Lanka and Kalinga

Sauvrav said “ I did my schooling in Orissa and there is no mention of any thing remotely Sri Lankan in their school textbooks. The other day i was talking to a friend who is a oriya and he laughed it off as myth

Many references to Kalinga in Sri Lanka primarily the Mahavamsa and Culavamsa and the Rock edicts of Nissanka Malla (1187–1196)

The Coming of Vijaya (Mahavamsa Chapter 6)
In the country of the Vangas[1] in the Vanga capital there lived once a king of the Vangas. The daughter of the king of the Kalingas was that king’s consort.

Nissanka Malla (1187–1196)
Son of Queen Parvati and King Jayagopa. This is mentioned in a rock inscription made by Nissanka Malla at Galpota. This inscription describes Jayagopa as being the reigning king of Sinhapura.  Nissanka Malla had two wives named Kalinga Subadradevi and Gangavamsa Kalyanamahadevi.[2] He was also a son-in-law or nephew of Parākramabāhu

Magha of Kalinga (Culavamsa CHAPTER LXXX: THE SIXTEEN KINGS 58-62)
of the day lotuses ? that is of peace ? (a man) by name Magha, an unjust king sprung from the Kalinga line, in whom reflection was fooled by his great delusion, landed as leader of four and twenty thousand warriors from the Kalinga country and conquered the island of Lanka. The great scorching fire ? King Magha ? commanded his countless flames of fire ? his warriors ? to harass the great forest ? the kingdom of Lanka3. While thus his great warriors oppressed the people, boasting cruelly everywhere: “We are Kerala warriors”, they tore from the people their garments, their ornaments and the like, corrupted the good morals of the
The reference is raw OCR

Mahavamsa and Culavamsa are one of the longest continuous histories. Oral tradition since 3rd century BC and written down in 6th century AD.  It has a consistent dating system, i.e from the death of the Buddha. To quote “It is very important in dating the consecration of the Maurya emperor Asoka,”

Asoka had been lost in India. He was found and identified and dated using the Mahavamsa.

To quote from the Mahavamsa Chapter 5; This Chapter references the Moriyas, Bindusara and Chandragupta among others.
Be it known, that two hundred and eighteen years had passed from the nibbana of the Master unto Asoka’s consecration.

Excerpt from a review of Allens two books by my Uni batch mate Sunil Koswatta.

The story of how Lankan chronicles helped British orientalists discover India’s lost emperor Ashoka

James Prinsep (1799-1840) in his excursions in North India, he and his colleagues like Alexander Cunningham, had come across many an inscription where the letters were clearly inscribed but the Indian scholars whom he and others before him had consulted had been unable to help as they had completely lost knowledge of the alphabet in which these inscriptions were written.

It is said that during medieval times Firoz Shah Tugluk who shifted the Asokan pillars from Topra and Meerut to Delhi invited scholars to read them and none was able to do so.

By this time, scholars studying Indian antiquities had progressed a great deal in the study of Sanskrit, the great classical language of India, and understanding what the inscriptions had recorded did not pose much of a problem. It was clear to Prinsep that the authority who had got these inscriptions installed was a King (raja) calling himself Devanampiya, literally meaning ” the beloved of the gods.” But what was baffling Prinsep and his associates of the Bengal RAS was, who was this Devanampiya Raja?

From his readings of the Mahavamsa and its commentary, the Mahavamsa Tika, Turnour knew of a king named Devanampiya Tissa. This fact was intimated to Prinsep who, not knowing the details contained initially believed that the edicts in North India had been installed by the Sri Lankan king in his overwhelming devotion to the new faith. Not long afterwards Prinsep came across an inscription of a grandson of that Devanampiya Raja and realized that the personage in question was an Indian ruler. Turnor in the meantime having read the Buddhist mission to Lanka, communicated to Prinsep that the Devanampiya Raja of the Indian inscriptions was none other than Dharmasoka, the “patron” of Devanampiya Tissa who had bestowed many gifts, including a second consecration on Mayuryan models and the title Devanampiya on his colleague, the ruler of the small island kingdom called Tambapanni off the southern tip of Jambudvipa.

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I am 3/4ths Sri Lankan (Jaffna) Tamil, 1/8th Sinhalese and 1/8th Irish; a proper mutt. Maternal: Grandfather a Govt Surveyor married my grandmother of Sinhalese/Irish descent from the deep south, in the early 1900’s. They lived in the deep South, are generally considered Sinhalese and look Eurasian (common among upper class Sinhalese). They were Anglicans (Church of England), became Evangelical Christians (AOG) in 1940's, and built the first Evangelical church in the South. Paternal: Sri Lanka (Jaffna Tamil). Paternal ancestors converted to Catholicism during Portuguese rule (1500's), went back to being Hindu and then became Methodists (and Anglicans) around 1850 (ggfather). They were Administrators and translators to the British, poets and writers in Tamil and English. Grandfathers sister was the first female Tamil novelist of modern times I was brought up as an Evangelical even attending Bible study till about the age of 13. Agnostic and later atheist. I studied in Sinhala, did a Bachelor in Chemistry and Physics in Sri Lanka. Then did Oceanography graduate stuff and research in the US. I am about 60 years old, no kids, widower. Sri Lankan citizen (no dual) and been back in SL since 2012. Live in small village near a National Park, run a very small budget guest house and try to do some agriculture that can survive the Elephants, monkeys and wild boar incursions. I am not really anonymous, a little digging and you can find my identity.

