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The Legacy

August 31, 2009

By Ananda Liyanage

PROLOGUE

BC 140
Anuradhapura
Lanka

The city has gone to sleep several hours ago. The houses spreading from the centre of the city to the suburbs in all directions were in darkness. The street lights, the only city in BC 140 in the Kingdom which had this facility were extinguished. To an aerial observer only the sentry lights from the guard posts at the palace gates and the four city gates to the north, south, east and west of the city gave any indication that it was a living city. For all intent and purpose the capital city of Lanka1, Anuradhapura was asleep. The only other light in the sleeping city came from the royal palace. The palace which was spread on a large track of land towards the north end of the city was a single story structure with guard towers placed strategically at the four corners of the rectangular compound surrounded by a high rampart. The royal palace was built with a courtyard at the centre and wings to the east, west and north. The south side of the palace formed the entrance to the courtyard.

It was from the east wing of the palace that a light shone. The east wing formed the living quarters and connected facilities of the King which included the conference and audience chambers. The west wing housed the quarters of the Queen, and other members of the royal family. The north wing was the utility section of the palace which included among other things the cooking facilities, the living quarters for the palace guards and servants. The out buildings of the palace were the royal stable with living quarters for the handlers, the large storehouse that housed the many requirements of the palace and the armoury, all of which was housed within the palace compound. The lights which were normally extinguished at around midnight shone today well past that hour. The illumination could be observed by a close inspection to be coming from the Kings sleeping chamber.

This was alien to the King who followed the principle of waking up early to the call of the birds and who was therefore seldom seen awake at such a late hour. Contrary to routine the King was wide awake. He was not sitting at his table where he attended to the many chores of ruling a Kingdom. Neither was he pacing up and down which he was reputed to do when actively thinking or planning a military campaign. He was lying in bed in an upright position. He was a person of slightly above average height and dark in complexion. His features were rugged and belied his age. His body bore scars of wounds that were acquired during the many military campaigns he had conducted. The most amazing feature in his entire countenance was his eyes. They were a most penetrating dark pair of eyes which had an inner depth. They were alive and conveyed a sense of urgency to those looking at them. In fact they had the ability to seduce any person who came in to close contact with King Gamani2.

His mind was active despite the late hour. He was wrestling with a problem that had surfaced during the last few years of his reign. He was aware that it became more pronounced with every day that brought him closer to his death. That day he knew was approaching fast. How he knew this he did not know, but he knew it. Although he ruled the Kingdom from the capital in the north he had been born to the divided south of the Kingdom. At birth he had been hailed as the long awaited saviour of the nation who would one day unify it. He now realised that his father was largely responsible for this belief. His father had laid the ground work for the military conquests that he was to accomplish at a latter date.

King Kavantissa his father who ruled Rohana3 had unified the people through the spreading of the religion while maintaining that he was opposed to violence as dictated by the dharma4. He however was responsible for building the strong army which was declared as a defensive weapon and which was one day to be used by his son for the conquest of the north. The realisation gave him a sense of pride and satisfaction to be the son of such a great king. He had never seen past his father’s outer shell of complaisance which he took for cowardice in his young age. He regretted this now but there was little he could do as his father was dead the last thirty years. He fervently hoped that he could make amends with his father and wished him to appear from whatever place he was for this was the belief of his religion that you roam the universe until the attainment of nirvana5. Maybe his father had achieved this supreme status. The thought satisfied him.

What was keeping him awake tonight was none of these thoughts. It was a realisation that his father’s plans for a unified Lanka were incomplete. There were measures in his father’s plan for the colonisation of the conquered areas with people of the Sinhala race, to reduce the percentage of aliens that had been imported from the native land of the former ruler. Since the end of hostilities he had implemented these steps. This was the reason why he decided to rule from Anuradhapura rather than from the southern seat of his father. The dedication of the ruler to the religion and the building of religious monuments were also a part of his father’s plan to establish a strong religious presence in the conquered areas. He had performed these tasks beyond all expectations. His father had further planned the economic revival of the conquered lands by the extension of the agrarian economy. He had achieved a substantial amount of these tasks. The plans for a post war Kingdom were communicated to him by his brother Tissa. His father had conveyed all his plans for the establishment of the Sinhala rule in the conquered territory to his brother under oath that they would only be disclosed after the end of hostilities to his brother. These steps were seen essential to ensure his father’s outward rejection of military conquest.

