Sri Lanka is home to some of the world’s first great Buddhist kingdoms. Despite frequent invasions by the Hindu Tamils from India, and the occasional dominance of Hindu kingdoms, the Sinhalese were able to preserve Buddhism for 2,300 years. Sinhalese kings ruled Sri Lanka from at least the 4th century B.C. until they were conquered in 1815 by the British. The capitals changed location. Mostly they were centered in the island's dry, north central plain.

The ancient civilization of Sri Lanka emerged and flourished in the islands dry zone-the extensive northern plain region and the smaller plain in the southeast that together encompass more than two-thirds of the island early settlements sprang up on river banks in this region.The pioneers subsisted on rice a crop that depended on the vagaries of the monsoons. Settlements quickly spread across the plains prompting an urgent need for a means of coping with the geological and geographical peculiarities of the dry zone and its frequent droughts Thus Sri Lanka became one of the greatest irrigation civilisations of the ancient world [Source: Russell R. Ross and Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1988]

Sinhalese kings called their land Lanka, meaning "resplendent." They established city kingdoms with great temples and palaces, based on irrigated rice agriculture built around sophisticated irrigation systems of canals and lake-reservoirs known as tanks that still keep the local population going today. The tanks collected rainwater and diverted river and stream water. In some cases they connected to aqueducts and irrigation channels that were many kilometers long.

Advances in engineering and construction techniques as well as extensive knowledge of hydraulics and water management were necessary to build and maintain the water systems. A great amounts of resources was poured into them. Similar system exist around Angkor Wat in Cambodia.


Rajarata was one of three historical regions of the island of Sri Lanka for about 1,700 years from the 6th century B.C. to the early A.D. 13th century. Occupying roughly the northern half of what is now Sri Lanka island, it was the home of several ancient cities, including Tambapanni, Upatissa Nuwara, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, which were established as capitals within the area by successive rulers. Rajarata means “King’s Country.” It was under the direct administration of a raja (king). [Source: Wikipedia]

According to tradition the first kingdom in Rajarata was established by Prince Vijaya in 543 B.C.. He settled near the delta of the Malvathu River between Chilaw and Mannar. According o a local myth, Prince Vijaya married a local princess, Kuveni, to gain control of Rajarata. With her help, he betrayed and killed all of the regional leaders. After his death, the administrative center was moved to the agriculturally-rich countryside area along the river Malvathu Oya. The first three Rajarata centres — Tambapanni, Upatissa Nuwara, and Anuradhapura — were situated close to the Malvathu Oya. King Pandukabhaya, a prince descended from local Yaksha and Sinha tribes, established the stable kingdom in Anuradhapura and won tributes from tribes from other parts of the island.

Administrative centres in Rajarata:1) Tambapanni, Prince Vijaya, founded in 543 B.C.; 2) Upatissa Nuwara, founded by King Upatissa in 505 B.C.; 3) Anuradhapura, founded by King Pandukabhaya in 377 B.C.; 4) Sigiriya, built by King Kashyapa (A.D. 477 – 495) but after the death of the king center moved to Anuradhapura; and 4) Polonnaruwa, founded by King Vijayabahu I.

Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa: Centers of Sinhalese Civilization

Against this backdrop of technological and agricultural growth two important cores of Sinhalese civilization rose in the irrigated plains of the dry zone. Anuradhapura, in the center of the northern plain, and Polonnaruwa, further to the southeast near the Mahweli ganga in time and in succession become the capital cities of the whole Sinhalese kingdom.

Polonnaruwa boasted one of the largest and most spectacular of Sri Lankas ancient tanks, the Parakra Samudra, the sea of Parakrama. It was buit by Parakramabahu 1 (1153-1186), one of the greatest Sinhalese rulers. The bund (a small barrier that guides runoff coming from external catchments) of the Parakrama Samudra was nearly nine miles long and rose to an average height of 40 feet.Nothing of this scale was built again until Sri Lanka regained her independence from the British in 1948.

The third core of Sinhalese civilisation, Ruhuna, was located near modern Magampattu, in the far southeast of the dry zone where the climate is even more severe,and rainfall less reliable, than in the kingdoms to the north. The region was settled by the ancient Sinhalese almost as early as Anuradhapura and a well developed irrigation system was established there at least 2,000 years ago .Ruhuna periodically asserted its independence from the other two centers of Sinhalese power and served as a refuge for their defeated kings or rival claimants to those thrones. However,it was frequently controlled from Anuradhapura,and seems never to have rivalled those cities in economic power or population resources.

Another significant facet of life in ancient Sri Lanka was Buddhism. It arrived in the 3rd century B.C. and had a strong impact on the island and its people as important in social and political affairs as was the development of irrigation technology in the field of economic activity. Over time the identity of Sinhalese and Buddhism were forged together, with at least some Sinhalese believing it was their divine mission, to protect and preserve the Buddhist faith. Buddhist also inspired Sinhalese art, architecture and literature.

Sri Lanka in the 3rd Century B.C.

By the third century B.C practically the whole of Sri Lanka with the exception of the hilly country and the eastern coast, seems to have been populated though not very thickly perhaps. Almost all the habitable spots were were occupied. Henry Parker argues in favour of Mahagama and its surrounding villages as the first settlements of the early Aryans who landed here. Kirinda in the south according to him being the actual landing place. He says that all the early settlements of the leading chiefs were termed gama village and the capital became Mahagama the great village of the country. [Source: Virtual Library Sri Lanka ]

Weather we agree with this suggestion or not there is no doubt that the area watered by the rivers Valaveganga,Kirindi-oya , Manik-ganga and Kumbukkan (modern kataragama).The representatives of these Ksatriyas were amongthe distinguished personages who attended the celebration held in honour of the Bodhi-branch brought from India by Sanghamitta.One of the first Bo-saplings was planted at Kajaragama.Devanampiya-Tissas brother, the vice-regent Mahanaga, in order to escape the dangerous consequence of the queens treachery, fled with his family from Anuradhapura to Ruhuna ,and ruled in Mahagama. The fact that Mahagama suggests that the Ksatriyas there were connected with the royal family at Anuradhapura. Throughout the history of Sri Lanka we find Ruhuna, the last refuge and sanctury of freedom. Whenever there was danger at Anuradhapura, either from foreign invasion or from internal conflicts, Kings, ministers, monks and others who desired freedom and protection took shelter in the south.

