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Period5th century CE

The Mahavamsa ("Great Chronicle", Pali Mahāvaṃsa) (5th century CE) is an epic poem written in the Pali language. [1] It relates the history of Sri Lanka from its legendary beginnings up to the reign of Mahasena of Anuradhapura (A.D. 302) covering the period between the arrival of Prince Vijaya from India in 543 BCE to his reign (277–304 CE). It was composed by a Buddhist monk at the Mahavihara temple in Anuradhapura about the sixth century A.D.

Pali middle Indo-Aryan language

Pali or Magadhan is a Middle Indo-Aryan language native to the Indian subcontinent. It is widely studied because it is the language of the Pāli Canon or Tipiṭaka, and is the sacred language of some religious texts of Hinduism and all texts of Theravāda Buddhism. The earliest archaeological evidence of the existence of canonical Pali comes from Pyu city-states inscriptions found in Burma dated to the mid 5th to mid 6th century CE.

Mahasena, also known in some records as Mahasen, was a king of Sri Lanka who ruled the country from 277 to 304 AD. He started the construction of large tanks or reservoirs in Sri Lanka, and built sixteen such tanks. After becoming king, Mahasen discriminated the Theravada Buddhists in the country, and destroyed several temples including Mahavihara before his chief minister led him to realise his mistakes. The Jethavana stupa was also built by Mahasen. His countrymen regarded him as a god or deity after the construction of the Minneriya tank, and he was named Minneri Deviyo.

Prince Vijaya King of Tambapanni

Prince Vijaya was a legendary king of Sri Lanka, mentioned in the Pali chronicles, including Mahavamsa. According to these chronicles, he is the first recorded King of Sri Lanka. His reign is traditionally dated to 543–505 BCE. According to the legends, he and several hundred of his followers came to Lanka after being expelled from an Indian kingdom. In Lanka, they displaced the island's original inhabitants (Yakkhas), established a kingdom and became ancestors of the modern Sinhalese people.



The contents of the Mahavamsa can be broadly divided into four categories: [2]

Yakkha is an indigenous ethnic group from the Indian subcontinent, mainly in modern-day Nepal and present-day India. It is one of the progenies of Nepal's prehistoric Kirat dynasty. The Yakkha people are subsistence farmers who inhabit the lower Arun valley in eastern Nepal. They number only a few thousand and their language is nearly extinct.

Naga people ethnic group

The Naga people are an various individuals or ethnic groups associated to the North Eastern part of India and northwestern Myanmar. The tribes have similar cultures and traditions, and form the majority of population in the Indian state of Nagaland, with significant populations in Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam in India and the Sagaing Division of Myanmar

Ashoka Indian emperor of the Maurya Dynasty

Ashoka, sometimes Ashoka the Great, was an Indian emperor of the Maurya Dynasty, who ruled almost all of the Indian subcontinent from c. 268 to 232 BCE. The grandson of the founder of the Maurya Dynasty, Chandragupta Maurya, Ashoka promoted the spread of Buddhism. Considered by many to be one of India's greatest emperors, Ashoka expanded Chandragupta's empire to reign over a realm stretching from present-day Afghanistan in the west to Bangladesh in the east. It covered the entire Indian subcontinent except for parts of present-day Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. The empire's capital was Pataliputra, with provincial capitals at Taxila and Ujjain.

While much of the contents of the Mahavamsa is derived from expansions of the material found in the Dipavamsa, several passages specifically dealing with the Abhayagiri vihara are omitted, suggesting that the Mahavamsa was more specifically associated with the Mahavihara. [2]

Mahavihara great Buddhist monastery

Mahavihara is the Sanskrit and Pali term for a great vihara and is used to describe a monastic complex of viharas.


Buddhist monks of the Anuradhapura Maha Viharaya maintained chronicles of Sri Lankan history starting from the third century BCE. These annals were combined and compiled into a single document in the 5th Century while Dhatusena of Anuradhapura was ruling the Anuradhapura Kingdom. It was written based on prior ancient compilations known as the Atthakatha (sometimes Sinhalaatthakatha), which were commentaries written in Sinhala. [3] [ page needed ] An earlier document known as the Dipavamsa (4th century CE) "Island Chronicles" is much simpler and contains less information than the Mahavamsa and was probably compiled using the Atthakatha on the Mahavamsa as well.