It was his brother Prince Tissa that he sent for now since he had at last formed a strategy to rectify the defects that he had seen in his father’s plans. The message was passed by servants along dark corridors and Prince Tissa received the call in his quarters. He was amazed to be summoned at such a late hour. Nevertheless he complied by hurriedly adorning his robes and following the servants back to the King’s quarters. Compared to his brother Prince Tissa was of fair skin and average height. It was said that King Gamani had taken after his father while Prince Tissa had taken after his mother. He entered the room and found the King staring out of the window of his room at a spot in the near distance. Without turning his head when Prince Tissa was announced the King said,

“What think you of that spot a little distance from the palace surrounded by trees Prince?’

King Gamani had the habit of assuming that the person who he was talking could hear what he in fact had only been thinking.

“What about that spot my King?” Prince Tissa replied.

“For building a Dagoba6 of course” he murmured. “My astrologers say that it would bear the same coordinates when compared to the Thuparama Dagoba and Mirisavati Dagoba as to three stars in the night sky during the month of Vesakha7. They also say that if the Dagoba was of a particular height it would match the glow of the stars which in turn would make it the single highest structure in the Kingdom” he chuckled “We would be creating heaven on earth and what is more it would be visible from our window”

“Do you intend it to be the symbol by which you wish latter generations to remember you with my King?” asked Prince Tissa.

“That is so, that is so” answered King Gamani “But only for the time being, thereafter we may have other ideas. This is what we wanted to talk to you about at this late hour. Please be seated Prince”

He summoned the servants for light refreshment, a habit left over from King Gamani’s military days where food for him was on an available time basis. After the servants had cleared the dishes King Gamani got down to serious talk. He explained to Prince Tissa that their father had planned the military campaigns for the unification of the Kingdom to the last detail and had thereafter planned the establishment and continuation of peace and prosperity in the Kingdom. He had foreseen all possible obstacles to his plans and had counter planned accordingly. But he had not accounted for the greed of future rulers who may seek conquest for its own sake or ignore the need to maintain a bastion for the propagation of Buddhism. He explained to Prince Tissa that he had divine guidance in his military campaigns. His kunta8 had a relic of Lord Buddha9embedded within it. This relic had been handed down to his father by his great great grandfather who was the brother of the great King Devanampiyatissa who in turn received it from Emperor Asoka in India. He was concerned about the kunta falling in to the hands of rulers who were not worthy to posses it and who were unaware of its powers. The reason why their father had not seen this danger, he explained, was because he was a man without deceit who adhered strictly to the duties of the king devoid of all adverse impulses.

“You see Prince our royal father was a model king who would see all consequences of a decision he was taking and would not weigh his decision on personal considerations. He would be guided by the dharma and the well being of his people. He therefore could not see any ruler breaking the code of conduct of kings as laid down in the charithra10 said King Gamani. “I have no doubt that after our rule you who will succeed us will carry on the plans of our father to an even higher level of achievement”

He waved aside Prince Tissa’s objections that he King Gamani would live a long and healthy life. He knew that the hardships of his military campaigns had taken its toll from both his mind and body. Both bore scares which could not be erased. He knew his time was limited and accepted the inevitable with grace. Prince Tissa listened in silence. This was what King Gamani preferred until he had spoken in full. Then he would listen to the other person.

“The question is how long we can assure that future rulers will be guided by the high standards of our royal father. Sooner or later, there will be a ruler who will consider himself before the Kingdom. Our royal father did not create the necessary safeguards to ensure that future rulers will use the great power at their command only for the benefit of the nation and not for personal glorification” concluded King Gamani.

“I believe you have made a point with your arguments but how long can we influence the events of the future. We are after all mortals” replied Prince Tissa.

The two brothers, one the King and the other the Crown Prince spoke at length on the subject of the future of the Kingdom. Finally Prince Tissa asked,

“Do you have a plan to control the abuse of power or ignore the needs of the nation by any ruler in the future my King?”

King Gamani smiled that rare smile which brought out the best in his dark features.

