Posted on June 11th, 2020


Revised 21.6.20

Historians agree that between the rule of King Devanam Piyatissa (247-207 BC) and king Dutugemunu, (161-137) there was a separate kingdom in Ruhuna. The founder of this Ruhuna kingdom was king Mahanaga, brother of Devanampiyatissa.

Mahanaga left Anuradhapura after a disagreement with his brother and set up a separate kingdom in Ruhuna, with the capital at Magama. This kingdom continued until Dutugemunu went up to Anuradhapura, kicked Elara out and   united the two kingdoms. The Ruhuna kingdom was in existence therefore from 3rd century BC to 2nd century AD.

Historians heartily agreed that there was a significant kingdom in Ruhuna, but avoided researching deeply into the kingdom. It did not seem important, attention was on Anuradhapura.  Ven. Ellawala Medhananda, however, while exploring the Buddhist ruins of the present day Eastern Province, came face to face with the Ruhuna kingdom. Madanakanda inscription spoke of an eastern kingdom, said Medhananda.

Medhananda has researched into two aspects of the Ruhuna kingdom, its boundaries and its kings. Medhananda said ‘I explored theRuhuna area on foot, staying in caves in forests.  It was scary but also interesting. Ruhuna history is interesting. Whenever they were in trouble, at Anuradhapura, not only princes but also monks ran to Ruhuna’.  This Ruhuna was the Ruhuna settlement of Baddhacacchana, said Medhananda.

The Ruhuna of the Magama kings was a very fertile area, said Medhananda. Medhananda had looked for Talapat   wewa, mentioned in the inscriptions, but could not find it. It was not recorded anywhere.   Digamadulla in ancient times included Ampara and Batticaloa. Gal Oya was the boundary between Ruhuna and Pihiti, added Medhananda.

The Magama kingdom did not start in the Tissamaharama – Kirinde area said Medhananda.  He had explored that area. There are absolutely no contemporaneous inscriptions of the early Magama kings south of the Kumbukkan oya. But there were plenty of inscriptions north of Kumbukkan oya. Indicating that the Magama kings ruled north of Kumbukkan oya.

The first Ruhuna settlement was north of Kumbukkan oya towards Heda oya, declared Medhananda.   The evidence lies in the Magul Maha vihara, Lahugala. This vihara was known as Ruhunu Maha vihara. I decided that Magul Maha Vihara was called Ruhunu Maha Vihara because it was the main temple within the Ruhunu kingdom. Medhananda   found that the word ‘Ruhuna’ was not mentioned in inscriptions from Kirivehera, Tissamaharama, Yatala, Situlpavva, or in the viharas in Yala, like Akasa chetiya.

The original Ruhuna settlement thereafter extended over Hulannuge, Karandahela, Lahugala,    and upwards to Pottuvil and Dighavapi, said Medhananda.  Malyadikanda inscription, found by Medhananda, showed that Dighavapi was known as the’ pracheena rajya’ or ‘eastern kingdom’.  Medhananda also found an inscription which spoke of ‘Dighavapi porana’ (nagara) and about the traders there.

The capital, Magama, Medhananda speculated, was at Pottuvil near the 15th milepost. Medhananda said that at this milepost there is a small village called Magama in the map. Also at Vettumbagala close by there was an inscription which referred to the Magama kings .Namaluva, also close by, threw up an inscription which referred to ‘Mahagama’.  Rohana kingdom was not very large then, Medhananda observed. Yalpota  was a  important  village in Magama.

According to Medhananda, therefore, the original Ruhuna kingdom was a small one, situated bang in the middle of the present day Eastern province. Inscriptions show that   the middle of the present Eastern province contains the history of the [first] three Magama kings, said Medhananda. 

While the Magama kings were ruling in Ruhuna, there was a smaller kingdom in Kataragama ruled by a family of ten brothers, the ‘Kataragama dasa be’. They were there from the time of king Devanampiyatissa. Their capital was at Tissamaharama. Their symbol was the fish. This symbol could be seen in Henanegala inscription and elsewhere.   

Bowattegala, Kotademuhela, Budupatunkanda inscriptions gave information on these Kataragama rulers. Bowattegala inscription spoke of the Kataragama family, including their great grandson, Mahatisa.  Mahatisa would later be the father of Vihara Maha Devi. Budupatunkanda cave inscription showed that the Kataragama family was powerful in their area.

Contemporaneous inscriptions for Mahanama and Gotabaya were all found north of Kumbukkan oya, I did not find a single inscription south of Kumbukkan oya, said Medhananda. I decided therefore that the Kataragama family ruled Kumbukkan south and   Magama family ruled Kumbukkan north, said Medhananda. This writer, (Kamalika Pieris) found an observation from historian R.A.L.H. Gunawardene that Kataragama kings ruled between Kumbukkan oya and Menik Ganga.

