Saddha Tissa, also spelt Saddhatissa, was the younger brother and successor of Sri Lanka’s most famous King, Duttha Gamani (Dutugemunu). Already during the reign of his brother, he was a kind of governor of the Eastern Province, then called Digamadulla.
The Mahavamsa account of Saddha Tissa at the beginning of chapter 33 of that chronicle is rather short, compared to the many chapters about his elder brother. Much more than about his reign is written, already in chapter 24, about his earlier war of accession fought with his brother after the death of their father Kavantissa, which was then about the rule only in the southern kingdom, Rohana. The significance of this civil war is stressed in the chronicles in order to emphasize the role of the Sangha, the Buddhist order, because the monks were able to convince the brothers to reunite and to put forces together in order to fight a much more important war to recapture Anradhapura for a Buddhist king.
The Mahavamsa chronicle credits Saddha Tissa with having finalized the island’s most famous dagaba, Ruwanweliseya, which had been a project of Duttha Gamani. The Ruwanweliseya was the stupa of the Mahavihara, this monastery’s major chapter house was the Loha Pasada, the “Brazen Palace”. When it burnt down, Saddha Tissa reconstructed it, but with only seven storeys instead of nine it had previously. King Saddha Tissa is also believed to have built the Dighavapi Vihara, the most important sacred Buddhist site in the east, where he had been governor. Furthermore, Saddha Tissa is said to have constructed the Duratissa reservoir, which seems to be identical with today’s Yoda Wewa, the huge reservoir between Tissamaharama and Yala block 1. But the Mahavamsa chronicle only mentions that a Duratissa monastery was built by Saddha Tissa. To him is also ascribed the inscription at the drip ledge of the Dambulla cave temple, though tradition attributes the donation of this cave shrine to a subsequent king, Vatta Gamani.
The Mahavamsa chronicle predicts that Duttha Gamani and Sadha Tissa will be reborn as the two foremost disciples of the future Buddha, Maitreya, known as Metteya in the Pali language of the Theravada tradition:
"The great king Dutthagamani, he who is worthy of the name of king, will be the first disciple of the sublime Metteyya, the king's father (will be) his father' and the mother his mother.' The younger brother Saddhatissa will be his second disciple, but Salirajakumara, the king's son, will be the son of the sublime Metteyya."
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