21 thoughts on “Lanka and Kalinga”

  1. Thanks sbarrkum. I was always fascinated about the reason why Ashoka was forgotten in India, even though this grand father was remembered. Do you have any theories on that ?
    Just to add similar to the confusion on Devanampiya as to who he was , Priyadarshi was another name used by Ashoka and i think they found edicts in Karnataka which was initially thought were of some Kannadiga king only to later found out to be of Ashoka’s.

    1. I dont think even Chandragupta was remembered. Any text (in India) before the 18th century that mentions Chandragupta Mauyra.

      My theory was the Mauyras and Nandas (Shudra’s) did not fit the righteous Hindu Vedic King narrative. So the keepers of tradition/history just erased them from history.
      Also possible compounding issue was that most of edicts were probably in Pali, so unreadable to scholars versed in Sanskrit.

      1. Fascinating information. Its remarkable how cultures turn inwards quickly, only relying on holy texts and priestly traditions to maintain culture and losing curiosity of understanding unknowns all around us. This happened time and time again in all places.

        1. Shafiq, The Mahavamsa is not a holy text. Its a record of history of Lanka and to some extent Buddhism.
          There is nothing in text (or Buddhism in general) that says do not be curious or read other views.

          1. I did not mean people in Lanka, I meant people in North India. It’s remarkable that a whole written, official, widely spread language like Pali and history of emperors like Ashoka would nearly vanish from a culture.

          2. @Shafiq

            It’s remarkable that a whole written, official, widely spread language like Pali and history of emperors like Ashoka would nearly vanish from a culture.

            The history did not vanish obviously (if one was willing to look for it). We have a lot of epigraphic evidence of Mauryan Empire all over South Asia.

            However, cultural memory of the Mauryans was erased (barring a few telltale cultural “signatures”), but that happened in other human cultures too. Iranians of 18c had not the slightest clue of the Achaemenids (Darius, Cyrus, the works) and obviously couldn’t read the cuneiform (let alone decipher Old Persian). Most even now don’t know anything of Old Persian – certainly not in the way Indians know Sanskrit or Greeks know Classical Greek. The Chinese cultural memory of Qin was erased too – their country’s name “China” is from the Sanskrit term “maha chIna” (Great Qin) used to refer to the Qin state – rather than a direct continuation. Heck, even the Colosseum was little more than a bucolic pig sty by 18c!

            The modern (post-Enlightenment) growth of knowledge is unprecedented in human history. Your surprise at the vanishing of an entire culture is a byproduct of the remarkable age you happen to be living in.

      2. Well you can say Chandragupta was not forgotten in sense that people knew who Kautilya was. Even the later Gupta kings history are really known from their edicts and to a certain extent to the plays and poems written about them. I dont think they had any recorded history similar to Mahavamsa.

        I do think there is truth to shudras origin might be a reason for them being overlooked , it might not be a Vedic hindu king thing since you have history of Jain and Buddhist king not being forgotten. It might be a class/caste thing rather than a religious thing after all.

        P.S The current economic adviser of India by the name of Sanjeev Sanyal hypothesis that Ashoka is probably not remembered because he was either not seen as a spectacular king in India tradition or his glories are exaggerated both in Mahavamsa and British/Marxist/Secular historiography in India

        @Shafiq The same guy also wrote a book on India’s flourishing trading relationship with SE asia and Arabia(pre islam) and he too struggles with the same question of “how cultures turn inwards quickly, only relying on holy texts and priestly traditions to maintain culture and losing curiosity of understanding unknowns all around us.”

        1. I’ve heard Sanjeev Sanyal make that hypothesis about Ashoka. According to his interpretations of the Ashokan edicts, the king’s conversion to Buddhism was skin-deep, and was done purely to serve a political purpose. Sanyal says that Ashoka likely had no remorse over the Kalinga conquest and was perfectly ready to put down dissent in his domains by force. So (a lot of) the public treated him as a tyrant and promptly tried to forget his rule.

          I have no way of evaluating these claims, but the fact that the Mauryan Empire disintegerated very soon after his death (the Sungas came into power after murdering Ashoka’s heir IIRC) suggests that Sanyal may be on to something. Another ruler I can think of who was treated as a tyrant by most of his subjects, and who squandered the legacy of his ancestors, was Aurangzeb.

          1. During Aurangzeb’s reign the Mughal Empire was at its greatest extent geographically. It was after his death that things started to fall apart.

