King Devanampiya Tissa (306 BC – 266 BC)

Grand miracles occurred during the consecration of King Devanampiya Tissa. Jewels buried in earth rose to the surface, pearls in deep oceans came to the shore and piled up in the shore and bamboo trees started to look like they were made out of silver. King Devanampiya Tissa thought that these pearls and gems should be sent to his great friend, King Dharmashoka of India. King Dharmashoka and King Devanampiya Tissa were great friends for many years but had never seen each other. King Devanampiya Tissa sent a mission to India with many jewels and pearls and other gifts for his friend, King Dharmashoka.

King Dharmashoka at this time was sending Buddhist missionaries to countries around the world. He selected his son Mahinda Thera to be sent to Lanka with the message of Buddhism. Mahinda Thera and four other theras started out from India to visit Lanka and ended up in “Missaka Pavva”. (Mihintale). At this time King Devanampiya Tissa was conducting a deer hunt close to Mihintale. The god of the mountain, wanted to show Mahinda Thera to the King and disguised himself as a deer. King Devanampiya Tissa and his men chased the deer. When the deer came near the mountain where Mahinda thera was standing, the deer disappeared. King Devanampiya Tissa saw Mahinda Thera standing on the mountain.

Mahinda Thera

Mahinda Thera called the King “come here Tissa”.
King Devanampiya Tissa thought that no human would call me Tissa, hence this person is a “yaksha”. (Devil). Then Mahinda Thera said to the King “We are samanas, disciples of Lord Buddha. We came here from “Jambu Dweepa”. (India). When King heard this he threw his bow and arrow and approached Mahinda Thera. King asked “Are there other samanas like you in Jambu Dweepa?” Mahinda Thera answered “Yes…There are many samanas like me in Jambu Dweepa”. Then King asked “How did you come here?” Mahinda Thera answered “neither land nor sea” King understood that Mahinda Thera and four samanas came through air.

Mahinda Thera wanted to preach Dharma to the King, but was not sure how intelligent the King was. Mahinda Thera asked, showing a nearby tree

“What is the name of this tree?” King answered “This is a mango tree, sir”
“Are there other mango trees other than this mango tree”
“Yes. There are many other mango trees, sir”
“Are there other trees beside this mango tree and other mango trees”
“Yes… There are many other trees that are not mango trees, beside this mango tree and other mango trees, sir”
“Are there other trees that are not mango trees and other mango trees”
“Yes…That is this mango tree, sir”

“Do you have relatives?”
“Yes .. I have many relatives”
“Are there people who are not your relatives?”
“Yes… There are many people who are not my relatives”
“Are there people other than your relatives and non relatives?” “Yes…That would be me, sir”
“Good… You are very intelligent and ready to listen to Buddha Dharma”

Then Mahinda Thera preached “Chula Hatthi Padopama Sutra” to the King. End of the sutra, King and his 40 thousand men became followers of Buddhism.

Hearing of Mahinda thera and Buddhism, King Devanampiya Tissa’s brother’s wife Princess Anula came with five hundred women and made offerings to the Mahinda thera. Later that day Mahinda thera preached Buddhism to Princess Anula and other women, and they attained “sovan pala” (First step to nirvana).

Construction of “Maha Vihara” by King Devanampiya Tissa:
King Devanampiya Tissa, wanted the whole country to listen to Mahinda thera’s preaching. He arranged a large hall for the people to sit and listen. Unfortunately this hall was too small and nearby large elephant dwelling house was also converted to a hall.

Author’s Note: Mahinda Thera’s Lineage: (As per Mahavamsa) Mahinda Thera was ordained by Moggaliputta Tissa Mahathera. (Who led the third Sangayana and wrote the seventh book of the Abhidharma pitaka, Kathavatthu. Translated by A.C Taylor, Pali Text Society). Moggaliputta Tissa was ordained by Siggava Mahathera. Siggava was ordained by Sonaka Mahathera Sonaka was ordained by Dasaka Mahathera Dasaka was ordained by Upali Mahathera. Upali was ordained by Buddha. (Upali Mahathera answered questions regarding Vinaya during First Maha Sangayana just after the death of Lord Buddha).

