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THE ANCIENT VAEDDAS
HE Sinhalese histories contain several references to
THERM aborigines Ceylon,
the aborigines of Ceylon, whom they usually denominate, in the Pāli language, Yakkhas. The narrative of the Buddha's supposed visit to them has been given already. They are next mentioned in the tale of the arrival of Wijaya, the first Sinhalese king; and the story, even if partly or chiefly fictitious, is valuable as an illustration of some of the notions which the invaders or new settlers held regarding them. On this occasion only two Yakkhinis (female Yakkhas) showed themselves and endeavoured to entrap the travellers, who were only saved because Vishnu had taken the precaution to tie charmed threads on their arms.
One of the Yakkhinis proved to be a princess named Kuwēnī, whom Wijaya married. She provided the adventurers with a good meal of rice and other articles taken from ships that had been wrecked on the coast of Ceylon. She is then represented as proceeding to recommend Wijaya to attack the Yakkhas of the neighbouring town, in the following terms (Mah. i, p. 33):-"In the city Sirivattha [the Sirisavatthu of the Jātaka story], in this island, there is a Yakkha sovereign Kālasēna, and in the Yakkha city Lankāpura there is another sovereign. Having conducted his daughter Pusamittā thither, her mother Kondanāmikā is now bestowing that daughter at a marriage festival on the sovereign there at Sirivattha. From that circumstance there is a grand festival in an assembly of Yakkhas. That great assemblage will keep up that revel without intermission for seven days." The prince acted as advised by her, and 'having put Kālasēna, the chief of the Yakkhas, to death, assumed his court dress. The rest of his retinue dressed themselves in the vestments [or orna
ments] of the other Yakkhas. After the lapse of some days, departing from the capital of the Yakkhas, and founding the city called Tambapanņi Wijaya settled there.'
According to the narrative, Wijaya subsequently married a daughter of the Pāṇḍiyan king of Madura, and discarded the Yakkha princess, who went to Lankāpura, where she left her two children outside the town (Mah. i, p. 35). 'The Yakkhas on seeing her enter the city, quickly surrounded her, crying out "It is for the purpose of spying on us that she has come back." When the Yakkhas were thus excited one of them whose anger was greatly kindled put an end to the life of the Yakkhini by a blow of his hand. Her uncle, a Yakkha named Kumāra, happening to proceed out of the Yakkha city, seeing these children outside the town, "Whose children are ye," said he. Being informed "Kuwēni's," he said, "Your mother is murdered; if ye should be seen here they would murder you also; fly quickly." Instantly departing thence, they repaired to the neighbourhood of Sumanakūta (Adam's Peak). The elder having grown up married his sister and settled there. Becoming numerous by their sons and daughters, under the protection of the king they resided in that Malaya [mountain] district. This is the origin of the Pulindas.' Thus it is plain that at the early date when the first annals consulted by the compiler of the Mahāvansa were written it was known that the so-called Yakkhas were in reality the aborigines, the Pulindas.
In the time of the fourth king of Ceylon, Tissa, the chronicler returns to the old idea of the Yakkhas as a form of demon, and narrates (Mah. i, p. 41) that 'A certain Yakkhini named Cētiyā (the widow of Jūtindhara, a Yakkha who was killed in a battle at Sirivatthapura 2) who dwelt at the Dhumarakkha mountain [which the context shows was close to the Kasā ford on the Mahawaeli-ganga, near Polannaruwa], was wont to walk about the marsh of Tumbariyangana in the shape of a mare,' which was of a white colour, with red legs. Prince 1 In this and all other transliterations the letter c represents the sound ch, as in church.
The words in brackets are only given in Turnour's Mahawanso.
Paṇḍukābhaya, the nephew of the king, who had taken the field in an attempt to seize the throne, and now held all the eastern and southern districts, to the south of the river Mahawaeli-ganga, succeeded in catching this mare, and by her supernatural advice and help, that is, with the assistance of the Yakkhas or Vaeddas, defeated and killed the king his uncle, and the latter's brothers, with the exception of two, and thus secured the sovereignty.
He reigned at Anuradhapura, which he enlarged and rearranged, so that during his reign it became an important city. The chronicler relates that He established the Yakkha Kālavēla in the eastern quarter of the city; and the chief of the Yakkhas, Citta, he established on the lower side of the Abhaya tank [that is, on the south-western side of the town]. He who knew how to accord his protection with discrimination established the slave [Kumbōkatā], born of the Yakkha tribe, who had previously rendered him great service,1 at the southern gate of the city.' Thus he arranged that his Vaedda allies should be established on three sides of the city, doubtless as its defenders.