There was another settlement called Candanagama, hitherto unidentified, where too there were Ksatriyas. The representatives of these also were among those present at the celebrations of the Mahabodhi at Anuradhapura during Devanampriya-Tissas reign. One of the first Bo-saplings was planted here.

Roads, Villages and Districts in 3rd Century B.C. Sri Lanka

Mahanagas journey to Mahagama for safety shows that there was communication between Anuradpura and Mahagama. The road between these two places ran through centiyagiri (now Mihintale) Kacchakatittha (Magantota) or Vaddhamanakatittha (known also by the names Sahassatittha (dahastota) and Assamandalatittha) Mahiyangana(modern Aluthnuwara) Dihavapi and Guttahalaka (BUTTALA).This road also served always as a military route. There is no doubt that there were on this road many places of habitation though much of the road lay across desolate jungle (antaramagge agamakaranne). [Source: Virtual Library Sri Lanka ]

Anuradhapura and the surrounding districts, within a radius of about 60 or 70 miles, seem to have been well populated. Pandukabhaya in his military campaign against his uncles, in order to subjugate the border districts (paccantagama) is reported to have withdraws as far south as Dolapabbata (supposed to be the modern Dolagalavela) in the Bintanna district. Thus at least the districts between Anuradhapura and Dolapabbata were well populated.

The districts to the west and north-west of Anuradhapura the area where some of the earliest villages were established, were also well populated. There were four road connecting the capital with four famous sea ports situated along the coast between north and west namely Mahatitta (mantai near Mannar) Jambukolapattna in the north Gonagamapattana(oa the eastern coast) and the sea port at the mouth of the Mahakandara river (probably in the north).The last three have not yet been definitely. The localities round these sea ports were without doubt inhabited and the four roads ran through many villages, great and small. It is said that when the Bodhi-branch was taken from jambukulapattana to Anuradhapura the procession halted at several places. Particular mention being made of village of a brahmana named Tivakka.

There was another settlement in Kalyani (modern Kalaniya) About a century after Devenampriya-Tissa, in the second century B.C, we know definitely that there was a kingdom at Kalaniya. Duttha-Gamanis mother the daughter of king Tissa of Kalyani the famous Vihara-Mahadevi, came from this principality. The Rajavaliya says that Yatala Tissa, the son of mahanaga, Devanamoriya-Tissa’s brother who fled from Anuradhapura ruled in kalaniya and built the cetiya there. It is quite reasonable to assume that this principality was among the earliest settlements in Sri Lanka.

The Mahavamsa -Tika says that the early Aryans who came to this Island opened up new settlements in areas where water was easily available. These were mainly along the principal rivers of Sri Lanka. Anuradhagama and other early gamas (villages) such as Upatissa, Ujjeni, Uruvela and Vijita were on the rivers Kadambanadi Malvatu-oya) Gambhira-nadi and kala-oya .Then there were settlements along the Mahavali-ganga and the Amban-ganga,particularly round about Kacchakatittha (Magantota) In the south settlements were distributed among the four rivers Kumbukkan-oya, Manik-ganga(kappakandara) Kirindioya and Valave-Ganga. Another settlements was along the valley of the Kalani-ganga where there was no river water easily available, large reservoirs were built in order to make the settlement habitable. Thus there is reference quite early in history to tanks builts by Anuradha and Pandukabhaya.

This great concern for an abundance of water in reserve proves the fact that the early settlers(as well as the later Sinhalese) depended on agriculture as their main source of livelihood. The Mahavamsa reports that Pandukabhayas uncle Girikanda-Siva cultivated an area of 100 Karisa9about 800 acres)

Early Sinhalese Use of Water and Irrigation

The first extensive Sinhalese settlements were along rivers in the dry northern zone of the island. Because early agricultural activity — primarily the cultivation of wet rice — was dependent on unreliable monsoon rains, the Sinhalese constructed canals, channels, water-storage tanks, and reservoirs to provide an elaborate irrigation system to counter the risks posed by periodic drought. Such early attempts at engineering reveal the brilliant understanding these ancient people had of hydraulic principles and trigonometry. The discovery of the principle of the valve tower, or valve pit, for regulating the escape of water is credited to Sinhalese ingenuity more than 2,000 years ago. By the first century A.D, several large-scale irrigation works had been completed. [Source: Russell R. Ross and Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1988]

The mastery of hydraulic engineering and irrigated agriculture facilitated the concentration of large numbers of people in the northern dry zone, where early settlements appeared to be under the control of semi-independent rulers. In time, the mechanisms for political control became more refined, and the city-state of Anuradhapura emerged and attempted to gain sovereignty over the entire island. The state-sponsored flowering of Buddhist art and architecture and the construction of complex and extensive hydraulic works exemplify what is known as Sri Lanka's classical age, which roughly parallels the period between the rise and fall of Anuradhapura (from ca. 200 B.C. to ca. A.D. 993).

The Sinhalese kingdom at Anuradhapura was in many ways typical of other ancient hydraulic societies because it lacked a rigid, authoritarian and heavily bureaucratic structure. Theorists have attributed Anuradhapura's decentralized character to its feudal basis, which was, however, a feudalism unlike that found in Europe. The institution of caste formed the basis of social stratification in ancient Sinhalese society and determined a person's social obligation, and position within the hierarchy.

In “Ancient Sinhalese Irrigation,” C. W. Nicholas wrote: “The ingenuity of the Sinhala irrigation engineers is best exemplified by the invention of the "bisokotuwa" which historically mean "queen’s enclosure" indicating "out of bounds". The Bisokotuwa is the same as the sluice gate, which functions in the regulation of the outward flow of water and is therefore essentially an invention made by the Sinhala irrigation engineers more than 2200 years ago, 1000 years before the rest of the world, and are considered to have built the most sophisticated irrigation systems in the world according to British excavation engineers. It has remained essentially unchanged since then. "it was this bisokotuwa invention alone which permitted the Sinhalese to proceed boldly with the construction of reservoirs that still rank among the finest work of its kind in the world" (Parker, 1981) Minneriya tank, was the first great rainwater reservoir ever constructed in the world, if the great lakes of Egypt, which are immense natural hollows into which streams were turned, are not considered. This was built by King Mahasena (276-303 A.D.) "Neither in the lands of their (i.e. of the Indo-Aryan settlers) origin nor in South India did there develop an irrigation system of the magnitude or the complexity of that which the Sinhalese afterwards constructed in Ceylon; nothing comparable and contemporaneous with the ancient dam, canal and tank system of Ceylon, mingling the water of rivers flowing in different directions is known in continental India" [Source: A Short Account of the History of Irrigation Works,C. W. Nicholas, JRASCB 1960, 43-69)]

