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Prelude to the State


Prelude to the State : further thinking on the
formation of early political institutions in Sri Lanka


State formation in the wider South Asian region has long been considered as an essential offshoot of the politicocultural dominance of the Mauryan hegemony that had reached its zenith in the mid-third century BCE. This ideological rubric has even made a tremendous impact upon the historiographic thinking on the formation of early political institutions in Sri Lanka. The local historical chronicles narrate a series of unfolding events pertaining to the establishment of political power in Sri Lanka in a diachronic perspective with reference to its relationship with some exogenic factors colored by the Mauryan supremacy. Domination of the ‘Indic perception’ on narrating the development of the local society was cultivated and enhanced through interactions of various scales by means of trade and other hegemonic alliances held intensively between the Gangetic plain and Sri Lanka since the dawn of the first millennium CE. It seems that this momentum has made an ideological impetus to submerge the memories and reminiscence of some of the important internal dynamics that were emerging at least since the early years of the first millennium BCE. Analysis shows the rising power of the native groups in the country and its creolization with the new cultural traits of cosmopolitan character was not considered as an important theme of reporting by the contemporary academia during the compilation of Pali chronicles in Sri Lanka. This article attempts to survey the possibilities of identifying the traces of such a dynamism which may have existed and refined by indogenic parameters with reference to the institutionalizing the political power in early Sri Lanka. It took a multidisciplinary perspective focusing on evaluating historical information against archaeological findings.

  1. Introduction

A seminal article by R.A.L.H. Gunawardhana which is titled ‘A Prelude to the State: An early phase in the evolution of Political institutions in Sri Lanka’ published in 1985 has made a tremendous impact on the customary belief of the evolution of political structures in ancient Sri Lanka (Gunawardhana 1982). Traditional view on this subject is an embodiment of a monotheistic perspective that is mostly relying on what the historical chronicles have been eagerly described (Mv xiii v. 70- 74)1 . According to two of the major Pali chronicles, Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa, the supreme rule of the country was established by Prince Vijaya who arrived in Sri Lanka from the mainland India. This event was chronologically placed in the sixth century BCE and it is said that it had happened after conquering and subjugating the native inhabitants in the island, described in the chronicles as yakkhas (demons). Most of the historians of pre and post independence Sri Lanka had restated this story as the legitimate historic beginning of the political structuring in the country (eg. Codrington 1947 ; Mendis 1985ed. ; Paranavitana 1970; Liyanagamage & Gunawardhana 1987ed.; Perera 1956).

Contrary this version, the presence of another ruling genre which existed in the early historic period of the country was first introduced by Paranavitana (1970) in his corpus of early Brahmi inscriptions of Sri Lanka2 . He identified those figures as a group that was involved with local administration.

  1. katva sakkarasammanam dutanam vijayo pana – ada yatharaham kanggna amachchanam janassacha. yathavidhi ca vijayam sabbe’ machcha samagata[1]rajje samabhisignachimsu; karimsu ca maha chanam tato so vijayo raja pandurajassa dhitaram- mahata pariharena mahesitte ‘bhisevayi. Dhanana’da amachchanam; adasi sasurassa tu- anuvassam samkhamuttam satasahassadvayaraham hitvana pubbacharitam visamam samena-
  2. . The Dhatuvamsa refers to a number of local rulers with the title of raja who have not been noticed in the Dipavamsa and the Mahavamsa; the inscription at Occap pukallu and the records noted in the preceding paragraphs confirm the existence of such local rulers (Paranavitana 1970: Ixiv)

Paranavitana thought that they were ‘petty’ in character and therefore considered it as a historically inconsequential manifestation. In the meantime Gunawardhana has made an attempt to bolster the historical significance of those local rulers with reference to the trajectory of evolution of political institutions in early Sri Lanka, which Paranavitana has concealed from his scholarly attention.

Gunawardhana has made a scrutinized effort in his essay to synthesize a broad spectrum of epigraphic information which suggest the possibility of the flowering of localized power nuclei which could be considered as one of the most important socio-economic momentums which had occurred in the early historic period. Two important points could be extracted from his essay, namely; (a). authors cynicism on the traditional story of founding political hegemony in the country as narrated by the historical chronicles; and (b). his presumption on a possible evolutionary pathway of forming a political power nebula during the early historic period. Those two postulations helped to find a clear intellectual avenue to probe the history of a twilight zone between pre-political and political society in Sri Lanka.

