Kuveni remembered at this time
Posted on May 13th, 2017

Courtesy Ceylon Today

Kuveni is remembered or should be at this time of year as it is written in historical texts of the island that Prince Vijaya landed in Tambapanni (proximate to present day Chilaw) on the day of Buddha’s Parinibbana dated variously, but usually accepted as 503 BC. Hence while Vesak commemorates the most important dates in the life of the Buddha, it is significant to the island and the Sinhala race that our origin could be traced to the meeting of Kuveni with Vijaya, the day he landed in this island having been banished from Bengal but now believed to be from Odissa on the full moon day in the fifth month of the calendar we follow.

Kuveni, also known as Sesapathi, was a Yakshini queen mentioned in the ancient Pali chronicles Mahavamsa and Dipavamsa, the primary source for her life-story being the former history mixed with legend. She is venerated as Maha Loku Kiriammaleththo by the Veddahs.

Kuveni and Vijaya

Kuveni is said to have been spinning when she got the news of the landing of a huge contingent of sailors. This is a pointer to the fact that the island had an ancient civilization. Legend has it that she possessed witchcraft and so enticed the Prince who was brought to her as a 16 year old beauty. Kumari does not hold with such a tale. She prefers to believe that Kuveni, perhaps older than the newly arrived prince, was attractive enough since Vijaya knew how to do best for himself as later events proved.

He would have thought it judicious, naturally, to be attracted by the woman who was the virtual ruler of the place. The abundance of her area is proven by the fact that she ordered that all 700 followers of Vijaya be fed, housed and clothed. Kuveni, falling in love with him, offered to share her reign. He soon took over as king and after having two children by Kuveni, banished her. The story has it that he banished only her, wanting the two children, son Jeevahatta and daughter Disala to remain with him. However, she took them with her and they are supposed to be the progenitors of the Veddas – Sri Lanka’s aboriginal population. According to the Mahavamsa, Vijaya encountered God Sumana Saman on landing, who, according to legend, was charged by the dying Buddha with looking after the island of Lanka and also Vijaya and his descendants.


Kuveni was herself a traitor. Lanka, when approached by Vijaya and his 700 men had three gothras or tribes: Deva, Naga and Raksha, The first were the administrators, the Naga carrying out tasks delegated to them and the Raksha metal smiths, regarded as a descendant of the Rakshas of the Ramayana and of Ravana. Due to her consorting with Vijaya, Kuveni’s people were angered. Thus, once Vijaya was established as the ruler to the Raksha domain, she got him to command his 700 fellow Indians to slaughter the Rakshas to save herself. When banished by Vijaya from his palace, she went back to the remnants of her clan. She was killed by them, one legend avows. The two children were left in the forest glades of Bambawa of the North West region in Sri Lanka. And when the mother did not return they trekked towards Sabaragamuwa.

An alternative tale is that Kuveni flung herself from Yakdessa Gala, imploring the Gods to curse Vijaya for his cruelty and implored that none of his sons would rule the land. Interestingly the curse held since Vijaya had no children by his Indian wife.

Kuvenis ghost

Kumari remembers holidays spent with a brother long ago in Anamaduwa. Travelling to Puttalam, one passed a place called Thonigala. By the roadside was a single large boulder.The little child was told that on moonlit nights the ghost of weeping Kuveni would be seen on the rock. Kumari was terrified and remembers she would close her eyes until the car went well past Thonigala.

Night travel was often, because her brother had friends in Puttalam who would invite him and his very young pair of siblings to dinner. This necessitated a drive of about 17 miles in pitch darkness except for the car lights and pairs of glistening jewels – eyes of animals emerged from the jungle to the road. Elephants were very common, hence the journey home to the government bungalow at Anamaduwa was hazardous with wild animals in their numbers, plus a reputed wailing ghost on a rock.

That apart, Kuveni’s tale is tragic but all too common even in this day and age. How many women have been betrayed by lovers and husbands? No wonder her curse seemed to have worked. Although Vijaya chased Kuveni away to install a princess from India as his bride, his progeny did not ascend the throne fought for and created by him from the portion in the north western part of the island, bestowed on him by Kuveni.

He ruled for 38 years (543-505 BC). Having no children from his Indian queen, he sent a message to his twin brother Sumitta in India to come over to rule the newly acquired land. But Sumitta was too ill so he sent his son to Lanka. Upathissa, his chief minister ruled for one year from 505- 504. Then Panduwasa Deva, Sumitta’s elder son, ruled (504-474) and after him the crown of the region went to second son Abhaya (474- 454). Anuradhapura Kingdom

Pandukabhaya – grandson of Panduwasa- was the next king for 70 years (437- 367 BC) when the capital was moved to Anuradhapura and thus the beginning of the Anuradhapura Kingdom.

The curse of Kuveni is interesting, two pronged as it was against Vijaya and her own people. Some people believe that it still holds.

Why else is Sri Lanka eternally in trouble? The late dramatist, Henry Jayasena, created a stylized play by the title Kuveni which ended with the startling silhouette of a black figure with raised arms and outstretched finger against a red backdrop.

– Kumari

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.



Copyright © 2023 LankaWeb.com. All Rights Reserved. Powered by Wordpress