King Vattagamini: Walagambahu (104 BC – 104 BC)
After defeating the rebellious commander, Vattagamini became the ruler of the country.
(Vatthagamini is one of the sons of King Saddhatissa. Hence Vattagamini is a nephew of King Dutugamunu. King Saddhatissa had four sons: Thulathana, Lajjitissa, Kalltanaga and Vattagamini. Interestingly all four ruled the country).
Maha Kala Sihala is Fleeing:
During Vattagamini’s time period, seven Damila generals landed in Mahatittha. The battle between the Damila army and King Vattagamini’s army erupted near a non Buddhist temple known as “Tittharama”. King Vattagamini’s army was defeated by the Damila army and the King made the decision to flee. The chief ascetic of the Tittharama, named Giri yelled at the King “Maha Kala Sihala is fleeing”. Hearing the words of Giri, King said to himself that one day he would build a vihara at the location of Tittharama.
The chariot of King Walagambahu was too heavy to carry the full family. There was the King himself, his two sons and his first wife, (Anula Devi) and his second wife (Soma Devi). To lighten the chariot, King asked Soma Devi to leave the chariot and Soma Devi got off from the chariot on her own consent. The King gave his crown jewels to her. The King left the alms bowl (Patthara Dhathu) of Lord Buddha in the city.
Soma Devi was captured by Damilas and one general married her and took her to India. King Vatthagamini fled to Rohana. (South of the country). The King was given protection by a bhikku named Mahatissa. Thera Mahatissa helped the King to hide from the Damilas.
Pulahattha to Dathika: (104 BC – 89 BC)
While the King was in hiding, Anuradhapura was ruled by one of the Damila generals named Pulahattha. Then his friend, Bahiya killed Pulahattha and came to power. Pulahattha ruled the country for three years. Bahiya ruled the country for two years. Bahiya was killed by another Damila general named Panayamaraka. Panayamaraka ruled the country for seven years. Panayamaraka was killed by his general, Pilayamaraka. Pilayamaraka ruled the country for seven months. He was killed by Dathika. These Damila Kings ruled the country for 14 years. During this time, Vatthagamini gathered an army and came to the capital and captured power from Dathika.
Vatthagamini (Second Term): (89 BC – 77 BC)
After becoming the King for the second term, he demolished the Tittharama and built the Abhayagiri Vihara. (Abhayagiri Vihara is the fourth largest structure in the world after Kufu’s Pyramid, Kafre’s pyramid and red pyramid).
(Author’s Note: Today people in Sri Lanka have mis-identified the real Abhayagiri vihara. As per Mahavamsa, the Abhayagiri vihara built by King Vatthagamini is near the north gate of Anuradhapura. What is near the north gate of Anuradhapura is the Jethavana Vihara.
(Present day Sri Lankans are erroneously calling it Abhayagiriya).
Since the vihara near the north gate is the largest stupa in the country, King Walagambahu should get the credit for building the largest stupa in Sri Lanka and the fourth largest structure in the world. King Mahasen’s stupa (Jethavana) near the south gate of the city is the fifth largest and King Dutugamunu’s Mahathupa (Ruwan vali saaya) is the sixth largest structure in the world. (Ref: Douglas Bullis, Mahavamsa).
In remembrance of his second wife, Soma Devi, King built Soma Chetiya.
Bhikku Mahatissa Starts a New Faction:
King Walagambahus’ good friend, bhikku Mahatissa was expelled by Mahavihara bhikkus for disciplinary reasons. Bhikku Mahatissa went to Abhayagiri vihara and started a new group in opposition to Mahavihara (Theravadha) bhikkus.
King Vatthagamini took the side of Abhayagiri vihara bhikkus and ignored Mahavihara bhikkus.
(Author’s Note: Hence King Vatthagamini becomes the second King to ignore Mahavihara bhikkus and the Theravadha tradition of Sri Lanka).
Nuwara Wewa (Anuradhapura):
There are three reservoirs inside the city limits of Anuradhapura. They are Abhaya Wewa, Tissa Wewa and Nuwara Wewa. The last mentioned Nuwara Wewa has been attributed to King Vatthagamini. Nothing is mentioned of this reservoir in Mahavamsa. Experts had found that the bricks in the sluice of Nuwara Wewa and Abhayagiriya Dagaba were to be similar in size and shape.
(Reference: H. Parker, Ancient Ceylon).
Nuwara Wewa Details: Nuwara wewa has an embankment of three miles. Height of the embankment varies from 37 feet to 12 feet depending upon the elevation of the ground. Top of the embankment is 12 to 16 feet wide. The embankment is sloped at 3 horizontals to 1 vertical. Two sluices (one at low level and another at high level) have been provided for water discharge.
Bricks used in sluices of Nuwara Wewa are 9.85 inches wide and 3.15 inches thick. These bricks agree with the bricks used at Abhayagiri Dagaba, which was constructed by King Vatthagamini. (Abhayagiri Dagaba bricks: Breadth – 9.62 inches and thickness 3.2 inches). This 100 B.C reservoir has a capacity of 1,500 million Cu. ft and a surface area of 3,180 acres.
Dam Across Malwathu Oya: Solid stone dam of 160 ft long and 33 ft wide was constructed across Malwathu Oya (Malwathu River) to divert water to Nuwara Wewa. The dam rises 8 feet from the bottom of the river.
A Canal to Carry Water from Malwathu Oya to Nuwara Wewa: A canal of 40 feet wide and 5 feet deep was constructed to carry water from the dam at Malwathu Oya to Nuwara Wewa. The gradient of the canal was maintained at 1 ft per mile.
This reservoir, dam and canal scheme by King Vatthagamini was copied by later Kings for much bigger and grander schemes. (Kalawewa/Jaya Ganga scheme of King Dhatusena, Minneri/Elahara scheme of King Mahasen and Minipe/Parakrama Samudra scheme of King Parakramabahu).
Mahakandarawa Reservoir: This reservoir was considered to be a work of King Vatthagamini.
Writing of Thripitaka
Writing of Thripitaka is the most important event that occurred during King Vatthagamini’s time period. King Vatthagamini neglected Theravadha Buddhism and supported the Mahayana Abhayagiri bhikkus. Due to this reason, Theravadha bhikku population dwindled. This was a serious concern for chief monks at that time since full Thripitaka was memorized by bhikkus. They decided to write the Thripitaka in books. Writing of Thripitaka was a huge project since there are approximately 10,000 sutras in Sutra pitaka alone. There are three pitakas (baskets of books) in whole.
They are Sutra pitaka – sayings of Lord Buddha Vinaya pitaka – Disciplinary rules for monks Abhidharma pitaka- Analysis of Buddhist philosophical system.
Author’s Note: In addition to above three pitakas, there are commentaries known as “Atthakatha”. If not for these commentaries, it would have been impossible to understand the Thripitaka. Commentaries provide background information on each and every sutra. Further it clarifies various ambiguities existing in Thripitaka. It is believed that commentaries were also originated at the same time as Thripitaka during the first Dhamma Sanghayana. Just after the death of Lord Buddha.
Thripitaka was written in Pali during King Vatthagamini’s time. Interestingly, the commentaries to the Thripitaka were written in Sinhalese and were known as “Sihala Atthakatha”. Many years later one of the foremost scholars in Buddhism (Buddhaghosha) came to Lanka to translate Sihala Atthakatha back to Pali!!.