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Anula was a queen of Anuradhapura, an ancient kingdom that ruled over Sri Lanka. Anula is recorded as the first queen in Sri Lanka who wielded a significant degree of power and authority. In addition, she is said to have been the first female head of state in Asia. Most, if not all of the information that we have regarding Anula comes from the Mahavamsa, in which the queen is represented in an extremely negative light.
Anula is believed to have lived during the 1st century BC. At that time, the island of Sri Lanka was ruled by the Kingdom of Anuradhapura. According to historical records, this kingdom was established around the 4th century BC and lasted until 10th century AD. The capital of the kingdom was Anuradhapura, a city in Sri Lanka’s North Central Province, situated about 127 miles 205 kilometers north of Colombo, the island’s current capital.
The City of Queen Anula
This city, which is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was not only a political capital, but also a religious one. Anuradhapura was a major center of Theravada Buddhism and played a major role in the development and propagation of the faith into Southeast Asia.
According to the archaeological evidence, the site of Anuradhapura was already occupied by human beings as early as the protohistoric Iron Age, which lasted from around 900 to 600 BC. Archaeologists have also found that by 700 to 600 BC, the settlement covered an area of at least 50 hectare.
The development of Anuradhapura as a major city, and later into the capital of a kingdom, may be attributed to its strategic location. For a start, the city was surrounded by fertile and irrigable lands, which would have been able to support a large population. Beyond that was a dense jungle, which provided the city a natural defense against invaders.
As a matter of fact, during the 1,300 years that the city was inhabited, Anuradhapura was only seized by invaders on four occasions. Lastly, the city was placed between the major ports of the island’s northwest and northeast coasts. These ports allowed the inhabitants of Anuradhapura to conduct trade with the outside world.
The major ports and towns of Sri Lanka during the Anuradhapura period. (Chamal N / CC BY-SA 3.0 )
In addition to the archaeological evidence, there are also textual sources regarding Anuradhapura, one of the most important being the Mahavamsa. This is a historical chronicle dealing with Sri Lanka’s history from around the 6th century BC to the early 4th century AD.
It is traditionally believed that the Mahavamsa was written by Mahanama, a Buddhist monk from the island, around the 5th or 6th century AD. Although an important source of information for Sri Lanka’s history, it should be noted that the Mahavamsa places more focus on the history of Buddhism and with dynastic succession, rather than political or social history.
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This 8 th century, gilded bronze, Bodhisattva Tara was found on the east coast of Sri Lanka and is evidence of Buddhism during the Anuradhapura period. (Gryffindor / CC BY-SA 3.0 )
The Kingdom of Anuradhapura
In any case, according to the Mahavamsa, the Kingdom of Anuradhapura was established during the 4th century BC by a king called Pandukabhaya. In the text, the site was once the dwelling place of Pandukabhaya’s great-uncle, Anuradha, who had handed over his palace to the king. Having consulted a soothsayer, Pandukabhaya founded his capital near the site.
Since the site used to be the dwelling place of two Anuradhas, and that the capital was established under the constellation Anuradha, the king named the city Anuradhapura, which literally means ‘City of Anuradha’. The city was laid out according to a well-organized plan, as the Mahavamsa relates,
“He laid out also four suburbs as well as the Abhaya-tank, the common cemetery, the place of execution, and the chapel of the Queens of the West, the banyan-tree of Vessavana and the Palmyra-palm of the Demon of Maladies, the ground set apart for the Yonas and the house of the Great Sacrifice; all these he laid out near the west gate.”
The city is said to have been permanently abandoned after 993 AD, following an invasion by the Cholas, a Tamil dynasty of southern India. The kingdom lingered on until the death of its last king in 1017. Following its abandonment, the city was largely uninhabited, and was reclaimed by the jungle.
Archaeological excavations were conducted there during the 19th century, when the site was discovered by the British. Since then, the site has been re-established as a Buddhist pilgrimage site.
Rulers of Anuradhapura
Pandukabhaya belonged to the House of Vijaya, the first recorded Sinhalese dynasty of Sri Lanka. This dynasty ruled the Kingdom of Anuradhapura for much of its history until the 1st century AD. According to legend, the dynasty was founded by Vijaya, a prince from the Kingdom of Sinhapura, in northern India.
There were many rulers of Anuradhapura before Queen Anula came to power. (MediaJet / CC BY-SA 3.0 )
The prince had been banished from the kingdom by his father, King Sinhabahu, for some misconduct. Vijaya, along with 700 of his followers, was placed in a ship and put out to sea. Eventually, they landed on the island of Sri Lanka and the prince established his kingdom there.
During the 1st century BC, the Kingdom of Anuradhapura was ruled by a descendant of Vijaya called Chora Naga, known also as Mahanaga. According to the Mahavamsa, Chora Naga was the son of Vattagamani Abhaya, and that he “lived as a rebel” during the reign of Mahaculi Mahatissa, his father’s successor. Following Mahaculi’s death, Chora Naga became the new ruler of Anuradhapura.
Chora Naga is recorded to have reigned for 12 years, and it is evident that the author of the Mahavamsa had a low opinion of the king. The Mahavamsa states that “Those places, where he had found no refuge during the time of his rebellion, eighteen viharas (Buddhist monasteries), did this fool destroy”. In addition, the chronicler refers to Chora Naga as an ‘evildoer’, and that after his death, he “was reborn in the Lokantarika-hell”.
