Valagamba of Anuradhapura

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King of Sri Lanka
Reign 103 BC, 89 BC – 77 BC
Predecessor Dathika
Successor Mahakuli Mahatissa
Consort Anuladevi
Issue Mahanaga
Full name
wattagamani Abhaya
Died 77 BC

Valagamba, also known as Vattagamani Abhaya[1] and Valagambahu, was a king of the Anuradhapura Kingdom of Sri Lanka. Five months after becoming king, he was overthrown by a rebellion and an invasion from South India, but regained the throne by defeating the invaders after fourteen years. He is also known for the construction of the Abhayagiri Dagaba.

Accession to the throne[edit]

Valagamba was the fourth son of King Saddha Tissa, the brother of Dutthagamani. His three elder brothers Thulatthana, Lanja Tissa and Khallata Naga ruled the country before him.[2] A General of the army named Kammaharattaka (Maharattaka) killed Khallatanaga, the last of them and seized power. Valagamba in turn killed Kammaharattaka and took the throne himself in 103 BC.[3]

He kept Mahaculika, the son of Khallatanaga, as his own son, and took Anuladevi, Mahaculika's mother, as his queen. He also had another queen named Somadevi.[2]

Rebellion and invasion[edit]

Five months after his coronation as king, a Brahmin in Rohana named Tissa rebelled against him. At the same time, an invading army from South India led by seven Tamil leaders landed in Mahatittha. Tissa and the seven Tamil leaders all sent messages to Valagamba, telling him to hand over power to them.[3] Valagamba informed the Brahmin Tissa that the kingdom will be his and told him to defeat the invading army. Accepting this, Tissa tried to fight but was defeated by the Tamils.[2]

After this, the seven Tamil leaders waged war against Valagamba, and defeated him after a battle at Kolambalaka. While the king was fleeing in a chariot, a nirgrantha (Jain named Giri shouted that the king was fleeing. Valagamba resolved to build a temple there, and later built the Abhayagiriya after he regained the throne.[2] When the pursuers were gaining on them, Queen Somadevi got down from the chariot to lighten it and give the king a chance to escape, and was captured.[3] The Pathra Dathu (sacred Bowl relic) was also taken to India. The five Dravidians namely Pulahatta, Bahiya, Panya Mara, Pilaya Mara and Dathika ruled Anuradhapura for 14 years by assassinating each other one by one.

Valagamba fled to Malayarata for safety and a monk named Kuppikkala Mahatissa helped him while he was in hiding. The king organized a large army in order to attack Anuradhapura and defeat the invading army. However, a rift between him and his ministers resulted in them leaving him and thus weakening the army.[3] However, the sangha brought about a reconciliation and Valagamba resumed his preparations for attacking Anuradhapura.[2]

Regaining power[edit]

In 89 BC, Valagamba regained the throne after defeating Dathika, the last of the invading Tamil leaders, and ruled the country for twelve years until his death in 77 BC.[4] He sent for Somadevi and restored her as queen, and built a temple named Somarama in her honour.[2]


The Abhayagiri Stupa, built by Valagamba.

The king built Abhayagiri Dagaba and stupa, which has a height of about 70 metres (230 ft).[5] The Abhayagiri temple became one of the three main Buddhist institutions in the country. He converted the caves he was hiding in to a temple.[6] This temple is known as the Dambulla Rock Temple.[4] Valagamba also built several other temples. The Tripiṭaka, which was handed down orally in the Bhikkhu order until then, was recorded on palm leaves in the Aluvihara Temple, Matale during the Fourth Buddhist Council.[7]

Religious Conflict[edit]

The Abayagiri Stupa was offered to Kuppikala Mahatissa Thero by the king to show his gratitude. This was the first time a temple was offered privately to a monk and it caused the first conflict between the Sangha when 500 Bhikkus decided to leave Mahavihara and join Abayagiriya where they created another sect. This is the first schism in Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Obeyesekere, Gananath. The Cult of the Goddess Pattini. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-61602-9. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Geiger, Wilhelm. "Mahavamsa - The Ten Kings". Retrieved 2009-07-17. 
  3. ^ a b c d Wijesooriya, S. (2006). A Concise Sinhala Mahavamsa. Participatory Development Forum. ISBN 955-9140-31-0. 
  4. ^ a b Siriweera, W. I. (2004). History of Sri Lanka. Dayawansa Jayakodi & Company. ISBN 955-551-257-4. 
  5. ^ "Anuradhapura". Sacred Destinations. Retrieved 2009-07-17. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Ellawala, H. (1969). Social History of Early Ceylon. Department of Cultural Affairs. 

External links[edit]

Valagamba of Anuradhapura
Regnal titles
Preceded by
King of Anuradhapura
103 BC and 89 BC–77 AD
Succeeded by
Mahakuli Mahatissa