A SHORT HISTORY OF HELADIVA
In the world map Sri Lanka (Heladiva) is in latitude 5.55 to 9.51 east. It’s in length and breadth is 432 and 224 kilometres respectively and in area is 65,525 square kilometres. The southwest monsoon starts in May and ends in September and the northwest start in October, and ends in November. The huge volume of rainwater that falls into the wet zone meets the sea in East, West, and South through a network of perennial streams and tributaries numbering to twenty major rivers. The tropical forests’ bearing tall trees interspersed with thick under growth provides protection for birds and beasts.
Sri Lanka was then called Heladiva, Heladvipa, Helanka, Seylan, Taprobane, Heladiva, and Lanka and was internationally famous, as Dhammadvipa. Ptolemy called it ‘Salike’ and the people ‘Salai’. It was also, called the Island of Teaching, as the Ionian Greeks and the Chinese came to learn The Teachings of the Buddha. In this Island Dhamma was documented, at Aluthvihare, presently known as Aluvihare, a Rock Temple in Matale District in the Central hills, during the reign of King Valagambhahu 103 BC.
Millenniums back our ancestors roamed the jungles for food and lived in rock caves in rainy weather. From the excavations in Sabaragamuwa province bones of pre-historic elephants, hippopotamus, and rhinoceros and from its gem pits hand axes, geometrical utensils, grinding stones, mortars, and pestles were found. It, in assessment to the ones found in the Indian sub-continent dates back 125,000 years and is established by the findings of Bundala and Iranamaduwa. A recent study proves that human occupation in this Island goes back to a very early period and confirms that its inhabitants were civilised, cultured, and developed in agriculture.
Incidents of the past and its unending flow are called history. It’s divided into two, as oral and recorded history. The former is based on legends and folklores and the latter on historical facts. The history of Heladiva extends to millenniums prior to recorded history and it is quite frivolous to accept that our origins began with the advent of Vijaya but forced to admit this position, as our historian’s have not done a broad based research to the pre Vijaya era. Our history is recorded in our historical chronicles such as Dipawansa, Mahawansa and many more. The Dipawansa compiled much earlier than the Mahawansa, projects more historical data on Lord Buddha’s visit to Heladiva. However, the compilers have not taken an interest in exactness of the origins of the clans that lived in Heladiva then viz, the Yakshas, Nagas, Rakshas, and the Devas.
According to the Uttara kanda Ramayana Malyavantha, Sumali and Sukesha of the Raksha (Rakus is not daemon but farmers) clan governed Lanka but according to Vishnu Purana and Buddhavansha it was Iraniya (Hiran) who governed Lanka.
Malyavantha, Sumali and Mali the ones referred in Ramayana headed the first inhabitants of Heladiva. Malyavantha had seven sons: Vajramushti, Virupaksha, Dhurmuka, Supthagna, Yangnakopa, Maththa, Unmaththa, and the daughter were Anala. Sumali had ten sons, Prahastha, Akampana, Vikata, Kalimukha, Dhumaraksha, Dhanda, Suparshva, Sangradhi, Pragasa, Basakarna, and were Sumali’s ten sons and the daughters were Rakha, Pushpothkata, Kaikashi (Rawana’s mother) and Kumbinasi and Mali’s sons were, Anala, Anila, Hara and Sampathi.
These three brothers and their sons crossed over to India and began to harass the Deva clan. Vishnu listening to the woes of the Deva clan agreed to help them and defeat the Raksha clan invaders. Mali was killed in the battle. Malyavantha and Sumali went into the underworld. This ousted the Raksha rulers in Sri Lanka. Sage Vaisrawana who was residing in Vishvagiriya [present Vessagiriya] made this the opportunity to overrun the Raksha Dynasty in Heladiva. The inscription located in a cave in Mihintale as ‘Diparakdha’ would be referring to King Malyavantha the pre – historic ruler of Sri Lanka. The inscription ‘Dhammarakdha’ at Bowaththegala, Ruhuna has to be explored as it may be referring to the descendents of King Sumali.