This essay argues that those two postulations encourage the development of a broad paradigm grounded on an anthropological perspective to resolve the issues on the subject and concurrently reiterate the theoretical inadequacy of dealing only with the memories entrapped in the existing literary narratives in order to investigate the crystallization of political power in Sri Lanka. This could be perceived as the most essential requirement necessary to overcome the conceptual limitations which exists in reconstructing the accumulation of social power and eventually institutionalization of the process to formulate a logically tenable procedures of reasoning (eg. Renfrew 1977).

  1. The narrative beginning: a retrospect

The oldest historical chronicles in Sri Lanka compiled in the fourth and fifth centuries, Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa, have provided a stereotype anecdote on the institutionalization of the political power in the country. The whole story is circumscribed centering on an event of the arrival of a team led by an individual named Vijaya, who had departed from Lata country3 said to be a person of noble birth. He and his followers arrived in Tambapanni (Sri Lanka) on the same day of the Great demise of Lord Buddha4 . At the time of his arrival, the island of Tambapanni was inhabited by yakkhas. Vijaya met a lady named Kuveni of the local inhabitants. After reaching an understanding among themselves, she became his consort. The scenario came to its zenith when he dispelled and subjugated the local group including Kuveni by an armed conflict thus unifying the hegemonic power of the country5 . Subsequently the royal lineage of Sri Lanka is said to have evolved from this point onwards.

Irrespective to the consideration of the true historical trustworthiness of this series of events, it exemplifies an idea of domination by an authoritative exogenic agency over the local society through their coercive power. The only theoretical notion which discusses the involvement of warfare and coercive power in the process of institutionalization of political power is the ‘circumscription theory’ advocated by anthropologist Robert Carneiro in 1927 (vide. Carneiro 1970). Circumscription theory describes the way that environmentally circumscribed communities made their internal dynamism towards setting the mechanism of capturing and holding political power6 . Although it is associated with coercive power and warfare, circumscription theory illustrates the configuration of political institutions in a given society as an evolutionary process. Thus in this case, it does not make any viable contribution to explain the Vijaya’s story in relation to the early political formation in Sri Lanka and remained theoretically off-track. Besides, the story narrated in our chronicles portrays the initiation of political institutions as a happening of ex nihilo that is far from any objective historical consequence. This challenges the factual basis of historicity of the process and at the same time it demands for a rational explanation grounded on an intellectually sound empirical basis.

  1. Lalaratte pure tasmim sihabahu naradhipo …………………putte janayi kale sa; vijayo nama jettako…. (Mv. VI, v. 36, 37)
  2. lamkayam vijayasa namako kumaro – otinno thiramati tambapannidipe salanam yamakagunanamantarasmim-nibbatu sayitadine thathagatassa (Mv. VI, v. 47)
  3. tassa sutva tatha katva sabbe yakkhe aghatayi[1]sayampi laddhavijayo yakkharajapasadhanam (Mv. VII, v.37)
  4. Carneiro’s theory has been criticized by the Dutch “early state school” emerging in the 1970s .
  5. Political anthropology: a useful conceptual tool

There is a vast literature that discusses the origins of political societies on a global scale. Number of tribal communities have been studied and the dialectics of the process producing ‘political leaders’ has been adequately generalized within the realm of diverse geo-cultural differences (eg. Steward 1955; Service 1962; Harris 1968; Flannery 1972; John and Earle 1987; Brumfiel 1992, 1994; Price and Feinman 1995; Sanderson 1995; Ehrenreich, Crumlay and Levy 1995). Such literature contain distinctive perspectives which developed on various themes notably; gender, age, faction, ethnicity and class. All authors have realized and appreciate the fact of how complex and problematic is understanding the institutionalization of human society (eg. Earle 1997).

In general, several key factors have been identified as the ‘prime movers’ of forming the political power nebulas in early societies. Earle has emphasized three such stimulants namely; (i). economic power; (ii). military power and (iii) ideological power. Those three either in isolation or collectively perform as source(s) of encouraging the rise of leaders as a pre-requisite of institutionalization of political power (DeMarrais, Castillo and Earle 1996; Mann 1986).

