A series by Gaveshaka in association with Studio Times
A glimpse of Rajarata
Funday Times readers get a marvellous opportunity this week to learn about our heritage. Studio Times with whom we have started this series about our culture and heritage, will hold an exhibition from Wednesday 28 July until 31 July at their premises (16/1 Skelton Road, Colombo 05) featuring the history of Raja Rata, the first kingdom in Sri Lanka. The exhibition is open from 8 in the morning till 8 in the evening – so you have enough time after school to go and view the exhibition. If you can’t find the time during the week, you can always make it on Saturday. It will be a very valuable learning experience for you and will definitely help you in your studies.

Let’s talk a little bit of the early days of Rajarata. As renowned historian Professor S. Paranavitana identifies, in ancient times, the three principalities or main territorial divisions in the country formed the ‘Trisimhala Rajya’ or ‘Tun Rajaya’ . They comprised Rajarata, Ruhunu-desa (Ruhnurata) and Malaya-desa (Mayarata). Rajarata was the original realm of the earliest kings who reigned in Anuradhapura. The unification of the whole Island into one kingdom first took place when Dutugemunu ascended the throne in 161 B.C.

Rajarata has been identified as all the country north of the Mahaveli Ganga and the Deduru Oya; bounded on the west, north and east by the sea. The Sinhalese influence was strongest in this kingdom. Mayarata was bounded on the north by Deduru Oya; east by Mahaveli Ganga; south by the Kalu Ganga; west by the sea. Ruhunurata formed all the country south of Mahaveli Ganga and the Kalu Ganga.

The arrival of Vijaya from India is generally accepted as the starting point of the history of the Island. When the ship that carried Vijaya and his seven hundred followers landed, they came ashore and as they grasped the earth their hands became red by contact with the soil. They named the place ‘Tambapanni’ (copper-coloured sand).

The name was later applied to the district and to the whole Island. The name ‘Taprobane’ used by Greek writers was derived by it. Vijaya’s followers established themselves in various parts of the country forming settlements which were named after them. One of them went north and founded Anuradhagama on the Kadamba river. Another went further north and settled down at Upatissagama on the Gambhira river. A third founded Vijitapura on the east. Ujjeni and Uruvela were two other settlements.

Vijaya lived with Kuveni whom he met on arrival and though she bore him a son and a daughter, he preferred to get down a princess from India when his followers suggested that he should be king. When a message was sent to the Pandu king in Madhura, he sent his daughter along with 700 maidens (for Vijaya’s followers to get married to) and bands of craftsmen to set up the new kingdom. Vijaya got rid of Kuveni and the children. When she went back to her kith and kin, they killed her for betraying them. The children escaped and it is said that they grew up and became ancestors of the present Vedda people.

According to historians, Vijaya ruled for 38 years (543-505 B.C) from Tambanni (Tammanna Nuwara). Since the queen bore no children, he sent word to his brother to come and accept the throne after his death. Since the brother, Sumitta was already king of Simhapura, he sent his youngest son, Panduvasudeva who found that Vijaya was no more when he arrived. Chieftain Upatissa was ruling from Upatissagama after Vijaya’s death, but gave way to Panduvasudeva who ruled for thirty years (504-474 B.C). Abhaya (474-454 B.C), the eldest of his ten sons succeeded him. Being a weak ruler, he faced a rebellion by his nephew Pandukhabhaya who had a long reign of 70 years (437-367 B.C).

He moved over from Upatissa Nuwara to Anuradhapura and made the city worthy of a king’s capital, which continued for more than a thousand years. He built two great tanks, the Jayawewa and Abhayawewa to provide water to the city and for the paddy fields. Four suburbs were added to the city, which was protected by a tall wall. An officer called ‘nagaraguttika’ was appointed to be in charge of the administration and security of the city. Five hundred ‘chandalas’

(people of a low caste) were appointed to clean the streets. Sanitary facilities were provided. A hospital was built. A cemetery was set up, also a place of execution of wrongdoers. His successor Mutasiva is famous for the establishment of the famous pleasure garden, Mahamegha or Mehamevuna Uyana. It got the name from a heavy downpour which took place unexpectedly when the garden was being laid out.

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