Vishnu Purana, Skanda Purana, and Ramayana speak of Heladiva. Vishnu Purana states that Vishnu waged war with the Sri Lankan Kings Iran (Hiran, Hiran Kasub) and Makuta, and describes its populace as highly developed and civilised. It is established in Skanda Purana and Ramayana. Rama invaded Heladiva millenniums after Vishnu and Skanda. Matsaya Purana states that Rawana’s son Indrajith bombed the invaders hiding in the clouds and it also states that they used a bow that could send out 12000 arrows per minute. All these descriptions confirm that the populace of Heladiva was highly developed.
The British history begins in 1066 AD with the Nomads war. When Christ was born in Nazareth, King Bhathikabaya covered the Maha Thupa with Jasmine flowers and sprinkled water pumped from Abaya Wewa. When St Paul was brought before Caesar as a prisoner, our ambassadors were enjoying royal patronage in his palace.
Lord Buddha's visit which is confirmed by a rock inscription confirms that the populace of Heladiva were cultured, developed in agriculture, and other technologies. Rawana’s ‘Dandumonara’ was an air chariot operated on a different mechanism and is still not discovered by historians or scientists. Rawana owned a many planes not one as it is made to understand. It proves that the Helayo were able to turn out air chariots to fly without petroleum. Rawana’s predecessors were Bali, Tharu, and Dhasis. Rawana had six brothers and two sisters.
There lies a wealth of evidence in our folklore and folk songs, and one can hear similes in our myths, legends, demonology, and devil dancing. ‘Kohombakankariya’ offer useful data. A great deal of information of its people and features relating to ethnology, sociology, religious beliefs, and magical practises could be detected in it. However, the researcher will have to bear in mind that it is not possible to assess, as most of the archaeological materials and evidence belonging to pre-history remains concealed. Archaeologists who perform scientific excavations into plausible areas of occupation have to establish it. Professor Deraniyagala a former Commissioner of Archaeology confirms that Heladiva had a greatly developed pre-historic civilization.
The highly civilised Rakshas, Yakshas, Nagas, and Devas developed Heladiva millenniums before the arrival of Vijaya. What led to its turn down is an exciting question? Had this civilisation developed after Vijaya there crops up a much more exciting question, as to how a farming community develop such a highly developed civilisation in a very short phase? Is it possible for an advanced river valley civilisation to arise suddenly and decline abruptly? There is evidence that the Helayo’s grew oats and barley in the Horton plains 17000 BCE states Dr Shiran Deraniyagala. The finding of mortars, pestles, and grinding stones confirm that they used spices for cooking. The artefacts and bones discovered from excavations in Kithulgala and Batadomba caves, belong to the early Stone Age, and believed to be of a woman who lived 27000-34000 years ago. The odds are that the archaeological and sequential evidences are still concealed, unknown, and undiscovered. The need of the day is to discover what is undiscovered.
Evidence exists that Ramayana was based on a genuine incident but significant proof is lacking, as most historians have not explored into pre-history. It is more fitting to note the facts, which connect the oral and recorded history. According to the legend Rawana, the King of Heladiva abducted princess Seetha the beautiful wife of Prince Rama, in retaliation for Luxhmana (brother of Rama) barbarous act of cutting off the ears and nose of his sister Suparnika. There are many sites around Sri Lanka that links with the romantic legend of Rama – Seetha.
Rishi Valmiki authored the epic Ramayana, based on a genuine incident. It details the Rama-Rawana war, which took place 6000 – 8000 BCE. Can it be concluded a myth, as evidence is not established? Can it be classified just a mythical incident, as it contains literary exaggerations? It details that Rama and Luxhmana were the sons of King Dasaratha who reigned Ayodhya a provincial State in India, which the Indians accept indisputably. It confirms that Rawana lived in Sri-Lanka during this period.
