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|Reign||c. 543 – c. 505 BCE|
Tambapanni, Sri Lanka
|Dynasty||House of Vijaya|
Prince Vijaya Singha (Sinhala : විජය කුමරු) was the traditional first Sinhalese king of Sri Lanka, mentioned in the Pali chronicles, including Mahavamsa . According to these chronicles, he is the first recorded King of Sri Lanka. He was the prince of Simhapura of Kalinga kingdom (present day Odisha). His reign is traditionally dated to 543–505 BCE. Legends say he and several hundred of his followers came to Lanka after being expelled from an Indian kingdom. According to Mahavamsa , in Lanka, they defeated a Yakkha colony near to "Thammena"(Thambapanni) and displaced the island's original inhabitants (Yakkhas), from their city of "Sirisavatthu" with the support of princess Kuveni and established a kingdom called Tambapanni and became the ancestors of the modern Sinhalese people.
Broadly, there are four distinct versions of the legend that explains the origin of Sinhalese people. In all the versions, a prince comes to the island of Lanka, and establishes a community that gives rise to the Sinhalese race. The Mahavamsa and Dipavamsa name the prince as Vijaya, while the other two legends have different names for the prince.
*Here Sinha is not a literal lion, It's a man who is given the title lion.
The Mahavamsa version, the most detailed of the above-mentioned versions, is described below.
The king of Vanga (historical Bengal region) married a princess (named Mayavati in some versions) of the neighbouring Kalinga (present-day Odisha). The couple had a daughter named Suppadevi, who was prophesied to copulate with the king of beasts. As an adult, Princess Suppadevi left Vanga to seek an independent life. She joined a caravan headed for Magadha, but it was attacked by Sinha ("lion") in a forest of the Lala (or Lada) region. The Mahavamsa infact mentions the Sinha as a lion, but some modern interpreters state that Sinha was the name of a beastly outlaw man living in the jungle. Lala is variously identified as the Rada / Rarh region of Bengal (a part of the present-day Indian state of West Bengal), or as Lata (a part of the present-day Gujarat).
Suppadevi fled during the attack, but encountered Sinha again. Sinha was attracted to her, and she also caressed him, thinking of the prophecy. Sinha kept Suppadevi in captivity, in a cave, and had two children with her: a son named Sinhabahu (or Sihabahu; "lion-armed") and a daughter named Sinhasivali (or Sihasivali). When the children grew up, Sinhabahu asked his mother why she and Sinha looked so different. After his mother told him about her royal ancestry, he decided to go to Vanga. One day, when Sinha had gone out, Sinhabahu escaped from the cave along with Suppadevi and Sinhasivali. The three reached a village, where they met a general of the Vanga Kingdom. The general happened to be a cousin of Suppadevi, and later married her. Meanwhile, Sinha started ravaging villages in an attempt to find his missing family. The King of Vanga announced a reward for anyone who could kill Sinha. Sinhabahu killed his own father to claim the reward. By the time Sinhabahu returned to the capital, the King of Vanga had died. Sinhabahu was made the new king, but he later handed over the kingship to his mother's husband, the general. He went back to his birthplace in Lala, and founded a city called Sinhapura (or Sihapura). He married his sister, Sinhasivali; and the couple had 32 sons in form of 16 pairs of twins. Vijaya Singha ("The greatly victorious") was their eldest son, followed by his twin Sumitta.
The location of Sinhapura is uncertain. It is variously identified with Singur, West Bengal (a place situated within the Rada or Rarh region) or Singhpur (near Jajpur) / Sinhapura, Odisha .Those who identify the Lala kingdom with present-day Gujarat, place it in present-day Sihor. Yet another theory identifies it with the Singupuram village near Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh. It is also identified as located within modern-day Thailand or Malay peninsula.