Early Sinhalese Society and Administration

The caste system in Sri Lanka developed its own characteristics. Although it shared an occupational role with its Indian prototype, caste in Sri Lanka developed neither the exclusive Brahmanical social hierarchy nor, to any significant degree, the concept of defilement by contact with impure persons or substances that was central to the Indian caste system. The claims of the Kshatriya (warrior caste) to royalty were a moderating influence on caste, but more profound was the influence of Buddhism, which lessened the severity of the institution. The monarch theoretically held absolute powers but was nevertheless expected to conform to the rules of dharma, or universal laws governing human existence and conduct. [Source: Russell R. Ross and Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1988]

The king was traditionally entitled to land revenue equivalent to one-sixth of the produce in his domain. Furthermore, his subjects owed him a kind of caste-based compulsory labor (rajakariya in Sinhala) as a condition for holding land and were required to provide labor for road construction, irrigation projects, and other public works. During the later colonial period, the Europeans exploited the institution of rajakariya, which was destined to become an important moral and economic issue in the nineteenth century.

Social divisions arose over the centuries between those engaged in agriculture and those engaged in nonagricultural occupations. The Govi (cultivators) belonged to the highest Sinhalese caste (Goyigama) and remained so in the late twentieth century. All Sri Lankan heads of state have, since independence, belonged to the Goyigama caste, as do about half of all Sinhalese. The importance of cultivation on the island is also reflected in the caste structure of the Hindu Tamils, among whom the Vellala (cultivator) is the highest caste.

Great Engineer Kings of Ancient Lanka

The king who made the greatest impact on Sri Lankan economy in the first millennium B.C. however was Pandukabhaya (437-407 B.C.). The first indigenous king of Lanka, he was the first to wage a war and bring the country under one rule. Identified as the islandpioneer hydraulic engineer, he built the first massive tank - Abhayawewa launching a hydraulic civilisation that continued to enrich the economy for centuries. He thereafter imposed a systematic revenue system on the farmers who irrigated their land using water of this tank and imposed a tax on the traders. [Source: R. W., The Island]

Under an accelerated economy, Pandukabhaya deemed it necessary to set up three administrative divisions in the island to ease administration and divided the country into 3 divisions - Pihiti Ruhuna and Dhakshina (which later became Maya) using Mahaweli and Deduru rivers as its boundaries, a division that lasted through many centuries.

Dr. Deraniyagala reveals that Anuradhapura was a bustling commercial centre long before the reign of Pandukabhaya. Therefore, Pandukabhaya’s historically significant landmark decision to officially shift the Capital City from Panduvasnuwara to Anuradhapura, may not have seemed strange at the time.

Devanampiyatissa, following his ancestor’s footsteps, built the second giant tank - Tisawewa in Anuradhapura. His genius however, was as a strategist. To prevent invasions from the southern states of India, he befriended Emperor Ashoka by sending emissaries with precious gifts and requesting him to send the necessary regalia for his abbisheka ceremony. There is no proof to say that this action of King Devanampiyatissa was to demonstrate his allegiance to the mighty Mauryan monarch. But it was certainly a ploy to strengthen his rule and to seek the Emperor’s assistance in case of any invasions from southern Indian states. The result was the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka which changed the entire course of Sri Lanka’s history.

Agriculture of Ancient Rajarata

According to former Commissioner of Archaeology Dr. Siran Deraniyagala the evolution of Sri Lanka’s began in earnest with migration to Sri Lanka from the Indian subcontinent, which occurred from around 1000 B.C. According to him, migrants arrived attracted by water and prime agricultural land. The ancient chronicles focused their attention on political affairs and the development of Buddhism and reference to economy were scant. [Source: R. W., The Island]

The location of the island’s early capital cities had always been in close proximity to rivers. The Mahavamsa declares Thammannawa as the island’s first capital and is speculated to have been located by the Malvatu river in the northwest. It is believed that the second capital, Upatissa Nagaraya was located near the mouth of Malvatu river, south of Thammannawa while the third capital city, Panduvasnuwara may have been located mid way of the Malvatu oya. The next capital, Anuradhapura was situated further up on the banks of the Malvatu oya.

Early inhabitants of Sri Lanka perhaps taking stock of excessive rain and the rough terrain of the wet zone, moved to the dry zone. After a severe flood around 1000-900 B.C., archaeologists speculate that the northwest got crowded, while the wet zone remained underpopulated.

The pattern of settlements in pre-historic times clearly reveals that our earliest ancestors depended on rain-fed agriculture. They chose to settle down near rivers when they realised that agriculture, their main occupation was not possible during the dry season. With the demand for more water, the need was realised to store water to be used for agriculture in the dry months. At the beginning, they used ponds and dug wells and later, village tanks were built by regional leaders for small-scale irrigation. The Mahavamsa mentions of a tank built by Vijaya’s minister Anuradha, near the Kadamba river. The drainage from the eastern high ground going waste, was tapped. Villages sprang up around these tanks as shown by names of early villages mentioned in the Mahavamsa such as Sumanavaapigaama, Handavivaapi-gaama and Pelivaapikagaama — vaapi meaning tank.

Geniuses of Irrigation

Large-scale irrigation networks began crisscrossing the parched landscape which started as early as the 1st century A.D. Sri Lankas engineers utilized the waters of the Mahaweli ganga and other rivers that flowed down to the plains from the mountains of the wet zone.The construction of their canals and channels exhibited an amazing in depth knowledge of trigonometry ; and the design of their reservoirs or wewas revealed a thorough grasp of hydraulic principles Their dams had broad bases able to withstand very heavy pressures outlets for the discharge of water were installed at suitable points in the embankment. The method of regulating the flow of water from these tanks,as the artificial lake reservoirs are called today, was ingenious.By the 3rd century B.C. Sri Lankan engineers had invented the BISOKOTUWA (valvepit), the prototype of sluices regulating the flow of water from contemporary reservoirs. [Source: Russell R. Ross and Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1988 *]

The increasing sophistication of irrigation technologies enabled Sri Lankas early settlers to extend the water networks throughout the dry zone by the 6th century A.D engineering milestones included the kantalai tank built by king mahasena (274-302) It covered 4,560 acres was fed by a canal 25 miles long,and was contained by a dam 50 feet high. Even more superior in technology was the kalawewa constructed by king Dhatusena(460-478).It encompassed seven square miles and had a dam 3,1/2 miles long and 36 to 58 feet high with a Spill of hammered granite. A canal 54 miles long and 40 feet wide linked it to the city of Anuradhapura and played an integral role in the development of that ancient capital. The first 17 miles of this canal had a gradient of only six inches slope per mile. Subsequent centuries saw even more remarkable developments in the irrigation of Sri Lanka. By the end of the 8th century, irrigation systems enabled the islanders to open extensive tracts of land to cultivation.

