Dhatusena of Anuradhapura

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Dhatusena (Dasenkeli)
King of Anuradhapura
Reign 455–473 A.D
Predecessor Pithiya
Successor Kasyapa I
Issue Kasyapa I
Moggallana I
House House of Moriya
Father Dathanama

Dhatusena was a king of Sri Lanka who ruled from 455 to 473. He was the first king of the Moriyan dynasty of Sri Lanka. In some records, he is also identified as Dasenkeli. Dhatusena reunited the country under his rule after twenty six years, defeating the South Indian invaders that were ruling the country at that time. Dhatusena made eighteen irrigation tanks, a large irrigation canal known as Yodha Ela, and the Avukana statue, a large statue of Lord Buddha.[1][2][3]

Early life and becoming king

Dhatusena's ancestry is uncertain. The Cūḷavaṃsa, the ancient chronicle of Sri Lanka, tells us that he was of royal linage whose ancestors had fled the royal capital about three hundred years earlier.[4] The country was invaded in 433 by six Tamil leaders from South India, known as the six Dravidians. They overthrew the Sri Lankan monarch and ruled the country for twenty six years, from 433 to 459. During this time, Sinhalese leaders abandoned Rajarata and fled to the Ruhuna principality in the south of the country. Ruhuna was used as the base for resistance against the invading rulers.

Dhatusena was raised by his uncle, a Buddhist monk named Mahanama. The Pandyan invaders were searching for Dhatusena, and his uncle ordained him as a Buddhist monk to disguise him. Dhatusena later organised a resistance movement against the Tamil invaders and led a rebellion against them. Dhatusena claimed the kingship of the country in 455. By the time Dhatusena started the rebellion, three of the six Pandayn invaders were already dead, and in the battles that occurred during the rebellion, two more were killed. The final battle took place in 459, where the last king, Pithiya, was killed.[5] Having successfully defeated the Pandyan invaders, Dhatusena was crowned as the king of Sri Lanka in 459 A.D, taking Anuradhapura as his capital.

Services as king

The Avukana Buddha Statue which was created during the reign of Dhatusena

Dhatusena built eighteen irrigation tanks in order to develop agriculture in the country.[1] Among these tanks are the Kalavewa and Balaluwewa, which are interconnected and cover an area of 6,380 acres (2,580 ha).[6]

He also constructed the Yodha Ela, also known as Jayaganga, an irrigation canal carrying water from Kalawewa to Tissawewa tank in Aunuradhapura. Yoda Ela descends 95 milimeters at each kilometer. This is regarded as a great technological achievement.[3][7]

The Avukana statue, a 13-metre (43 ft) high statue of Lord Buddha, is also a creation of Dhatusena.[2]


Dhatusena had two sons, Kasyapa I and Moggallana I. Moggallana was the son of the royal consort and the rightful heir to the throne, while Kasyapa was born to a non-royal concubine. Dhatusena’s daughter was married to his sister’s son and the general of his army, Migara. Following an argument between his daughter and sister, Dhatusena ordered his sister to be killed. In reprisal, Migara encouraged and assisted Kasyapa to overthrow the king and take the throne. Kasyapa eventually rebelled against Dhatusena and overthrew him. Dhatusena was imprisoned and Kasyapa became the king of the country in 473.

Migara led Kasyapa to believe that Dhatusena had hidden treasures of great wealth and persuaded him to find these. When asked to lead Kasyapa to where these treasures were hidden, Dhatusena led him to the Kalavewa and taking water into his hands, claimed that this was the only treasure he had. Enraged at this, Kasyapa had him murdered by entombing him in a wall.[4][8] (an alternate story is that he was buried alive in the bund of the Kalaweva).[1][6]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Mahasena and Dhatusena". sri-lanka.50webs.com. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Aukana Buddha History". aukanabuddha.info. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Gamini Jayasinghe (2007-10-15). "A museum for Sigiriya Rock fortress". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 2008-10-25. [dead link]
  4. 4.0 4.1 Ponnamperuma, Senani (2013). The Story of Sigiriya. Melbourne, Australia: Panique Pty Ltd. pp. 19–22. ISBN 9780987345110. 
  5. "The latter Anuradhapura Period". Rootsweb. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 "King Dhatusena". sigiriya.gq.nu. Retrieved 2008-10-25.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  7. D. G. A. Perera. "Redeploying the armed forces". The Island. Retrieved 2008-10-25. 
  8. Geiger, Wilhelm (1927). Cūlavaṃsa being the most recent part of the Mahavamsa. London: Milford. p. 40.