(Author’s Note: Buddhist order came down under Mahinda Mahathera came to an end during the time of Seethawaka Rajasiha, who became a Hindu and killed many bhikkus).

Tissa Wewa: (Anuradhapura 300 BC)
Tissa Wewa was built by King Devanam Piya Tissa. Only Panda Wewa and Abhaya Wewa are considered to be older than Tissa Wewa. The embankment of Tissa Wewa is 11,000 feet long (Two miles) and 25 feet high. The width of the top of the reservoir was found to be 12 feet and the slope of the embankment is three horizontals to one vertical. Base of the embankment is 160 feet. (Compare this to a 300 ft long soccer field). According to Parker, (Ref. Ancient Ceylon) the embankment was made so solidly that it would last forever!. Tissa Wewa has an area of approximately 400 acres.

Southern Tissa Wewa: (Built by Mahanaga – Brother of Devanam Piya Tissa):
Southern Tissa Wewa is different than the Tissa Wewa of Anuradhapura. Southern Tissa Wewa was built by Mahanaga, brother of King Devanam Piya Tissa. Southern Tissa Wewa was built by damming Kirindi Oya. The early designer allowed only five feet between the water level and the top of the bund, which may seems safety margin is not sufficient. But due to low rainfall in this region of the country, it is found that ancient Engineer was right. Mahanaga was a builder of reservoirs. Mahavamsa says that while going to the Tharachcha reservoir he was building, his nephew ate a mango and died. Apparently, poisonous mango was placed there by one of the wives of King Devanam Piya Tissa to kill Mahanaga. After this incident Mahanaga ran away to southern Lanka and lived there. King Dutugamunu was the great grand son of Mahanaga.
(I do not know whether Tharachcha reservoir is identified. Thrachcha is a group of people who lived in Lanka).

Dam at an Angle in Southern Tissa Reservoir:
Ingenuity of the ancient Engineer who designed the dam across the river could be seen by the angle he selected. Instead of constructing the dam perpendicular to the river, he built the dam inclined to the riverbank. This design reduced the water pressure on the dam.

Uttiya (266 BC – 256 BC)

After the death of King Devanam Piya Tissa his younger brother Uttiya became the ruler.

Death of Mahinda Thera:
During King Uttiya’s time Mahinda Thera passed into nibbana. When King Uttiya heard this he was stricken by a dart of sorrow. King had the body of the great Thera to be placed in Mahavihara for a week. The burial of Mahinda Thera was conducted at a place known as Isibhumangana. Mahinda Thera died at an age of sixty.

Death of Sanghamittha Theri:
After the death of Mahinda thera, his sister Sanghamittha died at an age of fifty nine. King commanded great honor for her as well. The body of great Theri was buried east of Thuparama in sight of Bodhi tree.

(Author’s Note: There is a long stretch of land between Thuparama and Bodhi tree. Exact location of Theri Sanghamittha burial site is not known).

One of the earliest inscriptions:
An inscription had been found indicating King Uttiya’s wife Abhi Anuradhi donating a cave to the Sangha. This is one of the earliest inscriptions found in Lanka. Hence, inscriptions of Lanka are ancient as the inscriptions of India. Earliest inscriptions of India were made by King Ashoka, contemporary of King Devanam Piya Tissa.

“ Raja Naga jita Raja Uti Jaya Abhi Anuradhi cha Raja Uti ca karapitase ima lena chathu disasa sagaya agathagatha na pasu wiharaye aparimita loke ditu yasa tana ”

Translation: “Abhi Anuradhi the wife of King Uttiya and daughter of King Naga and King Uttiya have caused the cave to be made for the community of the four quarters present or future at the Pasu vihara an illustrious famous in the boundless world”
(Ref: H. Parker, Ancient Ceylon)

Some words such as lena, aparimita, chatu disa, wiharaye can be recognized by a person with the knowledge of modern Sinhalese even after a passage of time exceeding 2,200 years. Interestingly Abhi Anuradhi, the wife of Uttiya was the daughter of King Mahanaga. Mahanaga and Uttiya were brothers, most probably with different mothers.