Economic power is the authority of controlling production, accession and distribution in economic means. Gaining the power by a single person or a group to dominate over majority of the society is a process. It requires a complex network of relationships with a power seeking individual or a group being at the centre. All such affairs focus upon a certain aspect i.e, the subsistence economy of the society that manifests how its members adapted to the respective environments. This adaptation mechanism is apparent in the way people obtain their daily needs including food, clothing, fuel and so forth. Living is a difficult process because it is always constrained by various factors, notably the competition for resources, scarcity of resources and also the uneven distribution of resources. A demand for a leadership is then becoming a common necessity to meet the challenges productively and as well as efficiently. A good example is provided by the ruling chiefs in Hawaiian Islands (800-1824 CE). They were the owners of irrigation systems and were responsible for supplying uninterrupted water to the fields that provide long term sustainability of agriculture and food security of the fellow commoners. The return of the staples is invested by the ruling chiefs for the sake of their political expectations (Earle 1978).

 The role of the political leaders such as in the Hawaiian case has been explained along two lines of thinking. The first is the voluntarist theory which explains the emergence of political leaders as a spontaneous happening. An individual or a group appears when the necessity arises to give efficient solutions to the problems of the majority and finally such people evolved as leaders (Binford 1968; Service 1962; Stewards 1955). Emergence of political leaders through this way is called the ‘social technology’ of confronting the challenges in survival.

In adaptionist approach, the appearance of leaders has been explained as an outcome of the adaptation to the ecological needs. Basic assumption of this view is that the people inhabiting environmentally restricted areas face problems of different kinds of differing intensities. To overcome the deficiencies of items required to meet the day to day living, it needs to open avenues to propagate redistribution of resources. It describes that the managerial aspect of the resource distribution is undertaken by the people who later become the political leaders (Service 1962; Fried 1967). Many of the writers who described an adaptionist view accept the effectiveness of the role played by the chiefs who manipulate the economic redistribution process in order to lessen the risks of subsistence failure (Cunliffe 1978; Gibson 1974; Renfrew 1973; Peebles and Kus 1977).

The stimulus of military power towards the formation of political institutes was crucial in some early societies. For instance, the case in upper Montaro valley in Peru (400-1534 CE) provides an explicit view of how the coercive power underlies the formation of the political arena (Browman 1970; Hastorf 1990; Hyslop 1977). However, it is not intended here to make a lengthily presentation on the relevance of military power to the subject because of its less appropriateness to the Sri Lankan context as suggested by the evidence both in history and archaeology.

Ideology is the third factor that is considered as a sources of emerging political power. Ideology epitomizes the world view held by the dominant groups of a given society. This does not mean that the majority is void of any ideological nexus. Sometimes the resistive response to the dominant world view of the minority derives as the ideology of the majority. Resistance may come from the minority with the intention of solidification of their position in the social order (Earle 1997: 143). Ideology of socially dominant groups is expressed through a number of channels including beliefs, ideas, values, doctrines and dogmas, truths and lies which most of them are highly symbolic. Those acts are breeds of the single source that is the world view of the individuals who have been already successful in winning the trust of the greater number of their subordinates. Dominant individuals or groups tend to utilize ideology as a powerful apparatus of legitimizing their power. The way of functioning ideology in the process of crystallizing political power has been adequately discussed by several authors (vide Thompson 1990; DeMarrais, Castillo and Earle 1996; Abercrombie, Hill and Turner 1980; Mann 1986; Geertz 1980) and there is a limited space to review all the literature lengthily in this essay.

The major points highlighted in the above paragraphs emphasize the emergence of political leaders and the institutionalization of political power in early societies as an evolutionary process driven by a set of pluralistic socio-economic factors. Beyond the theoretical frame of reference of growing opinionated power, political anthropologists and archaeologists believe that the emerging political conditions in a given society could be observable empirically (eg. Jensen 1982; Kristiansen 1984; Hodder 1990). For instance, one of the archaeological traits of the rise of the early bronze age (1700- 1300 BCE) chiefs in Denmark was explained in the view of the characteristic developments in the dimensions and the structure of their houses excavated and as well as the distinctive distribution patterns of their burials (Haack Olsen 1990; Kristiansen 1982). The contribution of archaeology to the study of the evolution of ancient political systems would be an increment for the societies where the documentary evidence are scanty or absent.