Evolution of Irrigation in Ancient Sri Lanka

The evolution of the ancient irrigation system began thus giving way to the birth of a civilisation. The pioneer Hydraulic Engineer, King Pandukabhaya (474-407 B.C.) who may have taken up the cue from small tank-builders, built the first massive tank — Abhaya, as early as the 5th Century B.C. on the right bank of the Malvatu oya. Devanampiyatissa (307-267 B.C.) built the second tank, Tisawewa, further up, on the right bank of the Malvatu oya in Anuradhapura — which reflects the increased demand that arose for more water from a fast growing population around Anuradhapura. [Source: R. W., The Island]

Early farmers had to pay for water to the private tank-owners paving way for a revenue-system. Once the king became the tank-builder, he imposed taxes for using water and these taxes emerged as the chief source of income of the state. Taxes were initially paid with the produce of the land or with labour but the necessity for the use of currency may have arisen once the foreign traders appeared on the Sri Lankan radar screen.

The vast strides that agriculture made, led the population to boom according to the Mahavamsa. Vijaya’s ministers set up eight janapada (colonies) which when expanded became villages and several villages together graduated into cities and gave rise to an urban culture. According to Dr. Deraniyagala, this phenomenon took place in Anuradhapura parallel to that of the Ganges Valley in North India. With the increase in population, people’s needs expanded. Paddy cultivation involved work only during certain seasons of the year. Therefore, people may have tried their hands at industries when time hung on their hands.

Industry and Trade in Ancient Sri Lanka

Records reveal that from very early history, people engaged themselves in industries involving gems and pearls, bronze, carpentry, textiles, weaving and handloom, sculpture, murals and terracotta. Products thus turned out had to be sold through traders and the next link of the economic development chain was the establishment of trade. When trade developed, the standard of products may have advanced. There is ample historical evidence to suggest that from a very early period in history, foreign traders were visiting Sri Lanka and people had crossed the sea to trade goods. [Source: R. W., The Island]

The Valaahassa Jatakaya says the women of the indigenous Lankans known as yakshas were visiting the coast to meet foreign traders. Once when 500 traders were shipwrecked on Lankan shores, the woman yaksha leader took them to Sirisavaththupura as prisoners and married the leader of the trading group. Kuveni therefore apparently followed a tradition practiced by her ancestors.

The Pujavaliya and Mahavamsa mention the two merchants of Orissa, Tapassu and Bhalluka, who were visiting Sri Lanka on trading missions in the sixth century B.C. The first lay disciples of the Buddha, they brought back His Hair Relics and them enshrined in a chetiya they built called "Girihanduseya" near Gonagamaka, now Trincomalee. These merchants probably were trading with spices and gems, may have sailed from the Eastern coast of India and anchored their vessels in Gonagamaka. The Mahavamsa mentions a port called Uruvela connected with pearl banks, and used as a trading-port by Vijaya’s followers.

Foreign trade, according to Sri Lankan and foreign records had dealt only with exotic items — pearls, gems, ivory and ivory-products, spices, liquor, cotton textiles, elephants, tortoise, turtle and conch shells. The Mahavamsa mentions that Vijaya’s Minister Upatissa built a town on the banks of a river, named it after him, divided it into streets and set up a market place. This area was known as the podilihina sthanaya as products were brought for sale to this place. Rasavahini mentions a wealthy trader of early history whose import and export trade took him overseas and it has also mentioned a trader by the name of Nandi who, while based in Mahatheertha, conducted trade.

Sri Lanka and the Ancient Maritime Silk Road

Sri Lanka has been known since ancient times. The Greeks and Roman referred to Sri Lanka as Taprobane, and regarded it as the eastern edge of the world. The ancient Chinese called it the Island of gems. King Solomon reportedly sent emissaries to the City of Gems for precious stones to entice the Queen of Sheba. The six century Greek trader wrote "a great island...resort ships."

Early traders called Sri Lanka a "Second Eden! Pearls form Sri Lanka found their way ancient Rome. Sri Lanka is believed to have had a hand in supplying the Roman nobility with spices, perfumes, silks, ivory and pearls. Consumption of luxury goods had been criticised in Rome at as a drain on Roman wealth. Roman coins of the A.D. fifth century ave been found in Mantai, Anuradhapura, Sigiriya and around Godavaya port in the southern Sri Lanka known as Ruhunu Rata.

Ancient chronicles mention that there was a direct trade-route between West India and Sri Lanka long before Vijaya’s arrival in the 6th century B.C. Sea lanes connected the Mediterranean Sea — via the Red Sea, Persia and India — to China and the Spice Islands of Indonesia. Sri Lanka was located at the crossroads of these sea routes. Pieces of porcelain, coloured beads and remains of old ships had been found in some of Sri Lanka’s ports.

Arab mariners called Sri Lanka ‘Serendipity”. The “Arabian Nights” described the six voyages of Sinbad the sailor to the wonderful island of Serendipity. Sri Lanka is believed to be the site of Sinbad’s adventures in the valley of the diamonds and the elephant graveyard. A Persian fairy tale called “The Three Princes of Serendepity” tells of wonderful discoveries made by princes. The 18th century English author Horace Walpole coined the word 'serendipity" to describe its "unexpected delights." Today serendipity means the faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident!