The cemetery was fixed on the western side of the town; and to the northward of it, and apparently near the main road which led to Mahātiṭṭha, the port from which travellers sailed for Southern India, ‘ a range of buildings' was also constructed for the 'Vyādas,' the Vaedda populace in general.
The Mahavansa also informs us that he established within the garden of the royal palace the mare-faced Yakkhini.' It will be noted that this Vaedda chieftainess is no longer called a mare, but only mare-faced, just as nicknames such as ' moonfaced,' ' crooked-nosed,' 'large-toothed,' etc., were applied to the Sinhalese kings.
Thus it is clear that a large proportion of the population of Anuradhapura or its outskirts at that time consisted of the
1 She had saved his life when an infant. According to the history, the so-called Yakkhas protected him from the time when he was born, his uncles having endeavoured to kill him on account of a prediction that he would destroy them. If there is any truth in this, his father's mother may have been a native princess.
Vaedda supporters of the king. It has been already mentioned that he provided a site for the Vyāda Dēva,' the Vaedda God,' also. The chronicler proceeds to indicate in unmistakable language the commanding position of the Vaedda rulers of this period: In the days of public festivity, this monarch, seated on a throne of equal eminence with the Yakkha chief, Citta, caused joyous spectacles, representing the actions of devas [gods] as well as mortals, to be exhibited.'
This important sentence proves that the supreme Vaedda chief of that day occupied a position little, if at all, inferior to that of the Sinhalese king.
The chronicler continues, This monarch befriending the interests of the Yakkhas, with the co-operation of Kālavēla and Citta, who had the power of rendering themselves visible,1 conjointly with them enjoyed his prosperity.'
It is easy to see that it was by means of a close alliance with the Vaeddas that this astute king, the greatest organiser the country has ever had-who is recorded to have made the first land settlement by defining the boundaries of the villages throughout the country-succeeded in deposing his uncle and gaining the throne. The natives were evidently far too numerous and powerful and well-organised to be put aside afterwards like the unfortunate Kuwēni; and the politic king found it advisable to recognise the authority and influence of their leaders as nearly equal to his own. His political sagacity in this respect doubtless saved the country from many years of bloodshed and insecurity, and converted the Vaeddas into peaceable inhabitants devoted to his interests. In religious matters he was equally liberal and impartial; he made special provision for all religious bodies at his capital. It was he, also, who gave the first stimulus to reservoir construction in the northern districts, and probably also irrigation. The historian rightly referred to him as this wise ruler,' and stated that at his death the country was in a state of perfect peace (Mah. i, p. 44). This great monarch was born in about 345
1 We may recognise the hand of the reverend historian of the fifth century in this little parenthesis.
B.C., and reigned from 308 to about 275 B.C., or possibly a little later.
In the middle of the third century B.C. the account of the arrival of Mahinda, the son of the Indian emperor Aśoka, on a mission to convert the Sinhalese and their king Dēvānam-piya Tissa to Buddhism, possibly indicates a certain retention of power by the Vaeddas, and the brusque manner in which they ventured to address the king. When Mahinda first met the king in the jungle, 'the thera [superior monk] said to him, "Come hither, Tissa." From his calling him simply "Tissa the monarch thought he must be a Yakkha' (Mah. i, p. 50). Whether the story is true or false, it proves that the writer believed that the Yakkhas, who must have been either supernatural beings or the Vaeddas of that time, did not exhibit much deference towards the Sinhalese sovereign.
In the time of Duṭṭha-Gāmiņi (161-137 B.C.) there is a reference to a temple of a deity termed 'Pura-Dēva,' which is stated to have been on the northern side of the cemetery, where we have seen that the Vaeddas were settled. This god seems to be the Vyāda Dēva of the time of Paṇḍukābhaya, the word apparently meaning the Ancient God' of the country.
When the great Ruwanwaeli dāgaba1 was constructed by this king at Anuradhapura, among the paintings depicted on the wall of the relic-room inside it the list runs: The four great kings of the Catumahārājika heavens stood there with drawn swords; and thirty-three supernaturally-gifted dēvas [inferior gods] bearing baskets of flowers and making offerings of pāricchatta flowers [Erythrina indica, now used only for demon-offerings]. There stood thirty-two princesses bearing lighted torches, and twenty-eight Yakkha chiefs ranged themselves as a guard of protection [for the relics in the chamber], driving away the fierce Yakkhas' (Mah. i, p. 121).
In the Hatthi-pāla Jātaka (No. 509) a tree-deity is repre1 A dāgaba is a solid mound built to contain relics of Buddha, or important personages, especially monks, or sometimes only to commemorate an event which occurred at the site. It is usually a semiglobe or a bell in shape, with a terminal spire; but there are other forms, of which an account is given in a subsequent chapter. Dāgaba =dhātu-garbha, 'relic-chamber.'