Can someone explain the secret of these two events in Sri Lankan history?
Posted on July 18th, 2011

Dr. Sudath Gunasekara

This is a big question I would like to pose specially to those who are at times cynical about some widely accepted socio-cultural and religious values of this Island nation even though they accept the common axiom that history repeats itself. This question is associated with an extraordinary experience I noticed in a recent visit (26.6.2011) to the Seruwila sacred area.

We all have heard the often quoted axiom “ƒ”¹…”history repeats itself’. But isn’t it strange that the same incident Sri Lanka had occurred on the same soil twice in history. The incidents I am referring to here are the Dutugemunu-Elara and the Mahinda-Pabhakaran wars against the enemy. Surprisingly they were fought by two sons of mother Lanka on behalf of Sri Lanka, born in the same region called Magama in down south at two different epochs of history of this Island nation. Isn’t this curious for any country in the world? What is even more surprising to me is that the place mentioned in this article had been the “ƒ”¹…”epicenter’ of both these two historic wars, one in the 2nd century BC and the other in the 21st century AD, nearly 1242 years apart. Furthermore both these wars have accomplished the same goal of liberating the country from the enemy and bringing it under one parasol.  Of cause the only difference is the one in the 2nd century BC was fought against a South Indian invader where as the one in 2006 was fought against a Sri Lankan terrorist outfit. The only common factor is that both occasions the enemy had been Tamils of South Indian origin. The general pattern of both these high dramas is very much similar and the beginning of the final assault had taken place in this same sacred region.

To begin with the more recent event, the beginning of the final assault on the LTTE terrorists was started with the Marvil Aru battle of 2006. (Mavil Aru is only 6 km south east of Seruvila). Thereafter the forces having crossed the main Mahaweli began the three pronged attack on the terrorists from Mannar in the west, Jaffna peninsula in the north and the land stretch north of Trincommallee in the south and continued until the enemy was completely vanquished in May 2009 and thereby bringing the whole country under one parasol by liberating the country from 30 years of terrifying terrorist rule. This mission was spearheaded by President Mahinda Rajapaksa a son of Magama in the Ruhunu Rata. The forces under his command first cleared the whole of the Eastern Province starting with Toppigala and moved northwards tactfully and set the rhythm of the final onslaught on the enemy at Mavil aru.

In the second century BC the same process had taken place. King Kavantissa moved northwards from Magama along the eastern lowlands of Ruhunu Rata with his army and first consolidated his power in the Seruwila region,  a buffer zone ruled by a local Prince called Siva and then built the Seru Stupa where he enshrined the lalata dhatu (Frontal bone) of Gautama the Buddha. This was the northernmost part of the Ruhunu Rata to the east of Mahweli. King Dutugemunu, his illustrious son, making use of the strategic background father had already established, moved northward on the same trail consolidating his power all over the Ruhunu Rata and made final preparations for the war against Elara on the same soil before crossing Mahaweli to Raja Rata. Thereafter his army crossed Mahaweli and entered Rajarata and commenced the final onslaught on the Tamil usurpers from South India and liberated the motherland from the enemy. Dutugemunu thus ended the 44 year Elara rule and brought the Island under one parasol in the 2nd century BC.

Both these wars mark two of the greatest achievements in Lankan history, though fought under different conditions. The latter of course was much more complicated and ramified in its scale due to many reasons. Firstly it had to be fought against a section of our own people who had taken up arms against the elected government demanding a separate state unlike in the Elara-Dutugemunu war. Then there was also far more advanced technology in modern warfare. It also had large scale international involvements, particularly from the western block and moreover strong opposition from factions of our own people. The war was also three dimensional. Nevertheless what struck me most is the strange relationship between the process, strategy and the final goal of these two events that had occurred in two different periods historically set far apart?