Representation of Chora Naga of Anuradhapura, husband to Queen Anula of Anuradhapura and descendant of Vijaya. (KylieTastic / )
Chora Naga is reported to have died after consuming poisoned food given to him by his consort, Anula. The queen is held in an equally low regard by the author of the Mahavamsa, who claims that she poisoned her husband because “she was enamored of one of the palace-guards”. Chora Naga was succeeded as king of Anuradhapura by his son, Kuda Tissa, who reigned for three years.
According to the Mahavamsa, “And for love of this same palace-guard Anula now killed Tissa also by poison and gave the government into the hands of that other”. Therefore, after the death of Kuda Tissa, this palace guard, whose name was Siva, became the new king. Siva, however, did not last long on the throne, as he too was murdered (by poison) by Anula after ruling for only a year and two months.
The Mahavamsa claims that the queen found another lover, a Damila ( Tamil) carpenter by the name of Vatuka. Like Siva before him, Vatuka ruled for a year and two months and was poisoned by the queen. Subsequently, Anula fell in love with a wood-carrier called Darubathika Tissa, who had come to her house. Therefore, she poisoned Vatuka and gave the throne to him.
Having ruled for a year and a month, Darubathika Tissa was poisoned by the queen, who had found a new lover. This time, it was a Damila by the name of Niliya, a brahman who was the palace priest. Niliya became the new king and ruled for six months.
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According to the Mahavamsa, Queen Anula of Anuradhapura was ruled by her sense of pleasure. ( Oleksii Sergieiev / Adobe Stock)
Finally Queen Anula Rules
Finally, Anula herself became the ruler of Anuradhapura. According to the Mahavamsa, “When the princess Anula (who desired to take her pleasure even as she listed with thirty-two of the palace-guards) had put to death Niliya also with poison, the queen ANULA herself, reigned four months”.
Anula’s reign ended when she was deposed by Kutakanna Tissa, the second son of Mahaculi returned to Anuradhapura. Kutakanna had fled from the city for fear of Anula, and took the pabbajja, which is a Buddhist rite whereby a layman becomes a novice, the first step to becoming a monk. Having raised an army, Kutakanna returned to Anuradhapura and seized the throne from Anula.
The Mahavamsa reports that Kutakanna “burned the licentious Anula in the palace (upon the funeral pyre)”. This has led to two interpretations, i.e. either that Anula was slain and her body burned on a funeral pyre or that the queen was burned alive in the palace. In either case, Kutakanna became the new king and reigned for 32 years. This is where the story of Anula ends.
Queen Anula of Anuradhapura was burned on the palace funeral pyre. (Unibond / )
The Evil Queen?
Unfortunately, apart from the Mahavamsa, there does not seem to be any other source of information regarding the life of Anula. For example, there are no other historical sources to make a comparison with the account of the queen found in the Mahavamsa. In addition, epigraphy, art, and archaeology seem to be completely silent with regards to Anula.
The lack of other evidence may lead to the suggestion that the queen did not exist, and that she was an invented character. This, however, does not seem to be the case, as the author does not seem to have a motif to do so.
As an example, if the chronicler had intended the story of Anula to be a morality tale, i.e. that women should not be allowed to rule, then one may expect him to write about the negative effects of Anula’s rule on the kingdom. Instead, he focuses solely on her erratic nature when it comes to love, i.e. that she easily falls in love with random men, and its consequences, i.e. that he murders her current husband so that her lover may become king.
This results in a somewhat far-fetched scenario, as a palace guard, a carpenter, a wood-carrier, and a brahman all become kings thanks to Anula’s scheming. It is also rather puzzling that there is no mention of any opposition whatsoever to the elevation by Anula of her lovers as kings, who, incidentally, had a cumulative reign of almost four years. It may perhaps be speculated that despite Anula’s flightiness, she might have been a capable ruler, and that the kingdom prospered during the reigns of her lovers, hence there was no need to rebel.
Needless to say, since the Mahavamsa considers Anula to be an evil character and is bent on portraying her as such, her positive contributions to the kingdom (if there are any) would have been ignored. In comparison, the good deeds of just and pious rulers are mentioned in the Mahavamsa.
It may, however, be noted that the chronicler makes specific reference to the contributions made by these kings to Buddhism. This may be seen, for instance, in the case of Mahaculi, who “reigned for fourteen years with piety and justice”. According to the Mahavamsa,
“Since he heard that a gift brought about by the work of a man's own hand is full of merit, the king, in the very first year (of his reign), went in disguise and labored in the rice harvest, and with the wage that he received for this he gave food as alms to the thera Mahasumma. When the king had labored also in Sonagiri three years in a sugar-mill and had received lumps of sugar as wage for this, he took the lumps of sugar, and being returned to the capital he, the ruler of the earth, appointed great almsgiving to the brotherhood of bhikkhus. He bestowed clothing on thirty thousand bhikkhus and the same on twelve thousand bhikkhunis.
When the protector of the earth had built a well-planned vihara, he gave the six garments to sixty thousand bhikkhus and to bhikkhunis likewise, in number thirty thousand. The same king built the Mandavapi-vihara, the Abhayagallaka (vihara), the (viharas) Vankavattakagalla and Dighabahugallaka and the Jalagama-vihara.”
As there is such a dearth of information about Anula, it allows much speculation about the queen’s ‘real story’ to be made. This may be seen, for instance, in Rajina, written by the Sri Lankan novelist Mohan Raj Madawala.
Speculations aside, however, it is perhaps likely that we will only have a limited view of the ‘real’ Anula, considering that we have only the Mahavamsa as our reference point for the life of this queen. Of course, if new evidence comes to light, we may be able to gain a better understanding of this ancient Sri Lankan queen.
