The Legacy of Ancient Kalinga in Sri Lanka

To write about the direct communication of the Sinhalese with Ancient India, or rather — with its northeastern and northwestern territories and then kingdoms — was my long-standing idea, and the impetus for the final collection of large material and its clamping up to the scope of this introductory article in the blog was an entirely ordinary case in late February 2018. I was on my bus way from a small town Ranna to Tangalle , and an elderly British gentleman, admiring the shoulder to me, his fellow traveler, the beauty of the design and the variegated coloring of Sri Lankan buses.

— Even the name of the express is beautiful, poetic some! Kalinga!
— This is not just a beautiful name, but the memory of a very significant historical era and interconnection with India, from where the Sinhalese settlers came to Sri Lanka. As far as I can, I'll try to tell you a story…

Of course, 20 minutes on the way passed quickly, and I just started the main events. But then the bus station loomed behind the bus window. I said goodbye to my new friend Ethan, who took the floor from me, that I am still at least brief, but I'll write about the history of the emergence of a whole nation on this sunny island, which came from that distant Kalinga.

So, Kalinga . This is the historical region of India. It is usually determined by historians-chronologists as the eastern coastal area between the rivers of Mahanadi and Godavari, although its boundaries have fluctuated, then decrease, then increase the territory at different times of its rulers. The main territory of Kalinga now covers most of the state of Odisha (just before Orissa) and the northern part of Andhra Pradesh. In the broadest sense, the Kalinga region also included part of the modern states of Telangana and Chhattisgarh.

Residents of Kalinga, are mentioned as a large tribe in the legendary ancient Indian text Mahabharata. In the III century BC, the region came under the control of the dynasty of Maurya rulers as a result of the war in Kaling. Subsequently, he was governed by several regional dynasties, whose rulers bore the title of Kalingadipati («Lord of Kalinga»). These dynasties included in the composition of Kalinga such territories as Mahammahavahana, Vasishtha, Mathura, Pirbhakta, Shailodbhava, Somavamsi and the Eastern Ganges. Bhauma-Kara were representatives of another important regional dynasty, although they did not call their kingdom Kalinga. At various times, the Kalinga region also formed part of larger empires and gradually lost its political identity after the annexation of the Eastern Ganga region.

In ancient Indian literature, the Kalinga region is connected with Mount Mahendragiri, located in the Ganjam district of Odisha, near the border with the state of Andhra Pradesh. At times, the southern border of Kalinga extended further, right up to the river Krishna. In the north, the kingdom sometimes stretched beyond the river Mahanadi, up to the river Vaytarani. The Kalinga region did not cover all modern Odisha: its north-eastern part was included in the accounting area of ​​Utkala, and the western part was included in the region of Dakshina Kosala. The wreck gradually lost her identity and became part of Kalinga.

The eastern border of Kalinga was formed by the sea in the Bay of Bengal. Its western borders are difficult to define, because they varied according to the political power of its rulers. However, the Puranas literature suggests that Kalinga extended to the Amarakantaka hills in the west.

In several ancient inscriptions, the term Trikalinga is mentioned, which is interpreted in several ways. According to one theory, Trikalinga refers to the widest part of Kalinga. However, Chalukya's record shows that Kalinga and Trikalinga were two different regions, and Trikalinga meant only a hilly area to the west of Kalinga.

The name of the region comes from the tribe of the same name. According to the Mahabharata, the ancestors of the Kalinga clan and their neighboring tribes were brothers. These neighbors included the tribes of Anga, Wang, Pundra and Suhma. The Kalingians occupied a vast territory stretching from the Baitarani River in present-day Odisha to Visakhapatnam. The capital city in ancient times was the city of Dantakur or Dantapura. Today it is Fort Dantavatra near Chikakola in the Ganjam area, washed by the river Langulini.

A few other large works and chronicles mention Kalinga. For example, the inscription Hathigumpha says that a king named Nandaraja in the past unearthed an aqueduct. Assuming that Nandaraja belongs to the king of the Nanda dynasty, it seems that the Kalinga area was annexed by the Nandes at some point. And he again became independent after the fall of Nanda.