There appears to have been some contact between the two ruling families. Henanegala inscription had valuable information on the Magama kings interaction with Kataragama kings, said Medhananda. Kotahamula inscription, a little away from Bowattegala, also indicated a link between the Kataragama royal family and Mahanaga royal family.

Inscriptions indicated that king Gotabaya thereafter entered the Kataragama area and eventually took it over.   Inscriptions found on the left bank of Kumbukkan showed that his power was expanding, said Medhananda. Mahavamsa said he killed them.

Medhananda found that inscriptions of Kavantissa were found south of Kumbukkan oya. It appears therefore that Kavantissa had   taken over the administration of the Kataragama territory. Kavantissa also took over several small principalities ruled by minor princes, said Medhananda.  In this way, Kavantissa united Ruhuna under him. The capital of Ruhuna then moved to Tissamaharama. The Ruhuna kingdom which was of such historical importance under Dutugemunu had been created.

Medhananda has given us vital information on the rulers of Ruhuna, also some nice personal information. He may be the first to do so. The information was taken from the inscriptions he had collected. 

These inscriptions indicated that there was a clear, uninterrupted, succession of five kings in the Ruhuna kingdom.  The succession was Mahanaga, his son Yatalatissa, his second son, Gotabhaya,   Gotabhaya’s son Kavantissa and Kavantissa’s son, Dutugemunu.   Medhananda states firmly that   Gotabaya and Yatalatissa were brothers, the sons of Mahanama. They were not father and son as the Mahavamsa said.

Medhananda had found inscriptions   that were decisive. The first of these is the cave inscription at Ahugoda Raja Maha Vihara.  This inscription gave the succession from Mahanaga to Dutugemunu in one sentence. The inscription said Mahanaga, son Gotabhaya, son   Kavantissa, son Dutugemunu”.Samangala aranya inscription spoke of uparaja Mahanaga, the brother of Devanam piyatissa’, kings Gotabhaya and Kavantissa and Saddhatissa. Such inscriptions are rare, said Medhananda.

There were other inscriptions. Malayadi kanda vihara, Ampara inscription speaks of the royal line, Mahanaga,         Gotabaya,        Kavantissa.  It says Yatalatissa was Mahanaga’s son.  Kusalan kanda Inscription speaks of Mahanaga king of Magama, followed by mention of     Gotabhaya and Kavantissa.  Kudulupothana malai   inscription   speaks of king Gotabaya and king Kavantissa. Henannegala len vihara inscription said that Gotabaya ruled Ruhuna south and Yatalatissa ruled the north. They were brothers.   

Malayadi kanda inscription said that during the rule of Mahanaga, his son Yatalatissa ruled Dighavapi, then it was ruled by Gotabaya and Kavantissa. Thereafter Dighavapi  was ruled by Saddhatissa.   Inscription at   Piyakalutota vihara ( near Rugam wewa)  said thatYatalatissa was administering Digamadulla, when Mahanaga was king.     

The inscriptions  found by Medhananda  also  gave information on the viharas constructed by these Magama  kings. Illuppiti Raja Maha Vihara, Gal oya, inscription  stated  that the vihara was built by king Mahanaga. Inscription at   Piyakalutota vihara shows that Yatalatissa built it.

Inscriptions such as Malayadikanda provided  information on Kavantissa,. Kavantissa had built many arama  in Dighavapi when he was ‘ruling’ there before he became king. Inscriptions also showed that Kavantissa had established Kudimbigala, Habutagala vihara and Ilupitikande vihara.  Habutagala was in Hulannuge, Ilupitikande near Hingurana sugar factory.

Medhananda decided that the swastika-on-stand  appearing in inscriptions  which mentioned Kavantissa, was the signature of king Kavantissa. It was there on several  caves.   Henanegala  and Karanda hela vihara, Hulannuge    had this in their inscription s. it was   cut into  the rock at Habutagala vihara.

Medhananda found several inscriptions on Vihara Maha Devi,. Madanakanda len arama inscription said that this cave was donated by the queen of Pachina bhumiya  , Abi Shavera, the daughter of king Damaraja’ son, Mahathisa,   and mother of   the ruler of the east. This valuable inscription  is not protected observed Medhananda .

Paranavitana’s findings on Vihara Maha Devi are confirmed in the Malyadikanda inscription, said Medhananda. It stated that after Kavantissa died, Viharamaha Devi had come to Dighavapi   and became a nun. The inscription found at Mundikulammalai refers to Shavera Shamani, which may be a reference  to Vihara Maha Devi, said Medhananda . 

Medhananda said that Ampara had lots of inscriptions  on Vihara Maha Devi, on how she came to Digamadulla,  to become an upasika. Medhananda found an inscription at Mahanahera cave,  Mullikulam on this subject. The cave was being broken up , Medhananda had managed to stop this and had taken down the inscription .

