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THE LOST CITIES OF CEYLON
TAMBAPAŅŅI AND WIJITA
the account which has been given of the aborigines of Ceylon, I have endeavoured to show that at the time when the written history of the country begins they held only the southern two-thirds of the island. The first capital of the Gangetic ancestors of the Sinhalese was established in some part of this district, and was believed by the early annalists to be in the neighbourhood of one of the coast settlements of the aborigines, as the extracts which record the fate of their princess Kuwēni render quite clear. It was near this settlement or town, Sirivatthapura, that Wijaya and his followers were understood to have landed. It follows that the early writers were aware that the Sinhalese capital was close to the place of their debarkation, at a spot where the natives had an opportunity of collecting treasure-trove in the form of the cargoes of vessels that were wrecked on the adjoining coast. This fact, about which there can be no doubt, throws aside all the inland sites that are connected with the story by modern tradition. Such tales are not of the slightest value when compared with the written beliefs of the pre-Christian chroniclers from which the historians gathered their information. Many different places have been selected by European and later Sinhalese writers as the site of the first capital, but the early annalists appear to have had no doubt regarding its position. It was then known as the city of Tambapanņi, an early name of the island itself, apparently borrowed from Southern India, where there is a river of this name. The Dipavansa says (p. 162) of this place, 'Tambapanņi was the first [Sinhalese] town in the most excellent Lankādīpā [Island of
Ceylon]; there Vijaya resided and governed his kingdom. The town of Tambapanņi surrounded by suburbs was built by Vijaya in the south, on the most lovely bank of the river.' 1 The history being written at Anuradhapura, all sites to the north, east, and west of that city are at once excluded by this sentence.
In this story the tale about Kuwēni is altogether omitted, but unless the new-comers had formed an alliance with some of the natives it is difficult to comprehend how they could acquire the supremacy over more than a small part of the country. What probably occurred was that for a long period antecedent to the appointment of a Gangetic prince as ruler, the Magadhese merchants had been accustomed to visit the island in ships that sailed direct from the mouth of the Ganges, or perhaps called at other trading stations on the way. At last an adventurous member of one of the northern royal families accompanied a party of these merchants to Ceylon, and by allying himself with some of the natives succeeded in acquiring the general sovereignty of the island in the districts where the influence and power of the traders were sufficiently extensive. Other parts of Ceylon probably retained their own rulers in a state of complete independence until at least the time of Paṇḍukābhaya, the fifth sovereign, who by his wise policy of conciliating the native chiefs succeeded in inducing all to accept his control.
The annalists state that the first Gangetic prince (who is mentioned only as Wijaya, 'The Conqueror') married a Pāṇḍiyan princess of the southern Madura, by whom he had no children. Shortly before his death he despatched messengers to his father's capital, Sihapura,' the Lion City,' in the Ganges valley, to request another prince of his own family to come to Ceylon in order to succeed him. His nephew, called merely Paṇḍuwāsa Dēva, 'The Deity or King of the Pale Race,' son of his elder brother, Sumitta, who had succeeded to the throne on the death of his father, accompanied the ambassadors to Ceylon, and became its second sovereign. One of the late king's ministers, called Upatissa, faithfully managed 1 Translation by Dr. H. Oldenberg, p. 162.
the government during the year's interregnum that followed the death of Wijaya, early in the fourth century B.C.
It is the descriptions of the journey of this prince to Ceylon, and that of the princess who followed him afterwards in order to become his queen, which afford definite information regarding the place in the south of Ceylon at which the first capital was founded.
According to the Mahāvansa, Wijaya died soon after despatching the ambassadors to Sihapura, and the Regent had settled down at another early town, called Upatissa, to the north of Anuradhapura, and on the bank of the Malwattaoya, then known as the Kadamba river (Mah. i, p. 34). The returning members of the mission could not be aware of these facts, and evidently landed at the usual port near the old capital. The Mahāvansa states (p. 36) that they arrived at the mouth of the Maha Kandara river, and Mr. Turnour has added, apparently from the Ţika or Commentary, 'at Gōnagāmaka tiṭṭha,' the ford or landing-place of Gōnagāma. Following this prince, there arrived the princess who became his queen, who also landed at the same port of Gōnagāma, whence she also proceeded to Upatissa, the new capital. The Mah. says (i, p. 36), 'The ministers having already consulted the fortune-teller Kālavēla, and having waited on the females who had arrived at Wijita [on their way to Upatissa] in fulfilment of that prediction, having also made enquiries there regarding them and identified them, presented them to the king at Upatissa.'