Dhatusena was a king of Sri Lanka who ruled from 455 to 473 AD. He was the first king of the Moriyan dynasty. In some records, he is also identified as Dasenkeli. Dhatusena reunited the country under his rule after twenty six years, defeating the South Indian invaders that were ruling the country at that time. Dhatusena made eighteen irrigation tanks, a large irrigation canal known as Yodha Ela, and the Avukana Buddha statue, a large statue of Gautama Buddha.

Anuradhapura Kingdom ancient Sinhalese kingdom

The Anuradhapura Kingdom, named for its capital city, was the first established kingdom in ancient Sri Lanka and Sinhalese people. Founded by King Pandukabhaya in 377 BC, the kingdom's authority extended throughout the country, although several independent areas emerged from time to time, which grew more numerous towards the end of the kingdom. Nonetheless, the king of Anuradhapura was seen as the supreme ruler of the country throughout the Anuradhapura period. Buddhism played a strong role in the Anuradhapura period, influencing its culture, laws, and methods of governance. Society and culture were revolutionized when the faith was introduced during the reign of King Devanampiya Tissa; this cultural change was further strengthened by the arrival of the Tooth Relic of the Buddha in Sri Lanka and the patronage extended by her rulers.

Aṭṭhakathā refers to Pali-language Theravadin Buddhist commentaries to the canonical Theravadin Tipitaka. These commentaries give the traditional interpretations of the scriptures. The major commentaries were based on earlier ones, now lost, in Prakrit and Sinhala, which were written down at the same time as the Canon, in the last century BCE. According to Theravada tradition, the major commentary were authored by five hundred senior monks at the First Buddhist council. Some material in the commentaries is found in canonical texts of other schools of Buddhism, suggesting an early common source.

Authorship of the Mahavamsa is attributed to a monk called Mahānāma by the Mahavamsa-tika (see #Related Works). Mahānāma is described as residing in a monastery belonging to general Dighasanda and affiliated with the Mahavihara, but no other reliable biographical information is known. [2] Mahānāma introduces the Mahavamsa with a passage that claims that his intention is to correct repetitions and shortcomings that afflicted the chronicle compiled by the ancients- this may refer either to the Dipavamsa or to the Sinhala Atthakatha. [2]


The Dipavamsa or Deepavamsa, is the oldest historical record of Sri Lanka. The chronicle is believed to be compiled from Atthakatha and other sources around the 3-4th century. Together with the Mahavamsa, it is the source of many accounts of ancient history of Sri Lanka and India. Its importance resides not only as a source of history and legend, but also as an important early work in Buddhist and Pali literature.

A companion volume, the Culavamsa "Lesser Chronicle", compiled by Sinhala monks, covers the period from the 4th century to the British takeover of Sri Lanka in 1815. The Culavamsa was compiled by a number of authors of different time periods.

The combined work, sometimes referred to collectively as the Mahavamsa, provides a continuous historical record of over two millennia, and is considered one of the world's longest unbroken historical accounts. [4] It is one of the few documents containing material relating to the Nāga and Yakkha peoples, indigenous inhabitants of Lanka prior to the legendary arrival of Prince Vijaya from Singha Pura of Kalinga.

As it often refers to the royal dynasties of India, the Mahavamsa is also valuable for historians who wish to date and relate contemporary royal dynasties in the Indian subcontinent. It is very important in dating the consecration of the Maurya Emperor Ashoka, which is related to the synchronicity with the Seleucid Empire and Alexander the Great.

Indian excavations in Sanchi and other locations, confirm the Mahavamsa account of the empire of Ashoka. The accounts given in the Mahavamsa are also amply supported by the numerous stone inscriptions, mostly in Sinhala, found in Sri Lanka. [5] K. Indrapala [6] has also upheld the historical value of the Mahavamsa. If not for the Mahavamsa, the story behind the large stupas in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, such as Ruwanwelisaya, Jetavanaramaya, Abhayagiri vihāra and other works of ancient engineering would never have been known.

