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Title: Dutugemunu  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: 130s BC, Culavamsa, Prince Vijaya, Elara (monarch), Kalinga Magha, History of penicillin, Gajabahu I of Anuradhapura, Anula of Anuradhapura, Ten Giant Warriors, Gemunu Watch
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King of Anuradhapura
Statue of King Dutugamunu beside Ruwanwelisaya Stupa
Reign 161 BC – 137 BC
Coronation 161 BC
Full name Gamini Abhaya
Titles King of Ruhuna
Birthplace Thissamaharama, Hambanthota
Died 137 BC
Predecessor Elara
Successor Saddha Tissa
Consort Queen Ranmanika
Royal House Vijaya
Father Kavan Tissa
Mother Viharamahadevi

Dutugamunu (Sinhala:දුටුගැමුණු duṭugämuṇu), also known as Dutthagamani duṭṭhagāmaṇī) and Gamani Abhaya ගාමිණී අභය gāmaṇī abhaya, "fearless Gamini" was a Sinhalese King of Sri Lanka[1] who reigned from 161 BC to 137 BC. He is renowned for defeating and overthrowing Elara , the usurping Tamil prince from the Chola Kingdom, who had invaded the Kingdom of Rajarata in 205 BC. 'Dutugamunu also expanded and beautified the city of Anuradhapura and projected the power of his native Rajarata region across the island of Sri Lanka.

Due to his significance as one of the most potent symbol of Sinhalese historical power, Dutugemunu's story is swathed in myth and legend.[2] However, many aspects of the accounts of his life have been verified by contemporary inscriptions, and the basic account of his life is generally accepted as accurate.[3]

Etymology of the Name

Dutugemunu's given name was Gamini or Gamani, a traditional Buddhist name still popular in Sri Lanka today. The Mahavamsa describes how as a youth he mocked his father Kavantissa, king of Ruhuna, for refusing to wage war against the powerful invading Elara, the Solee king of Anuradhapura who usurped the throne by killing the native kings. The prince stated that 'If [his] father were a man he would not speak thus' and sent him a piece of women's jewellery. The resulting fury of the king caused many of his friends to flee to Malaya region and the prince himself being dubbed Dutthagamani, meaning "disobedient". After his death, he was referred to as Dharma Gamini ("righteous Gamini"), but it is as Duttha Gamini or Dutugemunu that he is known to posterity.

Ancestry and Family

The Mahavamsa constitutes the major source on Dutugemunu's reign and dedicates some six chapters (out of 35) to his tale. In chapter 22 he is described as being descended from the ancient royal family of Rajarata through [1].

Dutugemunu's mother was Viharamahadevi, daughter of Tissa, king of Kalyani. Legend has it that as punishment for Tissa slaying a Buddhist monk, Kalyani had been subject to a series of deluges from the sea. To placate it Tissa placed his daughter Devi in a golden boat with the words 'A King's Daughter' written on the side, and set her out to sea. Miraculously the princess washed ashore, alive and well, in Ruhuna, and married Kavantissa.

During her pregnancy with Dutugemunu, Viharamahadevi had a series of peculiar cravings, including the urge to sleep on a pillow made of honeycombs. In particular her urge to drink the water used to wash a sword that had cleaved the head of a warrior of Elara, whilst standing on that same head, raised the interest of the soothsayers at court, who predicted that 'The queen's son, when he has vanquished the Damilas ([2]. Viharamahadevi gave birth to a son named Gamani Abhaya some time later, and after that to another child, a boy named Tissa.

Around the time of Gamani's birth, 'an elephant of the six-tusked race brought his young one thither and left him here and went his way'[3]. Named Kandula, he went on to become Gamani's mount and accompanied him through much of the prince's adventures.

The Battle in the Palace and Early Reign

By the age of 16 Gamani was 'vigorous, renowned, intelligent and a hero in majesty and might' [5]; the resulting exchange between father and son saw Gamani being dubbed 'Duttha Gamani', his friends fleeing to Malaya, and he himself being incarcerated in a royal prison.

Kavantissa is known as a brilliant strategist who recognized early that he needed to make his kingdom powerful before waging a war against the invaders. He assembled armies and gave made his kingdom prosperous in "rice and betel leaf" - this meaning that the people had a lot of agricultural surplus. The legendary ten "great giants" - men who had great strength - are brought into the army at this time. Kavantissa repeatedly makes Dutugemunu and Tissa swear that they would never fight one another and that they would always respect and listen to the advice of the priests. He also makes the ten giants swear never to pick sides in a war between the brothers.

Upon Kavantissa's death, Dutugemunu found himself having to defend his crown against his younger brother Tissa, who had seized possession of not only the elephant Kandula, but the dowager queen Viharamahadevi as well [8]. It is said that Dutugemunu recognized the ploy and called out to his brother "Are you not ashamed to be carried on the back of these priests?" Some time afterwards, however, Dutugemunu and Tissa were reconciled through the efforts of Viharamahadevi and the monks, and Tissa became one of the king's foremost generals.

