The city of Anuradha (Part XX)

By Ama H. Vanniarachchy

Majestic is the elephant whom a monarch rides;

Splendid the monarch who rides an elephant,

Neither outdoes the other in grandeur;

For elephants are coequal unto kings.

—An old Indian saying

According to the Mahavamsa, Kandula or Kadol fought and won 28 great battles with King Dutugamunu and his last victorious battle was the Battle of Bhalluka in Anuradhapura. 

The Mahavamsa and many other chronicles say that Kandula was born on the same day Prince Gamunu (later King Dutugamunu) was born. On this auspicious day, a tusker brought a calf born in the Chaddantha Kule (the best and the most prestigious elephants and tuskers are of the Chanddantha or Saddhantha Kule) and left it at the lake bank. Seeing the beautiful calf, a hunter or a Vadda (who was engaged in fishing) informed the King (Kavantissa) about the calf. The hunter’s name was Kandula. The king brought the calf to the palace and nurtured him. To honour the hunter, the calf was named Kandula. The area where he was found is assumed to be Negambo. 

What happened to Kandula after the great victory?

Prof. Merlin Peris in his research work titled Mahavamsa Studies series has published an insightful book titled Kandula, the Elephant at War. In this book, he writes;

“Not only had both prince and elephant been born together but they had undergone their respective military training as warrior and war elephant together… That Kandula was alive and continued in the love and affection of Dutugemunu in the last years of the king’s life is seen from the fact that on that illustrious occasion of the reception of the relics from the world of the Nagas for depositing in the Maha Thupa, the king had him pace before him.”

The professor further writes that;

“If Kandula himself had not met an untimely death like his master and outlived him, either no traditions covering his life thereafter existed, or the chroniclers have not brought them into their works. With Dutugamunu’s demise he would undoubtedly have passed into the possession – and this time legitimately – of Tissa, who he had once in disgust dislodged from his back. It is to be hoped that Tissa too had, notwithstanding that brush off, treated the noble animal with the same consideration and care as he had received from his former friend and master, Tissa’s brother, Dutugamunu.” 

Our attempt to find out about the latter half of this noble beast’s life was futile. No chronicle records, archaeological evidence, or folklore was found related to the nation’s greatest hero’s loyal and noble companion in war, Kandula, who played a vital role in the Great War against Elara. There is a belief that a giant monolith at Akuregoda (belonging to the ancient Magama Kingdom) was the stone pillar to which Kandula was chained. This was perhaps during his early days when he was in Ruhuna. 

Kandula’s tusks at Kataragama Maha Devala?

Another tale says that Kandula’s tusks, the tusks that destroyed the mighty Vijithapura Fort and many other Dravidian forts, and the tusks that killed Maha Parvatha Etha or Maha Pabbatha, the mighty war elephant of Elara, is kept at the Kataragama Maha Devala. It is believed that the Kataragama Maha Devala was built by King Dutugamunu after he won the war against Elara and the Kataragama Perahera is an order by King Dutugamunu. We do not know if his tusks were brought to Kataragama after Kandula’s death or if he was brought to Magama during his old age. However, it is fair to see a link between Kataragama and Kandula. 

A stupa for Kandula?

Prof. Peris writes an interesting fact about Kandula’s last years. 

“Four kilometres or so in the direction of Dimbulagala, from the now restored Somawathiya Ciatya is a little-known temple called Kumbanachchi (or otherwise, the Ruhunu Somawathiya), the dagoba of which, story tells, was built over the skull of Kandula – hence the name of the shrine… It pleases us to live in the belief that our elephant himself was not left without a monument, even if nothing so grand as Bucephala! (Alexander’s war horse)”

Although we do not know for sure, it is a relief to know that at least such a legend exists and a stupa was built enshrining the skull of Kandula. He should be given that honour. We also assume that if he died during the time of King Dutugamunu or King Saddhatissa, Kandula surely must have received a royal funeral. King Dutugamunu, who built a memorial to his enemy king and honoured him, was sure to build a monument to honour his loyal war companion. 

The ancient life-size stone elephant carving at Anakalluwa, Thamankaduwa, also known as the Katupilana Gal Aliya is located approximately 30 – 40 km from Kumbanachchi. Unfortunately, this massive stone statue has been destroyed by treasure hunters.

Was it a tribute to the nation’s greatest war elephant Kandula?

Before we move on to witness The many Battles of Anuradhapura, we must note that the first known Magul Etha or royal elephant of Sri Lanka is King Devanampiyatissa’s (257 – 207 BCE) elephant whom we do not know the name of; but we know that he played an interesting role in the construction of the Thuparama Stupa. 

Elara’s military powers

According to ancient Pali and Sinhala chronicles, Elara’s forts were well-built with high security and his military powers were at great heights. He had a large army of giants (Yodhayo) and powerful generals. Some of these generals and notable warriors have Sinhalese names, making scholars assume that some Sinhalese served in Elara’s army. There had been South Indian soldiers working for Sinhalese kings and fighting battles against South Indians. They were paid soldiers who were merely doing a job. Besides, traitors live in every decade in every country. 