And so the kingdom is written in the chronicle «Kalingaya» in Megastenes Indica (III century BC):
«Prina and Kaina, the Ganges tributaries, are navigable rivers, the tribes that inhabit the Ganges are the Kalinga, closest to the sea, and above Munday, as well as the Mally, among which is the Mull, the border of the whole region, which is the Ganges. Kalingas capital is called Partalis. For his king, 60 000 infantry soldiers, 1000 horsemen, 700 elephants continue to observe and participate in the „seizure of war.“

Kalinga was annexed by the emperor of the family Maurya named Ashoka in the III century BC. The headquarters of the Maurya province in Kalinga was in Tosali. After the collapse of the Maurya Empire, the region fell under the control of the Mahammahavahan family, whose king Haravela called himself „the supreme god of Kalinga.“ Kalinga fell under the sovereignty of Gupta in the IV century AD. After Gupta's departure, she was ruled by several secondary dynasties, whose rulers wore the title of Kalingadipathi „The Lord of Kalinga“, including Vasishtha, Matara and Pirbhakta.

In the 7th century, the king Shailodbhava Madhavaraja II, as well as the king of the Eastern Ganga Indravarman, claimed their title of Sakal-Kalingadipati (»Lord of all Kalinga"). In the 8th-10th centuries the kings of Bhauma Kara ruled the region, although they called their kingdom «Tosala» (received from Tosali, the ancient capital of Kalinga). The succeeding kings of Somavamsi called themselves kings of Kalinga, Kosala and Utkala.

During the 11-15 centuries. The Eastern Ganga became the dominant power in the region and bore the title of Kalingadipati. Their capital was originally located in Kalinganagar (modern Muhalingam), and then was transferred to Katak (modern Kuttak) during the reign of Anantavarman Chodaganga in the 12th century.

Kalinga is also an important part of the legendary history of Sri Lanka, as described in the Mahavamsa. It was the birthplace of the legendary King Vijaya of Sri Lanka. To this important part in the history of not only India but also Sri Lanka, let's move on.

So, in 321 BC. a powerful leader known in history as Chandragupta Maurya, came to the throne of Magadha, one of many North Indian states, in part of India, which is now known as Bihar. By the time his reign ended in 299 BC, he not only established the rule of Magadha among all rival states, but also defeated the Greek General Selukia Nicator, who claimed large parts of northwestern India for his Selukid Empire. The area then arose because of the Greek control originally established by Alexander the Great during his invasion of the region in 327 BC. The territories of Chandragupta were united by his grandson Ashoka into a great empire, traditionally known as the Maurya or Mauryan Empire, which included virtually the entire Indian subcontinent and present-day eastern Afghanistan.

So, Ashoka , the third Mauryan, ruled between 269 BC. and 233 BC. Like many self-centered and despotic rulers then and now, his main interest was first the provision of the power of complete domination over the entire subcontinent. He inflicted the most severe and brutal defeat on the peoples of the eastern region of Kalinga, who managed to escape control over Mauritan. Nevertheless, it is surprising, but seeing so many deaths and destruction on the battlefield, which he and his troops brought, he felt sharp remorse and thirsted for internal self-purification. Thus, tormented by the throes of conscience, he came to Buddhism, meeting a wandering monk who decided to undertake spiritual purification of Ashoka's soul from filth to the dual principles of Buddhism: nonviolence and compassion.

If you retreat a little, then on the theme of the Magadha-Kalinga war, a remarkable Bollywood historical movie . Aśoka — Indian epic historical dramatic film of 2001, directed and co-authored by Santosh Siwan. It is a dramatic version of the early life of Emperor Ashoka of the Maurya dynasty, which ruled most of the Indian subcontinent in the 3rd century BC.

The stars of the film are Shah Rukh Khan, Karina Kapoor, Ajit Kumar, Danny Denzongpa and Hrishita Bhatt. It was released by Shah Rukh Khan, Juhi Chawla and Radhika Sanga. The film was originally released under the name of Ashoka the Great in India. The name of the Tamil version of the movie Samrat Asoka. The film was widely shown throughout the UK and North America, and was also selected for display from India at the Venice Film Festival and at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he received a positive evaluation. However, despite the fact that the film was approved by critics, he brought moderate revenues from box office. The picture is also dubbed into English.