Archaeological findings prove that the human beings who lived in Heladiva 27000-34000 BC were agriculturists. The carbon tests done detected kurakkan [a grain similar to maize] and bones of oceanic cell fish were found in the environs of the caverns in Kithulgala situated in the centre of the Island, which is far away from the sea. It proves that its inhabitants, had methods of transporting sea fish to the centre of the Island before it was spoilt or had the know-how of preserving it. The findings of cooking utensils such as mortars, pestles, and grinding stones in the Ratnapura District used 125,000 years ago, confirm that the early populace of Heladiva used spices for cooking and it could be assumed that they had quick methods of transporting fish or had the knowledge of preserving it.
Traders from the West and Far East visited Heladiva in search of gems, ivory, spices, and pearls, peacocks and elephants. During this period indigenous Helayo’s lived in Heladiva, as it is strategically placed in the Indian Ocean, which often attracted traders and invaders from neighbouring and distant countries. Non-Aryans and the Indo-Aryans came in as friends and foe in the distant past. Ships with the Persian pennant came to Heladiva to purchase its produce. The ancient Sinhalayo grew rice for consumption and export. The Romans, Europeans, and Greeks from distant Europe and Arabs from Middle East and Chinese from the Far East visited Heladiva in the early days to learn Buddha Dhamma, on good will missions and on trade as well.
A bitch led Vijaya to Princess Kuveni who was seated by a tank spinning cotton. The native populace of Heladiva were spinning cotton in 543 BCE (All these dates are according to Chronicles. The exactness of it is not confirmed by the writer as it is a controversial subject). Princess Kuveni inquiring Vijaya of his whereabouts showed him rice. It is said that it was love at first sight. Later in the evening arrangements were made for Vijaya to spend the night with her on a bed under a tree with nightlong dancing and singing. Civilised cultural qualities found in developed farming communities were found here. The populace of Heladiva were developed not only in agriculture but also with accompanying arts and crafts.
The exiled Vijaya and his attendants of seven hundred men stepped on our coast in 543 BCE. Ven. Mahanama Thera compiled the Mahawansa many centuries later and claims that Helayo descend from Vijaya. His intention was to claim a link to his most revered teacher Lord Buddha and to claim that the Hela monarchy is linked to Lord Buddha’s clan through marriage of Sakhya Princess Baddhakachchayana to Vijaya’s nephew King Panduwasadeva.
The compilers of Mahawansa and other historical chronicles at most times gave significance to religion. They welded the original principles of political and social life into an all-inclusive theory called religion, which changed the essentials of our history. It should be noted that the singular characteristic of the ancient Sinhala culture is that it has been moulded and shaped in the path of its history more by religious than by political or economic influence.
Vijaya with the help of Queen Kuveni deceitfully killed King Mahakalasena the King of Heladiva and became its ruler. Few years later he had two descendents to the throne off Queen Kuveni. They were Dighahaththa a prince, and Disala a princess. The ungrateful Vijaya banished Queen Kuveni and her two children from the palace and married an Indian princess but she bore no descendents to succeed him. It proves that the monarchy of Heladiva is not descending from Vijaya and it is frivolous to state that we descend from him.
Rakshas, Yakshas, Nagas, and the Devas were the original populace or the native Aryans of Heladiva millenniums before Vijaya. Lord Buddha called the ones with noble qualities Arya and the ignoble Anārya. His first visit to Mahiyangana was a peace mission to settle a dispute among the Yaksha clan. Developed and civilised communities who possessed developed states of mind could only understand his deep philosophy. He before his visit saw through clairvoyance that the people living in Heladiva were dignified ones. He preached Dhamma settling the dispute, in which place the Mahiyangana Dagoba was built.
The majority of the Naga clan were domiciled in the western coastal area extending to the north. The second visit of Lord Buddha to Heladiva was to settle the quarrel between two brothers, Chulodara [Kuda Bandiya] and Mahodara [Maha Bandiya] of the Naga clan. They were to wage a war for a gem-studded chair on which Lord Buddha sat and settled the dispute. The Dagoba in Nagadvipa is an Island in the Northern Province, and is revered to date by Buddhists world over. On this visit the Provincial Naga King Maniakkitha invited Lord Buddha to sanctify his kingdom in Kelaniya. Lord Buddha acknowledged the invitation and sanctified Heladiva for the third time. It is said the gem-studded chair in which Lord Buddha sat and settled the dispute of the Naga’s is enshrined in the Kelaniya Dagoba. This oral history confirms that it was Lord Buddha who introduced his Dhamma to Heladiva.
