadama, Naga Kovil, Uggalbavula, Mapapatana, Nilwala, Mathota, Panguran, Vel Eliya, Munamal Ruppa, Polwatta, Mahaweli Ganpatina, Mahanaviya Pokuna, Pollawa, Lunumodera, Miripanna, Unavatuna, Galla, Gin Ganga, Ratgama, Udugalpitiya, Hikkaduwa, Totagamuwa, Mahadampa, Maha Modera, Valithota, Partharakaya, Nillepola, Bentota, Kalavila, Beruwala, Maggona, Payagala, Kalmulla, Kaluganga, Ganidu Kovila, Pothupitiya, Panadure and Lakshapathiya.

The cuckoo turns inland from Moratueliya and proceeds along Attidiya, Pepiliyana, Yatiyana, Galpokuna and Pattini Devala and enters the capital city of Kotte. Just a few miles away lies a sea side port that was to burgeon into a mighty city, come Imperialist power. But in that time contest Colombo was forgotten except by the Thisaraya or swan (Thisara Sandeshaya). So with not a glance at Kolonthota the bird flaps its wings and flies to the sanctified Kelaniya Temple via Konthagantota (identified today) and Maskeliya (now gone into oblivion and emerging off Hatton). Then the cuckoo emerges on the coast at Wattala.

This, one can deduce is the same route taken by Prince Sapumal. The route seems to somewhat differ from the present A-9 route since it kisses the coast for a good distance. From Wattala it passes Mabowe (Present Mabola), on to Athubunwala, then Rilamulla, Weligampitiya, Kindigoda Hoya, Boyawalana (today Bolawalana of a Teachers' College fame), Meegamuwa (Negombo), Thoppuwa, Manawa Hoya, Nikapitia, Halawatha (Chillaw), Munneswarama, Wellawala. Now the cuckoo goes on to Tammannawa and then onto Puttlam. Now the route goes through Muwadoragama, Musaliya Modera, Morawala, Mannar, Attalamukkama, Mawatu Patana, Aiyan Kovil, Nugawela Vana, Malwila and Natha Devale, Javaka Kotte, Lunu Hoya, Galmunaya and finally ends up at the city of Yapa Patuna or Jaffna to lay the message before the conqueror. Note that most of the place names resonate of Sinhala was probably the names used for Ali Mankada or Elephant Pass. Name `Lunu Hoya could be ascribed to the salterns then. In verse 249, the poet sings that it was at Javaka Kotte that the mighty prince defeated the Kannadi army who had come to help Ary Chakravarthi's force while at Lunu Hoya the bird is requested to feast his eyes on the surging waves of the ocean.

The writer once again wishes to focus attention on the mixed lineage of Sapumal mainly to water down raging racial animosities that only contribute to the dreaded three letter word WAR sprouted mainly from racial consciousness that one can see at present in all its ferocity on distant Gaza Strip killing even suckling babes. Another factor that needs attention is that texts on Sandesha Kavyas indicate that the author of Kokila Sandeshaya was a Monk who knew many languages including Tamil. Perhaps his fondness for the Jaffna peninsula where the language is spoken widely was one motivating factor for him to send the cuckoo there. Twelve days the bird flew non-stop carrying the message. In its beak? No. The message in its physical form was as non-existent as the messenger bird who lived only in the poet's imagination. The Megha Dutha or Cloud Messenger of the Bharatha Desha had set the trend to be taken up avidly by our own poets.

And they are of pragmatic use too as that of focusing on the 15th century route to Yapa patuna used both by humans and birds, in times of war and peace.


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