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It would appear that the commission of suicide by kings and princes in despair after defeat, or at the prospect of defeat, in the field of battle, was common at this period, and that it was generally regarded as an act of chivalry.

When Prince Kasyapa, the noble son of the old blind King Upatissa, made his last gallant and desperate stand in defence of his father, seeing that the elephant he rode on was giving way through sheer fatigue, and that there was no hope of escape, it is said that he killed himself by cutting his own neck. Here, too, a construction that would appear plausible at first sight would launch us into a sea of absurdity. The incident is narrated in the 24th and 25th verses of chapter XLI., thus—

Hattháróhassa datvána, chinditvá sísam attanó
Puñchitvá lóhitan katvá kósiyan asiputtakan
Hatthi-kumbhé ubhó hatthé thapetvána avatthari.

A strictly literal translation of this passage would run thus :"Having cut off his own head and given it to the elephant driver, he wiped off the blood from the sword, and after putting it into the scabbard rested both hands on the head of the elephant and extended himself."

In order to avoid the absurdity which such a rendering would involve, we are bound to put a somewhat forced but very reasonable and natural construction on this passage, viz., “Having given the elephant in charge of its rider, he cut his neck and wiped off the blood from the sword," &c. Such a rendering requires only the supply of an ellipsis to make the construction grammatically and strictly accurate, viz., Hattháróhassa (hatthin) datvána.

A third instance of suicide on the field of battle occurs later on in chapter XLIV. Jeṭṭhatissa defeated and dethroned Aggabódhi III. surnamed Siri Sanghabódhi, who fled to India and returned five years afterwards with a Tamil army to recover his throne. A pitched battle was fought between these two rivals near the great tank Kalávṇva. Jeṭṭhatissa's army was worsted, and although he displayed marvellous feats of valour to retrieve the day, fighting single-handed with many a Tamil warrior, yet all his heroic efforts were of no avail; and at last, seeing a warrior by the name of Veluppa advance to fight him, Jeṭṭhatissa, who was quite exhausted, took out the knife which he had kept carefully hidden in his betel purse, and cut his own throat. The incident is thus described in verses 111 and 112 of chapter XLIV. :


Véluppa Damilan náma disvá yujjhitum ágatan
Tambúlatthaviyan hatthé rakkhantó chúrikan tadá
Tató nikkaranin sammá gahetvá sísam attanó
Chetvá hatthimhi appetvá chúrikan kósiyan khipí.

Seeing a Tamil named Véluppa coming forward (to the combat), he drew out a knife which he carried carefully in his betel purse, and cut his neck, and having laid himself down on the back of the elephant, returned the knife into its sheath."


Here, too, it is quite possible, and even correct, to translate, He cut. off his head, and having laid it on the back of the elephant, returned the knife into its sheath." But I do not think that any person, having a due regard to the possible and the impossible, will venture on such a translation.

The next instance of an act of suicide in the field of battle is that of Prince Mahinda, related in chapter L. The prince did his best to stem the torrent of the wild horde of Tamils that was advancing against the capital, but, finding himself overpowered, and being unwilling to fall into the hands of the enemy, he cut his own neck; and his immediate retinue followed his example :

Tasmá varan me maranan mayá ev'eti cintiyá
Hatthikkhandha-gató yéva chindi só sísam attanó
Tan disvá bhavó síse tatthá chindinsu sévaká.

(Verses 23, 24.)

"Better is it, therefore, that I shouldd ie by my own hand.' So saying, he cut off his head (cut his neck) even as he sat upon his elephant, and many of his faithful followers seeing this cut off their heads also."

This is clear enough, and presents no difficulty whatever.

The last instance which I shall quote is the famous single combat between the two brothers, Dáṭhápabhúti and Moggallána II., wherein the former was defeated and cut his own neck. This passage is important, as it gives us a clue to understand the usual expression Attano sisan chindi, "he cut off his own head."

Rájá árabhi tan disvá chinditun sísam attanó
Moggalláno tha vandantó yácí m'evan kari iti
Yácamáne pi só mánan mánentó chindi kandharan.

(Chap. XLI., vv. 52, 53.)

"And when the king saw this he proceeded to cut off his own head. Whereupon Moggallána raised his hands in supplication and besought him saying, 'Do not so '; but he gave no heed to the prayer, and, caring rather to obey the promptings of his pride, cut his neck." Here the expression Sísan chinditun, "to cut off the head," is used in the same sense as kandharan chindi, "cut the neck."

