Musings of a monarch
Title: ‘King Dutugamunu
Author: Dr P G
Continued from October
Punchihewa's title of the book throws light on many aspects,
governance, science of building an Armed Force, and the historicity of
the land becoming a unified country under one Monarch-who could have
been called the emperor.
He selects the chapters to suit the main theme of Maha Senapathi
becoming King of Lanka. There are fifteen chapters which depict the
formation of a State which could hold against any enemy-State.
Punchihewa in the introduction outlines the superlative status accorded
to him by historical sources, Mahawamsa, Thupawamsa, Saddhammalankaraya,
Thupavamsa, and blends the information contained with the writings of
scholars like, Professor Paranavithana, Dr Ananda Coomaraswamy, P
Arunachalam, Dr James Rutnam, and foreign writers, William Knighton
(1845); it gives an uplift to the already existing hero-stature of
The warrior-king upheld, ‘human rights’, in warfare, as depicted by
the reverence given to his adversary, King Elara, the righteous ruler by
building a tomb called ‘Elara-Sohona’, commended by many a person even
today. Even king Dutugamunu, by decree, and respect, used to alight from
the conveyance, in which he travelled, when passing this tomb of former
adversary king. Punchihewa brings out this character-trait of Gamunu
very lucidly, with quotations.
It speaks volumes for respect for rights of adversaries, in warfare,
human rights, and more correctly human values, followed by the Lankan
The story begins with King Kavantissa, where, Punchi, traces his
superior-lineage from Devanampiyatissa; son of Gotabhaya, whose father
was Mahanaga who established his Kingdom in Rohana, due to an attempt by
Devanampiyatissa's queen, on his life; Kavantissa had therefore, a
rightful claim to Anuradhapura Kingdom. Although, depicted as a non
dynamic personage by Mahawamsa author, Punchi, illustrates his
strategies at unification of the country, firstly the small kingdoms
south of Rajarata, Seru, Lona, and Soma.
The Giri Nuwara ruled by Abhaya, was annexed by marriage, by giving
his sister Soma in marriage to Abhaya, the ruler and later Gamini was
sent as the administrator, over a dispute on birthright (jati). Abhaya
moved with Soma, the queen to Seru, where the King Siva was the ruler,
he built a city for Abhaya namely Somapura, in queen's name.
These three sub-kingdoms were brought under the suzerainty of Magama
by building a Chaitya in Seru Nuwara, enshrining the relics of the
Buddha, which Kavantissa was in possession.
All three rulers, Siva of Seru, Mahanaga in Lona and Giri Abhaya in
Soma, participated in the meritorious deed, indicating their loyalty to
Kavantissa. Thus having unified the South, he began the preparations for
an offensive on the Kingdom of Anuradhapura, by building the forces,
which Punchi, describes in the chapter on ‘The Ten Warriors'.
The chapter on ‘Viharamahadevi’, is written with devotion to a queen
who was ready to sacrifice her life, for the Nation as princess, ‘Devi’
of twelve years, to halt the ‘ocean overflowing the land’, as described
in the Mahawamsa and Saddharmalankaraya.
It was a modern day Tsunami, and the King Kelanitissa, did not think
twice to decide to send the pretty loving daughter to sea to calm it,
for the sake of the country on advice of sages.
The princess landed at Tolaka in Magama, and Kavantissa, rescued her,
educated her and when she grew up with Royal etiquettes, married her.
How she supported the King in the ruling of the country and bringing up
the two sons is well-described in the book by Punchi.
Having a heroic, queen comparable to, or surpassing such ladies
world-over, with two adorable sons, who were ready to fight the
foreign-powers in Anuradhapura, for whom an armed force, was built, and
the blessings of the Triple-Gem, showered on them, by building stupas
and viharas, Kavantissa passed away after his return from Serunuwara,
after the inauguration of the Caitya.
The science or the art of recruitment of the warriors, Velusumana,
Nandimitra, Gotayimbara, Suranimala, Kanchadeva, Phussadeva,
Therapuththabhaya, Mahasona, Labhiyawasabha and Mahabharana, is
described in detail to make a huge army, under Dutugamunu.
Dathusena and Mahanela were recruited, but Dathusena is recorded as
left, to lead a spiritual life in India. The importance attached to the
elephant retinue is depicted by Punchi in describing the training of
Kandula, the Royal Elephant.
Born on the same day as Gamini, he was a high quality warrior
himself. Saddharmalankaraya, refers to a foal Dighathunika, also born on
the same day, who was with Gamini during the family duel with Tissa.
There were the ‘Eth, As, Riya, Pabala’ contingents in support of the
Kandula's role as a unique warrior in the war at Vijithapura is
succinctly described by Punchi, although he refers to some doubts of
chroniclers, whether it was Vijithapura in Kalawewa, which is the
authentic one. Prof Senerath Paranawithana's views were useful in
correct identification, perhaps.
Gamunu's young age as recounted by Punchi, is replete with adventure
bordering disobedience, like, sending a woman's ornament to father, for
not giving permission to wage war on Elara, fleeing to Malayarata,
conflict with brother Tissa, of course, commencing from his famous,
episode of non-listening to the father and Maha-Sangha to partake of
three handfuls of rice, one of which was meant to promise that he will
not got to war with the ruler in Anuradhapura.
At this request, he refused and left and he had recoiled himself in
bed saying that he does not have room to extend his limbs as surrounding
his kingdom, on three sides was the deaf-sea, and on the north are the
foreign-rulers, when pleaded by mother Viharamahadevi, not to be
disrespectful to parents and the Mahasangha.
It was on security of the country and the nationalistic feelings with
piousness to Buddhism that drove him to such offensive acts.
Punchi, exonerates Gamunu by comparing the practice in Maharashtra of
forced donning of women's dresses on Generals when they are defeated at
war, to gifting the father woman's ornaments, by Gamunu. Gamunu left to
Malayarata, and some inscriptions are quoted to say that he had a
princess named Rajitha, or Ranmenike, from Kotmale.
According to Prof Paranavithana, his queen was Kati, as mentioned in
Kosavakanda inscription. - S B Atugoda
To be Continued