Mahasiva: (256 BC – 246 BC)

After the death of King Uttiya, his younger brother Mahasiva became the King. Mahasiva was a pious King and ruled the country according to law for 10 years.

Suratissa: (246 BC – 236 BC)

After the death of King Mahasiva, his younger brother Suratissa ascended to the throne. King Suratissa constructed 500 Viharas (Buddhist temples) throughout the country. He reigned the country for 60 years. During Suratissa’s time period two Damila horse traders from Chola country came to Lanka and defeated Suratissa.

Sena and Guttika: (236 BC – 214 BC)

Sena and Guttika ruled the country for 22 years. While Sena and Guttika were ruling the country, Asela started a campaign to capture power from Sena and Guttika. He was successful. Author’s Note: As per Mahavamsa, Sena and Guttika ruled the country justly. Mahavamsa states “Rajena Dhammena Kareyum” or in Sinhalese “Rajyaya Dharmayen Karagena Giyeya”.

Asela: (214 BC – 204 BC)

Asela became the King of Lanka after overpowering Sena and Guttika. He reigned for 10 years. Another Damila Prince named Elara came from Chola country and dethroned King Asela.

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9 Responses to “King Devanampiya Tissa”

  1. Lasithaon 06 Jun 2012 at 8:50 am

    I think there is a problem with the last mango quetions written in the text!. If this was the question, answer is wrong!

  2. anjalikaon 19 Jul 2012 at 9:36 am

    tese information are marvelous

  3. Thilaka Randenion 25 Sep 2012 at 12:04 pm

    The author of Mahawamsa was a descendant from Kalinga. So he wanted to show the supremacy of the kindom of Magadha.
    From the Greek reports by Ambassador Megasthenes, Onacycritous, Plutas we know before the king Asoka, our kings were in the international trade. The authors of our chronicles didn’t know that one day Sri Lankans will be able to read these reports. So wrote whatever they like.
    Our king devanampiyathissa gave reciprocal assistance to king Asoka and became the symbolic king in India. That was why Asoka sent his own regalia to our king. He sent the water from river Ganga and the soil from his kingdom.
    Our king was too old to travel to India. So the king with Indian regalia, stood on the Indian soil had crowned while the royal virgin from Magdha sprinkled the water of Ganga.
    Whether it was first time or second time when you crowning you have to use your own regalia. If you are using another countries regalia it means you are becomingthe king of that country. Please visit my website

  4. malishaon 19 Jul 2015 at 12:11 pm


  5. Anuradha Sampath Amarasinghe Vidanageon 25 Mar 2016 at 8:03 am

    Dear Ruwan Rajapakse! Why is not there any record of Isurumuni being built by King Devanam Piya Tissa? Or any record of Isurumuni in Mahavamsa? I am greatly appreciating your hard work!

  6. Dariuson 19 May 2016 at 4:31 pm

    Very good article. Thanks to you

  7. Waldemar Saileron 13 Jan 2017 at 4:29 pm

    With the recent find of a Buddha Footprint, should we read Dipa-vamsa,not Maha-vamsa, where nandiyavatta is mentioned (I thinkMaha-vamsa also did). If that is so, should we assign Buddha Footprints with a symbol, as recently found, to King Tissa? Should we assign the symbol to King Asoka? Was King Asoka’s program the promotion of The Middle Road”?

    The symbol was found in Tilya Tepe, Afghanistan, with an inscription. I think the message was: The Middle Path.

    Buddha Footprints, Buddhapada, pada, is not a strong Buddhist topic. Also, what is found on these terms in S. E. Asia is not the same as Sri Lanka. In Aug. of 1990 I attempted to read the 108 of a Siamese Buddhapada in Kandy and failed. I still would like to read what was noted. I am sure it has to be reritten today and I will, if I fine a copy of it

  8. Dewathion 13 Jun 2017 at 1:06 pm

    very useful article. thanks.

  9. hathimon 11 Jun 2018 at 9:12 am

    does anyone know how king devanampiya tissa died

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