A series by Gaveshaka in association with Studio Times
More on Rajarata
Here is good news for Funday Times readers in the Rajarata. The exhibition about which we wrote last week comes to your capital city, Anuradhapura on August 8. You will be able to view the glory of ancient Rajarata through photographs taken by the team of Studio Times professional photographers for a month from August 8. The exhibition will be held at the Nuwara Wewa Resthouse. You will be able to organize a school trip to go and see the exhibition. May be you could suggest it to your teacher as it would be a very useful educational tour.

Apart from the pictures depicting the splendour of Rajarata during the time of the ancient monarchs, there will be pictures of many other scenes as well. For example, the Wilpattu National Park, situated just 18 miles away from Anuradhapura, will be featured with photographs of birds and animals found in abundance there. Meanwhile, let us continue to delve into the history of Rajarata a little further today.

An event of great significance happened during the reign of Tissa, the second son of Mutasiva who reigned before him. The introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka was this notable event since it marked the beginning of an entirely new civilization based on the teachings of the Buddha.

When Tissa, who later came to be known as Devanampiya Tissa (Tissa, the delight of the gods), ascended the throne in 250 B.C, King Asoka (known as Dharmasoka after his conversion to Buddhism) was the ruler of India. They had been friends even before Tissa became king and the first thing he did when he became king was to send envoys with costly presents to Asoka. At the head of the delegation was his nephew, Maha Arittha.

They embarked at Jambukola on the northern coast of the modern Jaffna Peninsula and reached Tamalitti after a voyage of seven days. They spent another seven days to reach Pataliputra, the capital of Magadha kingdom, from where they proceeded to the Maurya Kingdom where Asoka ruled as its emperor. The delegation returned after staying for five months bringing things given by Asoka for a royal consecration and other presents.

A month after his consecration, which in fact was the second since he had been consecrated king earlier, Asoka’s son, Arahat Mahinda arrived bringing Buddhism to Sri Lanka. Buddhism was accepted by the ruler as well as the people who embraced the religion.

The king granted to the Sangha, the royal park, Mahamegha, which had been established by Mutasiva. The consecrated boundaries were marked by the king himself ploughing a furrow to mark them and the city too included within the boundaries. Thus was established the Mahavihara, which became a celebrated centre of Buddhist religion. Arahat Mahinda and his disciples spent the ‘vas’ – rainy season, in caves prepared for them in Mihintale, where they first arrived. This was the beginning of the Cetiyagiri-vihara, another great monastic institution of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

On the suggestion of Arahat Mahinda, the king requested for a relic of the Buddha from Asoka, who sent the right collar bone and the alms bowl used by the Buddha along with several other relics which were all deposited in the first ever stupa to be built in Sri Lanka, the Thuparama dagabo.

When Anula, the wife of the king’s younger brother Mahanaga, an Uparaja (sub-king) sought permission to get into robes along with 500 other females, Arahat Mahinda told them that the rules of Buddhism did not allow him to ordain females. He suggested to the king that he ask Asoka to send the Arahat’s sister, Sanghamitta, who herself had donned the robes, for the purpose. At the same time a request was made for a branch of the sacred bo-tree, under which Prince Siddhartha attained Buddhahood.

Sanghamitta Theri came along with eleven others and was received with pomp and pageantry with the king personally being present at the seaport. A magnificent procession brought the branch of the bo-tree to Anuradhapura. Entering the city through the north gate, it was taken through the south gate to the spot selecting for planting it. In the presence of Mahinda Thera, Sanghamitta Theri, the nobles and the public, it was planted on the terrace prepared for it.

It was the first great event in the early history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka which left a deep impression and still evokes pious enthusiasm among millions of Buddhists. The second was the bringing of the sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha. Princess Anula and her retinue were ordained by Sanghamitta Theri who thus established the Order of Nuns (bhikkhunis) in Sri Lanka. The death of Devanampiyatissa in 210 B.C saw his younger brother Uttiya succeeding him to the throne.

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