“We certainly do” he said. “We seek your acceptance and support for this plan. However it should be understood that our plan should not only ensure that the power of our kunta should not fall in to the wrong hands but also that it will be available to rulers like us for the continuation of a unified Kingdom”

“Your plan will ensure that both opposing conditions will be maintained King?” inquired Prince Tissa.

King Gamani nodded slowly. The oil lamps were burning very low and the cries of the morning birds were heard in the sky by the time King Gamani had detailed his plans to his brother. Prince Tissa listened without interruption amazed at the farsighted vision of the King and the wisdom of his plan where all alternatives were considered and countered. He silently accepted that he had failed to fathom the quality of statesmanship of the King in the past.

“However Prince you will observe that carrying out most of this plan is in your hands as we will only have the job of accepting our karma11” said King Gamani.

“That is what I fear” replied Prince Tissa.

“We will instruct the ten great warriors to assist you in this task under oath of secrecy. What is more we will instruct Prince Panduka to support you” assured King Gamani glad of having convinced and obtained the support of his brother towards the achievement of his plans.

 

*                               *                               *                               *

 

Several dozen times the moon waxed and waned after the two brothers had their discussion. During this time steps were taken to build the largest Dagoba in the Kingdom at the site predicted by the astrologers, little knowing that in a distant land the heavens had already been created on earth by man in the replication of stars in the sky by the construction of crypts for emperors which would one day be called Pyramids. Construction work continued with ever increasing momentum as the health of King Gamani declined and he declared his desire to see the Dagoba which he had named Mahadagoba12 completed before his death. This was one campaign that King Gamani was to lose.

The situation on the night of his death was different to other nights in the city of Anuradhapura. The city in the middle of the night was ablaze with light, coming from almost every abode. The street light was kept on during the entire night so that people may walk up for news about their beloved King. The royal palace was a beacon of light in a well lit city. The royal family, the guards and servants all kept awake for they did not want their hero King to go on his last journey alone. They were in no doubt that the King was near the end of his life. They also knew that no amount of medication or the attention of the physicians would keep him alive beyond the time allocated for his life.

As before King Gamani lay face up in his bed. His breathing was shallow. His eyes stayed open taking all that was happening around him. It was time for the farewells to take place in the reverse order as was the tradition. Firstly the palace servants and guards went in to his chamber to bid the King farewell and bestow the blessings of the triple gem on their beloved ruler. Next it was the turn of the lesser officials of the palace. This was followed by the ministers of the King. The friends closely followed by the relatives of the King came next. The last was the Queen who stayed with the King until he breathed his last.

The tradition of visitors to bid farewell to the King was changed on this occasion at the instigation of his brother Prince Tissa. After the relatives had visited him and before it was the turn of the Queen the ten great warriors who had been commanders of the ten legions of the army entered the King’s chamber together with Prince Tissa. In the chamber each of them bid their King farewell after which the King summoned the last council with his warriors, an act that he had performed many times during their campaign in the battle fields. He told them that his brother Prince Tissa would brief them shortly on certain matters of state that he fully endorses. They were to carry out these orders as if they came from him in the battlefield where the fate of the Sinhala was the prize. He also asked each of them to maintain absolute secrecy unto death on the matters they were about to hear and expected to perform in the coming days. Prince Tissa informed the ten great warriors that he would brief them individually a little while later in his own chamber. After the departure of the ten great warriors the King turned to his brother and bid him a successful reign in the years to come. He then turned towards the closed window and said.

“It is indeed a pity Prince that we cannot see the completed Dagoba that we have commissioned to built”

“If it is the completed Dagoba that you want to see I am sorry but you will lose that battle my King” replied Prince Tissa. “But if you only want to see how it would look like when completed then it may be possible to do something”

“Can you do that” asked the King.

For an answer Prince Tissa went to the window and drew up the curtains that were holding it closed. Lo and behold! The eyes could feast upon a giant completed Dagoba that stood illuminated by a thousand lamps glowing in brilliant white. This spectacle was achieved by Prince Tissa by covering the incomplete brickwork of the Dagoba with white cloth and the construction of a wooden pinnacle. He had anticipated the King’s desires correctly. The face of the King cracked into a smile.