Regaining of Rajarata

Having secured his position Dutugemunu then planned his operations to regain the north, which included not only Rajarata but numerous smaller semi-independent polities. The king's army consisted of 'Ten Giant Warriors who had been recruited from all over the island by his father Kavantissa - Nandhimitra, Suranimala, Mahasena, Theraputtabhya, Gothabhaya, Bharana, Vasabha, Velusamanna, and Phussadeva.

The campaign saw Dutugemunu subduing a number of usurping Tamil rulers in the north (as many as 32, according to the Mahavamsa). Of particular interest is the [11]. On at least two occasions victory is attributed to the king's 'cunning' and the bravery of Kandhula. The campaign reached a climax at the eastern gate of Anuradhapura, where Dutugemunu, riding Kandhula, finally confronted the aged usurped king Elara, on his own elephant Mahäpabbata, and slew him with a dart; the encounter is one of the most famous in Sri Lankan history.

Dutugemunu's victory at Anuradhapura put him in the unprecedented position of ruling nearly the entire island of (Sri) Lanka. Despite this however his position was far from problem-free. Elara, despite being an invading Tamil from the Chola empire of south India, was renowned as having been a just and righteous leader, and Dutugemunu went out of his way to ensure the memory of the old king was revered as he cremated Elara and built a tomb for his ashes and made rules for travelers to get off and pay their respects to his tomb. Furthermore 'looking back upon his glorious victory, great though it was, [he] knew no joy, remembering that thereby was wrought the destruction of thousands of both enemies and his soldiers.'[12]. This is attested to by the sheer number of religious foundations attributed to him by the chronicles (between 68 and 99), which include magnificent stupas, monasteries, and shrines.

Reign and Construction Work

Aside from his many construction projects Dutugemunu's reign is memorable for his estrangement from his son, Saliya or Salirajakumara. The Prince fell in love with a girl called Agokamaladevi or Asokamala; unfortunately for all concerned she was of the Scavenger caste, one of the lowest castes in Sinhalese society. Saliya refused to give her up and rejected the throne. Though the Mahavamsa mentions no reconciliation [14].

The king's reign also saw extensive contact between Sri Lanka and traders from the west, including Arabs, Persians, and possibly Romans [15]

Following his consolidation of his position Dutugemunu began a series of huge construction projects, many of which still survive in Anuradhapura today. As with nearly everything in Dutugemunu's life, each foundation comes with its own legend, many of which reveal the preoccupations and inclinations of ancient Sinhalese society.

The first foundation mentioned in the Mahavamsa is the Maricavatti vihara, the modern [16].

Dutugemunu also ordered the construction of the Lohapasada, or Brazen Palace, a nine-story chapter house for monks, which derived its name from its bright copper-tiled roof. Again, legend has it that the design for the palace was based on a building seen in one of the heavens by a group of monks, who drew the design with 'red arsenic on linen' and dispatched it to the king [17].

Perhaps his most famous creation was the Mahadharmaraksita.

Other notable works include the construction of a stupa in Mundeshiwari, current day Bihar, India [19]

Spiritual relationship with Kataragama Deviyo (Murugan)

The story relating to the king's some of the constructions reflects spiritual relationship with Kataragama Deviyo (Murugan). The two of the sites among them are Henakaduwa Purana Raja Maha Viharaya at Tangalle and Ruhunu Kataragama Maha Devalaya.

During the period of war preparation with king Elara, one day the God Kataragama appeared in front of the king Dutugemunu and given him a sword to be used in the war with Elara where the place now Henakaduwa (kaduwa, meaning sword in sinhala), temple is situated.

After defeating the king Elara's rule in the country, the king Dutugemunu has done a sacrifice meditation where the place of Kiri Vehera Kataragama and again Kataragama Deviyo (Murugan) appeared in front of him and the king asked what should be done for the help given by the god for winning the war, then the god replied by striking an arrow to the direction of Wedahitikanda from Kiri Vehera, then built a temple for the god,in the place where the arrow fell down.

Death and Succession

King Dutugemunu did not live to see his beloved Ruwanweliseya completed, dying before the plaster work was finished. The Mahavamsa dedicates an entire chapter to his death Tusita.

A common folk tale surrounding the death of King Dutugemunu is that as he was dying he was told that Ruwanweliseya was completed in order to keep him happy. The well-intentioned plan went awry, however, when Dutugemunu asked to be shown the finished building. His brother Tissa had the entire building draped in white cloth to present the illusion of whitewash, and due to his failing eyesight Dutugemunu did not spot the difference, dying convinced that the building was finished.

Following his death Dutugemunu was succeeded by his brother Saddhatissa, rather than his disinherited son Saliya.


See also


External links

  • Mirisawetiya Stupa
  • The Brazen Palace
  • Anuradhapura
  • Ancient monuments in Sri Lanka
  • The Mahavamsa Online
Born: ? ? Died: ? 137 BC
Regnal titles
Preceded by
King of Anuradhapura
161 BC – 137 BC
Succeeded by
Saddha Tissa

Template:House of Vijaya

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