  1. Proto historic cemeteries in Sri Lanka : an optimistic clue

Archaeological fieldworks carried out in the last decades of the 20th century and onwards have revealed much valuable evidence which may be directly relevant to infer, perhaps, the embryonic stage of rising political power. A fresh insight is derived through the information provided by a few burial grounds excavated in the inland areas (Somadeva 2010).

In 2007 an ancient cemetery was unearthed in a village called Ranchamadama situated in the Rathnapura district of the Sabaragamuva Province. The excavation conducted at the site has uncovered 6 clay canoe burials and two pit burials (fig.1). Fragments of more than 84 earthenware vessels, some of them containing human corporeal remains (ash) together with finely made quartz implements interned, were excavated. Canoe burials are clay-made structures constructed following an oval shaped ground plan. Perpendicular walls of the burial structures were made out of thin sun-dried bricks and tightened together by a clay plaster. Several other sites of similar characters were exposed in the year 2011 in Haldummulla and Beragala in the Badulla District of the Uva province. All the burials excavated manifest characteristics of a single tradition of treating dead. 14C dates (eg. Ranchamadama 1359 ± 163 yrs cal. BCE & Haldummulla 1750 ± 230 population of the country had experienced a blossoming social differentiation.

Entirety of the burials including the architecture and the artifact content propose a behavioral intention that is close to ritualistic rather than utilitarian. Simultaneously it is clear that such a ritualistic performance was confined to a certain group of the contemporary society on the basis of the exclusivity of the canoe burials. Rising concern of ritual symbolism would have been an important aspect of maintaining the socially elevated position of the burial builders. As once mentioned, the presence of finely made cryptocrystalline (quartz) stone implements inside the funerary pots is a straightforward archaeological manifestation that illustrates the continuity of the Mesolithic traits of the former eras. Geometric characteristics still remained in the implements but more advanced plane forms were also introduced (vide Devage 2014). As I emphasized elsewhere (Somadeva 2010; 2014), the new technological make up was due to their adaptive response to the climatic oscillations in the mid Holocene (eg. Prematilleke 2003) characterized the transition to affluent foraging practice.

Emergence of the organized behavior of treating dead reflected in the cemeteries, has been considered as a manifestation of legitimizing the rights to exploit resources on a prolonged basis. This conceptual stand called ‘Hypothesis 8’ is well known and first discussed by Arthur Saxe (1970). He claimed that;

 ……..To the degree that corporate group rights to use and/or control crucial but restricted resources are attained and or/ legitimized by means of lineal decent from the dead (i.e. lineal ties to ancestors), such groups will maintain formal disposal areas for the exclusive disposal of their dead, and conversely (1970:119).

Saxe’s idea was hotly debated and several pitfalls were elaborated (eg. Moris 1991). In a later instance, Lynne Goldsteine (1976) has made a critical review while summarizing all the conceptual lines emanated from the debate but Saxe’s basic ideas have remained unchanged in the later revisions

After the death of a person who had an exploitative power upon the critical resources in a given area, the next of kin acquired that rights of the same through treating the deceased. This was carried out through a series of acts, of which the construction of burials took a major part. An ancient cemetery symbolizes a uniform space reserved for a single kin-group who attempted to show their legitimacy to exploit certain segments of land in a given area.

This is clearly evidenced by the intersite distribution of the sites identified in Haldummulla in the year 2011. Three separate cemeteries identified are distributed within an area of 6.5 square kilo meters suggesting that frontiers of the resource territories of the settlements were interlaced within a short distance (see map.1.). As suggested by the material repertoire unearthed from the burials, the owners of those cemeteries were affluent foragers than advanced hunter-gatherers. Presence of the fragments of storage jars together with new plane forms (fig.3) in the stone implements in the cemeteries suggest that a fresh make up of technology was acquired by the traditional hunter gatherers towards a realm of affluent foraging. A wider scattering of stone implements bearing locations in the surrounding areas confirms the extensive mobility for the quest for food resources (map.2). Collecting more field data on cemeteries and the associated settlements is constrained by the landscape modifications which occurred in the area since the early 19th century for tea cultivation.