But let's return from the screen hero to the real historical personality. During the rule of Ashoka, Buddhism began to challenge the orthodox Vedic Brahminical Hinduism. Although Ashoka did not completely abandon his role as a powerful ruler of Mauryan, Ashoka decided to create on the whole of his empire the Dhamma or a universal moral law based on the teachings of the Buddha. His method of disseminating these teachings was to inscribe large and small edicts on rocks, huge weather stones and pillars. The language of the edicts was Prakrit — the language of northern India at that time, written in two early Indian variants: the writing of Brahmi and Haroshti. The directions of Ashoka emphasized the virtues of tolerance, non-violence and unity; they preach to people the importance of such humane practices as caring and comforting sick people and animals, building roads and wells, planting trees, showing hospitality for strangers and foreigners. Ashoka renounced himself from strict introspection; and in one of the pandemic instructions he acknowledged that he himself had not been free from evil before. He further spread the Buddha's message, sending missionaries to Sri Lanka, supporting Buddhist monks along with the brahmana priests and assembling the great Buddhist monks council.

One could justly assume that a king such as Ashoka who idealized compassion, not conflicting (although after his war in Kalinga) and revered human values, rather than authoritarianism, would be a famous figure in the history of India. However, this did not happen, and the assessment of his actions was given only more than 20 centuries after his death. He became better known to a wide circle of historians and clergy only during the 20th century. In the Western world, for example, the futuristic praise of HG Wells Ashoka in his worldwide best-selling «Essay of History,» first published in London in 1920, could affect the readers' minds. Why Ashoka has so weakly manifested himself for so long in the long history of India and Sri Lanka, can be explained by a number of important factors.
First, although Buddhism remained a vivid religious force in India for another seven or eight centuries after Ashoka, he always faced the pressure of Hinduism, which so often emerged from the shadows and asserted itself, thereby undermining Buddhist confidence. While Buddha himself became an integral part of the iconography of Hindu deities, His Teaching received great warmth abroad, and not at home. For example, the tradition of rock Buddhist literature was entrenched by the precepts of Ashoka and was raised in Sri Lanka; and it was in this literature that Ashoka was the most respected and revered.
Secondly, all that remained of the heritage of Buddhism in India was subjected to a brutal attack by the early iconoclastic Turkish-Afghan invaders from the 11th and 12th centuries onwards.
Thirdly, since the climate in India spared little manuscripts and monuments, they were lost for centuries. Some of the decrees recorded on the rocks and pillars, however, managed to survive and survived for interested observers or travelers. But since the Indian script was modified from the time of Ashoka and turned into something completely different, no one in India could read the meaning of the messages of Ashoka in the alphabetic chart of brahmi or haroshti.
Fourthly, while the early Indian historical chronicles are recorded both in historical consciousness and in historical traditions, represented by many and varied literary texts, such as great epics or puranas, it is no exaggeration to say that history showed little interest from scientists in the Hindu world to the texts of Ashoka.
The ancient Hindus showed both talent and originality in their approach to systematic studies such as mathematics, grammar, logic or astronomy, but they did not have an outstanding historian who could interpret secular evidence to explain the history and logic of Ashoka's actions. For all these reasons, both Buddha and Ashoka remained secrets in India itself. Meanwhile, followers of the Buddhist teachings and covenants of Ashoka, can fulfill the orders of the great ruler, having arrived to the island of Lanka.

The ancestral origin of King Vijaya of Kalinga, the descendant of Ashoka, the newcomer to Lanka, is as follows. According to the Ceylon Pali chronicles of Deepavamsa (Chronicles of the Island) and «Mahavamsa» (Great Chronicle) — it was Vijaya, a prince from Sinhapura from Kalinga. He founded a race, or, if you like, even a race called Sinhala (Simala) in Sri Lanka. Prince together with his 700 followers, exiled from the kingdom of Kalinga, went to Tamraparni and founded a new civilization on the island. The great grandmother of Vijaya belonged to the royal line of Kalingians. The very name «Sinhala» («being a lion», «a lion by blood») was a title given to his father in Kalinga and inherited by him, and it was therefore logical to found the Kingdom in the name of the title and the Sinhala dynasty. Vijaya ruled for 32 years, and during his reign, at least 2,500 families of Kalingian origin migrated to Sri Lanka.

Another historical document links Kalinga and Sri Lanka. According to Buddhist literature Pali, the name of Kalinga is familiar to the inhabitants of Sri Lanka as early as the third century BC. with the introduction of Buddhism by the son of Ashoka Mahendra and daughter Sanghamitra. Described in the chronicles of the area Bajjhima Nikaya refers to the forest of Kalinga. And, for example, Digh Nikaya sends us to the coastal settlement and to the capital of Dantapura.