Medhananda said he founda lot of inscriptions on Dutugemunu and Saddhatissa. Samangala inscription spoke of Saddhatissa . In this collection, Medhananda found inscriptions  giving information on the family of king Dutugemunu. Piyangala inscription  said that Dutugemunu’s wife’s name  was Rajitha and that  Dutugemunu’s  daughter was married to Sunama, son of Nandimitra. Katupotakande  inscription  refers to a gal lena gifted by Dutugemunu..

Medhananda also provides us with  information on  Dutugemunu’s  ‘dasa maha yodayo’ .Medhananda  said in our society we view the story of Dutugamunu’s Dasa maha yodayo with derision.  Most see these as hilarious stories invented by the vamsa writers. But Medhananda found inscriptional evidence to show that at least one of the yodayo, Nandimitra was a historical person. Diyatitta wewa inscription states that Nandimitra was a Senepati of Dutugemunu.

Medhananda found many inscriptions, in places like Horowopotana, Korawakgala, Vavuniya, Periyapuliyankulam, Piyangala  which gave information on Nandimitra.  These inscriptions give  full information on Nandimitra’s lineage on father’s side, and  information on his wife and  daughter. He had two wives.  They were called Pussa and Ihana.    Beravayam kande inscription gave the  lineage of Nandimitra’s wife and his own.

Omunugala   had inscriptions on Nandimitra. His daughter  Gutta was married to Prince Tilakana. I was the first to find this and record this in newspapers, said Medhananda . Another inscription was on a donation from daughter of Nandimitra. An inscription found at Maha kachcha kodiya vihara.( Vavuniya) showed that  the descendants of Nandimitra were active there. Omunugala inscription indicated that  Nandimitra’s descendants lived there as well.

In an interview given to Sunday Observer in 2007, Medhananda provided more information on Nandimitra. Medhananda said he had gone to Diyatitta Wewa, a mountainous area bordering the Eastern province, to encourage villagers there to remain in the threatened village. Medhananda then stumbled upon a rock-inscription at the cave of the Buddhist monk of the village temple, leading to the finding of a series of rock-inscriptions in that mountainous and rather scarcely inhabited area.

Medhananda discovered 30 rock-inscriptions in the mountain range of Diyatitta Wewa, Madaya Kanda and Berawaya Kanda.   The rock-inscriptions showed that Nandimitra, was descended from a lineage of commanders. Nandimitra’s father, was a Senapati, and his mother’s name was Sunama. Nandimitra’s wife was Kusha, daughter of Sata Natata. This was  mentioned in three rock-inscriptions, Diyatitta Wewa, Berawaya Kanda and Maha Cachakodiya.  

Nandimitra’s daughter Upassica Gutta, was married to  prince Tilakana .  Nandimitra’s son was Duta Sumana, an ambassador. His son, as mentioned in Piyangala and Tonigala rock-inscriptions, was Padumaca Abaya. An inscription  found by Medhananda  at  Maha kachcha kodiya vihara, Vavuniya indicated that the descendants of Nandimitra had operated there.

 Paranavitana and Medhananda have looked at the implications of these inscriptions. There have  been three  sets of rulers in Ruhuna in Magama time,,  the Magama kings, Kataragama kings and the   Kelanitissa kings. ( The   history of the Kelanitissa kings  is well known, I am not relating it here.)

The Kelaniya referred to here, is considered to have been situated in Ruhuna itself, not the modern Kelaniya near Colombo. It was not possible for Vihara Maha Devi to come from Colombo all the way to Magama in a boat, without drowning on the way. Vihara Maha Devi was put to sea in Ruhuna and had come ashore at  Pottuvil, said Medhananda .

Paranavitana thought that there was a close connection between Anuradhapura royal family and  the Kataragama royal family. He thought they were related. Medhananda agreed. The Kelanitissa clan is  also linked to Anuradhapura clan,  said Medhananda . There is an  inscription at Yatala vihara, Kegalle which proves this. The Magama kings were of course,  part of the Anuradhapura royalty. Therefore  the  marriage between Kavantissa and Vihara Maha Devi simply  brought together two strands of the same family. This means that during  the Ruhuna period, the north, south and east of Sri Lanka  were all ruled by one single Sinhala royal family, concluded Medhananda .  ( continued)


  • Medhananda  interpreted the word ‘Javacanaya’, in  the rock-inscription at Pottaya Kallu (near Omari at Kanchi kudichchiaru)  seen earlier by Paranavitana, to mean,‘Navicanaya‘ suggesting that  king Mahanaga had  once served as a  naval leader. Subsequent inscriptions  had proved that Mahanaga had served in the Puttalam District as a naval leader prior to his  departure to Ruhuna.  
  • Rugam piyakaluta vihara  inscription showed that Mahanaga has been the  yuva raja in Magama, and Yatalatissa was ruler of Digamadulla. He  had set up an aramaya there.
  • Inscription at Kadolupotana kanda ,Eravur had been destroyed. But Medhananda had found three cave inscriptions which showed that this area was under Kavantissa.
  • Udagala Dagoba Inscription dated to 9  century AD refers to Dutugemunu.

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