The second factor I discerned is the religious sanctity of this area around Serwavila located at the northern extremity of the Ruhunu Rata. As most of you know Seruwavila is one of the most important sacred places in Sri Lanka. It ranks very high among the most sacred Solosmasthana (the sixteen most sacred places in Sri Lanka) of religious worship in this country. Few miles to the east is the Lanka Patuna or Muhudumaha Viharaya where the sacred Tooth relic of the Buddha was first temporally deposited after it was brought to this country by Hemamala and Prince Danta in 313 AD. Therefore both Seruwavila and Lanka Patuna had been sanctified by two of the most sacred saririka Dhatu of the Buddha.  One must also take note of the Somawathi Dagaba situated in close proximity to these two sacred places. The sanctity of these sacred places may have definitely generated an invisible force that had made this region a special spot on earth that contributes to the protection of the Buddha sasana and the Sinhala nation that had been bestowed with the privilege of protecting the Buddha’s dispensation for 5000 years. I have no doubt that this factor was the divine force that had given strength to those who spearheaded these two wars against the enemy.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

A third factor, I would like to high light in this historical process is the importance of the Ruhunu Rata in liberating the motherland from successive invasions throughout history. Even in the post Dutugemunu period Vijayabahu and Parakramabahau had fought their wars successfully against the south Indian invaders from Ruhunu Rata. Historically all invasions to this country had come from the north, northwest or the west and it was the Ruhunu Rata which had always risen up to the occasion and liberated the country from invaders just as the Malaya Rata or the hill country that had provided protection and a venue of regrouping as the best hide out for those who had to flee from the low lands during periods of crisis there. Even during the Kandyan period the first liberation struggle was started in the Uwa Wellassa in 1818.

Finally, in this backdrop, I would like to reiterate the validity of the forecast made by Buddha in his Parinibbanamancha that his doctrine will last for 5000 years in Lankadiipa. This prophesy has proved amply correct when you see that Sri Lanka even after 2500 years of Buddha’s demise still continues to be the home of Theravada Buddhism in the world. The fact that this island had been offered thrice to the Lord when he visited it had naturally sanctified this soil more than any other and therefore made it the Land of Gautama the Buddha. Keeping with the second prophesy of the Buddha the Sinhala nation also has become the chief custodians of his teachings in its original form called Theravada.

 I am more than convinced that it is the power of this supreme Dhamma and the sanctity bestowed by the sacred relicts of the Buddha that protected, in the past and will protect in future too, this country and the Sinhala nation from all calamities. I also strongly believe that as long as these super human powers, perhaps which are beyond the perception of the ordinary human mind that operate in the universe, no one, how powerful they may be, cannot harm this country and the Sinhala nation as long as these forces are active. Personalities like Dutugemunu and Mahinda Rajapaksha are therefore only divine emissaries created by these invisible forces to protect the Buddha’s Land and its people, the Sinhala nation.

In order to guarantee the continuation of this time tested and unique tradition which is not evidenced anywhere else in the whole world, I strongly suggest that we abolish the cancerous Provinces introduced by the British to achieve their sinister colonial motive of divide and rule and re-establish the old Tun Rata, which had provided the solid foundation for the Sri Lankan State for nearly 2500 years. I reiterate, this is the best solution to the current divisive tendencies within certain parts of the country. It will also lay the foundation for political and economic prosperity.  The Tun Rata will replace the Provincial Councils imposed on us by India and it will minimize the number of political and administrative institutions at least by 2/3 rd. Enormous savings from this pruning could be gainfully used for the development of the country.  It will also minimize the state of political chaos and friction and raise the quality of politicians as well.  Resulting Sri Lanka would be a land san ethnic turmoil, communal grievances and unequal distribution of resources etc.

Also let me take a little time to make an appeal to all citizens of this country to take a lesson from the past. I think one of the most important factors (if not the most important of them all), of peace, development and prosperity of the Dutugemunu period and the centuries that followed of Sri Lankan history that continued more or less up to the Magha invasion in the 12th century in this country was the unprecedented bond of national reconciliation that prevailed at that time. The sense of national reconciliation through a process of ethnic integration accepting both the realities of Sri Lankan society where Sinhalese were accepted and respected as the dominant ethnic group and the Sinhala King was accepted as the king of Lanka and Buddhism was also accepted and respected as the state religion of this Island by all and at the same time Tamil invaders who survived the war and left behind were also accepted by the Sinhalese as an integral part of the nation along with their religion and customs. There were no ethnic divisions and no one asked for a separate state. All countrymen accepted the authority of one king as the King of Lanka or Sinhala Deepa as it was known then. Of course there were regional viceroys or Kings but they all accepted King in Anurdhapura or subsequent Kingdoms as the King of the whole country.