Where was the town Wijita, to which these ministers proceeded from Upatissa, a city north of Anuradhapura, in order to meet the distinguished traveller from Gōnagāma? It has been long believed that it was at Kala-waewa, in the Northcentral Province, where a small Buddhist temple, called Wijitapura wihāra, exists to the present day. I have examined this place, and failed to find signs of any early works of importance. The best evidence, the dimensions of the bricks, is uncertain. Those accessible in the dagaba at the wihāra are all more or less in pieces, and are of two sizes, averaging 2.71 inches in thickness, which it is possible may be pre-Christian,
and 2.10 inches. There are also some worn fragments of inscriptions of the fifth or sixth century A.D., cut on the steps leading to the temple enclosure. Nothing but this monastery is locally known to have been constructed at this spot.
In the story of the re-conquest of northern Ceylon from South-Indian invaders by King Duṭṭha-Gāmiņi before 161 B.C., there is a long and fanciful account of his capture of a very strong fort at Wijitapura, with triple fortifications, the strongest fortress in the country next to Anuradhapura, which was at that time the capital; but no such place is known anywhere near Kalawaewa. The account of this campaign is fully related in the Mahāvansa (i, p. 96 ff.). Duṭṭha-Gāmiņi, marching from Magama or Tissa in the extreme south-east of Ceylon, began it by capturing the town of Mahiyangana, an early settlement on the eastern side of the Kandian mountains; after which he gradually made himself master of a chain of forts established by the invaders along the banks of the Mahawaeli-ganga. The history then states (p. 97) 'All those Damilas [Tamils] who had escaped the slaughter along the bank of the river threw themselves for protection into the fortified town called Wijita.' It is clear, therefore, that this town was not far from the lower section of the Mahawaeliganga; and, as we know from the journey of Paṇḍuwasa Deva's bride, was on a public road leading direct from the port of Gōnagāma to the northern capital. By holding it the Indian troops evidently hoped to check Duṭṭha-Gāmiņi in his victorious march on Anuradhapura.
A later historian who described the extensive works of King Parakrama-Bahu I (1164-1197 A.D.) at Polannaruwa, his capital, relates (Mah. ii, p. 201) how he formed three suburbs of the city: Afterwards the king caused three smaller cities to be erected, namely, the Rājavēsi Bhujanga, the Rāja Kulantaka (also called Sihapura on p. 259] and Wijita.' It then states that in the space between the palace and these three towns he built three wihāras, thus indicating that they were not far from the capital. At p. 260 reference is again made to the branch city, Wijita.' It is a constant habit of the later historians to use the word meaning to construct'
when the actual work done is a repair or re-construction ; and whether it was the case in this instance or not, it is at least proved by these records that close to Polannaruwa there was a Wijitapura in the twelfth century. Can it be the celebrated fortified city captured by Duṭṭha-Gāmiņi?
When that king had taken it he next marched on a post termed Girilaka, the station of a chief called after it 1 Giriya, 'the Giri person.' This may have been the place eight miles north of Polannaruwa now known as Giri-talawa, on the present road to Anuradhapura. The meaning of the name, 'Giri plain,' shows that it may be derived from the Giri village, where the chief Giriya lived.
From there the king proceeded to Mahēla, which may be the village now termed Maha Aela-gamuwa, on the road from Dambulla to Anuradhapura. With these very probable identifications to confirm the line of Duṭṭha-Gāmiņi's march, I feel justified in assuming that the fort of Wijita which he captured was close to Polannaruwa, and possibly either an early name of that city itself, or a place at the site of ParakramaBāhu's 'branch city.' It cannot have been a town on the north-western side of Kalā-waewa, at the site of the Wijitapura wihāra, which is completely out of the line of march to Anuradhapura from any point on the lower course of the Mahawaeli-ganga, and is also too far from that river to be a rallying-ground for troops who were blocking the king's advance on the capital.
We now return to the journey of Paṇḍuwāsa Dēva's bride from the coast to Upatissa. If Wijitapura where the king's ministers met her was near Polannaruwa we see at once that the meeting-place was nearly half-way on the great highway which passed from Māgama to Anuradhapura and Upatissa, through Guttahala (now Buttala), and across the Mahawaeliganga at Dāstota. This old highway, part of which is now called Kalu-gal baemma, Black-Stone Embankment,' is still in existence, but overgrown with forest; and it is said that it can be traced from Buttala to the river. Where I examined it ''Each village gave its name to the Damila chief in charge of it.' Mah. i, p. 97.