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Thun Sinhale (Three Divisions of the island)
Administration centers of Sri Lanka before the 13th century

Rajarata [ra dja rǽ tə] (Sinhala: රජරට) (Tamil: ரஜரட) was one of the three historical regions in the island country of Sri Lanka for about 1,700 years from the 6th century BCE to the early 13th century CE.[1] Several ancient cities, including Tambapanni, Upatissa Nuwara, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa were established as capitals within the area by successive rulers.[2] While Rajarata was under the direct administration of the King (raja/king, rata/country), two other areas, Malayarata and Ruhunurata, were ruled by the King's two brothers, "Mapa" and "Epa"[citation needed] . The Magha invasion in the 13th century brought about the end of the Rajarata kingdom.[3][4]

History and Kingdoms[edit]

The first kingdom in Rajarata was established by Prince Vijaya in 543 BCE.[5] He settled near the delta of the Malvathu River between Chilaw and Mannar. A local myth claims that Prince Vijaya married a local princess, Kuveni, to gain control of Rajarata. With her help, he betrayed and killed all of the regional leaders.[6] After his death, the administrative center was moved to the countryside along the Malvathu Oya. The river was ideal for agriculture. The first three administrative centers: Tambapanni, Upatissa Nuwara, and Anuradhapura, were situated close to the Malvathu Oya. King Pandukabhaya, once a prince descended from local Yaksha and Sinha tribes, was able to form a stable kingdom in Anuradhapura. He garnered support from tribes in different areas of the island.[7]

Administrative centers in Rajarata:

  1. Tambapanni - Prince Vijaya - Founded in 543 BCE[5]
  2. Upatissa Nuwara - Founded by King Upatissa in 505 BCE[8]
  3. Anuradhapura - Founded by King Pandukabhaya in 377 BCE[citation needed]
  4. Sigiriya - Built by King Kashyapa (477 – 495 CE), but after the death of the king center moved to Anuradhapura[citation needed]
  5. Polonnaruwa - Founded by King Vijayabahu I[citation needed]


Prince Vijaya and his clan settled in Tambapanni, near the Malvatu Oya delta. Mahavamsa reveals how various groups came from India in the period between Prince Vijaya and King Pandukabhaya's reign, quite often settling along the Malvathu Oya. In 377 BCE, King Pandukabhaya moved the administrative center to Anuradhapura. Most of the settlements were located near rivers and reservoirs, with the water being used for agricultural purposes. The Yodha wewa area in Mannar District by King Dhatusena,[9] Eropathana in Vavuniya District, Padawiya area in Anuradhapura District and Mullaitivu District by King Moggallana II[10] says that the extent of Sri Lanka's golden civilization spread all the way to the southern boundary of the Vanni forest.[citation needed] The thick Vanni forest acted as a huge barrier to colonizers above the southern border of the forest. Tanks built during the Anuradhapura era (Giant's, Padaviya, Minneriya, Kantale, Mahavillachchiya, Thabbowa,Kala) are proof of the early settlements in Rajarata area.

Initial settlements based near rivers:[citation needed]

Boundaries of Rajarata[edit]

Boundaries of the three divisions (Rata):[11]

  • Raja rata - Area between Deduru oya and the Mahaweli river
  • Ruhunu rata - Area between the Mahaweli river and Kalu gaga
  • Malaya rata - Area between Deduru oya and Kalu gaga

Fall of Rajarata[edit]

In 1215, Kalinga Magha invaded Rajarata with an army of 24,000 soldiers[citation needed]. After the conquest of Rajarata, Magha established his capital in Pollonnaruwa.[citation needed] Then the Kalinga forces extended their power to the Malaya Rata. During the rise of the Kingdom of Dambadeniya under the king Vijayabahu III (1220-1224 CE), Magha lost the control of Malaya Rata. There was resistance among the native Sinhalese to the Magha's administration at Pollonnaruwa. The Sinhalese gathered around a series of inaccessible towns, fortresses, mountains like Yapahuwa and Gangadoni under army generals (Subha, Sankha etc.). Due to the rising threat, Pandyan troops established an administration center in Jaffna Peninsula which was more secured and isolated by the impenetrable Vanni forest. Later Rajarata was annexed by king Parakramabahu II(1236–70).[citation needed] His power extended over Rohana, the central hills, Rajarata and the Vanni.[12] The Sinhalese tried to re-establish the administrative center in Rajarata. But this never happened due to the constant battles with the invading from south India under different leaders. The administration center was moved away from Rajarata by the Sinhalese. The defeat of Pandyan in South India bin the rising Mogul empires weakened the Tamil power in Sri Lanka. The last Pandyan ruler of Madurai, was defeated and expelled in 1323 by Malik Kafur, the army general of the Muslim empire Delhi Sultanate.[13] The falling of Pandyan was a historical event that had a big impact for Sri Lanka.

It leads to following events:

  • Military rulers "Aryacakravarti" - who was appointed as minister of Pandyan empire - made the Jaffna administrative center independent from Pandyans and established the Jaffna kingdom and Arya Chakrawarthi dynasty.
  • The Tamil lost power in the Vanni and they withdrew from Vanni to the Jaffna Peninsula.[14] The population was very low in this area until the British started the Tamil Colonization south to Parantan.
  • Area below Vanni forest stabilized under Sinhala Kingdom

Also, ancient Rajarata (before the 13th century) was divided into three parts:[citation needed]

See also[edit]