Four brothers and craftsmen of eighteen guilds accompanied Sakhya Princess Baddhakachchayana to Heladiva. They began to build new villages. It would not have progressed in a strange land without significant strength. The Nagas who were great builders supplied the knowledge of land, material, and the know-how and continued to put into operation the programs of the new colonists. They lived intermingled, interspersed with the post-Vijaya populace in all parts of Heladiva. The city of Vijithapura indicated in the Mahawansa has three moats, and its remains are indicated in the aerial photographs, located in-between Kaduruwela and the new town of Polonnaruwa.
Panduwasadeva succeeded Vijaya and had eleven children of which the youngest was a princess. The eldest prince was Abaya followed by Tissa, Uththiya, Tissa, Asela, Vibhana, Rama, Siva, Maththakala, Maththa, and princess Chitra. Abaya succeeded his father. Meanwhile the Yaksha clan strengthened their armies in Ritigala, Dimbulagala, and Bintenna to regain their kingdom from the Indo-Aryans. King Abaya was informed that the Yaksha clan was strengthening their armies and him to arrest their enmity, appointed two young Yaksha Princes, Kalawela, and Chithraraja, as his Ministers.
In the past also, the soothsayers were respected and believed. A soothsayer predicted to the King that his daughter Chitra would bear a child who when grown up would kill all his maternal uncles and rule the country. All brothers except King Abaya decided to kill their sister but he intervened and made them to agree to keep her in isolation in a special apartment called ‘Ek-Tam-Ge’. The entrance to this apartment was from king’s bedroom. It was only Chithraraja, Kalawela and the female Rakus attendant Kumbinasi was allowed in. However, Princes Chitra fell in love with the Rakus Prince Chithraraja, a Minister of her brother. She bore a son off him and was named Pandukabhaya. The baby prince was secretly sent to his paternal relations in Ritigala for adoption in exchange to a baby girl, as the maternal uncles were on the lookout to kill if a prince was born. The truth was uncovered. King Abaya made many vain attempts to kill the baby prince.
The royal teacher of their clan Pandula trained Prince Pandukabhaya in all arts of warfare and helped him financially to gather an army to regain the kingdom from the Indo-Aryans. King Abaya led the Indo-Aryans to war while Prince Pandukabhaya led the Yaksha clan and killed all his maternal uncles and won the war in 457 BCE confirming the soothsayer but was enthroned in 437 BCE for reasons historically unknown. King Pandukabhaya built a shrine in the name of his father Chithraraja and for the Yaksha clan minister Kalawela, in the boundaries of his capital Anuradhapura, as they were the ones who helped him to regain the kingdom from the Indo-Aryans. He ruled as a just King for seventy years and urbanized Anuradhapura to a model city in the years before Christ. In oral history we do not know who the first King was, as it goes back millenniums but according to recorded history the first Sinhala King is Pandukabhaya.
The recorded historical findings explored confirm that the father of King Pandukabhaya hailed from an indigenous clan. His son Mutasiva reigned Anuradhapura in 367-307 BCE and had two sons and the elder governed Anuradhapura as King Devanampiyatissa 307-267 BCE and the younger Mahanaga governed Ruhuna, as the provincial King and King Kavantissa is his descendent. King Kavantissa’s son is our hero King Dutugamunu 161-137 BCE who united Heladiva. The Indo-Aryans headed our monarchy for 106 years from 543-437 BCE and with the enthronement of King Pandukabhaya in 437 BCE it reverted back to the indigenous populace.