The Mahavamsa first came to the attention of Western readers around 1809 CE, when Sir Alexander Johnston, Chief Justice of the British colony in Ceylon, sent manuscripts of it and other Sri Lankan chronicles to Europe for publication. [7] Eugène Burnouf produced a Romanized transliteration and translation into Latin in 1826, but these garnered relatively little attention. [8] :86 Working from Johnston's manuscripts, Edward Upham published an English translation in 1833, but it was marked by a number of errors in translation and interpretation, among them suggesting that the Buddha was born in Sri Lanka and built a monastery atop Adam's Peak. [8] :86 The first printed edition and widely read English translation was published in 1837 by George Turnour, an historian and officer of the Ceylon Civil Service. [8] :86

A German translation of Mahavamsa was completed by Wilhelm Geiger in 1912. This was then translated into English by Mabel Haynes Bode, and revised by Geiger. [9]

Historical and Literary Significance

Historiographical sources are rare in much of South Asia. As a result of the Mahavamsa, comparatively more is known about the history of the island of Ceylon and neighboring regions than that of most of the subcontinent. Its contents have aided in the identification and corroboration of archaeological sites and inscriptions associated with early Buddhism, the empire of Ashoka, and the Tamil kingdoms of southern India. [2]

The Mahamvasa covers the early history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, beginning with the time of Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism. It also briefly recounts the history of Buddhism in India, from the date of the Buddha's death to the 3rd Buddhist council where the Dharma was reviewed. Every chapter of the Mahavamsa ends by stating that it is written for the "serene joy of the pious". From the emphasis of its point-of-view, and being compiled to record the good deeds of the kings who were patrons of the Anuradhapura Maha Viharaya, [10] it has been said to support Sinhalese nationalism. [11] [12]

Besides being an important historical source, the Mahavamsa is the most important epic poem in the Pali language. Its stories of battles and invasions, court intrigue, great constructions of stupas and water reservoirs, written in elegant verse suitable for memorization, caught the imagination of the Buddhist world of the time. Unlike many texts written in antiquity, it also discusses various aspects of the lives of ordinary people, how they joined the King's army or farmed. Thus the Mahavamsa was taken along the Silk Road to many Buddhist lands. [13] Parts of it were translated, retold, and absorbed into other languages. An extended version of the Mahavamsa, which gives many more details, has also been found in Southeast Asia. [14] [2] The Mahavamsa gave rise to many other Pali chronicles, making Sri Lanka of that period probably the world's leading center in Pali literature.

Political significance

The Mahavamsa has, especially in modern Sri Lanka, acquired a significance as a document with a political message. [15] The Sinhalese majority often use Manavamsa as a proof of their claim that Sri Lanka is a Buddhist nation from historical time. The British historian Jane Russell [16] has recounted how a process of "Mahavamsa bashing" began in the 1930s, especially from within the Tamil Nationalist movement. The Mahavamsa, being a history of the Sinhala Buddhists, presented itself to the Tamil Nationalists and the Sinhala Nationalists as the hegemonic epic of the Sinhala people. This view was attacked by G. G. Ponnambalam, the leader of the Nationalist Tamils in the 1930s. He claimed that most of the Sinhala kings, including Vijaya, Kasyapa, and Parakramabahu, were Tamils. Ponnambalam's 1939 speech in Nawalapitiya, attacking the claim that Sri Lanka is a Sinhalese, Buddhist nation was seen as an act against the notion of creating a Buddhist only nation. The Sinhala majority responded with a mob riot, which engulfed Nawalapitiya, Passara, Maskeliya, and even Jaffna. [16] :148 [17] The riots were rapidly put down by the British colonial government, but later this turned through various movements into the civil war in Sri Lanka which ended in 2009.

Various writers have called into question the morality of the account given in the Mahavamsa, where Dutugamunu regrets his actions in killing Ellalan [ citation needed ] and his troops. The Mahavamsa equates the killing of the invaders as being on par with the killing of "sinners and wild beasts", and the King's sorrow and regret are assuaged. This is considered by some critics as an ethical error. However, Buddhism does recognize a hierarchy of actions as being more or less wholesome or skillful, although the intent is as much as or more important than the action itself. Thus the killing of an Arahant may be considered less wholesome and skillful than the killing of an ordinary human being. Buddhists may also assert that killing an elephant is less skillful and wholesome than killing an ant. In both cases, however, the intent must also be considered. An important thing to note is that Dutthagamani regretted his act, and this was also true of King Ashoka, who became a pacifist after a series of bloody military campaigns.

