History of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka was known by several names from time to time as Lankadipa, Tambapanni, Sihaladipa, Lanka, Ilam, Hsia-Ian-Shan, Palaesimundu, Salica, Sarandib, Seilan, Seng-kia-la, Serendib, Seyllen, Sieladiba, Taprobana, Taprobane in the history of Sri Lanka.

According to Hindu mythology Sri Lanka had a great king called Ravana. According to this mythology (Ramayana) he has not only rule united Sri Lanka, he ruled some parts of India too. We just cannot forget about this as there are many folk tales and village names such as Seetha Eliya, Ravana Ella, Wariyapola which seem to have direct connections to the story.

At the end of mythology, Ravana was betrayed by his own brother and the Kingdom of Sri Lanka was overrun by the enemies. As a gift, Ravana’s brother got the crown of the country.
Ramayana describes Ravana’s Lanka as a paradise on earth.

Even though we cannot find any hard proof to Ravana’s era, archaeological experiments clearly show that there were human beings and activities even before 27,000 B.C. Excavations at Batadomba Lena, Beli Lena, Balangoda etc.reveals human activities in Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic eras. Famous Balangoda Man is a result of these excavations.

  • Paleolithic – Early stone age (2 mil ~ 13,000 years BC)
  • Mesolithic – Middle stone age (13,000 ~ 8000 years BC)
  • Neolithic – Late stone age (8000 ~ 4000 years BC)

The oldest division of the Island comprises Nagadipa in the north, Malayadesha in the central, and Rohana in the south. The first foreign invasion came in 217 BC. Two Tamil brothers, Sena and Gutthika, invaded the country and took over the kingdom. That time country was divided into,

  • Pihitirata – North
  • Malayadesa – Central
  • Ruhunurata – South

During times of peace these divisions were ruled by kings in a same dynasty. Pihitirata was the main kingdom and other two paid tribute to the main kingdom. So country remained as a united country.At the time of foreign occupations the kingdoms operated separately. There were about 20 invasions from south Indian kingdoms; Chola, pandyan, kalinga etc.
But never they ruled Malayarata and Ruhunurata; only pihitirata they ruled sometimes though they managed to destroy the capitals of Rohana and Malaya.Time to time Sinhala kings rescued and unified the country by defeating the invaders.

But the northern area harboured remnants of defeated Indian armies. They acted as information sources and mercenaries to the inside and outside enemies. At the Yapahuwa era Tamil general Ariyachakrawarthy invaded the country. From that time on there was a kingdom of Aryachakrawarthy’s at Yapapatuna. Aryachakrawarthy became a dynasty and ruled Yapapatuna and Wanni. Sometimes as allies, sometimes as foes. There were wars between Chakrawarthy’s and Sinhala kings at the period of Bhuwanekabahu V (1373-1404) and Chakrawarthy’s armies were defeated and limited to Yapapatuna.

At the time of King Parakkramabahu V1 of Kotte (1412-1468 once again Yapapatuna became aggressive.Diversifications and unifications. So the king’s son, prince Sapumal conquered Aryachakrawarthy and made the Sri Lanka united for the last time until 1815 AD.

King Vijaya
King Vijaya Came from Lata with 700 people at 543BC. With the help of Sri Lankan queen Kuweni, he captured the crown of the country. Kuweni had two chilren from Vijaya. Later
Vijaya abandoned them. Veddhas believed to be descended from these children. Later, Vijaya married to a princess from Padi Rata and consecrated as the king of Sri Lanka His ministers found villages Anuradhagama, Upatissagama, Uruwela and Vijitha.Vijaya reigned country for 38 years.

King Pandukabaya
Pandukabaya’s farther was not a descendent of Vijaya, but a member of Raksha race. There was a prophecy that Pandukabaya would kill his all uncles, hence he was in exile in his childhood. Truing the prophecy, he killed all his uncles, except one, with the help of Rakshas and became the king of Sri Lanka. He ruled the country for 70 years, which is the longest period, a king ever reigned in Sri Lanka.

King Dewanampiyatissa
Emperor Asoka of India was an unseen friend of king Dewanam Piya Tissa. During his time, emperor Asoka sent Buddhism with his son Mahinda thera. Put up Thuparamaya, Isurumuniya, Vessagiriya, Prathamaka Stupaya, Mahapaliya, Jambukola Viharaya, Thisa Weva.

Dutugemunu-Elara War
Prince Gemunu requested permission three times from his farther to fight with Elara, but he was not given. Prince Gemunu left from Maghama to fight with Tamils. First, he was faced resistance at Guththila. Then he overrun Vijithapura Fortress. It was taken 4 months, and Elara request reinforcements from Balluka of South India, who was the son-in-law of Elara. Then Dutugemunu overun Girila and Mahela Fortresses also. Finally, there was a duel between Dutugemunu and Elara. Elara was on the Maha Parwatha Tusker and Dutugemnu was on Kadol Tusker. King Elara was defeated by Dutugemunu. Balluka came with 60,000 solders but Dutugemunu defeated them also. He did lot of work for the development of country and the Buddhism. Put up Misisawetiya, Lowahamahapaya(7 story building), Ruwanweliseya etc. King Dutugemunu united the country and ruled under one flag.