In addition, one of the most significant events of world Buddhism connected Kalinga with Sri Lanka forever. The sacred relic of the Tooth of Buddha was taken to the ancient capital of the first Sinhalese state Anuradhapura from Kalinga in 310 AD. According to the chronicle of Dhatu Vamsa and the King of Kalinga, Guhasiva, who worshiped the sacred relic of the Tooth of Buddha, the Tooth Itself suffered a danger from the Pandu family, and the King of Magadha sent the Tooth to Sri Lanka secretly. His daughter Hemamala and Dantakumara's son-in-law from the capital city of Dantapura set off to deliver the Shrine to Mahasena, ruler of the Buddhist kingdom in Lanka. They reached Anuradhapura and handed over The Tooth of Buddha to King Maghavanna, the son of Mahasena. This happened in 310 BC. Hememala woven the Tooth of the Buddha into her magnificent hairdo by cunning, thus avoiding searches and safely hiding the Shrine from possible dangers along the way to Lanka.

Who else formed a nation of Sinhalese on the island after their arrival from Kalinga? For example, King Vijaya I (1055-1110), one of the greatest monarchs of Sri Lanka, married the Kalinga princess Triloka Sundari (in translation: Beauty of the Three Worlds). And the descendants of Nissankamalla by origin from Kalinga became the kings of the Kingdom of Sinhalese: among them the notorious to readers of the Lankarus blog Nissankamalla. And the ruler, known as Kirti Nisanka and Kalinga Loksuvara, was the son of King Jayagopa of Kalinga, who married the daughter of King Parakramabahu. After the death of his father-in-law, he was the ruler of Sri Lanka from 1187 to 1196, and is said to have founded Kalinga Udyana (Park Kalinga) and Kalinga Wana (Forest of Kalinga) to celebrate and to mark his birthplace in the historic homeland of Kalinga.

Nissankamalla believed that the legitimate owners of the kingdom in Sri Lanka were kings of the Kalinga dynasty. He even installed inscriptions to prove this fact. The inscription on the stone, made by Nissankamalla in Dambulla , mentions that He is from the Kalinga dynasty and descendant of the race of King Vijaya. Another inscription in Ruwanwelisaya describes him as a member of the royal family of Kalinga, born in Sinhapura (in the «City of Lions»). The inscription reads like this:
… comes from the royal line of the Iksvaku family, which became a frontal sign of the royal family of the emperors of Kalinga, who were born in Sinhapura…

Claiming that it originated from Vijaya , the first King of Sri Lanka, Nissankamalla justified his right to the throne. He also achieved his position, saying that the ruler of Sri Lanka should adhere to Buddhism. His handwritten inscription on the rock in Galpotha describes this, saying that «non-Buddhists should not be in power in Sri Lanka, in which the Kalinga dynasty was a legitimate heir.»

Thus, it can be rightly assumed that the legacy of Kalinga has manifested itself in history and lives to this day for many hundreds of kilometers from the place of origin. This is clearly reflected in The Return to Righteousness: a collection of speeches, essays and letters from Guruge Anagarika Dharmapala, who founded the Maha Bodhi Society in 1891, wrote: «We Sinhalese must remember that our ancestors came from Lada, the territory between Bengal and Kalinga about 2,400 years ago, and that they settled in the part of the land that is now known as Anuradhapura… „

And although the glorious settlers from Kalinga are far from the only people who formed the composition of the Sinhalese nation — the title people of Sri Lanka — they left one of the most notable traces in history. And about other major waves of migrations, the mixing of peoples and even races in Sri Lanka, perhaps, it is also worth writing on the Lankarus website in more detail, but already in subsequent publications.

Sergius Pedde,
Lankarus Lanka Private Limited

Lankarus Lankarus

Trailer of the Asoka movie :

Comments (0)

You need to login to create comments.

Lankarus in Social Networks

Lankarus Lankarus Lankarus Lankarus
  • Phone (Eng, De): +94 772 72 6404
  • Viber (Eng, De): +94 772 72 6404
  • WhatsApp (Eng, De): +94 772 72 6404
  • Email:

ලංකාරුස් ලංකා ප්‍රයිවට් ලිමිටඩ්
Lankarus Lanka Private Limited © 2014 - 2020