Anula of Anuradhapura – Sri Lankan Black Widow Serial Killer of 5 Husbands - 42 BC
Queen Anula (reigned 47 BC – 42 BC) was the first queen in Sri Lankan history to have wielded meaningful power and authority. As well as that she was the first female head of state in Asia. Anula initially rose to power as consort of king Chore Naga (also known as 'Coranaga' and 'Mahanaga'), son of king Valagambahu of Anuradhapura however in her five-year reign she poisoned her way through at least four other husbands and consorts and eventually governed Rajarata on her own. [Wikipedia]
She was the chief queen of Chora Naga (63-51 BC) and was known as an evil woman who was sadistic enough to kill almost all her partners. First she poisoned King Chora Naga as she wanted her lover Siva, a doorman, to become the king, yet it was a prince called Tissa who rose to power in the end. Anula kill Tissa and so that Siva might become king and whose queen would be. As Tissa’s queen she took a Tamil paramour named Watuka. Just fourteen months after he took the throne. After the elapse of just a year and two months, King Siva was too poisoned by Queen Anula. Watuka then became king. Anula repeated her formula and after Watuka’s death her paramour Darakatiya was enthroned, assuming the royal name of Tissa. Again Anula moved on. Her new lover, a Brahmin adviser called Neeliya came to replace the poisoned Darakatiya Tissa. After poisoning Neeliya, Queen Anula ruled as sole monarch, but only for a mere four months.
Queen Anula of Anuradhapura - A Reign Born of Poison - History
|DEFINITIONS: In these days of Political Correctness and confused s*xuality it needs to be mentioned that the word QUEEN has been used in its original sense.|
|"In haste he had a bathing-tank (swimming pool) made in the Mahamegahavana (park) . But Anula, enslaved by passion for a Damila (Tamil! get it? Tamil = Damil) named Niliya, a brahman (sic) who was the palace priest, and eager to be united (fornicate) with him, did Tissa the wood-carrier to death giving him poison and gave the government into(Niliya's) hands. And the brahaman NILYA also made her his queen and reigned, upheld constantly by her, six months here in Anuradhapura." "When the princess Anula (who desired to take her pleasure even as she listed (sic) with thirty-two of the palace-guards) had put to death Niliya also with poison, the queen ANULA herself, reigned four months."|
Sadly, soon afterwards this "thirty-two-in-a-four-month-situation" she got it! Do come back to this site to read all about it. Serious minded persons can look up the Bibiliography. If you have better references do let me know. Finally, as our TransAtlantic friends would have said "Gee! What a Girl!"
Bibiliography and notes (The boring bits):
The main and most graphic description of the "romps" of Queen Anula appears in the Mahavamsa. The version I have quoted is the English version ( THE MAHAVAMSA or The Great Chronicle of Ceylon, Asian Educational Services, New Delhi, 1986. No ISBN number ) which was translated from Pali into German by Prof Wilhelm Geiger .
Geiger, like all professors, probably fancied a sabbatical in a nice tropical country with a few beers and a couple of wenches thrown in. Geiger's German version was dragged into English by a Mrs Mable Haynes Bode (who she?). Finally old Geiger himself "revised the English translation". Geiger was paid for his efforts: "The Ceylon Government has defrayed the expense of this. ". Many years later Geiger managed to get his mug on a Sri Lankan postage stamp, posthumously.
Earlier translations of the good book exist but I have been unable to get my hands on them. In any case I am not going to waste the rest of my life studying the life and loves of Anula. but if you have got a copy do let me know (Tournour's translation published in 1837 and reprinted in Wijesinha, L.C 's version 1889)
All the "respectable" historians quote the Mahavamsa. These include:
1.Codrington.,H.W. A Short History of Ceylon, Macmillan & Co, London,1947,
2.Hussey., David. Ceylon and World History, Wahid & Bros, Colombo, 1930
3.De Silva.,K.M. A History of Sri Lanka , Oxford University Press, Delhi,1981.
(Thanks to my sister Charmaine "Babs" Fernando for locating references 1 & 2 above)
A number of publications by "non-respectable" tabloid style historians exist most are totally inaccurate to the extent of confusing Sri Lanka with India. Some have written slightly inaccurate but racier versions of events than I have (but then this is a family website) and I refer to Kinnell., Peter. Come Again? More Erotic Failures Futura Publications, A Division of Macdonald & Co,London 1985. For some obscure reason Peter Kinnell has decided to classify our lovely Queen as an "Erotic Failure"! (Failure?) Think again Peter. or should I say Come Again! (Your expression, not mine!)
Ancient serial killers
Jack the Ripper and H. H. Holmes are often called the first serial killers, but did you know there were equally ruthless people that preceded them? Here are 6 historical serial killers all active before the 17th century.
According to Greek mythology, Procrustes owned an estate along a busy road in Attica, Greece. He would “kindly” invite passers-by and travellers to rest and stay the night at his place, offering an iron bed. If you didn’t fit, don’t worry! Procrustes would stretch or amputate the traveller to the length of the bed, which would kill them. His murders finally ended when the mythical Theseus gave Procrustes a taste of his own medicine by using his own method against him! While Procrustes existence is still debated by historians, the next serial killers are all real.
The all-female roman poison ring
While Procrustes was doing his thing in Greece, something weird was happening in Ancient Rome. Around 331 BC, men started dropping dead everywhere. Initially thought to be a plague, an investigation discovered it to be poison! These murders were linked to a group of over 100 matrons, with the ringleaders being 2 aristocratic women named Sergia and Cornelia. Ironically, the women claimed to be giving the men medicine, and when prompted to drink their own concoctions to prove their innocence, they readily drank, and then died.
