PORTRAIT OF A KING (Part 1) – By Bernard VanCuylenburg
Introduction to the article by Des Kelly…….
He is just a little tardy, on this subject, but peruse, as I might, I could not find a song dedicated to King Dhatusena, the “Warrior King” of ancient Lanka. Instead, I have chosen a song by Keerthi Pasquel, about the “Portugeesi-karaya”, who invaded Sri Lanka long after Dhatusena had achieved Nirvana (hopefully). Keerthi Pasquel would have to be one of the finest Sinhalese Vocalists in Sri Lanka right now.
He sounds superb, no matter what he sings, writes his own songs, also plays bass, lead & rhythm, probably has some Royal blood in his veins, and as far as I am concerned, might even be a direct “Descendant of Dhatusena”
Who knows ?, but read Bernard’s article folks. As usual, it is superbly written. Bernard’s ancestors, the Dutch, took over from the Portuguese, but that matters very little. He is truly an asset to eLanka, we are very proud of him, but don’t forget, folks, our “top website” cannot run on “love and fresh air”, so please “donate” whenever & whatever possible.
PORTRAIT OF A KING (Part 1) – By Bernard VanCuylenburg
The year was 432 AD – an ominous year for the resplendent island of Ceylon……. Storm clouds were gathering on the horizon and the people of this paradise isle were in for a long dark night. It was the year in which a massive invasion from South India led by a chief named Pandu took place. The King on the throne Mittasena , who had ruled only for one year was slain in battle and Pandu seized the throne. For the next twenty eight years until 460 AD, four Tamil Kings from South India ruled the land. When this invasion took place, there was a young “Samenera” or novice in robes residing in a “Pirivena” in the Mahavihara monastery in Anuradhapura. In fact he was a pupil of a Buddhist monk who was also his uncle. Mark his name well . It is a name which should be gilded in letters of gold and as fate decreed in a future time, he would rank as one of the finest rulers who ever sat on the throne of ancient Lanka. This was the young Dhatusena, a memberof the royal Moriya clan. Gifted with intelligence well above average, Dhatusena was no ordinary pupil . Whilst a novice at the monastery he had undergone the ceremony of world renunciation, but the change of political fortunes in the island stirred his young blood and his destiny deemed otherwise. The Moriyas were a powerful clan, and before long King Pandu became very suspicious of the young Dhatusena. His uncle felt however that he was too soft, and that living in a monastery, he would not know much about the world at large and could not develop into a natural leader. So he took Dhatusena to a vihara far from Anuradhapura – a vihara where there would be no enclosing walls and from where Dhatusena would develop his qualities for leadership.
It was a timely move. Scarcely had they left when soldiers of Pandu surrounded the monastery. Uncle and nephew ultimately ended up in distant Ruhuna, well beyond the reach of King Pandu and his soldiers. On this journey, something very prophetic happened when they attempted to cross the Kala -Oya river. The river was in flood, and the monk told Dhatusena – his words are recorded in the Culavamsa – ” Even as this river holds us back, so do thou in the future hold back its course by collecting its waters in a tank……”. Call this a sign, an omen, or whatever supernatural term one cares to use. I delight at the thought that this prophecy was fulfilled when Dhatusena on ascending the throne years later constructed the mighty Kalaweva tank. Meanwhile, King Pandu died in the fifth year of his rule . He was succeeded by his son Parinda who ruled only for three years and after his death his younger brother Khuddaparinda became King. By this time Dhatusena was raring to go, and came out with his followers in open rebellion. After Khuddaparindas death his successors, three Tamil prince’s Tiritara, Dathiya, and Pithiya ruled the throne, but all three were slain in battle by Dhatusena. The chronicler in the Culavamsa sums it up in no uncertain terms . He wrote “Thus the race of the Damilas were annihilated in battle with Dhatusena…”
Finally, after a long dark night of twenty eight years, the fear, gloom and despair that had gripped the island disappeared when happiness and hope blossomed once more, and Dhatusena was crowned King in Anuradhapura in 460 AD. The chronicler in the Culavamsa wrote thus “Now the lord of men Dhatusena became King in Lanka…” Dhatusena was one King who single handedly organiszed an army to expel the invader. Six “invaders” to be precise. Once again, let the chronicler of the Culavamsa take over from me and expand on how Dhatusena began his noble rule. ” Having cleared the country of the invader and making her inhabitants happy, he restored to its former place ‘The Order’ (That is, the Buddhist clergy) which had been destroyed by the foe. But those who had attached themselves to the Damilas, he deprived of their villages. To the people who supported him he showed fitting honour and esteem, and to his ministers the companions of his misfortune, he brought contentment. After he had provided the Mahavihara with bands of ornaments, he had a house worthy to behold erected for the Bodhi Tree….”
Sometimes it is interesting to draw a timeline when events like this occur. When the young prince Dhatusena ascended the throne, in far away Europe the Romans had already withdrawn from Britain. They partially re-occupied the country from 417 – 427 AD, and again in 450 AD. In imperial Rome in the twilight years of that once mighty coloniser, Emperor Valentian 3rd ruled the empire. In the East the powerful Jin dynasty took control of China. Pope Leo1st sat on the throne of St.Peter in the Vatican. King Yazdagird 2nd of the Sassanid dynasty ruled the powerful Persian empire. I mention this in the light of ancient Ceylon’s trade with the West. Dhatusena however focused his foreign policy on the East and increased trade with that part of the world.
(To be continued…..)