Pearls, Gems and Elephants from Sri Lanka

Oysters found in plenty in the shallow seas off the northwest had further attracted overseas traders. Ancient navigators — the Phoenicians who sailed from the Red Sea had known of the existence of the priceless pearls in the shallow waters off Serendipity. [Source: R. W., The Island]

The Mahavamsa mentions Vijaya sending his father-in-law, the King of Madhurapura "a shell pearl worth twice a hundred thousand pieces of money." Devanampiyatissa sent priceless treasures to Emperor Dharmasoka that included eight kinds of pearls. The Greek writer of the fourth century B.C. Megasthenes, who was the first ambassador in India from Greece in the Maurayan court of Chandragupta notes that "Taprobane was more productive of gold and large pearls than those in India." To Arab traders, Sri Lanka was the fabled land of gems known as Serendib.

Megasthenes also reports of the export of elephants to India from Mahathiththa: "There were herds of elephants belonging to varied castes and they were stronger, bigger and more intelligent than those in India. Traders made boats with wood to transport elephants to the king of Kalinga." Tuskers may have however been in demand within the country. History mentions a rich trader, known by the name of his village, Dantakaara (meaning toothcraft) in Anuradhapura who got the villagers to turn out crafts exclusively with ivory, probably for export.

While we have had a surplus of elephants to be exported, horses, not being indigenous had to be imported. The horse was a mode of transport of the elite and were used for carriages and in warfare. The Mahavamsa mentions Sena and Guththika arriving from India for horse-trading while Rasavahini mentions Dutugemunu’s army general Velusumana having a "Saindhavi" horse, a breed of the Indus (Sindhu) Valley. Horses were also imported from Persia. The demand for horses was such that kings in very early history, exempted horse imports from taxes.

The hive of activity however, did not confine to the coastal areas. As Anuradhapura was easily accessible from Mahathiththa along the Malvatu river bank, evidence suggests that trade had expanded into the city of Anuradhapura. Coins of 400 B.C. of the Ganges valley had been found in Anuradhapura. And due to the expanding commercial network as well as the necessity to sustain those involved in trade, the Mahathiththa-Arippu-Anuradhapura triangle had turned into a highly commercialised and a densely populated area attracting navigators, migrants, craftsmen, industrialists, suppliers of goods, tax-collectors, security-personnel and administrators as well. This area had also served as a zone where trade-routes as well as information pertaining to trade secrets, weather and sailing patterns were exchanged when navigators and traders hung around while ships were being serviced in the ports or trade-deals were finalised.

Former Commissioner, Archaeology, Dr. Sirhan Deraniyagala says that in the Anuradhapura city, an area was demarcated for traders and Mahavamsa speaks of a trading-community living in an area allocated by King Elara outside the city. A "Damila" was the leader of this trading-community. Mention is also made of 4 main gates in the Anuradhapura city connected to the main roads - Mahatheertha on the Northwest direction, Jambukola on the north, Gonagamapatana (Trincomalee) on the east and the other towards Mahakandara port.

Taxes in Ancient Sri Lanka

With economy in full bloom by around 300-250 B.C., taxes had formed an important component in the Anuradhapura administrative-structure. Early records reveal that kings of Anuradhapura posted customs-officers to the ports to collect taxes from foreign traders. Taxes were specified according to the tracing-product. Mention had been made of a specific tax charged for elephants when exported. [Source: R. W., The Island]

A rock inscription mentions of mawatu laddan which probably refers to those who were responsible for Mahathiththa Port or customs-officers posted at this port. Nayantivu inscription mentions of a tax imposed on navigators that allowed ships that needed repair, to enter the ports.

Both chronicles and rock inscriptions mention of a post called Bhandagaraka that existed in early Anuradhapura era. With a tax-system in operation, the need for a Bhandagaraya or a Treasury may have arisen to keep accounts. The person holding the post of Ganaka as mentioned in rock inscriptions, may have been responsible for the keeping of accounts of the Treasury. Mention is also made of Adeka probably Adhyakshaka (Director) and of Panara Adeka (Director of Finance in all probability) to manage the growing and diversifying economy.

And with the economy rolling, transport inevitably had become a vital sector that needed to be administered as we see from the following designations: Sivka Adeka — Authority or Director of Palanquins and other Vehicles, Athi Adeka - Authority on Elephants and Asa Adeka-Director/Horses.

The introduction of Buddhism in the third century B.C. caused the arts and crafts turned out by ancient artisans to gain further finess. Emperor Ashoka sent 18 groups (castes) of people who indulged in 18 kinds of crafts from the subcontinent along with Theri Sanghamitta. The result was a fusion of traditions which set new aesthetic standards. This in turn may have impacted on the economy as exports confined to exquisite items.

And with Anuradhapura becoming a leading centre of Buddhism in Asia, the seaports also played a key role in the propagation of Buddhism. The Mahavihara in Anuradhapura, considered as the all-important centre of Buddhist Teaching enjoying University status was, according to ancient literature the venue of advanced discourses on Buddhism. This institution as well as Abhayagiri in the later years of the millennium B.C., attracted many religious scholars, dignitaries and emissaries especially from the Indian subcontinent for scholastic dhamma studies while the pious arrived seeking spiritual attainment in the sacred city of Anuradhapura. Therefore, while Anuradhapura reached the peak in Buddhist activity in the first millennium B.C., the two-fold economy of Rajarata, based on trade and agriculture, thrived on the other side of the scale.

Whereas, the economy of Ruhuna, was largely agriculture-based with trade playing a lesser role. An inscription in the South mentions of an Order given by Gotabhaya - the father of Kavantissa that taxes earned in the port - Godavaya should be used to upkeep the nearby Viharaya. During Gotabhaya’s reign in Magampura, goods had been imported and exported with taxes imposed on them but evidence of trade-activities in these ports had been evidently far less than in the ports of the northwestern coast. However, navigators of the silk and the spice routes probably stopped over at Godavaya port for want of servicing of their naval vessels when trading may have taken place.

Lankan Diplomatic Missions to Rome

Yet, just 34 years after Dutugamunu’s reign, five South Indian invaders, lured by the prosperity, succeeded in capturing and reigning Rajarata for 14 years from 103-89 B.C. until King Valagamba recaptured it - an occurance that continued throughout the first millennium A.D. and finally forced Sinhala kings to shift the capital to Polonnaruwa. [Source: R. W., The Island]

The economy however drummed back and the high-point at the close of the first millennium B.C. in the Anuradhapura-administration was the reign of King Bhatika Abhaya (20 B.C.-A.D. 9). With the economy thriving during his reign he desired to penetrate further afield and making a bold decision, sent diplomatic missions across high seas to the mighty Roman Court and other regional kingdoms.