Historical accuracy

Early Western scholars like Otto Franke dismissed the possibility that the Mahavamsa contained reliable historical content, but subsequent evidence from inscriptions and archaeological finds have confirmed that there is a factual basis for many of the stories recorded in the Mahavamsa, including Ashoka's missionary work and the kings associated with founding various monasteries and stupas. [8] :47,90

Wilhelm Geiger was one of the first Western scholars to suggest that it was possible to separate useful historical information from the mythic and poetic elaborations of the chronicle. While other scholars had assumed that the Mahavamsa had been assembled from borrowed material from Indian Pali sources, Geiger hypothesized that the Mahavamsa had been based on earlier Sinhala sources that originated on the island of Ceylon. While Geiger did not believe that the details provided with every story and name were reliable, he broke from earlier scholars in believing that the Mahavamsa faithfully reflected an earlier tradition that had preserved the names and deeds of various royal and religious leaders, rather than being a pure work of heroic literary fiction. He regarded the early chapters of the Culavamsa as the most accurate, with the early chapters of the Mahavamsa being too remote historically and the later sections of the Culavamsa marked by excessive elaboration. [8] :90–92

Geiger's Sinhala student G. C. Mendis was more openly skeptical about certain portions of the text, specifically citing the story of the Sinhala ancestor Vijaya as being too remote historically from its source and too similar to an epic poem or other literary creation to be seriously regarded as history. [8] :94 The date of Vijaya's arrival is thought to have been artificially fixed to coincide with the date for the death of Gautama Buddha around 543 BCE. [18] [19] The Chinese pilgrims Fa Hsien and Hsuan Tsang both recorded myths of the origins of the Sinhala people in their travels that varied significantly from the versions recorded in the Mahavamsa- in one version, the Sinhala are descended from naga or nature spirits who traded with Indian merchants, and in another the Sinhala progenitor is a prince exiled for patricide who then slays a wealthy merchant and adopts his 500 children. [8] :58–9

The story of the Buddha's three visits to Sri Lanka are not recorded in any source outside of the Mahavamsa tradition. [8] :48 Moreover, the genealogy of the Buddha recorded in the Mahavamsa describes him as being the product of four cross cousin marriages. Cross-cousin marriage is associated historically with the Dravidian people of southern India- both Sri Lankan Tamils and Sinhala practiced cross-cousin marriage historically- but exogamous marriage was the norm in the regions of northern India associated with the life of the Buddha. No mention of cross-cousin marriage is found in earlier Buddhist sources, and scholars suspect that this genealogy was created in order to fit the Buddha into conventional Sri Lankan social structures for noble families. [8] :48–9

The historical accuracy of Mahinda converting the Sri Lankan king to Buddhism is also debated. Hermann Oldenberg, a German scholar of Indology who has published studies on the Buddha and translated many Pali texts, considers this story a "pure invention". V. A. Smith (Author of Ashoka and Early history of India) also refers to this story as "a tissue of absurdities". V. A. Smith and Professor Hermann came to this conclusion due to Ashoka not mentioning the handing over of his son, Mahinda, to the temple to become a Buddhist missionary and Mahinda's role in converting the Sri Lankan king to Buddhism, in his 13th year Rock Edicts, particularly Rock-Edict XIII. [20] Sources outside of Sri Lanka and the Mahavamsa tradition do not mention Mahinda as Ashoka's son. [8]

There is also an inconsistency with the year on which Ashoka sent Buddhist missionaries to Sri Lanka. According to the Mahavamsa, the missionaries arrived in 255 BCE, but according to Edict 13, it was five years earlier in 260 BCE. [20]

