Anula of Anuradhapura

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Queen of Anuradhapura
Reign47 BC – 42 BC
SuccessorKutakanna Tissa
BornKingdom of Anuradhapura
Died42 BC
Kingdom of Anuradhapura
ConsortChora Naga
Kuda Tissa

Queen Anula of Anuradhapura (? – 42 BC) was the first queen in Sri Lankan history to have wielded meaningful power and authority, as well as the first female head of state in Asia. Anula initially rose to power as consort of King Chore Naga (also known as Coranaga and Mahanaga), son of King Valagambahu of Anuradhapura. However, in her five-year reign she poisoned her way through at least four other husbands and consorts, and she eventually governed Rajarata on her own. She should not be confused with the other famous Anula in Sri Lankan history, king Devanampiyatissa's sister in law, the first woman in Sri Lanka to be ordained as a bikkhuni. The primary source for her reign is the Mahavamsa, chapters XXXIV and XXXV.[clarification needed]


The situation in Sri Lanka immediately before the reign of Anula was extremely unstable. When King Khallata Naga was deposed in a palace coup in 104 BC, his younger brother, Vatta Gamani Abhaya (Valagambahu), overthrew the usurpers and took his dead brother's wife, also called Anula, as his own. He also adopted his nephew, Mahakuli, as his own son.

Valagambahu was on the throne little more than a year when "the Damilas made war upon [him] ... in a battle near Kolambalaka the king was vanquished".[1] It was 16 years before Valagambahu regained the throne, by which time Mahaculika had superseded Coranaga as Valagambahu's preferred heir.[1][2]

Mahakuli (who reigned as Mahakuli Mahatissa) inherited Valagambahu's throne in 76 BC. Coranaga on the other hand "lived as a rebel";[1] whether this constituted a struggle for the throne is unknown. If it were, then Coranaga's succession to the throne in 62 BC may well have represented an overthrow of Mahakuli Mahatissa. The Mahavamsa does mention that one of Coranaga's first acts was to destroy 18 temples that had refused him shelter during his time as an outlaw. Coranaga is recorded as having reigned for 12 years, before being poisoned by his consort, "the infamous Anula".[1]

Anula's motives in killing her husband are not known. Coranaga's successor, King Kuda Tissa, is the son of Mahakuli Mahatissa. Kuda means little and, thus, it is possible that the new king was only a child and, effectively, under Anula's control. Kuda Tissa did not live long, "because she [Anula] was enamoured of one of the palace-guards ... now killed Tissa also by poison and gave the government into the hands of that other".[1] From this point onward, the queen eclipsed her titular consorts and became the real power in Rajarata.

Having reigned for four months on her own, Anula was deposed by Mahakuli Mahatissa's second son, Kutakanna Tissa. The Mahavamsa states that Kutakanna Tissa had Anula burned on a funeral pyre.[1] Other sources indicate that Anula was burned alive in the palace where she had committed her murders.[1][2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Mahavamsa - 33". Retrieved 2017-08-30.
  2. ^ a b "Mahavamsa - 34". Retrieved 2017-08-30.
Anula of Anuradhapura
Anuradhapura monarchs
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Queen of Sri Lanka
47 BC – 42 BC
Succeeded by
Kutakanna Tissa