The Mahavamsa, Sri Lanka’s ancient chronicle, reports that the island’s first Sinhalese king, Vijaya, being without heir apparent, in the last year of his life sent a letter to his hometown Sihapura in India to ask his brother Sumitta to come to Sri Lanka. Soon afterwards Vijaya died.
One year the island was kingless and the ministers ruled from Upatissagama, which had been founded by King Vijaya’s chief minister and chief priest (purohita), Upatissa. Upatissa is sometimes counted as second king of Sri Lanka, after the death of Vijaya.
Vijaya’s brother Sumitta, who was king in Sihapura at that point in time, said, he was too old for a journey to Sri Lanka to become the island’s next king. So his youngest son, Prince Panduvasudeva went to Sri Lanka to become the island’s next Sinhalese king.
He landed with thirty-two sons of ministers, all of them in the disguise of mendicant. The landing place was the mouth of the Mahandara river.
A soothsayer in Upatissagama foretold, that one decendant of the arriving prince will establish the religion of the Buddha. This is why the ministers in Upatissagama entrusted Panduvasudeva with the sovereignty of Lanka; but because he lacked a consort he did not yet receive the solemn consecration. Princess Subhaddakaccana of the Sakka lineage, decendants of relatives of the Buddha, was sent from northeastern India with thirty-two female friends. They landed in Gonagamaka robed like nuns. Soon afterwards Panduvasudeva and Subhaddakaccana were consecrated as King and Queen.
Interestingly, the landing place mentioned in this story, Gonagamaka, is most probably Gokanna, the Bay of Trincomalee at the north-eastern coast of Sri Lanka, whereas the first Sinhalese settlers, with Vijaya as their leader, landed at the north-western shores of the island near Upatissagama, where ships from Gujarat or other north-western ports at the Arabian Sea would arrive. In contrast, Gokanna was a natural port of disembarkation for vessels arriving from ports at the Bay of Bengal in north-eastern India.
So this legendary account of the coronation of Panduvasudeva includes some hidden evidence of the possibility of a second wave of colonisation from a different north-indian region. This hypothesis, that the Sinhalese are descendents of different waves of migrants from different parts of northern India, is strengthened by linguistic affinities between the Sinhalese language in its early phase and the Prakrit languages of north-eastern India.
Furthermore, inscriptional evidence indicates that while the area of Upatissagama and Anuradhapura was an important centre of power, its rulers did not always have sway even over the entire northern plain, which is nowadays called the cultural triangle. Small independent principalities seem to have existed in the east of the island.
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