The Mahavamsa is believed to have originated from an earlier chronicle known as the Dipavamsa (4th century CE) ("Island Chronicles"). The Dipavamsa is much simpler and contains less information than the Mahavamsa and probably served as the nucleus of an oral tradition that was eventually incorporated into the written Mahavamsa. The Dipavamsa is believed to have been the first Pali text composed entirely in Ceylon. [2]

A subsequent work sometimes known as Culavamsa extends the Mahavamsa to cover the period from the reign of Mahasena of Anuradhapura (277–304 CE) until 1815, when the entire island was surrendered to the British throne. The Culavamsa contains three sections composed by five different authors (one anonymous) belonging to successive historical periods. [2]

In 1935, Buddhist monk Yagirala Pannananda published Mahavamsa Part III , a Sinhala language continuation of the Mahavamsa that covers the period from the end of the Culavamsa up until 1935. [8] :95–104 While not authorized or supported by any government or religious organization, this continuation of the Mahavamsa was later recognized by the government of Sri Lankan Prime Minister JR Jayawardene.

A commentary on the Mahavamsa, known as the Mahavamsa-tika, is believed to have been composed before the first additions composing the Culavamsa were written, likely some time between AD 1000 and AD 1250. This commentary provides explanations of ambiguous Pali terms used in the Mahvamasa, and in some cases adds additional details or clarifies differences between different versions of the Mahavamsa. Unlike the Mahavamsa itself, which is composed almost entirely from material associated with the Mahavihara, the Mahavamsa-tika makes several references to commentaries and alternate versions of the chronicle associated with the Abhayagiri vihara tradition. [2]

In Southeast Asia, a Pali work referred to as the 'Extended Mahavamsa' includes not only the text of the Sri Lankan Mahavamsa, but also elements of the Thupavamsa , Buddhavamsa , Mahavamsa commentaries, and quotations from various jatakas. [14] [2] It is sometimes referred to in academic literature as the 'Kambodian Mahavamsa' or 'Khmer Mahavamsa' because it is distinguished by being recorded in the Khmer script. It's composition is attributed to an otherwise unknown monk called Moggallana and it's exact date of composition and origin are unknown, but suspected to be Burma or Thailand. [2]

See also

Related Research Articles

Sinhalese people ethnic group

The Sinhalese are an Indo-Aryan-speaking ethnic group native to the island of Sri Lanka. They constitute about 75% of the Sri Lankan population and number greater than 16.2 million. The Sinhalese identity is based on language, historical heritage and religion. The Sinhalese people speak Sinhala, an Indo-Aryan language, and are predominantly Theravada Buddhists, although a small percentage of Sinhalese follow branches of Christianity. The Sinhalese are mostly found in North Central, Central, South, and West Sri Lanka. According to the 5th century epic poem Mahavamsa, and the Dipavamsa, a 3rd–5th century treatise written in Pali by Buddhist monks of the Anuradhapura Maha Viharaya in Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese are descendants of settlers who came to the island in 543 BCE from Sinhapura, in India, led by Prince Vijaya.

Buddhaghosa Indian writer

Buddhaghosa was a 5th-century Indian Theravada Buddhist commentator, translator and philosopher. He worked in the Great Monastery (Mahāvihāra) at Anurādhapura, Sri Lanka and saw himself as being part of the Vibhajjavāda school and in the lineage of the Sinhalese Mahāvihāra.

Mahinda (Buddhist monk) Indian bhikkhu

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Anuradhapura Maha Viharaya

The Anuradhapura Maha Viharaya was an important mahavihara or large Buddhist monastery for Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka. It was founded by king Devanampiya Tissa of Anuradhapura in his capital city of Anuradhapura. The Mahavihara was the place where the Theravada Mahaviharan orthodoxy was established by monks such as Buddhaghosa and Dhammapala who wrote commentaries on the Tipitaka and texts such as the Visuddhimagga which are central to Theravada Buddhist doctrine. The monks living at the Mahavihara were referred to as Mahaviharavasins.

Buddhism in Sri Lanka

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The Cūḷavaṃsa, also Chulavamsa, is a historical record, written in the Pali language, of the monarchs of Sri Lanka. It covers the period from the 4th century to 1815. The Culavamsa was compiled over many years by Buddhist monks, and displays a variety of epic styles. It is generally considered to be a sequel to the Mahavamsa written in the 6th century by the monk Mahanama. The Mahavamsa and the Culavamsa are sometimes thought of as a single work spanning over two millennia of Sri Lankan history.