Liu Pengli is known as the first recorded serial killer in history. A Han prince, Pengli’s reign of terror started in 2nd Century BC and lasted 2 decades. He would often go on “expeditions” with 10-30 young men, slaves, and criminals, where he would kill people and steal their belongings. He had over 100 confirmed victims and would have had many more if a victim’s son hadn’t alerted the Emperor. Luckily for Pengli, the Emperor was his uncle, who couldn’t stand to have him killed. Instead he was stripped of his title, made a commoner, and banished from the kingdom.
Anula of Anuradhapura
A notable historically merciless killer, Queen Anula ruled Sri Lanka from 47 to 42 BC. She is notable for being the first queen in Sri Lankan history to have wielded great power and authority, as well as being the first female head of state in Asia. Her story is filled with affairs, poisonings, and murders, and she definitely wasn’t someone to mess with. In total she killed all 4 of her husbands, as well as her son. The pattern went: have an affair, kill your current husband and marry the new man, then fall in love with someone else, and kill the current husband, and so on. Eventually, Anula was overthrown and burned alive, ending her saga of poisonings.
Locusta of Gaul
Another woman well versed in poison, Locusta was active in the Roman Empire during the First Century. She was also known to poison for fun, using her skills in botany and herbs to give people fatal heart attacks. Her talent made her the go-to poison maker for the Emperor Nero, who sent aspiring poisoners to learn from her. Locusta also allegedly took part of the assassinations of Claudius and Britannicus. However, when Nero died and Galba rose to Emperor, her protection ran out. She was quickly executed, going down into history as the “first female serial killer in Western history”.
Gilles de Rais
Gilles de Rais was a French nobleman and knight in the 15th century. His notable achievements include fighting alongside Joan of Arc, and well, being a serial child killer. After he retired from the military, Gilles took up the occult and alchemy in attempt to summon a demon to make him rich. He also started kidnapping and murdering children. He was finally caught in 1440, and after confessing to murdering over 140 children, he and his accomplice were hanged. In a surprising twist, many have doubted the credibility of his confession, theorising that the verdict of his trial was an act of revenge by the Catholic Church- similar to Joan of Arc. Either way, the crimes committed are horrifying regardless of who was the perpetrator.
Queen Anula of Anuradhapura: Misandrist and Sri Lankan Serial Killer
Known as one of the biggest misandrists in Asian history, Queen Anula reigned from 47 to 42 BC and was the first queen in Sri Lankan history to have wielded so much power. Her reign was filled with secret love affairs, a series of murders, plenty of poison, and a very tragic end for the queen herself. Queen Anula of Sri Lanka poisoned her son and four husbands in her quest to become queen regnant, which she did for five years. But, her luck was to run out and end her gruesome reign. She was eventually overthrown and burned alive.
The situation in Sri Lanka immediately before the reign of Anula was extremely unstable. When king Khallata Naga had been deposed in a palace coup in 104 BC, his younger brother Vatta Gamani Abhaya (Valagambahu) had overthrown the usurpers and taken his dead brother's wife, also called Anula, as his own. He had also adopted his nephew Mahaculika as his own son.
Valagambahu had been on the throne little more than a year when 'the .
Mahacula (who reigned as Mahakuli Mahatissa)went on to inherit Valagambahu's throne in 76BC. Coranaga on the other hand 'lived as a rebel'.
Anula's motives behind killing her husband are not elaborated on. Coranaga's successor, king Kuda Tissa, is the son of the man who ruled before him, Mahakuli. 'Kuda' means 'little', and thus it is possible that the new king was only a child, and thus effectively under Anula's control. Whether or not he would have developed into an independent king remains unknown as Anula, 'because she was enamoured of one of the palace-guards. now killed Tissa also by poison and gave the government into the hands of that other' . From this point onwards the queen eclipsed her titular consorts and became the real power in Rajarata.
Sri Lanka’s Astonishing Epoch of the Kingdom of Anuradhapura!
Although Sri Lanka, the pearl of the Indian Ocean, is small in size, its grace is indeed boundless. The significance it holds in every aspect is simply amazing, and wonderful beyond words. It is the same with its history as well. To be specific, Sri Lanka holds a majestical history with a span of around 125, 000 years. Of course, its earlier era is solely based on archeological evidence. Still, according to its documented history, its saga has had nine ancient kingdoms. However, out of all these nine kingdoms, the Kingdom of Anuradhapura was the very first Sinhalese kingdom, which lasted from 377 B.C. to 1017 A.D. Owing to this simple reason, its significance is worth exploring. Thus, we thought of sharing with you its grandeur, along with the remarkable incident that took place during this period. So, why not? Let us get to know all about them!
Establishment of the Kingdom of Anuradhapura
According to the historical resources, the Kingdom of Anuradhapura was founded by King Pandukabhaya. He ruled the kingdom from 474 B.C. – 367 B.C. In addition, his reign is considered as one of the stupendous stages in Sri Lanka’s history.
The Interesting Story of Prince Pandukabhaya
Prince Pandukabhaya was the only child of Prince Dighagamini (the son of Prince Digayu and Princess Disala) and Princess Unmadachitra (the daughter of King Panduvasdew and Queen Baddhakachchana). Before the birth of Prince Pandukabhaya, a sage prophesied that Chitra will bear a prince who will kill nine of his uncles and claim the throne. Frightened by the prophecy, nine of Chitra’s brothers persuaded King Panduwasdew to kill Princess Chitra. Still, the mission failed due to Prince Abhaya’s (the Eldest son of King Paduwasdewa) interference.