As archaeologically suggested, the history of the blossoming power configurations in Sri Lanka could chronologically be placed in the late second millennium BCE. Matured and more structured expression of that appeared in the late mid first millennium BCE as the case in Ranchamadama. A further investigation on this tradition in order to relate it to the institutionalization of power will be only successful if the case of the continuation of the tradition up to the early historic period, get sorted.

The problem is the locations which bears inscriptional evidence of early polities which are scattered in the low altitudinal plains where the canoe burial tradition is not adequately represents. Recent findings of three canoe burial sites in the plains suggest that our deprived understanding on the scarcity of canoe burial tradition on the lowland plain due to the recovery factor. Most of such burials had vanished during the expansion of late historic settlements and farmlands.

The available radiometric dates of the excavated burials provide some insights on finding a possible answer to our uncertainty about the continuity of the social differentiation as represented by the canoe burial phenomenon. A simulation of the altitudinal distribution of such locations against the radiometric dates, (fig, 4) provide an explicit elaboration on how the canoe burial tradition drifted down from the highlands to the plains. This pattern urges one to think that the affluent foragers have marched towards low latitudes in the later periods for various reasons and finally transformed to full-fledged farming. According to the radiometric dates assigned to the canoe burials in Kalaotuvava in the Attanagalu Oya basin (375 BCE Wijayapala 1996:47)) and Nikavalamulla (400-200 BCE) in the Kelaniya river basin, it was already completed during the period of early Brahmi inscriptions were indited.

In epigraphy in Sri Lanka, especially concerned with the early period, at least in the last four decades, our attention was preferably drawn towards the river valleys and the neighboring locations. Study of similar inscriptions which exist in the mountainous tracts was considered ‘peripheral’ in a sense not only spatially but also historically (eg. Senevirathne 1996). Most of the early Brahmi inscriptions (EBI) are donatory records, have been treated as insignia of generosity of the kings and the elites. Development of the script described along a path of linear evolution of paleography marks a teleological perspective of progress (Fernando 1949.; Paranavitana 1970). Those two extremes have constrained any attempt of investigating EBI with a careful academic concern focused on microscopic variations in paleography and the language.

Recent archaeological field investigations suggest that the validity of the existingnotion of the association between river-valley settlements by immigrant Aryans and the emergence of EBI in Sri Lanka is becoming rather an old-fashioned historical explanation. The EBI reported from the mountainous areas is evidence to survey the organization of the population who occupied the deep hinterlands, and information about them are cloudy in the historical chronicles. The archaeological findings, such as the canoe burials, prove that they were the agents who provided the basic dynamism to the rise of social power first and then the political command in a social scale. Probably those forbearers were foragers/ incipient farmers who had descended from the local prehistoric communities. The fieldwork carried out in the year 2013 has revealed a fair number of grind stones together with pestles (fig.5) recovered on the surface in a rolling hilly landscape in Haldummulla illustrate a great potential to thinking on a forager/ farmers transition triggered off on a local scale. Radiometric dates are still awaited and in a comparative sense, a conditional date could be placed at mid sixth millennium BCE7 .

The open-air prehistoric camp site excavated in Bellanabandipallessa near the Kaltota escarpment, has yielded a fair number of grind stones and pestles suggesting that they had already taken an initiative to transform towards a foraging lifestyle in the 6500 BCE as suggested by the radiometric dates initially assigned to the site (Deraniyagala 1958.). Archaeological manifestations of the immediate techno-cultural consequences of such momentum are yet to be explained. Nevertheless there are no polemics that exist against arguing the canoe burial tradition as an expression of a later development of the same trajectory.

A hitherto unknown cave inscriptions reported from Kirimakulgolla in the Kaltota escarpment in the southern frontier of the central highland has mentioned a group of people who themselves used the term Yakkha (Somadeva, Wanninayake & Devage 2015).

As once mentioned above, a group of that name is described by Mahavamsa as the indigenous community who occupied Sri Lanka when the event of Vijaya’s arrival. We must use the opportunity to compare between the Yakkha identity in our inscription and the same identity of the local group inhabited the country as described in the chronicles.

The straightforward idea that comes to the surface from this discussion is the first political dynamism had emanated from the indigenous forager/farmer communities who inhabited the deep hinterland in the country at least in the late third millennium BCE, which is the period of the earliest known date of the canoe burial tradition. For some reason, the authors of the historical chronicles have slipped away from reporting this dynamism and instead preferably highlighted another story which is external to the trajectory of local development.