It took months and great effort for Prince Dututamunu’s army to break down Elara’s forts and enter their cities. According to chronicles, it had taken months, sometimes about six months to enter one fort. Many patriots were killed during these tiresome wars. Some of Elara’s forts had three moats and had only one entrance. 

Dutugamunu, one by one, attacked all of Elara’s forts and seized power of all of them, starting from Mahiyangana to Anuradhapura. The last one before Anuradhapura was the city named Mahela. After destroying Elara’s power at Mahela the Sinhalese army marched towards Kasagala and camped there. During the month of Poson, the King built a tank and named it Pradyotha, and held a water festival.

If the king built a tank, a city, and held a water festival amidst such a tiresome war, we could assume that the war continued for a long period and the Sinhalese army was camping at Kasagla for quite a reasonable time. Also, the Sinhala king was greatly wealthy that they could build a city and a tank and hold a water festival during a war, very close to Anuradhapura where the powerful enemy king was residing.

In a previous account, we read that a doctor (veterinarian) treated wounded Kandula on the battlefield. Therefore, doctors, vets, and other skilled people (skilled workers such as carpenters, masonries, artists, blacksmiths, engineers, cooks, and so on) also travelled with the army as they marched from place to place.  

Queen Viharamahadevi was a remarkable woman who was way ahead of her time. She knew about warfare and politics. She planned military activities with her husband the late King Kavanthissa and she guided Prince Dutugamunu on war strategies. On a previous account, we read that she joined Prince Dutugamunu on the actual battlefield. 

As per her advice, Prince Dutugamunu built 32 forts and placed 32 figures of the king (Dutugamunu) with the Chathra (in ancient times in Sri Lanka the Chathra was the symbol of the Sinhalese kingship. Thus, uniting the island was called Ekachathra Kota, which means, bringing the country under one umbrella or rule). Dutugamunu was in the fort that was built in the centre. 

Elara’s most valiant general Deeghajanthu (a giant) destroyed 31 of Dutugamunu’s forts and reached the final one. Deeghajanthu was so proud of himself thinking he beheaded the king when he attacked the first figure. Finally, Suranimala killed Deeghajanthu. The Driavida army was defeated soon. 

According to the narrations in the chronicles, both armies had swords, shields, thomara, and bows and arrows. Heated metal balls and heated liquids were used to attack the enemy. 

Also, drummers and those who played the Conch shell (Hak Gediya) were on the battlefield as they were communicators and messengers. 

The great duel 

After Elara’s army was officially defeated, Elara himself decided to face Dutugamunu. He rode his war elephant the mighty Maha Parvatha or Pabbatha. Dutugamnu was on Kandula. It is said that the duel happened near the Southern Gate at Anuradhapura. 

Elara threw his thomara at Dutugamunu; Dutgamunu shielded himself with the shield and at the same time attacked Elara with his thomara; simultaneously Kandula attacked Parvatha from his tusks. At the same time, Elara and Parvatha both collapsed, ending the 44-year-long rule of Elara in Rajarata. 

The Mahavamsa says that Dutugamunu defeated Elara and 32 Dravidian Kings and united the island under one umbrella. 

Honouring a fallen enemy

It is recorded that Dutugamunu held a proper royal funeral for the defeated king and he built a tomb enshrining the ashes of Elara. He is the only enemy king in Sri Lanka that was honoured in such a way. A small brick stupa, known as the Kujjatissa Stupa, is considered by some to be the tomb of Elara. According to some this stupa was named after an arhat named Kujjatissa.

The stupa is located near the southern gate of the citadel. Mahavamsa records that the last battle between Elara and Dutugemunu happened near the southern gate of the citadel and Elara was killed there. 

The chronicles also say that King Dutugemunu held a royal funeral for the defeated king and that he built a monument (a tomb) on where Elara had fallen during the last battle, and where he was cremated within a catafalque. The monument was ordained to be worshipped. He further ordered that all music and dancing must be paused when passing the tomb. 

Prof. T.G. Kulatunga in his book Hero

-Stone at Anuradhapura and Other Essays says that according to the Mahavamsa and the Vansatthappakasini, it shows that the monument (Elara’s tomb) was by the side of the road. He further explains that the Bujjatissa Stupa is now found near the road leading to Lohapasada from the south gate of the old inner city of the Anuradhapura and it is the only stupa existing today in the proximity of the south gate. Therefore, the professor claims that, if this stupa existed during the time of King Saddhatissa its antiquity and location make it most likely that it was the tomb of Elara. 

Prof. Peris in Kandula: The Elephant at War writes;

“Tradition has it that King Vattagamini, popularly known as Valagamba, when fleeing from the Damilas, got off his palanquin and, in deference to Dutugamunu’s proclamation made near 60 years before, honoured Elara by passing his monument on foot. Centuries later the Tika of the Mahavamsa was able to indicate the place as being to the west of the potter’s village and east of the image house of Elara. With no trace of either of these all hope of locating the place is lost. Paranavitana’s conjecture is that if anything of the Elara monument had been preserved up to our era, it would have been ‘scattered to the four winds by the contractors of the Public Works Department who put up the buildings of the modern hospital.’”

To be continued…

The post The city of Anuradha (Part XX) appeared first on Ceylon Today.