Vijaya was made the prince-regent by his father, but he and his band of followers became notorious for their violent deeds. After their repeated complaints failed to stop Vijaya's acts, the prominent citizens demanded that Vijaya be put to death. King Sinhabahu then decided to expel Vijaya and his 700 followers from the kingdom. The men's heads were half-shaved and they were put on a ship that was sent forth on the sea. The wives and children of these 700 men were also sent on separate ships. Vijaya had his followers landed at a place called Supparaka; the women landed at a place called Mahiladipaka, and the children landed at a place called Naggadipa. Vijaya's ship later reached Lanka, in the area known as Tambapanni, on the same day Gautama Buddha died in northern India.Those who believe that Vijaya set out from the west coast of India (i.e. Sinhapura was located in Gujarat) identify the present-day Sopara as the location of Supparaka. Those who believe that Sinhapura was located in Vanga-Kalinga region identify it with places located off the eastern coast of India. For example, S. Krishnaswami Aiyangar speculates that Supparaka might have been same as Sumatra.
According to Mahavamsa, after reaching heaven, the Gautama Buddha requested the lord of gods (identified as Indra) to protect Vijaya in Lanka, so that Buddhism could flourish there. Indra handed over the guardianship of Lanka to the lotus-colored god (Upulvan), who came to Lanka in the guise of an ascetic to protect Vijaya.Wilhelm Geiger identifies the lotus-colored god with Vishnu; uppala being the blue lotus. Senarath Paranavithana identifies him with Varuna.
Vijaya tied a protective ( paritta ) thread on the hands of all his followers. Later, a Yakkhini (a female Yaksha) appeared before Vijaya's followers in form of a dog. One of the followers thought that the presence of a dog indicated the existence of a habitation, and went chasing her. After following her for some time, he saw a Yakkhini named Kuveni (or Kuvanna), who was spinning thread. Kuveni tried to devour him, but Vijaya's magical thread protected him. Unable to kill him, Kuveni hurled the follower into a chasm. She did the same thing to all the 700 followers. Meanwhile, Vijaya came to Kuveni's place, looking for his men. Vijaya overpowered her, and forced her to free his men. Kuveni asked Vijaya to spare her life, and in return, swore loyalty to him. She brought, for Vijaya and his followers, food and goods from the ships of the traders whom she had devoured earlier. Vijaya took Kuveni as his consort.
As Vijaya and Kuveni were sleeping, he woke up to sounds of music and singing. Kuveni informed him that the island was home to Yakkhas, who would kill her for giving shelter to Vijaya's men. She explained that the noise was because of wedding festivities in the Yakkha city of Sirisavatthu. With Kuveni's help, Vijaya defeated the Yakkhas. Vijaya and Kuveni had two children: Jivahatta and Disala. Vijaya established a kingdom, which was named Tambapanni ("copper-red hands"), because the men's hands were reddened by the red soil of the area. The members of the community established by Vijaya were called Sinhala after Sinhabahu.
Vijaya's ministers and other followers established several new villages. For example, Upatissa established Upatissagama on the bank of Gambhira river, north of Anuradhagama. His followers decided to formally consecrate him as a king, but for this he needed a queen of Aryan (noble) descent. Vijaya's ministers, therefore, sent emissaries with precious gifts to the city of Madhura, which was ruled by a Pandu king. (Madhura is identified with Mathura, a city in North India; Pandu is identified with the Pandu). The king agreed to send his daughter as Vijaya's bride. He also requested other families to offer their daughters as brides for Vijaya's followers. Several families volunteered, and were adequately compensated by king with gifts. The Pandu king sent to Lanka his own daughter, other women (including a hundred maidens of noble descent), craftsmen, a thousand families of 18 guilds, elephants, horses, waggons, and other gifts. This group landed in Lanka, at a port known as Mahatittha.
Vijaya then requested Kuveni, his Yakkhini queen, to leave the community, saying that his citizens feared supernatural beings like her. He offered her money, and asked her to leave their two children behind. But Kuveni took the children along with her to the Yakkha city of Lankapura. She asked her children to stay back, as she entered the city, where other Yakkhas recognized her as a traitor. She was suspected of being a spy, and killed by a Yakkha. On advice of her maternal uncle, the children fled to Sumanakuta (identified with Adam's Peak). In the Malaya region of Lanka, they became husband-wife and gave rise to the Pulinda race (identified with the Vedda people; not to be confused with the Pulindas of India).
