After Gajabahu’s death in 136, peace lasted till the years 186-189 when three kings succeeded each other rapidly. The Mahavamsa records a famine in the reign of one of these three rulers. But stability returned in the reign of Sirinaga I (189-209). His son and successor Tissa (209-231). soon received the honorific “Voharika Tissa”, which means, he was held in esteem by the Buddhist monks who wrote the island’s chronicles.
The Mahavamsa chronicle credits Voharika Tissa, like many other Sinhalese kings, with lots of donations for the Buddhist Sangha. At the beginning and at the end of the chronicle’s account on King Voharika Tissa:
“Because he first in this country made a law that set aside (bodily) injury (as penalty) he received the name king Voharika-tissa.” (Mhv 36,38)
“Voharika” is a name for a magistrate, a royal officer skilled in the law. Voharika Tissa is not the only king in South Asia who abolished draconic laws. For example, Chinese pilgrims in the 5th to 7th century were surprised to learn that there was no death penalty in some Indian kingdoms. The abolition of physical punishment and torture contrast common claims that Asian rulers were despotic and cruel. Some significant human rights were respected much earlier in Buddhist countries than in Europe.
Not at all in accordance with human rights standards is the other notable administrational order that is reported at the end of the this Mahvamsa report about Sri Lanka’s king Voharika Tissa:
“Suppressing the Vetulya-doctrine and keeping heretics in check by his minister Kapila, he made the true doctrine to shine forth in glory” (Mhv. 36,41)
“Vetulya” or “Vaitulya” is the name of Mahayanist scriptures. The Mahavihara monastery, which was a stronghold of the Theravada form of Buddhism, rejected Mahayana doctrines and accused the rivalling larger monastery in Anuradhapura, the Abhagiri Vihara, to favour Mahayanist teachings. The Mahavamsa chronicles was written by monks of the older Mahavihara monastery. The reign of Voharika Tissa is the first time, that this chronicle mentions Mahayanism, though only as immediately suppressed by the king.
Voharika Tissa was overthrown by his brother Abhayanaga (231-240) after an invasion with an army which he had raised in his Southindian exile. Voharika Tissa, who had fled into the highlands, was slain there by Abhayanaga.
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