Ignoring Vijithapura

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This is a article which appeared in the Saturday Magazine section of The Island news paper in 2008  which presented the location of the Vijithapura fort of King Dutugemunu and some other controversial ideas.

Satellite image of of the area covering the fort of Kaduruwela.

Satellite image of of the area covering the fort of Kaduruwela.

Map of VijithapuraI was rather intrigued and amused by the article on “Saving Galle and Ignoring Vijithapura” that appeared as a feature article in The Island of 5th March 2008. I have to state very clearly that Mr. B. H. Hemapriya had a designation of Asst. Secretary, Information that only dealt with reporting news of the ministry and by no stretch of imagination was associated with the discovery of the ancient city of Vijithapura that was a very important heritage site. However, I have to thank Mr. D. G. A. Perera for highlighting a very important heritage site that requires exposition both to Sri Lankans and foreigners as it would indicate our ancient civilisations that is more ancient than the countries in Europe but is of the same vintage as that of the countries in West Asia and Northern Indian Subcontinent and China. All these countries being in Asia that was the cradle of the world civilisation. Many European countries tend to ignore this in their ignorance and therefore necessary to publish that, specially our ancient Hydraulic civilisation. We were fortunate that we were on the cross roads of the sea shipping routes of Asia from the Eritrean sea on the west of us to the Bay of Bengal on the east of us.

I was fortunate and privileged to experience the joy of serendipity on several occasions, including the discoveries of several archaeologically rich sites in the course of using the new technique of Aerospace Surveys. In 1965, I was fortunate to discover the old Mahaweli river course that changed due to natural cataclysm in the 13th cent A. D. That resulted in the Ancient Hydraulic civilisation of the cradle of the Sinhalese civilisation in the dry zone to shift to the wet zone as a result of this natural cataclysm. Then in 1979, I was privileged to discover Sri Lanka’s oldest recorded city of Vijithapura with its three consecutive moats that enclosed an area of about 250 acres as indicated in our most ancient Chronicle as having existed in at least the 6th Century B.C. when King Vijaya conquered Sri Lanka. The third was in 1984 that I discovered the Ancient Sluice on the Maduru Oya bund of the B.C. period that was based on applied science and technology and now techniques of using Carbon 4 dating methods. These could all be referred in the Special Journal No XXVII of the Royal Asiatic Society titled “The Ancient Hydraulic Civilisation of Sri Lanka in Relation to its natural Resources.” As this feature article is on Vijithapura which is referred in pages 28 to 29 together with an aerial photograph of it together with a Map of Polonnaruwa indicating its location in relation to other close archaeological sites, and this is one of our heritage sites being the oldest city recorded.

I have taken the liberty of quoting same belong to the city of Vijithapura from which I quote namely.

“In 1979 I was engaged in a detailed study of the area that comes under the Mahaweli project and I came across what appeared to be a culturally distinct feature in the shape of a square surrounded by three consecutive moats yet visible on the Aerial Photograph encompassing an area of about 250 acres indicated in the aerial photo below.

This city was indeed the fortress of Vijithapura that was first mentioned in the chronicles, when King Vijaya established himself with his tribe in Sri Lanka in the 6th century B.C. Though many have searched but could not find this site, this fitted in the detailed description as it was also described in the chronicle, in the 2nd Century B.C. This discovery would have to be taken in the context that in the 6th Century B.C., the North Indian adventurer, Prince Vijaya and Aryan Prince conquered Sri Lanka and established Vijithapura that appears to have been an existing city.

The siege of Lanka was like that of Troy. The Yakkhas who were a civilised race, were engaged in revelry and getting ready to mark the marriage of the Kings daughter in his place, when Vijaya struck.


It is said that Prince Vijaya established five townships namely Upatisagama, Uijeni, Uruwela, Anuradhagama and Vijithapura (which was the Metropolis) named after his chief Generals. It would appear like all adventurers the conquerors would have taken over existing towns and given them new names of which Vijithapura was the foremost as it was city (pura). Vijithapura was the foremost metropolis of ancient Sri Lanka and is today in the outskirts of the famous ancient city of Polonnaruwa (see map for their relative position).

It must also be mentioned here that the chronicles mentions a city of Sri Lanka in pre-Vijayan times was known as Lankapura whose location is not known. One could speculate therefore whether it was an ancient port city of Lankapatuna or the city of Vijithapura in the outskirts of Polonnaruwa? Be that as it may.