Meanwhile, Vijaya was consecrated as the king. The Pandu king's daughter became his queen, and other women were married to his followers according to their rank. He bestowed gifts on his ministers and his father-in-law. He gave up his evil ways, and ruled Lanka in peace and righteousness.
Vijaya had no other children after Kuveni's departure. When he grew old, he became concerned that he would die heirless. So, he decided to bring his twin brother Sumitta from India, to govern his kingdom. He sent a letter to Sumitta, but by the time he could get a reply, he died. His ministers from Upatissagama then governed the kingdom for a year, while awaiting a reply. Meanwhile, in Sinhapura, Sumitta had become the king, and had three sons. His queen was a daughter of the king of Madda (possibly Madra). When Vijaya's messengers arrived, he was himself very old. So, he requested one of his sons to depart for Lanka. His youngest son, Panduvasdeva, volunteered to go. Panduvasdeva and 32 sons of Sumitta's ministers reached Lanka, where Panduvasdeva became the new ruler.
Within Sri Lanka, the legend of Vijaya is a common political rhetoric used to explain the origin and genetics of the Sinhalese; it is often treated as a factual account of historical events. Sinhalese scholars such as K. M. de Silva have used the legend to confirm the Indo-Aryan origin of the Sinhalese, thus distinguishing them from the Dravidians. At the same time, some Sinhalese authors have also used the myth to oppose Tamil secessionism, arguing that the Sinhalese and the Tamils are one race, because their ancestors included the maidens sent by the Pandyan king of Madurai. Some Tamil nationalists, on the other hand, have claimed that their ancestors were the Yakkhas massacred by Vijaya. Tamil authors like Satchi Ponnambalam have dismissed the legend as fiction aimed at justifying Sinhalese territorial claims in over Sri Lanka.
The various genetic studies on Sinhalese and Sri Lankan Tamils have offered differing conclusions. R.L. Kirk (1976), for example, concluded that the Sinhalese are genetically closest to the East Indian population of Bengal. N. Saha (1988), however, disagreed with Kirk's findings and concluded that the Sinhalese display a close genetic affinity with the Tamils.
The history of Sri Lanka is intertwined with the history of the broader Indian subcontinent and the surrounding regions, comprising the areas of South Asia, Southeast Asia and Indian Ocean.
Sinhalese people, historically known as Hela people are an Indo-Aryan ethnic group of 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, cultural heritage and nationality. The Sinhalese people speak Sinhala, an insular Indo-Aryan language, and are predominantly Theravada Buddhists, although a minority of Sinhalese follow branches of Christianity and other religions. Since 1815, they were broadly divided into two respective groups: The 'Up-country Sinhalese' in the central mountainous regions, and the 'Low-country Sinhalese' in the coastal regions; although both groups speak the same language, they are distinguished as they observe different cultural customs. 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 descend from the Indo-Aryan settlers who came to the island in 543 BCE from Sinhapura, in India, led by Prince Vijaya.
The Mahavamsa is the meticulously kept historical chronicle of Sri Lanka written in the style of an epic poem written in the Pali language. It relates the history of Sri Lanka from its legendary beginnings up to the reign of Mahasena of Anuradhapura covering the period between the arrival of Prince Vijaya from India in 543 BCE to his reign and later updated by different writers. It was composed by a Buddhist monk at the Mahavihara temple in Anuradhapura about the fifth century A.D. In 2021, a petition was made to declare the original leaf book a UNESCO heritage.
Sinhabahu is a legendary king of ancient India, mentioned in Sri Lankan texts. He was father of Vijaya of Sri Lanka and king of Sinhapura. He was the son of Supadevi, a Vanga Kingdom princess. According to the Mahavamsa's folklore, Sinhabahu's father was a lion and his mother a princess of Vanga. His hands and feet were like a lion's paws.