Raja: an interpretative dilemma

According to the ancient chronicles, the political leadership in ancient Sri Lanka is frequently associated with the concept of ‘raja’, a term which is thought to denote royalty8 . When contributing a chapter to the History of Ceylon, L.S. Perera has made an attempt to summarize the political history in Sri Lanka on the basis of two raja traditions namely Vijaya tradition and Pandukabhaya tradition (1956:98-111). It shows the stereotype scholarly faith cultivated on the subject on the basis of the status of royalty. In a later writing, the historicity of the notion of ‘raja’ has been further clarified. Paranavitana states;

 ………..Among the inscriptions included in this volume are ninety-four which contains the names of royal personages, as the donors themselves, or for the connection which the donors had with them. Their royal status

is indicated by epithets like raja (king) and maharaja (great king) attached to their names (Paranavitana 1970:xlvi).

This statement clearly indicates, even up to the second part of the 20th century, the notion of ‘raja’ remained as the sole indicator of the political authority (see also Nicholas 1949). It equalized to the meaning of a king who held supreme power and also as a symbol of fortune, divinity and unfolding continuity of purified royal lineage. The earliest individual of the legitimate genre of political authority in the country, who held the title of raja appeared in the EBI is Uttiya, who has been identified as the younger brother of king Devanampiyatissa. All the individuals who bear the title of raja was compared with the similar names recorded in the historical texts and any character who did not match with them has been considered as out of the legitimized royal lineage of the country. Thus the notion of ‘raja’ or the ‘supreme rule’ has constrained the understanding of folk of ‘petty’ rulers reported in the EBI.

The meaning of the word raja could not be reduced to denote merely rulers. It also used to describe chiefs or ‘best of its kind’ (Monier Williams 1899:872). Rajanyas described in Rig Veda have been identified as power held lineage elites (Thapar 2000: 379). In the north Indian context they were chiefs of the erstwhile lineage groups. Thapar says;

 …… Rajanya derives from raja/rajan, which refers to the chief. Although some texts explains its etymology as the one who pleases, this etymology is unacceptable and the derivation is more likely to have been from the root raj to shine or to lead and direct. (ibid).

I think, in our context, it is reasonable to argue that the genre of prehistoric lineage groups, as manifested by the canoe burial tradition, were sustained up to the historic period. They appear as rajas in the EBI who were not enlisted in the chronicles. Perhaps at the time of the compilation of the major chronicles in Sri Lanka such as Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa in the fourth and fifth centuries, the contrast between the erstwhile lineage groups and the other people who held the power was wiped out or considered as a trivial demarcation. It is worthwhile to consider the fact that some of the groups have identified themselves as diparajas9 which means ‘the rulers of the island clan’ (EZ V: 210 ff; Paranavitana 1970: no.37). Another term which appeared in the EBI is dipikulikana10 stand to denote the ‘family belongs to the island clan’ (JRASCB, NS. Vol. V:71; Paranavitana 1970: no.319). Expression of belongingness to the island signifies the indigenous breed of the signified. The intension of the people who used that term would have been to elaborate the distinctiveness of their own, reflected by the inheritance of prolonged existence in the country. This identity concern of the traditional lineage groups would have been one of their strategic approaches to legitimize the power they exercised through an ideological imposition. Recently identified cave inscription in Kirimakulgolla in the Kaltota escarpment that bears the word yakkha, is an inscription that describes a dedication of a cave to the Buddhist sangha, suggest that the indigenous groups of that region were generous supporters of Buddhism. The drip-ledged caves that have no inscriptions observed in the Kaltota escarpment and the similar caves in the other elevated heights of the country might have been the earliest dwellings used by the Buddhist monks who inhabited the mountainous tracts even before the arrival of the Buddhist missionaries during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa11.