Later, Princess Chitra married Prince Dighagamini. He had promised to kill any son that Chitra will give birth to. However, once Prince Pandukabhaya was born Princess Chitra was hesitant to kill him. So, she secretly exchanged babies with another woman who had given birth to a baby girl on the same day. Meanwhile, she sent the new-born prince to a far-away village for safety. However, Chitra’s brothers were suspicious of the birth of the baby girl. Thus, they made several attempts to kill Prince Pandukabhaya. But, they fall short in each and every attempt. The unfortunate fact with regard was that they killed all other children in the area who were the same age as Prince Pandukabhaya, in order to ensnare him.
After years, once the prince was old enough to be on the throne, he fought with his uncles to claim the throne. Finally, eight out of ten of his uncles deceased during the process. Prince Abhaya, who supported Prince Pandukabhaya from the very beginning remained unharmed. Following these battles, Prince Pandukabhaya chose Anuradhagama as his capital city. Later, it became the Kingdom of Anuradhapura and lasted for many centuries making the whole world gape in wonder. Later he renamed “Anuradhagama” as “Anuradhapura” and expanded it to a well-built city complex.
The Capital Cities Existed During the Anuradhapura Kingdom
Almost all the rulers who ruled the Kingdom of Anuradhapura chose Anuradhapura as the capital city of the kingdom, except King Kashyapa (I). He chose Sigiriya, which is slightly away from Anuradhapura as his capital city.
Anuradhapura as the Capital City of the Kingdom
In 543 B.C. Indian prince named Vijaya set foot in Sri Lanka. He arrived with his 700 followers. The reason was banishment from his homeland. He eventually took control of the island and established himself as the king. Later, his followers established villages and colonies throughout the country. One of those villages established by the minister Anuradha renamed Anuradhagama. Finally, it became “Anuradhapura” during the reign of King Pandukabhaya.
Sigiriya as the Capital City of the Kingdom
Sigiriya became the capital city of Anuradhapura Kingdom during the reign of King Kashyapa (I). King Kashyapa (I) took over the throne from his father, King Dhatusena after a successful coup in 477 A.C. As a result of the indecision of a possible attack from his stepbrother Moggallana, King Kashyapa moved his capital from Anuradhapura city to Sigiriya.
Sigiriya was more secure than the previous. During the reign of King Kashyapa, Sigiriya was developed into a rock fortress complex. This possessed a technologically advanced water system from the foot of the fortress to the top of the rock. This admirable system makes today’s engineers confused about the well-developed technology that existed in Sri Lanka during the Anuradhapura period. In addition, this fortress owns a well-planned landscaping system that you are still able to clearly see at the top of the fortress.
Invasions Took Place During The Anuradhapura Period
A number of invasions took place during the reign of the Anuradhapura Kingdom. The specialty is that all the invasions were launched from South India. However, Sri Lanka was fortunate enough not to be completely subjugated by any of the attackers. The below section briefs some of those invasions that took place during this period.
Invasion of Sena and Guththika
Sena and Guththika were two horse dealers. They besieged Anuradhapura during the reign of King Suratissa (247 B.C. – 237 B.C.). However, they were able to capture the power of the kingdom. They successfully ruled the kingdom for 22 years (237 B.C. – 215 B.C.) until King Aselas’s counter attack.
Invasion of Elara
Elara was a Chola prince who successfully attacked the Anuradhapura kingdom during the reign of King Asela. He was able to direct the kingdom for 44 long years (205 B.C. -161 B.C.) until King Dutugammunu’s historical counter-attack.
Invasion of the Five Dravidian Chiefs
In the year of 103 B.C., during King Walagamba’s reign, a gang of seven Dravidian chiefs named Pulhatta, Bahiya, Panaya Mara, Pilaya Mara, Dathiya attacked the kingdom and captured the power. Later, King Walagamba was able to come back to the throne after a counter attack done during 88 B.C.
Invasion of Six Pandyan Tamil Invaders
This happened in the year of 433 A.C. A gang of six Pandyan invaders named Pandu, Parinda, Khuda Parinda, Tiritara, Dathiya, Pithiya were able to take the throne of Anuradhapura after a successful mission. However, they governed the country from 433 A.C. to 459 A.C. Finally, King Dathusena was powerful enough to get back the throne from them.
Invasion of Pandyan and Chola in the 9th Century
During the 9th century, Pandyans had risen to a position of ascendancy in the Southern region of India. By assuming the power of it, they invaded the Anuradhapura Kingdom in 846 A.C. – 866 A.C.
Invasion of Cholas
The Chola King Rajaraja (I) mounted an attack on Anuradhapura Kingdom in 993 A.D. Unfortunately, they were able to conquer it. Afterward, they gradually took over the power of other parts of the country. The Chola reign continued up to 1070 A.D. Finally, King Vijayabahu (I) overthrew the power of Chola and went back to the throne.
The List of Kings Who Ruled the Kingdom of Anuradhapura
The Anuradhapura Kingdom was fortunate enough to have a series of powerful kings throughout its reign. They were able to magnify the essence of the kingdom in each and every aspect such as political, cultural, social, and religious. You can find below a list of kings who were strong enough to get into the throne of Anuradhapura Monarchy.
|King Pandukabhaya||(437-367 BC)|
|King Mutaseewa||(367-306 BC)|
|King Dewanampiyathissa||(306-266 BC)|
|King Surathissa||(246-236 BC)|
|King Sena and Guththika||(236-214 BC)|
|King Asela||(214-204 BC)|
|King Elara||(205-161 BC)|
|King Dutugamunu||(161-137 BC)|
|King Saddhathissa||(137-119 BC)|
|King Walagamba||(104 BC)|
|Queen Anula||(47-43 BC)|
|King Vasabha||(65-109 AC)|
|King Mahasen||(276-303 AC)|
|King Buddhadasa||(340-368 AC)|
|King Kashyapa (I)||(477-495AC)|
|King Mugalan (I)||(495-512AC)|
|King Sena (V)||(972-982AC)|
|King Mahinda (V)||(982-1029AC)|
Even though there was an extensive list of kings that belonged to the Kingdom of Anuradhapura, we have specialized out a few of them who struggled hard to make the kingdom a stupendous success. The below section would provide you a better overview of them.