It was later that Anuradhagama (village) became the Capital known as Anuradhapura in the 3rd century upgraded to a metropolis. The incursions form the western seaboard from India resulted in the capital oscillated between Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.

At this stage it is imperative that we identify King Elara with whom King Dutugemunu went to war as this war clearly describes the fortress of Vijithapura where a crucial battle took place in the outskirts of Polonnaruwa in the 2nd century B.C. and fully described in the Mahawamsa. During my recent visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran as a guest of the Iranian government, I was privileged to visit several ancient archaeological sites associated with the ancient Zoroastrian Persians.

The Zoroastrians were nature worshippers whose sacred symbol was the Lotus, as its roots were on mother earth, its stem in water, the flower bud in the air and blossoms with the light of the sun, all of which were sacred to them. They were also great respecters of fire worship that are kept in their temples with the fire burning every 24 hours of the day throughout the year perpetually. It was considered so sacred that no one could desecrate it by cremating their dead which was considered by them as a sacrilege.

Their dead were treated with great respect and washed and placed on the flat surface of a virtually raised flattened dome with no access to four legged animals with a central deep shaft like a well called the “Dakhmeh” so that the flesh of the dead are only consumed by vultures and the remnant bones deposited in the central deep well constructed for that purpose.

This was clearly the precursor of the Chetiya of the pre Buddhist era that is found in ancient Persia satraps of the Old Persia like in northern Indian sub continent in present Afghanistan in the North-western frontier and in northern Pakistan where the old Zoroastrian Persian customs prevailed and later the Buddhist Daghbor was based to safely preserve the sacred relics of the enlightened one as indicated by Sri Lanka’s most eminent archaeologist Prof. Senerath Paranavitana with a Chakra, the symbol of royalty.

What is of further interest is the significance of the Persian world “Elaha” when I visited Iran and discussed with Iranian scholars as to reveal meaning. They stated that it means GOD, and their Kings and Governors were given that epithet and were expected to be just and fair in their dealings and to have always a call bell at their bedstead so that citizens could ask for justice at any time.

It cleared the riddle of the identity of our own King Elara who had the same concepts of Justice and fairplay. The identity of King Elara of the Dutugemunu episode had always been in doubt by reputed scholars; it is clearly contestable because there were some Tamil scholars who believe that Elara was Tamil which is also translated in the Mahawamsa. As far as we are aware that the first authentic record that mentions Tamil was when King Gajabahu brought back our irrigation experts taken by force to Kaveri to build irrigation reservoirs in 115 AD, and was brought back together with 12000 Tamil slaves and settled them in the Dolosdahas Korale in the Ruhuna.

Then we have that Tamils who were not slaves is motioned in 7th Century A. D. inscription and therefore argued that Elara could not be a Tamil. We have reference to foreigners as “Demada” as translated by Tamil philologists as Tamil by changing the letter “DA” to “LA” and interpreting Demada as Demala which is Tamil. The riddle now appears to be resolved as Elera was not a Tamil but of Persian stock. These are all explained with illustrations in my forthcoming book on “The Sri Lankan Heritage and the Persian connection”.

It appears that the Greek Bachies who came here in the 4th Century BC as the forward troops of Alexander the Great and resided between the Kumbukkan Oya and the Menik ganga and had a shrine dedicated to their war God Alexander at Kataragama beside the Menik ganga. In fact Gotabaya had killed the dasa Bachies but Kelani Tissa’s queen was a bachie and begot a daughter, Vihara Maha Devi. Vihara Maha Devi was also married to the Naga King Kavantissa and established a new dynasty and is even depicted in a coin in which the railed swastika the symbol of the Naga King is indicated and on the obverse a lady in an abiseka posture standing on a boat, which appears to be representing her indicating a new Naga/Greek dynasty.

It is also interesting that both Dutugemunu and Vihara Maha Devi paid obeisance to the Kataragama War God before they set out to fight Elara who was three score and ten years old and challenged in single combat, the result of which could be expected. However to the credit of Dutugemunu he was cremated with great respect and decreed that anybody passes his pier show great respect by passing his cremation site in silence.

It is very unfortunate that the Archaeological Department that has a new Museum at Polonnaruwa, for reasons best known to them, have ignored the Ancient Heritage site of Vijithapura in Polonnaruwa as well as the Ancient Maduru Oya Heritage site indicating our Ancient Hydraulic Civilisation, possibly because they did not discover them, and it could only be explained if they have an hidden agenda for having done so.

by A. Denis N. Fernando
Fellow National Academy of Sciences
The Island

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