There was social cohesion as there was intermarriage between Sinhalese and Tamils and Buddhism and Hinduism mingled in places of religious worship. No one used Language, culture or religion as a wedge between different ethnic groups. They were all used as a bridge for ethnic and social integration. Why can’t the present day Tamils and Muslims also follow the same line of thinking without setting the communal flame ablaze for their own political survival?  Isn’t it the Tamil politicians who have divided the nation from 1921 with the formation of the All Ceylon Tamil congress breaking away from the All Ceylon National Congress? Is it not people like Chelvanaygam who set fire to communal sentiments of the uneducated Tamils for their own political gain and brought suffering, destruction, despair and even death to Tamils in Sri Lanka? Why do we have political parties based on ethnicity, language or religion? Why can’t the Tamils and Muslims, like the Sinhalese try to get identified with national political parties san these divisive and emotional elements? The current communal and ultra chauvinist politics will never bring solace for them or the country as a whole at large. The need of the hour I think is a messiah for each of these minority groups who are prepared to learn from history and reality and be pragmatic rather than living in communal dream worlds and lead their communities to happiness and prosperity. Only such change in attitude could bring deliverance to their communities and peace and prosperity to everybody. Whether they like it or not every one of them has to finally accept the hard fact that this had been the Land of the Sinhalese at least from the 6th century BC.

The whole world knows majority of Lankan Tamils live outside the North and the East although there are few mono-Tamil areas in the North and East. I don’t think any of the Tamils who live in other areas among the Sinhalese want separation or EELAM. I only hope and wish that the forthcoming local election will set the pace for this historic change by rejecting communal politics so that the coming years and centuries will once again dawn an era of peace and prosperity for this Island nation. If that happens at this election year 2001 will go down as a watershed in the history of this Island nation and the present time and the period that follows will again be a repetition of history

I would like to invite those patriotic professional historians to put this perception in a more analytical and an in depth historical perspective so that it will be a part of our rich heritage in time to come.


5 Responses to “Can someone explain the secret of these two events in Sri Lankan history?”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    A fabulous article. Thank you Sudath.

    Just a trivial matter. The following does not sound right to me.

    “The forces under his command first cleared the whole of the Eastern Province starting with Toppigala and moved northwards tactfully and set the rhythm of the final onslaught on the enemy at Mavil aru.”

    This must refer to the 2006 successful attack on terrorists. If so it should be the other way around. If it was the 2 century BC event, it is true subject to name changes. Thoppigala was Kudumamalaya and Mavil Aru (rather Mahavil Oya) was not known by that name.

    There are more similarities.

    King Kavantissa is known to be a strategist. He avoided direct confrontation with Elara not because he didn’t want to eliminate this invader but due to the fact that many Sinhalese traitors supported him. This is another similarity between 175BC-161BC (14 year war) and 1976-2009 (33 year war). Building of the temple in strategically important Trincomalee area was aimed at creating a rift between South Indian non-Buddhist invaders and their Sinhala Buddhist supporters. This way he managed to block the second entry point of South Indians into the country.

    Mannar was the first entry point. After Elara’s army was decimated, his brother landed in Mannar with a 60,000 army in around 161BC. They were ambushed and decimated. However, Mannar was not functional for sometime following the tsunami in the west coast around 195BC. King Kavantissa made best use of the opportunity to block the remaining possible entry point of South Indian support troops which made Elara rely more on locals which was not as good as his loyal South Indians.

    The 2004 tsunami played a very big role in our defence. It washed out all Sea Tiger bases especially around strategically important Trincomalee. If you read parliamentary speeches just before the tsunami, Hon Lakshman Kadirgamar heavily emphasised the urgent need to protect Trincomalee. But his warnings fell on deaf human ears. But divine forces were listening. The tsunami devastated mostly the area LTTE and Tamil political parties call “Tamil homelands”. Largest casualties were from these areas. The entire Mualativu town and the surrounds were washed out. Deep bunkers became death traps and graves.