At least eight EBI found bear the word raja with or without a proper name. An inscription reported from Occappukallu in 

  1. The excavated canoe burial in Beragala revealed a date extended to the late third millennium BCE ( 2400 BCE). In comparison with that and on the basis of the archaic physical appearance of the grind stones, it makes a reasonable ground to propose such a conditional date.
  2. The excavated canoe burial in Beragala revealed a date extended to the late third millennium BCE ( 2400 BCE). In comparison with that and on the basis of the archaic physical appearance of the grind stones, it makes a reasonable ground to propose such a conditional date.
  3. Diparajha-jhitaya Mahabiya lene śagaśa (The cave of Mahāmbi(kā), daughter of Diparāja (king of the Islands), [is given] to the Sangha.
  4. Dipikulikana pukiyana lene śagaśa ( The cave of the members of the Corporation of the Island families [is given] to the Sangha.
  5. There are evidence to show the practice of Buddhism was held in Sri Lanka earlier than the arrival of the religious missionary to Sri Lanka by the emperor Ashoka in the third millennium BCE. Three earthen ware (NBPW) shreds excavated from one of the caves in Kirimakulgolla suggest that the communication between Northern Indian region and Sri Lanka was existed at least little before the beginning of the Mauryan period (vide, Somadeva 2015).

the Anuradhapura District mentions a raja named as Kana12. In two inscriptions from Olagamgala of the Badulla District have reported an individual named raja Siva13. A person named raja Duhatara is reported in an EBI from Yatahalena in the Kegalle district. Similar raja appeared in four inscriptions, one from Bambaragala in the Kandy District and the other three from Ambulambe in the Matale District. Those four inscriptions are extremely self-explanatory to strengthen our argument. A raja named Pacina or Pocani which appeared in the said inscriptions has been commented by Paranavitana.

 ………’Pacani’ or ‘Pocani’ was not a personal name, because in No. 814 (Bambaragala) we get the expression Pocani rajha Nagaya. When we take it as a title, the meaning that suggest itself to us first of all is ‘eastern’, but the districts in which these records have been found are not ‘eastern’ when taken as parts of the island, or in relation to Anuradhapura, the centre of political life in Ceylon at that time. Skt. prācina, of which pacina is the equivalent, also means ‘former’, ‘ ancient’. ‘Pacina-raja’ would then mean ‘the former king’ or ‘ancient king’, i.e. a member of the former royal house that ruled Ceylon before its sovereignty acquired by the dynasty then ruling (1970 : lxiii-lxiv emphasis added in the parenthesis).

However, Paranavitana has not made any further thinking on the epigenetic history of the ‘former kings’ he conceptualized but his conclusive remarks demands for a further discussion. He concludes as;

 …..The Pacina king no doubt considered it incumbent on him to maintain and preserve ancient traditions and institutions, of which the use of the Brahmi script in its earliest form was one (ibid).

It is also worthwhile to notice the peculiarity of the name of the wife of Pacina raja’s son Tissa, was Raki. The word Raki is derived from the Skt. Rakshashi which is equivalent to the word Yakkhi, feminine gender of the noun Yakkha. and once again shows their local inheritance. Similar characteristic could also be highlighted from the raja Duhatara described in the EBI reported from Yatahalena. Paranavitana has not attempted to find the etymology of this word. He only indicated that …….’ In fact, the name ‘Duhatara’ does not occur at all in any literary source for the history of ancient Ceylon’.(1970:lxiv). However, the word Duhatara shows a close relationship with the word Skt. Dushana which is a noun of a Rakshas. He was described as a general of king Rāvana (Williams 427). The word could be transformed in the common utterance as dushana > dusana > duhana >duhata. Those two cases of ‘petty’ rulers, one could notice an intentional effort of bolstering their prolonged existence which is invariably associated with the archaeological findings of the canoe burial culture.

  1. Rajha-Kanasa puta rajhaputa-Kanasa lene agata anagata catudisa sagasa.
  2. (1) Rajha-Sivasa dane Vasa-terasa lene. and (2) Rajha Siva puta Aya Sivaha puta aya Sivaha Mahasudasane lene.


The above discussion is an attempt to condense vivid information derived from both archaeology and epigraphy to illustrate the evolution of the political characters in the country. The main avenue of thinking was to elaborate the fact that the institutionalization of the political power in its early period was a result of an internal socio-economic process held for a prolonged period. It was also argued as the local inhabitants of the country had played a key role in that momentum. As suggested by the radiometric dates assigned to the canoe burials presented, early history of that process could be pushed back to the late third millennium BCE. This essay has also pointed out that how the archaeological evidence reiterate the academic legitimacy of what R.L.A.H. Gunawardhana had emphasized in his view on the subject in 1970s.

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