The first Sinhalese royal dynasty of Devanampiya Tissa and Duttha Gamani, called the House of Vijaya, became extinct in the middle of first century AD. From now on, for almost one millennium, all Sinhalese kings of the Anuradhapura period belonged to only two different powerful clans, the Lambakannas and the Moriyas. Their periodic struggles for the throne are a conspicuous feature of the history of this period. All in all, the Lambakannas were more successful than their rivals. The Moriyas only dominated from the 5th to the 7th century, but this period also saw some Lambakanna kings, whereas the first Lambakanna dynasty reigned almost uninterruptedly fom 69 till 429 and was, on the whole, a period of peace and prosperity. The second Lambakanna dynasty lasted from the late 7th century till the very end of the Anuradhapura era.
The origin of the Lambakanna race is shrouded in mystery. somewhat obscure. The accounts of the Mahavamsa chronicle, which was written down in the 6th century, links them to a group of Indians arriving in Sri Lanka with the Bo-Tree. But this was most probably myth-making. In ancient Sri Lanka, there were several clans of the nobility, besides the Lambakannas, the Moriyas, Kalingas, Tarachchas and Balibhojakas were the most important of them. It is believed that their clan names had a totemistic origin, for example, the emblem of the Moriyas was a peacock. But in contrast, the name “Lambakanna” does not refer to an animal. Remarkably, the Sinhalese form of the Pali term “Lambakanna” is “Lamani” has the meaning of “scribe”. This could indicate that the Lambakannas originally played their role as employees for administrational tasks originally, becoming more powerful within the ranks of the administration in the course of the centuries..
It was already during the reign of King llanaga in the first half of the first century C.E., that the Lambakanna turned out to be powerful enough to challenge the king's authority, forcing him into exile for four years.
One generation later on, Vasabha becomes the founder of the lasting Lambakanna dynasty. Vasabha himself reigned for almost half a century, enabling him to consolidate his power. His inscriptions were found in different parts of the island, indicating that his authority was acknowledged outside the Anuradhapura area, too. The inscriptions dated in the reigns of Lambakanna kings are numerous, usually engraved on rocks. Compared to earlier inscriptions only mentioning a donation to the Budddhist Sangha in general, some of the Lamakanna inscriptions are longer and more detailed. The names found in the inscriptions are in a better agreement with those known from the chronicles from now on. The name Gamini, originally a title of a leader, which had been norne by many kings of the Vijaya dynasty, is not common any more during the Lambakanna era.
Apart from the relevant fact of stability, the emergence of the replacement of the old House of Vijaya by the new dynasty of Lambakannas did not coincide with any substantial changes in the administrational organization or in religion or art styles. Vasabha, the founder of the Lambakanna dynasty, initiated the period of the tank building projects on a huge scale, a crucial factor for the prosperity of the island. This very important king in Sri Lanka’s history will be the subject of our article next weekend...
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