He was the first king of the Kingdom of Anuradhapura. King Pandukabhaya ruled the country for 70 years. He was able to establish a well-organized governance system. In addition, he built three tanks in Anuradhapura as Abaya Tank, Gamini Tank and Jaya Tank.
He was the grandson of King Pandukabhaya. The most important incident that happened during his reign was the arrival of Buddhism to Sri Lanka. In addition, Arahat Sanghamitta Theri arrived in Sri Lanka with the sacred right sapling of Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi in Buddhagaya, India. King Devanampiyatissa welcomed it with immense respect and planted it at Mahamewna Park in Anuradhapura. Also, he patronized the Bhikkuni Sasana in Sri Lanka. Moreover, he built the Thuparama Stupa, enshrining the right collar bone of the Lord Buddha which is the first-ever stupa in Sri Lanka.
He became the heir to the throne after defeating the Tamil King Elara through a brutal war. He rendered an immeasurable service to the Buddhism of Sri Lanka. His establishment of Ruwanweli Maha Seya pioneers out of all. In addition, he built Mirisawetiya Stupa and Lohapasada.
He had to face an invasion from South India just after 5 months at the throne. But, he was able to get back the throne defeating them after fourteen years. He is well famous for the construction of Abhayagiri Viharaya. In addition, one of his most significant services was patronizing for the occasion of recording Tripitaka on palm leaves.
The Religious Background in the Anuradhapura Period
Buddhism was the main religion that existed during the Anuradhapura Kingdom. It secured the royal patronage too.
The Arrival of Buddhism
Buddhism was brought to Sri Lanka while King Devanampiyathissa continued his reign. He was an eminent king who ruled the kingdom. At the time King Asoka who was the emperor of Indian subcontinent had developed a special interest in Buddhism among people. As a result of that he dispatched Buddhist delegations to the neighbouring states to propagate Buddhism.
Due to the close friendship between King Ashoka and King Devanampiyathissa, he had decided to send his own son Mahinda thero to Sri Lanka who had attained the sublime spiritual state of Arahat hood. The arahat Mahinda thero met King Devanampiyathissa at a place called Mihintale which is about 10kms away from Anuradhapura town. After understanding the deep meaning behind Buddhism teachings, King Devanampiyatissa immediately embraced the new teaching. Finally, he became a follower of the Buddha. As a result, Buddhism was recognized as the state religion and has been practiced with great reverence until today.
Indeed, the knowledge of Buddhism has inspired people to get rid of their greed, cruelty, wrong notions. Also, it has led the people to a simple, meaningful, and religious life. And the most important fact is that Buddhism is still well preserved and practiced in Sir Lanka for all these years.
Arrival of the Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha
During the reign of Kithsirimevan, Prince Dantha and Princess Hemamala brought the sacred Tooth Relic to Sri Lanka. The reason was the unrest that prevailed in their country. King Kithsirimevan accepted the Tooth Relic with the utmost respect. Then, he placed it in a mansion called Datadhatughara. The sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha soon became the most sacred object in the country. The whole of Sri Lanka recognized it as the symbol of kingship. Finally, a new tradition emerged among Sri Lankans as whoever possessed the Sacred Tooth Relic had a divine right to rule the land.
Arrival of the Sacred Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi in Sri Lanka
Buddhists consider Lord Gautama as the greatest human to appear on earth. He attained Buddhahood seated back with his back against Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya in Buddhagaya, India. However, the southern sapling of that sacred Bodhi tree was sent to Sri Lanka by King Dharmashoka in the hands of Arahat Sanghamitta Theri, his daughter. King Devanampiyathissa accepted the sacred sapling with the utmost respect and planted it in Mahamewna Park, Anuradhapura.
But, just after sending a branch of Sri Maha Bodhi to Sri Lanka, Queen Thishyarakka destroyed the Sri Maha Bodhi in India. She was the queen of King Dharmashoka who was observing a different faith. Similarly, the new saplings that rose from the roots of the tree were subjected to hostilities and natural disasters and destroyed again. Therefore, the Bhodi tree at present belongs to the fourth generation.
Owing to these factors, the sacred Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi in Sri Lanka happens to be one of the oldest trees in the world. Besides, it is the oldest living human planted tree with a known planting date. The amazing thing is that the tree is 2306 years old now!
The Irrigation System Existed In Anuradhapura Period
When considering the irrigation system in Anuradhapura Kingdom, it is delightful to say that no other kingdom ever existed in Sri Lanka could reach the supremacy of it in this field. The massive tanks and surprising canals which were in this era made the whole world gape in wonder.
From the beginning of the Anuradhapura kingdom, there was an elevated irrigation system. Later, the system spread out to the other kingdoms too. First, it started with little irrigation tanks in villages. Gradually, it developed to a middle scale. Finally, they became gigantic reservoirs.
The main reasoning behind constructing tanks was to collect water that was needed for agricultural purposes. Raising tax for the Buddhist community was another reason. Basawakkulama was the first middle-scale reservoir in the Anuradhapura era. King Pandukabhaya patronized it. Moreover, the amazing fact is that it still exists for centuries.
