The Vijaya Dynasty, also called the "Great Dynasty", was the first Sinhalese royal family and lineage ruling in Sri Lanka. The name-giving founder of the dynasty, Vijaya, was an invader from northwestern India. There were 37 monarchs of the Vijaya Dynasty, who reigned during six centuries. The three most significant rulers of the dynasty are Devanampiya Tissa in the 3rd century B.C.E., who introduced Buddhism, Dutthagamani in the 2nd century B.C.E., who reconquered Anuradhapura, adter it had been occupied by Tamil invaders, and Vattagamani, who initiated the fourth Theravada Buddhist Council and founded the Abhayagiri monastery. After Vatagamani’s death several king of minor importance in times of rapid successions ruled the island for another century, before the dynasty came to an end, when Vasabha of the House of Lambakanna seized power in 66 C.E.
Among the Vijayan successors of Vattagamani appeared the first female ruler of Sri Lanka, Queen Anula. She was overcome by Kutakanna Tissa about the beginning of the Christian era, after the citizens, disgusted with the queen, had gathered at the gates of a monastery in which the second son of the former king Mahakuli Tissa, Prince Kutakanna Tissa, was living as a monk. The crowd insisted that he should reoccupy the throne of his fathers. After killing Anula, King Kutakanna Tissa ordered her cremation within the palace. King Kukatanna Tissa is credited with having built a 3 metres tall wall round the city centre (the so-called citadel) of Anuradhapura and the assembly hall of the Mihintale monastery as well as two tanks. For his mother, whose name was also Anula, he founded a nunnery called Dantageha, because she obtained ordination. Kukatanna Tissa ruled for 22 years.
His son Bhatika Abhaya restored the Brazen Palace near the Bo Tree and constructed two terraces at the Thuparama, which is Anuradhapura’s oldest dagaba. The almost three decades of his reign, around the begin of the Christian era, seem to have been a period of peace.
His nephew Amanda Gamani is worth mentioning as the founder of the well-known Ridi Vihara, a temple which derives its name from the silver which had been miraculously discovered, when Dutthagamani was in need of fresh financial resources to be able to construct the great Ruwanweli Dagaba. Being a vegetarian, Amanda Gamani forbad killing of any animals or birds. He encouraged the cultivation of gourds, hence his name, “Amanda” means “gourd”.
Amanda Gamani was killed by his younger brother Kanirajanu Tissa. This king put to death 60 monks, who were accused of crimes against the new king. He ruled only for three years.
After the death of his successor, the short-lived King Chulabhaya, Sivali, daughter of King Amanda Gamani, reigned for four months, becoming the second queen in Sri Lankan history to ascend the throne.
She was ousted by Ilanaga, who was the son of her father’s sister. But instead of killing her, Ilanaga made Sivali his consort. The military conflicts with the powerful Lambakanna clan, which finally led to the end of the Vijaya dynasty and the rise of Sri Lanka’s longest reigning dynasty, began already in the first year of Ilanaga’s rule. He had to flee from Anuradhapura and lived three years in exile in Ruhuna in the south before being successfull in regaining power in Anuradhapura. During his exile in the south of the island, Ilanaga built the Naga Maha Bihara dagaba at Tissamaharama.
Ilanaga’s son Chandamukha Shiva succeeded him. Then he was only ten years old, becoming the first boy king in Sri Lankan history. He ruled almost a decade in the middle of the first century C.E. The adminstration continued to be carried out by his mother, Queen Sivali.
After about a decade, the young king was killed by his brother, Yasalalaka Tissa, who was 17 years old when he seized the throne. Yasalalaka Tissa became the very last king of the Vijaya dynasty. His own death is said to have been the the result of a joke, known as the Subha and Yasa story: The king had a gate keeper named Subha, who resembled him. King Yasalalaka Tissa decided to play a practical joke on his ministers by dressing the gate keeper as the king and himself as the gate keeper. When the ministers then paid homage to the gate keeper Subha, the disguised King Yasalalaka Tissa burst out in laughing. But now Subha, continuing the camouflage, asked the ministers why that gate keeper was laughing and ordered to put him to death.
After the death of Yasalalaka Tissa, Subha the gate keeper was king himself. During his reign, a fortune teller predicted that a Lambakanna man named Vasabha would become the next ruler of the country. Subha ordered to kill all men with the name “Vasabha”. Nevertheless, one Vasabha from the Lambakanna clan, who never got caught, managed to raise an army and to defeat Subha and to become king himself. One of the first acts of King Vasabha was to marry Pottha, who had saved him when he was persecuted. Vasabha turned out to be one of the most significant rulers of Anuradhapura. Read our article next Saturday to learn more about King Vasabha...
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