  2. Good Article.

    “Asoka had been lost in India. He was found and identified and dated using the Mahavamsa.”

    Even Gautam Buddha was lost in India. Cunningham was the one to link Buddha and India.

  3. Pawan, how was Buddha lost to India? This sounds like post modernist revisionist fantasy.

    Many Sanskrit scholars and schools of learning teach about the ten Darshanas. Buddhism is part of the education of Sanathana Dharma traditional scholars.

    Plus Buddhists have been continually part of the great Hindu bodies for thousands of years (including the Akhara), especially the Tibetan Buddhists.

    Numinous, I think that Alexander the Great, Cyrus the Great, Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka all lived earlier than currently believed. Some believe that Chandragupta of the Gupta dynasty was a contemporary of Alexander rather than Chandragupta Maurya.

    If this is true the Mahavamsha and prince Vijaya might be much older than we think. All of this needs much more research.

    sbarrkum, please write more about Mahavamsha.

    During the Islamist Jihadi (did not say muslim) invasion and destruction of Bharat; almost all historical documents, texts, universities, libraries were destroyed. This is why reconstructing Bharatiya and Arya history is challenging.

  4. Slapstick
    Any comparisons of the Rajathangini to the Mahavamsa.

    To quote from wiki
    a) Sanskrit by Kashmiri historian Kalhana in the 12th century CE
    b) inaccurate in its chronology, the book still provides an invaluable source of information about early Kashmir

    Just for comparison, the Mahavamsa was written in 6AD. The even older texts are the Sinhala Athakatha (Athakatha=true stories) and Dipavamsa (dipa=light/island vamsa=heritage).

    Unhappily the Dipavamsa and Sinhala Athakatha are not online. I have a translation of the Dipavamsa somewhere in a box at my sisters house.

      1. Thanks Vijay for the Dipavamsa link.
        Quick skim references to Asoka, Chandragupta. Half of the book is about India.
        No reference to Kalinga.

        Each work represented, of course, their
        common subject in its own way, the Dipavamsa following
        step by step and almost word for word the traces of the
        original, the Mahavamsa proceeding with much greater
        independence and perfect literary mastership. The Dipavamsa,
        as regards its style and its grammatical peculiarities,
        betrays the characteristics of an age in which the
        Sinhalese first tried to write in the dialect of the sacred
        texts brought over from India; there are passages in the
        Dipavamsa which remind us of the first clumsy attempts
        of the ancient German tribes, to write Latin. The Mah&-
        vamsa is composed very differently; its author masters
        the Pali grammar and style with a perfect ease which
        cannot have been acquired but after many fruitless at-^
        tempts, and which may be compared with the elegant
        mastership of Latin composition by which the Italian poets
        and scholars of the renaissance excelled.

    1. I am not knowledgeable about mahavaMsa so not the ideal person to comment.

      Regarding the accuracy of the chronology reported by rAjataraGgiNI, it depends on which period one focuses on. Typically the corpus is on very strong ground from 7c onwards. E.g. it faithfully records the invasions by hUNa (huns) and writes of the hUNa king (mihirakula) as especially ill-disposed to bauddhAH (buddhists). This is corroborated by various Indian, Central Asian and Chinese Buddhist texts.

      The account in rAjataraGgiNI shows that the local population (including brahmins) of Kashmir was extremely well-disposed towards Buddhism and the chronicle contains various examples of this. Buddhism survived well into Kalhana’s own time.

  5. Time to put the myth of tolerant multicultural ancient India to rest.

    In his new book, D.N. Jha shows that not only did Brahmanical sects fight each other, they were also intolerant towards other heterodox religions like Buddhism and Jainism.
    Jha’s collection of essays, Against the Grain, is a timely reminder of how perilously close we have come to forgetting historical veracity. Touching upon a range of controversial subjects under labels like “cow conundrum, Bharatmata, Brahmanical intolerance in early India,” Jha debunks the myths that once constructed by the Sangh parivar, are now routinely fed to students in classrooms and the public at large.

      1. It’s very easy to call those whose ideas you disagree with “post modernist” and “Marxist”. Harder to argue with their facts. I haven’t read Jha’s book or the review (plan to read the review shortly), but if it is so obviously incorrect, you can always write a rebuttal.

    1. Thanks, Raj for this link. I particularly liked this part of the review:

      ” A Marxist scholar, Jha has studied ancient texts for decades, attempting to reconstruct political and social life in ancient India. There are no short cuts to this painstaking work of fleshing out the history of a world long gone by. Scholars engaged in such work spend years and decades delving into texts, comparing the textual findings with archaeological, epigraphical and numismatic evidence. Such scholarship cannot be whittled down to ahistorical, tawdry slogans simply to satiate political appetites.
      The essence of the essays compiled in this book runs contrary to popular notions pandering to majoritarianism, crafted by the believers of cultural nationalism. Jha cites a body of texts to counter the oft-intoned, self-adulatory declarations about India’s rich culture of non-violence, religious harmony and tolerance of all communities.”

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