Of course, there were many more tanks and reservoirs built during this era. The below section would help you have a good idea about such tanks that were built in the course of the Anuradhapura period.
- Basawakkulama Tank – 5th Century B.C.
- Perimiyankulam Tank – 5th Century B.C.
- Tissa Tank – 3rd Century B.C.
- Naga Pokuna – 3rd Century B.C.
- Vannikulam Tank – 2nd Century B.C.
- Kalaththawa Tank – 2nd Century B.C.
- Tissa Tank – 1st Century B.C.
- Yoda Tank – 1st Century A.C.
- Mahavilachchiya Tank – 2nd Century A.C
- Nuwarawewa Tank – 2nd Century A.C
- Mahakanadarawa Tank – 3rd Century A.C
- Hurulu Tank – 3rd Century A.C
- Minneriya Tank – 3rd Century A.C
- Kaudulla Tank – 3rd Century A.C
- Kimbulwana Tank – 3rd Century A.C
- Magalla Tank – 3rd Century A.C
- Kala Tank – 5th Century A.C
- Giant’s Tank – 5th Century A.C
- Maeliya Tank – 5th Century A.C
- Nachchaduwa Tank – 6th Century A.C
- Padawiya Tank – 6th Century A.C
- Tannimurippu Tank – 6th Century A.C
- Giritale Tank – 7th Century A.C.
- Kantale Tank – 7th Century A.C.
- Mamaduwa Tank – 9th Century A.C.
Canals also play a major role in the irrigation system in this era. One of the major canals built was Yoda Canal. Indeed, it is a man-made canal, yet impressively amazing. The magical fact about the Yoda Canal is that it has an unbelievable irrigation technology that surprised even today’s engineers. It starts from Kala Tank and ends in Thisa Tank. It has a distance of 54 miles mostly on the flatlands. The designers and planners of this canal had maintained a gradient of 6 to 12 inches per mile while carrying water from one tank to the other. Before reaching the destination it provides water to cultivate thousands of acres of paddy fields and lands.
Elahara Canal was another significant canal owned by this kingdom. It was constructed by damming the Amban River to divert water to the west. King Wasamba gets the credit for constructing the Elahara Canal initially. Later, King Mahasen extended it to supply water to the newly composed Minneriya tank.
The Education System Existed in Anuradhapura Kingdom
The first education system in Sri Lanka was based on Pirivena Education. It began during the Kingdom of Anuradhapura. There were two main pirivenas named Mahavihara and Abhayagirivihara. They housed around 3000 and 5000 Buddhist monks. The pirivena system that exists today received the basic structure and idea to originate from them. The noteworthy feature of this pirivena culture is that they nurtured thousands of outstanding and well educated local monks, as well as monks who come from all over the world. This contributed immensely to the propagation of Buddhism locally as well as overseas.
Religious and Cultural Attractions from the Anuradhapura Era
An interesting fact is that the ancient Buddhist kings of this era used to construct gigantic stupas all around the Anuradhapura Kingdom. Thus, when considering the glory of the Anuradhapura Kingdom, the religious places that belong to this period can never be ignored. We have highlighted below some of the most significant religious attractions from this era, that still exist.
Of course, all of these places hold a uniqueness of their own. Also, they are worth exploring! So, what not? Check our article on the ‘Sacred city of Anuradhapura‘, for a better overview of them.
The Downfall of the Kingdom of Anuradhapura
The great era of Anuradhapura came to its end during the reign of King Mahinda (V). The reason was the weaknesses in his ruling structure and government. According to the Mahavamse (the meticulously kept historical chronicle of Sri Lanka written in the Pali language), internal collisions arose during his reign. This distracted the kingdom from any possible attack from a foreign state.
The Chola emperor Rajaraja (I) took advantage of the situation and conquered the northern part of the country around 993 A.D. He incorporated it into Chola Kingdom as a province and named it as “Mummadi Chola Mandalam”. In 1017 A.D. Rajendra(I), the son of Rajaraja(I) mounted an attack on Anuradhapura. Finally, he was able to take it under the control of Chola emperor.
End of the Sinhalese Reign in Anuradhapura
The Cholas took King Mahinda(V), the last king of the Anuradhapura kingdom as a captive to India. Unfortunately, he died there in 1029 A.D. As a result of the brutal battle that took place between Chola and Sinhalese kings, the Anuradhapura Kingdom was completely destroyed. Hence Chola King chose Polonnaruwa (At the time known as “Pulatthinagara”) as his capital city.
Finally, it marked the downfall of a glorious Kingdom of Anuradhapura by changing the centre of power in Sri Lanka that lasted for centuries!
The Bottom Line
Anuradhapura, the city from the Anuradhapura Kingdom has become one of the major tourist destinations in Sri Lanka, today. The secrets behind this popularity are the presence of Sacred Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, Ruwanweli Maha Seya, and the other religious attractions. Besides, this splendid city has become an exclusive religious hub for Buddhists all over the world. Also, Anuradhapura is indeed a cradle of traditions and cultures that prove the Sri Lankan pride to the world in the present day. Owing to these facts, thousands of locals, as well as tourists, visit this historic city to witness its grandeur and charm. So, if you get a chance to visit Sri Lanka by any chance, make sure to visit this unique, majestic city. It is just 200km away from Colombo, the commercial capital of the island.