Kuveni(කුවේණි / குவேனி) also known as Sesapathi or Kuvanna or Leelawathi, was a Yakshini queen in Sri Lanka mentioned in the ancient Pali chronicles Mahavamsa and Dipavamsa of the Sinhalese people. The primary source for her life-story is the Mahavamsa. She is venerated as Maha Loku Kiriammaleththo by the Veddas. Other names for her varying with Veddas habitats are Indigolle Kiriamma, Unapane Kiriamma, Kande Kiriamma, Divas Kiriamma, Wellasse Kiriamma, Kukulapola Kiriamma and Bili Kiriamma.
Shurparaka was a kingdom founded by Bhargava Rama near the Western sea, close to the mouth of the river Narmada in India. It is mentioned in the epic Mahabharata. Parashurama gave this kingdom to the Brahmin rulers of Kashyapa clan. Shurparaka is identified with medieval Sopara and modern day Nala Sopara.
The Dīpavaṃsa is the oldest historical record of Sri Lanka. The chronicle is believed to be compiled from Atthakatha and other sources around the 3rd to 4th century CE. 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.
The Nayaks of Kandy were the rulers of the Kingdom of Kandy between 1739 and 1815, and the last dynasty to rule on the island. The term Nayak is derived from the Sanskrit word Nāyaka. Their rise to power came about as a result of the death of Vira Narendrasinha, who left no legitimate heir- the throne passed to his brother-in-law, who was crowned as Sri Vijaya Rajasinha in 1739. They were of Telugu origin, spoke Telugu or Tamil, and used Sinhala and Tamil as their court languages.
Sri Vira Parakrama Narendra Singha was the last Sinhalese King of Sri Lanka of the Kingdom of Kandy.He was also known as the "Prince of Kundasale".
The Kingdom of Tambapaṇṇī was the first Sinhalese kingdom in Sri Lanka. Its administrative centre was based at Tambapaṇṇī. It existed between 543 BC and 437 BC. The Kingdom was founded by Prince Vijaya and his followers.
Upatissagāma was the second capital of the Kingdom of Tambapanni, during the Pre Anuradhapura period of Sri Lanka. It was seven or eight miles further north of the previous capital Tambapaṇṇī, which was in present-day Puttalam. The city was established by Upatissa, a follower and senior minister of Vijaya.
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.
Sinhapura was the capital of the legendary Indian king Sinhabahu. It has been mentioned in the Buddhist legends about Prince Vijaya. The name is also transliterated as Sihapura or Singhapura.
Several different indigenous clans lived in the island of Sri Lanka during the pre-Vijaya era. These clans of Sri Lanka and the mystical kingdom of Lanka were mentioned in the great epics of Mahavamsa, Vargapurnika, Mahabaratha, Manimekalai, Ramayana and Sangams. It is believed that four main clans lived in Sri Lanka before king Vijaya explored the island. The four clans are Yakkha (Yakku), Naga, Deva, and Rakkha (Rakus).
Rajarata [rā dja ra tə] was one of three historical regions of the island of Sri Lanka for about 1,700 years from the 6th century BCE to the early 13th century CE. Several ancient cities, including Tambapanni, Upatissa Nuwara, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, were established as capitals within the area by successive rulers. Rajarata was under the direct administration of the King. Two other areas, Malayarata and Ruhunurata, were ruled by the king's brothers "Mapa" and "Epa". The Magha invasion in the 13th century brought about the end of the Rajarata kingdom.
The House of Vijaya was the first recorded Sinhalese royal dynasty that ruled over the island, Sri Lanka. According to Sinhalese folklore Prince Vijaya is the traditional first king of Sri Lanka, founding the Kingdom of Tambapanni and the dynasty subsequently founding the Kingdom of Upatissa Nuwara and finally the Anuradhapura Kingdom.
Throughout its history, Sri Lanka, as it is known today, has been ruled by various monarchial lines, at some times with different lines ruling different parts of the modern state.
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.
The Pre Anuradhapura period of Sri Lankan history begins with the gradual onset of historical records in the final centuries of the prehistoric period and ending in 437 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.
Prince VijayaBorn: ? Died: ? 505 BC
Queen of Heladipa
| King of Tambapanni |
543 BCE – 505 BCE
Regent of the Kingdom of Upatissa Nuwara