I have entered into some detail in this matter, as I am aware that the learned editors of the "Mahávaṇsa" differ from me in their rendering of the Sinhalese version.

It might perhaps be objected that my construction of the three first passages is somewhat forced. Granting this for the sake of argument, I think it better to put even a forced construction on an obscure passage, and elicit sense out of it, wherever it is practicable, than to translate it in such a manner as to obtain, what might rightly be called, incredible



THIS as well as the two chapters immediately preceding, and a few that follow, are couched in language so brief and terse as to be almost oracular in some passages; and the one we are about to consider is not the least among them. The difficulty of attaching a definite meaning to it is

rendered still greater by there being a variant reading of an important word therein. The 34th verse, in which this occurs, is as follows :

Kuddho nihari

dayan S

so "ghátakan pitunó mama

Anuvattinsvamaccátí "; téna rakkhasa nímavá.

Literally" He was furious with anger, saying, 'These ministers attached themselves to him who had slain my father,' and he protruded his tooth (dáthan). Hence he was called Rakkhasa."


The learned Sinhalese translators have, however, adopted the reading dáyan, and rendered the phrase by "He took away from them their inheritance." But it may be asked, why the confiscation of the inheritance or property of the evil-doers (which, under the circumstances, was a very proper thing to do) should render him liable to opprobrium, and procure him the undignified title of Rakkhasa, or The demon"? Rather should not the barbarous action that followed the so-called confiscation of property-namely, the putting to death of one thousand officers, the cutting off the ears and noses of many, the banishment of a great number of themjustify the people in calling him a demon? The verse is complete in itself, and has no connection with the succeeding lines that describe the punishment and tortures inflicted on the followers of the parricide. I therefore prefer to adopt the reading dáthan followed by Professor Rhys Davids in his text and translation of this chapter, published in the Royal Asiatic Society's Journal of 1872; but I do not adopt his translation, because it is inconsistent with the context, and for other reasons which I shall presently explain. He renders the passage thus :—

Being angry with the priests, saying, 'They assisted at the death of my father, these baldheads,'. he took away the tooth (relic), and thence acquired the name of 'devil.'

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Now, Moggallána had no cause whatever for dissatisfaction with the priests; for, apart from the fact that they received him into the capital with due honour and respect, he must have known how they had refused to accept the gift of even a vihára offered to them by Kásyapa, on the ground that it was the gift of a parricide. (See verses 11 and 12.) Besides, it is evident that the learned Professor has based his translation here on a wrong reading of the word amaccá (ministers), which he reads mundá (baldheads). Moreover, no correct writer would use dáthá for the Toothrelic, although one or two instances of such use do occur in the admittedly faulty and ill-written portion of the Mahávansa, namely chapters 91-100. But no such use can be found in any other author, or in any other portion of the Mahavansa, although this word Tooth-relic occurs a great many times in the course of the work. I am therefore of opinion that what the writer means to convey by this expression is that Moggallána was so exasperated against these men that he gnashed his teeth violently, so as to protrude one, and that he was therefore nick-named Rakkhasa, inasmuch as those beings are generally supposed to have two curved upper teeth protruding from the corners of their mouths; and they are, indeed, so depicted up to this day in the fresco-paintings and bali images of Ceylon. I have therefore adopted my translation in this sense.

I may add that the similarity of the old Sinhalese characters tha and ya, especially when written by a careless copyist, will easily account for the origin of the variant dayan.

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his (Moggallána's) death his son, the famous Kumára Dhátu- 1 séna, became king. His form was like unto a god, and he was a man of great strength. He made improvements to the vihára that his 2 father had built, and caused an assembly of monks to be held in order to revise the sacred canon. He purged also the religion of Buddha. To 3 the great body of monks he gave the four monastic requisites, and satisfied them, and died in the ninth year of his reign after he had performed many and divers acts of merits. Kittiséna, his son, then 4 became king. He also, after he had performed divers acts of merit, 5 lost the kingdom in the ninth month of his reign, for Síva. his mother's brother, killed him and became king. Síva began to perform many acts of merit, when he was killed on the twenty-fifth day of his reign by Upatissa, who, when he had killed Síva, became king. And he made 6 Moggallána's sister's husband, Silákála, his general. This king 7 bestowed offices on the people, and thereby gained their goodwill. And he gave his daughter in marriage to Silákála with a great dowry.