King Walagamba
Due to Tamil invasion he was hide out at several places.He formed army at Maghama and dominated Anuradhapua, killed Datiya and became the King again Put up Abayagiriya, Somarama Vihara and Dambulla Vihara. Published Thripitakaya at Aluvihare at Matale.

25 years under Tamil Control
6 Tamil Princes came from India, killed King Miththasena and ruled the Pihiti Rata for 25 years. Pandu, Parinda, Kuda Parinda, Thirithara, Dhathiya and Peetiya are the princes. During above period Sinhala princes ran away to Southern area. One Thera at Mahavihara disrobed and led the troops and killed the Tamil ruler, who then became the King Dhatusena.

Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa era
Due to financial problems the treasury became empty and the King ran way to Ruhuna. Anuradhapura became anarchy. In 993AC Solee King Raja Raja sent a large army to destroy and loot Anuradhapura. Solee took King Mihidu V to their custody in 1018.

King Vijayaba
Vijayaba became the king for the Ruhuna in 1055. Later, he did a war against Solee and recaptured the Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. Reinforcements came from Solee rata, but king Vijayaba defeated them successfully. After 75 years, Sri Lanka became independent from Solee administration. He brought Bikshus from Burma to develop Buddhism. Repaired most of Vihara’s Repaired tanks and canals. He was a good poet.

Maha Parakramabahu
Developed literature and art of fighting during childhood in Ruhuna. Captured Polonnaruwa and became the king for the whole country. He had four Missions with him

  1. Satisfaction of people
  2. Protection of Buddhism
  3. Protect the nobles.
  4. Supplying necessities for poor

Developed and decorated the city of Polonnaruwa with ponds and parks. Put up Alabana Piriwena, Lankatikaka Pilimageya, Baddaseema Palace, Rupawathie Chaiththya, Kiri Vehera, Subadda Chaiththya. Built up Galviharaya, Demala Seya, Jethawanaramaya, Thiwanka Pilimageya, Nelum Pokuna and Pothgul Viharaya.

Kalinga Magha
Magha, a prince of Kalinga invaded the island with 2400 troops and conquered the country. He claimed Sinhala throne by right of inheritance (Kalinga kings and Sinhala kings were related by marriages. Magha was a very cruel ruler. He tortured Sinhala people, killed who resisted, looted everything possible. He destroyed many Chethiyas, revaged the Viharas, tortured Bhikkus and set fire to libraries.

  • Sri Lanka was set fire from 1215-1235
  • Magha was the cruellest ruler country ever had.
  • But he couldn’t capture the Tooth Relic, which was hidden in Kothmale.
  • Finally Magha was defeated by King Parakramabahu II and regained the power.

King Parakramabahu VI
Stayed at Veedagama temple during his childhood. Vijayanagar emperor sent troops to capture Sri Lanka, but King Parakramabahu VI defeated them. Sent prince Sapumal to Jaffna and defeated Arya Chakrawarthie and controlled the whole country and later sSent the navy to South India and collected tributes.

King Rajasinhe I
1554-1593. 39 years. Hails from Seethawaka. Good fighter. Attacked several times to Portuguese. Lost to Vimaladharmasooriya I in Kandy.

Portuguese Ceylon was a Portuguese territory in present-day Sri Lanka, representing a period in Sri Lankan history from 1505–1658. The Portuguese first encountered the Ceylonese kingdom of Kotte, with whom they signed a treaty. Portuguese Ceylon was established through the occupation of Kotte and the conquest of surrounding Sinhalese kingdoms. In 1565 the capital of Portuguese Ceylon was moved from Kotte to Colombo. The introduction of Christianity by the Portuguese furthered friction with the Sinhalese people.

Dutch Ceylon
Dutch Ceylon was a governorate established in present-day Sri Lanka by the Dutch East India Company. It existed from 1640 and 1796. In the early 17th century, Sri Lanka was partly ruled by the Portuguese and the Sinhala Kingdom, who were constantly battling each other. Although the Portuguese were not winning the war, their rule was rather burdensome to the people of those areas controlled by them. While the Dutch were engaged in a long war of independence from Spanish rule, the Sinhalese king (the king of Kandy) invited the Dutch to help defeat the Portuguese. The Dutch interest in Ceylon was to have a united battle front against the Iberians at that time.

British Ceylon
British Ceylon known contemporaneously as Ceylon, was a British Crown colony between 1815 and 1948. At first the area it covered did not include the Kingdom of Kandy, which was a protectorate from 1815, but from 1817 to 1948 the British possessions included the whole island of Ceylon, now the nation of Sri Lanka
Independence was finally granted in 1948 but the country remained a Dominion of the British Empire.

In 1972 Sri Lanka assumed the status of a Republic. A constitution was introduced in 1978 which made the Executive President the head of state. The Sri Lankan Civil War began in 1983, including an armed youth uprising in 1987–1989, with the 25 year-long civil war ending in 2009.