Bodhi Vamsa

The Bodhi-Vamsa, or Mahabodhivamsa, is a prose poem in elaborate Sanskritized Pali that recounts the story of the Bodhi tree of Anuradhapura. It is attributed to a monk called Upatissa who lived during the reign of Mahinda IV of Sri Lanka, and believed to have been composed in the 10th Century AD. It is written in the kavya style.

Pali literature is concerned mainly with Theravada Buddhism, of which Pali is the traditional language. The earliest and most important Pali literature constitutes the Pāli Canon, the scriptures of Theravada school.

Devanampiya Tissa of Anuradhapura King of Anuradhapura

Tissa, later Devanampiya Tissa was one of the earliest kings of Sri Lanka based at the ancient capital of Anuradhapura from 307 BC to 267 BC. His reign was notable for the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka under the aegis of the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka. The primary source for his reign is the Mahavamsa, which in turn is based on the more ancient Dipavamsa.

Abhayagiri vihāra

Abhayagiri Vihāra was a major monastery site of Mahayana, Theravada and Vajrayana Buddhism that was situated in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. It is one of the most extensive ruins in the world and one of the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage cities in the nation. Historically it was a great monastic centre as well as a royal capital, with magnificent monasteries rising to many stories, roofed with gilt bronze or tiles of burnt clay glazed in brilliant colors. To the north of the city, encircled by great walls and containing elaborate bathing ponds, carved balustrades and moonstones, stood "Abhayagiri", one of seventeen such religious units in Anuradhapura and the largest of its five major viharas. One of the focal points of the complex is an ancient stupa, the Abhayagiri Dagaba. Surrounding the humped dagaba, Abhayagiri Vihara was a seat of the Northern Monastery, or Uttara Vihara and the original custodian of the Tooth relic in the island.

Wilhelm Geiger German philologist

Wilhelm Ludwig Geiger was a German Orientalist in the fields of Indo-Iranian languages and the history of Iran and Sri Lanka. He was known as a specialist in Pali, Sinhala language and the Dhivehi language of the Maldives. He is especially known for his work on the Sri Lankan chronicles Mahāvaṃsa and Cūlavaṃsa of which he made critical editions of the Pali text and English translations with the help of assistant translators.

Valagamba, also known as Wattagamani Abhaya and Valagambahu, was a king of the Anuradhapura Kingdom of Sri Lanka. Five months after becoming king, he was overthrown by a rebellion and an invasion from South India, but regained the throne by defeating the invaders fourteen years later. He is also known for the construction of the Abhayagiri Dagaba.

Anuradhapura period

The Anuradhapura period was a period in the history of Sri Lanka of the Anuradhapura Kingdom from 377 BC to 1017 AD. The period begins when Pandukabhaya, King of Upatissa Nuwara moved the administration to Anuradhapura, becoming the kingdom's first monarch. Anuradhapura is heralded as an ancient cosmopolitan citadel with diverse populations.


Dāṭhavaṃsa is a Pali historical chronicle attributed to Dhammakitti Thero. It is sometimes titled in English as "The History of the Tooth Relic" and contains histories and popular traditions associated with the Relic of the tooth of the Buddha. This relic is currently enshrined at the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

Sinhalese monarchy monarchical head of state of the former Sinhalese Kingdom, an absolute and hereditary monarchy

The Sinhalese monarchy has its origins in the settlement of North Indian Indo-Aryan immigrants to the island of Sri Lanka. The Landing of Vijay as described in the traditional chronicles of the island, the Dipavamsa, Mahavamsa and Culavamsa, and later chronicles, recount the date of the establishment of the first Sinhala Kingdom in 543 BC when Prince Vijaya, an Indian Prince, and 700 of his followers landed on the island of Sri Lanka and established the Kingdom of Tambapanni. In Sinhalese mythology, Prince Vijaya and followers are told to be the progenitors of the Sinhalese people. However according to the story in the Divyavadana, the immigrants were probably not led by a scion of a royal house in India, as told in the romantic legend, but rather may have been groups of adventurous and pioneering merchants exploring new lands.