When one considers the earliest works of art, architecture and irrigation systems in Heladiva it is evident that tank building, bund constructions, irrigation systems, architecture, sculpture, stone cutting, were important vocations in the pre-Vijaya society. The construction works and objects of arts have been the manifestation of forms that followed the traditions of its original population. They developed irrigation systems and constructed tanks in the pre-Vijaya era. The Indo-Aryans inherited their knowledge of irrigation, tank building, and bund construction from the forerunners of Heladiva.
In 500 BC the Indo-Aryan Prince Anurudda built a palace and a tank in Anuradhapura. King Pandukabhaya deepened a natural pond and built the Abaya Tank [Basavakkulama]. Granite was used in sculpture. In the sculptured statues of Lord Buddha in Heladiva, elements and characteristics that were not present in the Indian models are present: the eternal gentle smile, the gentleness of feelings, and the expression of determination. The Indo-Aryans inherited these elements of philosophy and beauty from the original populace.
The Sri-Lankans taught the South Indians in the Cauvery basin to grow irrigated rice. It was done to have buffer stocks; sometimes our exports were taken by force, as indicated in the Mahawansa. They built Poduke, the new city in Cauvery in South India that is indicated by Ptolemy in his map of the second century AD and it clearly indicates our contacts with the rest of the world. It resulted in the development of an exclusive hydraulic civilisation that the ancient inhabitants of Heladiva exercised from the Stone Age to the Iron Age bypassing the Bronze Age. In reference to the Ptolemy’s map various tribes and nations had their harbours and settlements for trade, the capital metropolises of the Kings, international emporia rivers and mountains, the source of rivers also the Sacred Adams Peak foot print is clearly indicated.
During the reign of King Parakramabahu the Great in 12 AD, the Helayo’s cultivated more land than that is presently cultivated under the Mahaweli Development Project with large reservoirs on the main Mahaweli River to capture floodwaters. Today the base flow is small. It was caused by the deforestation of the Upper Catchments. The ancient Maduru Oya sluice discovered in 1981 and had two sluices and was built in three stages, starting from the BCE period. According to the Mahawansa the Yaksha clan held their annual New Year festival ‘Sun Festival’ at Dolapabbatha, which lies between Mahaweli River and Maduru Oya even during the time of King Pandukabhaya. This indicate the antiquity of the region in the BC period, which was occupied by the pioneers of irrigation technology, the Helayo’s who in their wisdom used cultivable land in cyclic rotation to recuperate their fertility by allowing the paddy fields to fallow alternatively.
The fall of the ancient hydraulic civilisation of Sri-Lanka in the 13th century was due to the sudden change of the Mahaweli river course due to natural causes and not due to foreign invasions, as the historians say. Scientific evidence is clearly seen in the aerial photographs of the old and the new Mahaweli River course. The ancient Mahaweli with its ancient Dagobas that were beside it like a string of pearls but today the Dagobas lies stranded, while the present river flows elsewhere with no Dagobas by it, which event took place 1220 AD? This sudden geological calamity changed the river course that sustained our ancient hydraulic civilisation. It led to disease and famine and resulted in the major part of the populace abandoning and moving to other areas. The change of the river course affected the great tanks to dry. The populace selected central wet zones and the wet zones as Kotte, Dambadeniya, Gampola, and Kandy to settle themselves along with their monarchy.
The findings and observations by Professor Joseph Needham confirm that the original population of Heladiva were greatly developed and civilised and states thus, “Although an advanced system of ancient irrigation cannot be found in ancient Mesopotamia, Euphrates, Tigris or Indian River valleys, such system can be seen in Lanka. What is clearly visible is the fact that this knowledge did not belong to one generation only. That this advanced system has been systematically developed through generations on a basis of scientific principles”.
Confirmed historical evidence is lacking of the pre-Vijaya era. It is not available, as no genuine investigation has been done. In the early era such developed irrigation systems did not exist in Mesopotamia, Euphrates, Tigris, and in the Indian River valleys, where recorded historical evidence is available. The historians are unable to state the influence the original populace of Heladiva had to build highly developed irrigation systems. These facts prove that they were the inventors of highly advanced irrigational and technical systems, as no historical evidence is available to believe that such knowledge came to Heladiva from another country. The bits and pieces of the remaining irrigational systems and its traces have to be considered, as the prototypes of irrigational systems of the original population of Heladiva, and the post-Vijaya Aryans inherited knowledge from them.