    The earliest mentioning of Kataragama is made in relation to prince Dutugemunu. He begged the good god to help his small army mostly of untrained fighters defeat Elara. His wish was granted. The grateful king assigned a large area in the south for the upkeep of the temple of the Guradian of the South and the island.

    In the east, LTTE controlled more coastal places than TMVP. LTTE camps were wiped out but not TMVP camps. These were inside jungles closer to SLA controlled areas. This gave us another huge advantage. Some of Elara’s commanders defected to the Sri Lankan side.

    Only after the tsunami did the SLN restarted regular patrols of eastern seas. Previously they were badly targetted by swams of Sea Tiger boats. To make matters better, the Supreme Court blocked the aid sharing nonsense with Tigers sealing the fate of tsunami affected areas in Tiger controlled areas (= no tsunami recovery for these areas). Security forces first captured tsunami affected areas – areas around Trinco, Vaharei, Pulmodei, etc. LRRP recommenced eliminating LTTE leaders along with this natural advantage.

    There are two other events that are possibily distorted by the Mahavamsa writer, a Buddhist monk. The king sent his loyal army commander who was conversant in Tamil and an able horseman) on a LRRP mission to kill the army commander of Elara. This fact has been intertwined in an innocent depiction in the history book may be to reduce the ruthlessness associated with such operations. History also says how certain influential non-Buddist commercial elemtents in Anuradhapura “simply vanished” when Velusumana so wished! Given the previous story, it is not difficult to see the connection.

    The story of the cow is another distortion. No cow can ring a bell or cause a bell to ring. What happened was Elara’s son killed a calf – no more than livestock – by riding his horse driven carriage negligently. Cows and calves were not considered holy in Sri Lanka especially before the Polonnaruwa era. People were angry. But they were intelligent too. They knew very well the future of the aging Elara rested on his son. If his son is eliminated, people’s favourite Dutugemunu will have it easy. For that reason people demanded that Elara put his son to death over a crime that never demanded paying with a human life. Knowing the gathering trouble from Dutugemunu, people’s hatred for an invader and lack of support for Buddhism, Elara saved himself by sacrificing his son. That saved his day but made Dutugemunu’s task easier than otherwise.

    LRRP teams first killed seond tier LTTE leaders leaving behind the easy targets of aging, unfit and cowardly men and women. Most of them were hiding in fox holes and dared not go to the battlefield unlike their hay days. It made things easier for security forces.

    After the war, king Dutugemunu agressively promoted Buddhism. Even the death of Elara and remains were used to promote Buddhism. The good king cleverly negotiated his way to spread Buddhism by mixing it with local beliefs.

  2. Chintha Says:

    All the people in the world cannot be decieved. There are great intelligent Americans too ,like him who don’t fall into cunning LTTE deception and FRAUD. And there are idiots who cough for LTTE money , truly disgusting.

  3. Nanda Says:

    Yes. In both instances, the key truth was Sinhala people were accomodating but Tamil invaders were the agressors. It was the Buddhism unified SriLanka and it will be the same in the future.

    Some brainless individuals who fled SriLanka and became atheists.Buddhism has become their enemy. They claim they are very very highly intelligent and Nibbana is the main culprit to our problems.
    They say Sinhala people are foolish to follow Buddhism.
    I am waiting for a comment from 1 =2.

  4. thurai Says:

    TNA is rest of the Tamil Invaders. TNA fight for gaining power over the majority Tamil living areas. They never considered about social and economic situation and development of their own community. If somone research
    about Hindu colonism we can find more truth.

  5. andylingam Says:

    Dr. Sudath Gunasekara
    When VP & co were holding North & East of Lanka We Tamil know very well this a temparary ( no point in comparing with King Eelalan’s kington at Polanaruvai).

    We are living in 21th century now their is no invaders in our mother lanka now ( eg:all living more than 5 ( five) years are citizon of country by land of Law).

    Hope & Pray
    We both communities live together for another 2400 years in Our Bhuddha’s holy land !
    & Our President & his 2/3 majority members of parliment will solve our ethenic problm in near future with out any out siders infulance.

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