“You have made our death an acceptable alternative to life Prince” the King said. “Will you now call the Queen? Please tell her that we wish to be with her until the last”

Prince Tissa bowed low to the King that he had served for the last twenty four years. He respectfully backed from the room for it was undignified to turn your back on the King. He would be the King the next day but that as far as he was concerned was a long time in the future.

When the Queen had entered the King’s chambers Prince Tissa informed the servants in attendance that he would be in his own chambers if needed and hurried there to meet the ten great warriors. They were waiting for him. He summoned them two at a time and gave them instructions as to the tasks they should perform. The first was Abhaya13 and Gotaimbara followed by Bharana14 and Pussadeva15, by Vasabha16 and Suranimila, by Mahasona and Nandhimitra, and finally by Khanjadeva and Velusumana. All the ten great warriors received instructions only on the role that they would perform in the operation. They would never be able to fathom the entire plan and furthermore they were under oath to their dying King to carry this secret to their grave. The ten great warriors who were all military men left immediately thereafter to attend to their respective tasks.

 

*                               *                               *                               *

 

Early next morning after the Queen had returned to her quarters to commence her traditional year of mourning, a horseman entered the palace gates to the north by order of the late King’s brother who was the successor to the throne. This was an entrance never used by visitors to the palace. It was used by tradesmen, servants and palace guards and was a portal that was used for lesser activities that had to be kept away from the notice of the royal personage. The rider proceeded on horseback to the east wing of the palace and stopped by the entrance to the wing. He dismounted and entered the palace. Returning almost immediately he made his way back from the palace compound through the same gate and out of the city by the south gate which led to the road to Rohana. Once on this road he was met by another horseman and they settled to a steady gallop as if getting ready for a long ride.

 

*                               *                               *                               *

 

Several days later and several yoduna17 to the south of Anuradhapura where all these events were taking place, the male members of a particular clan met at a secret location. The elder of the clan announced that he had received news that King Gamani had died at his palace at Anuradhapura and that King Tissa has succeeded him. He reminded the members that they were custodians appointed by King Gamani’s father to a particular establishment. He said that he had received instructions from King Tissa relating to certain matters of state which they were requested to perform. He reminded the members about their oath of total secrecy in the conduct of all affairs of the establishment handed to their care. He then went on to detail the actions that they were requested to perform.

 

*                               *                               *                               *

 

One week after the death of King Gamani the funeral rites were performed in the palace compound according to religious dictates. Two thousand Bikkhus18 of the Mahavihare19 were present to perform the last rites of King Gamani. The Chief Bikkhu in his sermon referred to the reign of King Gamani as a model for all kings who would succeed him. He said that the ability of King Gamani to sin and the ability to repent for the sin were unique qualities. He concluded by stating that King Gamani has taken a positive step towards enlightenment.

King Gamani was cremated according to the tradition of his religion and the ashes were placed in a silver container. The container together with his royal insignia was encrypted in the burial chamber which was constructed within the city walls of Anuradhapura. It was fitting since he had made it his life’s duty to restore the city to the Sinhala as their rightful possession.

King Abhaya Gamani20 of Lanka was laid to rest in BC 137. It was decreed by his successor and brother that his crypt should be guarded day and night and all entertainment should cease in its vicinity. King or commoner alike should only pass it on foot.

Footnotes:
1.  Sri Lanka as it was called 2000 years ago
2.  Historically referred to as Dutugamunu
3.  The southern part of the Kingdom
4.  Teachings of Lord Buddha
5.  Enlightenment according to Buddhism
6.  A Buddhist religious monument
7.  March/April or April/May
8.  Scepter
9.  The Enlightened one
10. Protocol
11. The sum of accumulated merits and demerits
12. The present Ruwanweliseya
13. Also known as Theraputtabhaya
14. Also known as Mahabharana
15. Also known as Unmadapussadeva
16. Also known as Lhabbiyavasabha
17. An ancient measurement of distance of approximately 24 miles
18. Members of the Buddhist clergy
19. The Repository of Theravada Buddhism
20. The full name of King Dutugamunu

© Ananda Liyanage
Foremost Books
ISBN 955-1509-00-5

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