King Upatissa had a son called Kassapa, a mighty man of valour. 8 And he took unto himself sixteen other valiant youths for his companions. To give freely, and from the fulness of his heart, was his great wealth, and with his companions, who were like-minded with himself, he held fast to the principles of justice and lived a life of much action, and honoured his parents greatly.

In process of time, Silákála's mind being led astray by the lust of 10 dominion, he went to the southern Malaya country and collected a large army there, and, laying waste the outlying districts, came near to the 11 capital. When Kassapa, the king's eldest son, heard this, he comforted his father, who was sore troubled; and when he had mounted his great 12 stately elephant, he took with him his friends and went forth from the city to meet Silákála. Seven times and eight times did he set out from 13 the city, but the enemy retreated from him on every occasion. But 14 Silákála kept himself at a distance, that so he might not encounter him, and when he had by stratagem gained over the eastern and western districts, he returned to the eastern Tissa rock, there to give battle.

On this Kassapa again mounted his tusker, and when he had gathered 15 his friends together he sallied forth and drove the enemy; and in order to display his own skill, he made the huge elephant to ascend to the top of the rock, whereupon he was called Giri-Kassapa ("Rock-Kassapa "). But Silákála's spirit was not subdued by his defeat, and, being puffed 16 up with pride, he stirred up the country yet the more, and when he had brought the whole of it under his control, he went up again with a great 17 host that could not be resisted, and with much material of war laid siege to the capital. And the king's men fought hard against the enemy for seven days, but they were routed and put to flight. And 18 47-08


Kassapa then communed thus within himself: "All the people of the city are suffering from the siege the defenders have been reduced, 19 and the king is blind and aged; wherefore it is meet for me that I should convey my father and mother to a place of safety at Merukandaraka, and afterwards raise an army wherewith to fight the enemy." 20 Accordingly Kassapa took his parents and the king's treasure at night, and, accompanied by his friends, began his journey to the Malaya 21 country; but his guides, not knowing the way, were perplexed, and 22 wandered hither and thither about the capital. And when Silákála 23 heard thereof, he made haste after them and surrounded them. And a terrible battle ensued between them; and when the battle was raging most fiercely, like unto a battle between the gods and the Asurs, and when his friends were falling thick around him, and his noble tusker was giving way, he gave (the elephant) in charge of its rider, 24 and cut his own neck. And when he had wiped the blood from off the 25 blade of his sword, and put it into the sheath, he laid both his hands on


the head of the elephant, and extended himself. And when Upatissa heard this, he was struck down with grief as if shot by an arrow, and he died.

Thus, in the space of two years and a half, Upatissa departed this life, and Silákálá became king. Adding his former nickname thereto, 27 the people called him Ambasámanéra Silákála. And he lived thirteen years, and ruled the island with justice.

28 He caused food from the king's kitchen to be given fresh at the Máhápáli alms-hall, and having at heart the well-being of the people, 29 he increased the emoluments of the hospitals. He made offerings 30 daily to the bódhi tree, and caused images also to be made. He gave to all the monks in the island the three robes, and sent forth a decree 31 that there should be no manner of life taken away in the island. He gave offerings daily to the hair-relic that he had himself brought, and 32 and gave the Rahera anicut to the Abhayagiri brethren. He brought away also the throne, kunta, from the eastern vihára of the Thériya monks, and placed it at the foot of the bódhi tree. Thus did he, till the end of his life, perform innumerable acts of merit.


This Silákála had three sons, Moggallána, Dáthápabhúti, and Upa34 tissa. To the eldest he gave the eastern country with the office of Ádipáda, and sent him thither desiring him to dwell there, which he 35 did accordingly. To the second he gave the southern country and the 36 high office of Malaya rájá, and appointed him to guard the seacoast. Upatissa, the youngest, of whom the king was exceedingly fond, he kept near him, for he was the fairest to look upon.


Now, in the twelfth year of this king's reign, a young merchant went up from this island to the city of Kási (Benares), and brought 38 with him the Dhamma-dhátu from that country. And the king saw it, and being unable to discern between the true and the false doctrine, he regarded it in the light of the doctrine of Buddha, like to the grasshopper that dashes against the burning lamp thinking that it is

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