Early kingdoms period

The Pre Anuradhapura period or the Early kingdoms period of Sri Lankan history begins with the gradual onset of historical records in the final centuries of the prehistoric period and ending in 377 BC. According to the Mahavamsa, the original inhabitants of Sri Lanka are the Yakshas and northern Naga tribes. Sinhalese history traditionally starts in 543 BC at the arrival of Prince Vijaya, a semi-legendary king who was banished from the Indian subcontinent with his 700 followers, and is recorded in the Mahavamsa chronicle. This period was succeeded by the Anuradhapura period.


The Thūpavaṃsa is a Sri Lankan historical chronicle and religious text recorded in the Pali language. It's composition is attributed to a Buddhist monk known as Vācissara, the putative author of several Pali and Sinhala commentaries and handbooks. It was likely composed in the second half of the 13th Century.


  1. Sailendra Nath Sen (1 January 1999). Ancient Indian History and Civilization. New Age International. p. 91. ISBN   978-81-224-1198-0.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Von Hinüber, Oskar (1997). A Handbook of Pali Literature (1st Indian ed.). New Delhi: Munishiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd. pp. 87–93. ISBN   81-215-0778-2.
  3. Oldenberg 1879.
  4. Tripāṭhī, Śrīdhara, ed. (2008). Encyclopaedia of Pali Literature: The Pali canon. 1. Anmol. p. 117. ISBN   9788126135608.
  5. Geiger's discussion of the historicity of the Mahavamsa;Paranavitana and Nicholas, A concise history of Ceylon (Ceylon University Press) 1961
  6. K. Indrapala, Evolution of an Ethnicity, 2005
  7. Harris, Elizabeth (2006). Theravada Buddhism and the British Encounter: Religious, Missionary and Colonial Experience in Nineteenth Century Sri Lanka (1st ed.). New York: Routledge. p. 12. ISBN   0415544424.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Kemper, Steven (1992). The Presence of the Past: Chronicles, Politics, and Culture in Sinhala Life (1st ed.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. p. 33. ISBN   0801423953.
  9. Mahavamsa. Ceylon Government. 1912.
  10. In general, regarding the Mahavamsa's point-of-view, see Bartholomeusz, Tessa J. (2002). In Defense of Dharma: Just-war Ideology in Buddhist Sri Lanka. London: RoutledgeCurzon. ISBN   978-0-7007-1681-4.
  11. Senewiratne, Brian (4 February 2012). "Independence Day: A Day For Action, Not Mourning". Colombo Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 July 2016.
  12. E. F. C. Ludowyk's discussion of the connection between religion in the Mahavamsa and state-power is discussed in Scott, David (1994). "Historicizing Tradition". Formations of Ritual: Colonial and Anthropological Discourses on the Sinhala Yaktovil. Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press. pp. 191–192. ISBN   978-0-8166-2255-9..
  13. "Mahavamsa, the great chronicle". Sunday Observer. 29 June 2008. Retrieved 5 November 2014.
  14. 1 2 Dr. Hema Goonatilake, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka. 2003
  15. H. Bechert, "The beginnings of Buddhist Historiography in Ceylon, Mahawamsa and Political Thinking", Ceylon Studies Seminar, Series 2, 1974
  16. 1 2 Communal politics under the Donoughmore Constitution, 1931–1947, Tissara Publishers, Colombo 1982
  17. Hindu Organ, June 1, 1939 issue (Newspaper archived at the Jaffna University Library)
  18. Rhoads Murphey (February 1957). "The Ruin of Ancient Ceylon". The Journal of Asian Studies. Association for Asian Studies. 16 (2): 181–200. doi:10.2307/2941377. JSTOR   2941377.
  19. E.J. Thomas. (1913). BUDDHIST SCRIPTURES. Available: Last accessed 26 03 10.
  20. 1 2 Wilhelm Geiger (1912). Mahavamsa: Great Chronicle of Ceylon. New Dehli: Asian Educational Services. 16-20.


Editions and translations

Early translation of a Sinhalese version of the text