Roman historian Pliny had found the audience the four Lankan ambassadors had with Emperor Claudius and the information of the island as related by these emissaries as worthy of being recorded. Pliny had documented that the mission was sent to Rome with a navigator who had been stranded on Sri Lankan shores and had been granted permission to reside here with the status of a privileged person.

What one can however assume of this recorded mission is that King Bhatika Abhaya’s emissaries were probably expected to explore new markets and of other goods that were in demand in the outside world. With Romans already importing luxury goods, the delegation may have been commissioned especially to seek further items for which there was a demand in the Roman kingdom, as would a trade-delegation. Nevertheless, documentation of the visit by a historian of the most powerful nation at the time — Rome, serves as en enlightening piece of historical material of an illustrious era at a time when sound economy and political stability prevailed at the highest levels.

Sinhalese Kings During the 5th-6th Centuries

During the time of Buddhadasa's son, Upatissa I, a new festival called Gangarohana was inaugurated on the advice of the monks to overcome a famine which occurred early in the fifth century. It was decreed that the festival should be held whenever there was a famine. His brother Mahanama (A.D. 409-431) was favourable to Abhayagiri, while his queen was devoted to the Mahavihara. It was during the time of Mahanama that the commentator Buddhaghosa came to Anuradhapura, and while residing at the Mahavihara, translated the Sinhalese commentaries on the Tipitaka into Pali. After Mahanama the country was in chaos for more than 25 years, during which time six Tamil usurpers ruled in succession at Anuradhapura.

Dhatusena (A.D. 460-478), who liberated the country from foreign yoke became a celebrated king. He was originally a monk, but gave up his robe, killed the Tamils, and re-established the rule. He did a lot of work to promote Buddhism as well as the welfare of the country. Among his works, the vast irrigation tank of Kalavana, is worth mentioning. He was a staunch supporter of the Mahavihara and built 18 great viharas and tanks and offered them to the monks of the Theriya sect. Many smaller viharas and tanks built by him were also made over to the same sect. He provided abundance of requisites for monks and gave every encouragement for the spread of the teaching of the Tipitaka. Though he was a loyal friend of the Mahavihara, he did not forget to make the necessary improvements at the Abhayagiri. He also renovated the Ambatthala-vihara on the Cetiya-pabbata with the idea of giving it to the Theriyas, but on the entreaty of the Dhammarucikas who were in occupation of the hill since the days of Mahasena, the vihara was granted to their sect. Dhatusena made several statues of the Buddha and the Bodhisatta and built houses for them. He made an image of Mahinda and held a great festival at the cremation ground of the thera where, it is said, the Dipavamsa was recited and explained.

Dhatusena was succeeded by his patricide son Kassapa I (478-496) of Sigiriya fame. At first the monks of the Theriya sect were not favourable to him chiefly through fear of public censure. They refused to accept his offer of the Issarasamanarama which was enlarged and enriched with new endowments by Kassapa. but later on they yielded and allowed it to be offered to the image of the Buddha, thus, accepting it indirectly. Kassapa.built a vihara for the Dhammarucikas as well.

An important event that took place during the reign of the next king Moggallana I (496-513) was the bringing of the Hair Relic of the Buddha (Kesadhatu) to Sri Lanka. The Hair Relic was placed in a crystal casket in an image house, and the occasion was celebrated with a great festival. Mogallana also purified the Sasana which was disorganised during the troublesome days of Kassapa I. His son, Kumara-Dhatusena (513-522) is said to have held a Dhammasangiti (Recital of the Sacred Texts) and purified the Sasana. King Silakala (524-537) , who was formerly a monk, decreed the order of non-killing over the Island, maintained hospitals, and carried on the usual religious activities. Silakala, who appears to have had some contact with Mahayana Buddhists of India, managed to get a text called Dharmadhatu from Kasi, housed it near the place, and took it over to the Jetavana vihara every year for a festival which he made into a regular annual event. The Sagaliya monks of the Dakkhinagiri who lived at the Jetavana at the time, were loath to join in these activities.

We find a great movement for the spread of the Dhamma and the promotion of learning during the reign of the celebrated poet-king Culla-Mogallana or Mogalana II (537-556) . Regarding the preachers with abundant gifts of honour, he had the Tipitaka preached along with the Commentaries. He also made arrangements for the books to be written down. He himself composed a religious poem and seated on the back of his elephant, recited it at the end of a sermon in the city at night. He was so anxious to disseminate learning that it is recorded he lured children with sweetmeats to study the dhamma.

During the reign of Aggabhodi I (568-601) a very important incident is reported to have occured. A great thera called Jotipala, who came from India, defeated the Vaitulyas in the Island in a public debate. After this public defeat there were no more converts to the Vaitulya doctrine, and the monks of the nikayas, viz. the Abhayagiri and the Jetavana, dismissed pride and lived in submission to the Mahavihara. This indicates the importance of the Mahavihara in the sixth century A.D. Around this time, there was frequent religious intercourse between India and Sri Lanka and many Sri Lankan monks are said to have made frequent visits to the Buddhist shrines at Bodhagaya.

Sinhalese Kings During the 7th-9th Centuries

The next king Aggabodhi II (601-611) does not seem to have taken interest in the Mahavihara. For instance, when the great thera Jotipala once showed him that a part of the Thuparama Dagoba had come loose and fallen down when the thera was worshipping there, the king expreesed some concern and removed the Collar-bone Relic to Lohapasada, but delayed the repairs. It was only after "threats of dreadful dreams" that the king completed the work on the Dagoba. He built Veluvana-vihara for the monks of the Sigaliya sect. During his time, the king of Kalinga, on account of some political trouble there, came to Sri Lanka and became a monk under Jotipala thera. His queen did everything to make their stay in the Island as happy as possible.

Dalla-Moggallana or Moggalana III (611-617) held a grand recital of the three pitakas and encouraged the spread of religious knowledge by honouring the learned. This gave an impetus to Buddhist literary activity. A reference to a kathina-ceremony is found in the reign of this king. He too purified the Sasana. King Kassapa II (641-650) repaired the buildings that had been destroyed and performed many religious activities. He also arranged for monks to go about and preach the dhamma, and caused a compendium (sangaha) of the Pali texts to be composed. He also had the Abhidhamma recited alone with the Commentaries. This new interest in the Abhidhamma was becoming an outstanding feature of the intellectual class of the period. Xuan Zang records that the Sinhalese monks "were distinguished for their power of abstraction and their wisdom."