Aggabodhi VII of Anuradhapura
Aggabodhi VII was King of Anuradhapura in the 8th century, whose reign lasted from 781 to 787. He succeeded his cousin Aggabodhi VI as King of Anuradhapura and was succeeded by Mahinda II.  His father was King Mahinda I. 
|King of Anuradhapura|
|Reign||781 – 787|
|Dynasty||House of Lambakanna II|
Aggabodhi was appointed as the Adipada of Ruhuna by his father. His cousin Aggabodhi (the son of King Kassapa III) was the sub king (yuva raja) and was administering the east of the country. On Mahinda I's death, prince Aggabodhi was in the capital. The administration of the kingdom fell into his hands. However, he invited the sub-king Aggabodhi to become king and crowned him as King Silamegha (Aggabodhi VI). Prince Aggabodhi himself was appointed the sub-king and looked after the administration of the whole country.
Those who were not favoured by the sub-king managed to poison Silamegha (Aggabodhi VI) mind against him. In response, sub-king Aggabodhi escaped to Ruhuna where he collected a huge army. He waged a civil war before suffering a crushing defeat at Kadalinivatha. He escaped the battle and hid himself in the Malaya Rata (hill country).
Before long, King Silamegha realised that he had been wrong to turn against sub-king Aggabodhi and he went alone to Malaya Rata, met with Prince Aggabodhi and effected a peace between them. Aggabodhi was invited back to the capital and King's daughter, Sangha, was given to the sub-king in marriage. However, the marriage did not seem to a happy one as Sangha forsook her husband and entered a convent. From there she ran away with her cousin, Dappula. The sub king Aggabodhi waged war against Dappula with the help of the King and recovered his wife. They reconciled their differences and lived a contented life.
Aggabodhi ascended the throne as King Aggabodhi VII on the death of King Silamegha (Aggabodhi VI). He was well advanced in years when he ascended the throne. He devoted the six years of his reign for furthering Buddhism. He repaired and strengthened the image house at the Sri Maha Bodhi tree. He also built two viharas - Kollanda and Molla Vaataka. He cleansed the order of bhikkus by issuing decrees. He also prescribed the manner of holding festivities and funerals. He further issued ticket rice (Salaka dana) to the three chapters of sangha Maha Vihara, Abhayagiri and Jethavana - Theriya, Dhammaruchi and Sagali sects.
He died in the sixth year of his reign and was succeeded by his nephew, Mahinda II (Son of Silamegha). 
Mahinda II of Anuradhapura
Mahinda II (aka Silamegha) was King of Anuradhapura in the 9th century, whose reign lasted from 787 to 807. He succeeded Aggabodhi VII as King of Anuradhapura and was succeeded by his son Dappula II. His father was King Aggabodhi VI.
|King of Anuradhapura|
|Reign||787 – 807|
|Issue||Udaya from Queen Sangha Dappula II|
|Dynasty||House of Lambakanna II|
On the death of King Aggabodhi VII, he arrived in Anuradhapura from Mahathiththa to find disorder in the capital. He reassured his king's widow, Sangha, that she could reign and that he would rule in her name. He was ruling as the sub-king when the chieftains and landlords of the northern regions withheld their royal dues. He attacked them and subdued them. 
Queen Sangha was then provoked by some of the chieftains to try to murder Yuva Raja (Sub-King) Mahinda. He defeated the Queen's forces and took the Queen prisoner and crowned himself as King Mahinda II.
His cousin, Dappula, raised the banner of the rebellion from Ruhuna and advanced as far as Kala wewa and Sangha gama, Mahinda II advanced with the Queen and defeated Dappula. He could not exploit his victory because news reached him of the northern chieftains seizing Anuradhapura. However, he was able to retake the Anuradhapura and ruled peacefully for a few years.
Dappula used these years to rearm himself and gather another force with two other cousins attacked Malaya Rata and captured it. Gathering more forces he surrounded the capital. The noise of his army was so great it was said that "heavens were like to rend asunder". King Mahinda II took counsel with his ministers and generals (senapathis) who declared that "what advantage to the king would be of maintaining in great pomp if they were to draw back at the hour of his (King's) need". Heartened by this, the king assembled his army and led it to victory once more. Dappula's two cousins were arrested, Dappula himself managed to escape to Ruhuna.
The northern and eastern areas of the country was then subjugated with many inhabitants of those regions inducted into the army. He reigned supreme for a few more years and married the captive Queen Sangha. She bore him a son named Dappula.
From Ruhuna, Dappula made his third attempt at rebellion with the help of two brothers from east of the country. They set up camp on the western bank of the Mahaweliganga. The king left a smaller garrison in Anuradhapura and marched to meet Dappula with his army. Dappula shifted his camp to Kovilara where they were attacked and routed by the King's forces. Dappula escaped to Ruhuna once again and there raised an army for the defence of the Ruhuna. 
Mahinda consulted monks and the wise men of the realm at Thuparama and on their advice advanced to Ruhuna to finally rid the country of Dappula. He took up a position on a hill called Marapabbatha which was impregnable. In response, Dappula sent peace emissaries to the King and peace prevailed in the country. A large tribute of horses, elephants and gems were extracted from Dappula and the Kaluganga river was fixed as the western boundary of the Ruhuna.
During this peaceful time, Mahinda devoted his efforts to further the religion and the welfare of his subjects for the remainder of his reign. He engaged in many other building works and repaired numerous religious buildings. He gave alms to monks and Brahmins alike.
Mahinda built the dama vihara and another called Sannira-tittha at Polonnaruwa. He also built a monastery called Mahaleka affiliated to Abhayagiriya. He built a magnificent terraced and many storied palace called Rathnaprasada with a gold Buddha statue inside. He made a cover of gold circled with silver bands for the Thuparama Dagoba. He also had repaired the Vatadageya at Thuparamaya. The floodgates of Kalawea was repaired during his reign.