The highly developed irrigation systems in primeval Heladiva are a matter of wonder to the present engineers. They accept the inheritance of a mental outfit and proper awareness of the primeval inhabitants but are unable to collect any data of the mechanical aids and instruments used. The methods of constructing channels were unique, as it did not impede with the mountains. It was a contour channelling process taking the canal round the hill. The characteristic feature the Helayo employed was the use of minimum land for irrigation and the water was used economically by an even flow in the distribution channels. The rainwater that fell into wet zone was collected into tanks and distributed extensively. The slopes employed by the ancient Sinhala engineers to channel the flow of water were 9-12 inches per mile. It did not permit weed growth or silt the bed of the channel. The present engineers with sophisticated equipment and the modern know-how find it difficult to apply such a low gradient successfully. They confirm that the ancient sluice discovered at Maduru Oya is a unique piece of greatly developed irrigation skill in the pre history.
By adopting a hydraulic process water was carried to higher elevations and sprinkled, to the jasmine flowers that covered the Ruwanweliseya. How was the water pumped to the pond on top of the Sigiriya Rock? This was done even before Rawana’s period. One will be able to see in this great fortress when entering through the lion’s head a huge hole on the rock, and the stone structures that stand on top and bottom of this ‘route-hole’. It is alleged to be places on which the wooden lift had been fixed and operated. How this was done is not known nor is there is any material evidence remaining of this mechanism. The ancient Heladiva used lightening conductors to protect tall buildings such as Dagobas. All this was done in the pre history. When these specifics are taken into consideration a study has to be made whether Rawana used electronics to operate his air chariot.
The most outstanding event that changed the entire Island was the arrival of the Buddhist Mission to Heladiva. It was in gratitude of the close friendship Emperor Asoka the Great of India had with King Devanampiyatissa of Heladiva. Emperor Asoka’s son Arahant Mahinda headed the mission and preached the Dhamma to King Devanampiyatissa and to the populace. Though Lord Buddha himself introduced Dhamma to Heladiva in the pre-Vijaya era it was declared the State religion in
307 BCE. It transformed Heladiva to a Buddhist State, socially, morally, spiritually, and materially. Thus the four clans, The Rakshas, Yakshas, Nagas, and the Devas who were the native populace and Indo Aryans shredded their differences and developed a civilisation that was Buddhist in spirit and Sinhale (Heladiva) in form. Since this transformation Helayo’s were Sinhalayo’s.
Arahant from Middle East countries attended the pinnacle laying ceremony of Ruwanweliseya in Anuradhapura. Venerable Dhammarakkita Thera a Greek by nationality from Alexandria attended the ceremony with 30,000 Bhikkhus, while Venerable Uththinna of Kashmir attended it with 260,000 Bhikkhus. During this period the majorities in India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Java, Sumatra, Borneo, and the Maldives were Buddhists and it was the State Religion of India.
History records that there were Buddhists in the Middle East extending to Mediterranean countries and it is also said that the Druids of Great Britain were Buddhists. If Druids were Buddhists, there would have been Buddhists in Europe as well. The first Buddhist statue was sculptured in Ghandhara; the present Karachchi, which is an Islamic country today.
The bond between Buddha Dhamma and Sinhalayo’s are undividable. Today their culture is called Buddhist culture. The Teachings of the Buddha is denoted in our national flag. The lion denotes the Sinhala race. The sword denotes sovereignty of the country. The four [Bo] leaves at the corners denote the four clans that shredded their differences to make this country a Buddhist a country. Since then the Helayo or the Sinhalayo fostered and nurtured the Buddha Dhamma and protected it.
It has been stated that Heladiva had been invaded by foreign powers on many occasions. They ruled Pihitirata for nearly 272 years but none were able to conquer the whole Island, except that she was handed over to the British by a Convention on March 10th 1815 AD.