During the time of Dathopatissa II (650 -658 -) there was again some friction between the king and the Mahavihara. Dathopatissa wanted to build a vihara for the Abhayagiri, but the Mahavihara raised objection on the ground that it was within their boundaries. But the king forcibly carried out his plan. The monks of the Theriya sect were bitter against the king and applied to him the "the Turning Down of the Alms-Bowl (patta-nikkujjana-kamma), which is considered the excommunication of a layman. But the king did nothing against the Mahavihara. It would appear that the monks of the Mahavihara were powerful enough to openly criticise the acts of the king. These facts clearly signify the important position occupied by the Mahavihara in the seventh century A.D.

Aggabodhi IV (658-674) made ample amends for all the injustices done to the monasteries by his kinsmen in the past including the previous king his elder brother. All the three nikayas received his favour. Maintenance-villages servants and attendants and all other comforts were provided for them. "To the three fraternities he gave a thousand villages with large assured revenues." The whole country followed the example king. Even the Tamils, who were high officials in the service of the king, followed him in his religious activities. The queen built a nunnery for nuns and provided all comforts for them. For the first time we have the example from the reign of Aggabodhi IV to the chanting of paritta as a ceremony, which became a regular feature of later Buddhist practices. He also proclaimed the order of non-killing. After this a new spirit of regard for animal life can be noticed that began to influence the minds of the people. Another important thing that happened during the time of Aggabodhi IV was that he was the first king to occupy Polonnaruva temporarily. This place from now onwards was growing in importance both on account of its strategic position against invasions and also on account of its prosperity helped by extensive irrigation works in the neighbourhood. Kassapa III (711-724) decreed not only the order of non-killing, but also reared fish in two ponds. Aggabodhi VII (766-772) not only purified the Sasana, but also became the first Sri Lankan king to occupy Polonnaruva as his capital on a permanent basis. Mahinda II (772-792) and Sena I (831-851) are reported to have made provision for fishes, beasts, and birds, while Udaya I or Dappula II (792-797) is said to have given corn to cattle and rice to crows and other birds.

King Udaya II (885-896) was the last king to govern from Anuradhapurra. The great Lohapasada, the nerve centre of Buddhist activities in olden days, had now only 32 monks as residents, even after it was repaired. All interests and activities, both political and religious, were fast shifting into the rich, capital of Polonnaruva, now growing rapidly in importance and size.

Friction Between Sinhalese and Tamils in Sri Lanka

Dutthagamani is the outstanding hero of the Mahavamsa, and his war against Elara is sometimes depicted in contemporary accounts as a major racial confrontation between Tamils and Sinhalese. A less biased and more factual interpretation, according to Sri Lankan historian K.M. de Silva, must take into consideration the large reserve of support Elara had among the Sinhalese. Furthermore, another Sri Lankan historian, Sinnappah Arasaratnam, argues that the war was a dynastic struggle that was purely political in nature. As a result of Dutthagamani's victory, Anuradhapura became the locus of power on the island. Arasaratnam suggests the conflict recorded in the Mahavamsa marked the beginning of Sinhalese nationalism and that Dutthagamani's victory is commonly interpreted as a confirmation that the island was a preserve for the Sinhalese and Buddhism. The historian maintains that the story is still capable of stirring the religio-communal passions of the Sinhalese. [Source: Russell R. Ross and Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1988 *]

The Tamil threat to the Sinhalese Buddhist kingdoms had become very real in the fifth and sixth centuries A.D. Three Hindu empires in southern India — the Pandya, Pallava, and Chola — were becoming more assertive. The Sinhalese perception of this threat intensified because in India, Buddhism — vulnerable to pressure and absorption by Hinduism — had already receded. Tamil ethnic and religious consciousness also matured during this period. In terms of culture, language, and religion, the Tamils had identified themselves as Dravidian, Tamil, and Hindu, respectively.

Another Sinhalese king praised in the Mahavamsa is Dhatusena (459-77), who, in the fifth century A.D., liberated Anuradhapura from a quarter- century of Pandyan rule. The king was also honored as a generous patron of Buddhism and as a builder of water storage tanks. Dhatusena was killed by his son, Kasyapa (477-95), who is regarded as a great villain in Sri Lankan history. In fear of retribution from his exiled brother, the parricide moved the capital from Anuradhapura to Sigiriya, a fortress and palace perched on a monolithic rock 180 meters high. Although the capital was returned to Anuradhapura after Kasyapa was dethroned, Sigiriya is an architectural and engineering fete displayed in an inaccessible redoubt. The rock fortress eventually fell to Kasyapa's brother, who received help from an army of Indian mercenaries.

Invasions from Indian Kingdoms

Therefore, while the high-profile economy and the religious significance of Anuradhapura made Rajarata the most prized kingdom that made rulers such as Dutugamunu and Valagamba restless until they conquered it, the thriving economy also beckoned migrants, invaders to the island. Throughout Sri Lanka’s ancient history, we find invaders from the states of Chola, Pandya, Madhura end Kalinga arriving in Sri Lanka to seize power, through the gateway in the Northwestern coast. History however, does not record of such invasions when there was political stability under kings such as Pandukabhaya, Devanmpiyatissa, Dutugamunu and Bhatika Abhaya. [Source: R. W., The Island]

The brothers of King Devanampiyatissa who succeeded him, did not possess his strategic foresight. The reign of Suratissa (274-237 B.C.), came to en end when Chola adventurers - Sena and Guththika, the horse-traders, ended up as rulers for 22 years from 237-215 BC.

King Asela, Devanampiyatissa’s youngest brother, chased them away but barely ten years later, the Chola prince - Elara from the Pandyan state invaded and ruled Rajarata from 205-161 B.C. - for 44 years, which proves that the Sinhala kings did not realize that invasions had to be expected when economy flourished. These invasions affected the economy of Rajarata in the later years of the first millennium B.C. and ancient records also mention of an epidemic that occurred in the second century B.C. which led monks to leave Anuradhapura.

Mahavamsa describes these invaders as "Damila." The panellists of a popular tv show pointed out that at the time there was no "Damila" kingdom in India. Mahavamsa used the common name "Damila" to describe invaders and traitors but the word did not mean Tamil as it is meant today. Mahavamsa for example describes Dheeghagamini - a son of a lesser Queen of Kavantissa as a "Damila". Dheeghagamini was sent to guard a strategic point in the Mahaweli bank by Kavantissa but he decamped and joined Elara’s Army. In the inscriptions however, the word "Damila" had not been used to describe invaders or traitors.

Even during the reign of the much celebrated Dutugamunu, Elara’s nephew Bhalluka arrived from South India with an army to be however defeated by the highly motivated, Dutugamunu’ army. It should be noted that Dutugamunu’s war-march from Magama to Anuradhapura lasted 3 years and the attack on fort Vijithapura took 6 months. Therefore, Elara may have sensed the seriousness of the threat posed by Dutugamunu and made a request for assistance. Dutugamunu however was unaware of Bhalluka’s arrival until he arrived at his doorstep but annihilated Bhalluka’s army at Kolombahalaka where Bhalluka had set up camp. No other invader dared challenge Dutugamunu thereafter, whose reign was marked with political stability, a spectacular religious upliftment and economic prosperity.

Marriages with Indian Kingdoms

Although there had been a severe lapse of defensive measures taken at the entry points in the Northwestern coast, the favourite strategy adopted by many kings to prevent foreign invasions was to seek marriage with the Royal families of India. Mahavamsa records the first political marriage in history as that of Vijaya who brought a Pandyan princess from Madhurapura to be his Queen. His Royal Court advised him to enter into marriage with royalty as this was a requirement for the royal abhisheka ceremony (coronation). The other reason may have been to befriend a possible invader or to receive assistance in case of invasion from another South Indian kingdom. Mahavamsa mentions of Vijaya sending costly gifts - shell pearls from the shallow seas off the Northwest to the Pandyan King. Was it to exhibit the riches of his kingdom and if he was not ruling a wealthy state, would the Pandyan king have sent his daughter to Sri Lanka?

Panduvasdev (504-474 B.C.), Vijaya’s nephew who succeeded him, too married an Indian princess, Bhaddakachchana of kshatriya caste. Six of her brothers followed the sister to Sri Lanka. Once again, is it pertinent to ask that if there was no economic prosperity, would the brothers have followed the sister? The kshatriya brothers who set foot in the Dambakola Patuna, set up their own independent kingdoms in the east contributing to the agricultural and cultural development of the area in pursuit of what was most likely a sound economy.

Sinhalese Make a Come Back But Then Retreat to the South

King Vijayabahu I drove the Chola out of Sri Lanka in A.D. 1070. Considered by many as the author of Sinhalese freedom, the king recaptured Anuradhapura but ruled from Polonnaruwa, slightly less than 100 kilometers to the southeast. During his forty-year reign, Vijayabahu I (A.D. 1070-1110) concentrated on rebuilding the Buddhist temples and monasteries that had been neglected during Chola rule. He left no clearly designated successor to his throne, and a period of instability and civil war followed his rule until the rise of King Parakramabahu I, known as the Great (A.D. 1153-86). [Source: Russell R. Ross and Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1988 *]

After Nissankamalla's death, a series of dynastic disputes hastened the breakup of the kingdom of Polonnaruwa. Domestic instability characterized the ensuing period, and incursions by Chola and Pandyan invaders created greater turbulence, culminating in a devastating campaign by the Kalinga, an eastern Indian dynasty. When Magha, the Kalinga king, died in 1255, another period of instability began, marking the beginning of the abandonment of Polonnaruwa and the Sinhalese migration to the southwest from the northern dry zone. The next three kings after Magha ruled from rock fortresses to the west of Polonnaruwa. The last king to rule from Polonnaruwa was Parakramabahu III (1278- 93). The migration is one of the great unsolved puzzles of South Asian history and is of considerable interest to academics because of the parallel abandonment of dry-zone civilizations in modern Cambodia, northern Thailand, and Burma.

The Sinhalese withdrawal from the north is sometimes attributed to the cumulative effect of invasions from southern India (a rationale that has been exploited against the Tamils in modern Sinhalese politics). This interpretation has obvious weaknesses because after each of the south Indian invasions of the preceding centuries, the Sinhalese returned to the dry zone from the hills and repaired and revived the ancient irrigation system. K.M. de Silva suggests that the cumulative effects of repeated invasions "ate into the vitals of a society already losing its vigour with age." A civilization based on a dry-zone irrigation complex presupposes a high degree of organization and a massive labor force to build and maintain the works. The decline of these public works mirrored the breakdown in the social order. Another factor that seems to have retarded the resettlement of the dry zone was the outbreak of malaria in the thirteenth century. The mosquito found ideal breeding grounds in the abandoned tanks and channels. (Malaria has often followed the destruction of irrigation works in other parts of Asia.) Indeed, all attempts at large-scale resettlement of the dry area in Sri Lanka were thwarted until the introduction of modern pesticides.

Foreign Invasions in Southern Sri Lanka

Foreign rulers took advantage of the disturbed political state of the Sinhalese kingdom, and in the thirteenth century Chandrabhanu, a Buddhist king from Malaya, invaded the island twice. He attempted to seize the two most sacred relics of the Buddha in Sinhalese custody, the Tooth Relic and the Alms Bowl. In the early fifteenth century, the Ming dynasty Chinese interceded on behalf of King Parakramabahu VI (1412-67), an enlightened monarch who repulsed an invasion from the polity of Vijayanagara in southern India, reunited Sri Lanka, and earned renown as a patron of Buddhism and the arts. Parakramabahu VI was the last Sinhalese king to rule the entire island.

During this extended period of domestic instability and frequent foreign invasion, Sinhalese culture experienced fundamental change. Rice cultivation continued as the mainstay of agriculture but was no longer dependent on an elaborate irrigation network. In the wet zone, large-scale administrative cooperation was not as necessary as it had been before. Foreign trade was of increasing importance to the Sinhalese kings. In particular, cinnamon — in great demand by Europeans — became a prime export commodity. Because of the value of cinnamon, the city of Kotte on the west coast (near modern Colombo) became the nominal capital of the Sinhalese kingdom in the mid-fifteenth century. Still, the Sinhalese kingdom remained divided into numerous competing petty principalities.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Sri Lanka Tourism (, Government of Sri Lanka (, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Wikipedia and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated February 2022

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