by Sachi Sri Kantha, February 14, 2018
The impetus for this commentary was provided by a ‘Note’ in a 2003 paper written by Buddhist monk Mahinda Deegalle, on violence and Theravada Buddhism. The ‘Note’ appended to this paper was,
“When I delivered an early version of this paper at the St. Petersburg consultation, Wesley Ariarajah pointed out that Tamil narration of this myth highlights that it was King Elara who proposed a dual battle, as opposed to King Dutthagamani, who is credited with that suggestion as recorded in the Mahavamsa. These diverse nationalistic readings of this pervasive myth by Sinhalese and Tamils need detailed future investigation.” [Note by Sachi: The spelling of ‘dual’, appears as in the original, and it should be duel. In addition, I’ll also clarify below that the usage of the word ‘myth’ by monk Deegalle related to this duel is improper too.]
It is a pity that ancient Tamil king Elala (aka Elara) has been poorly served by Indian and Tamil historians of the past and present. Not only historians, even Tamil movie script writers who specialized in ancient Tamil history (such as M. Karunanidhi, his nephew Murasoli Maran and lyricist Kannadasan) as well as movie stars who could have done justice to Elalan’s role, like MGR, Sivaji Ganesan and SSR had somewhat ignored king Elalan in 1950s!
When he was young, MGR acted in a minor role in Ashokumar (1941); a Tamil biopic on Emperor Asoka and his son Kunala (played by V. Nagiah and M.K.Thiyagaraja Bhagavathar), scripted by Ilankovan. Sivaji Ganesan did play brief drama scenes of Socrates (script written by Karunanidhi), Emperor Asoka (script written by Maran), and essayed biopics on Katta Pomman (script written by Sakthi Krishnasamy) in 1950s, and later Raja Raja Cholan (Aru Ramanathan). Furthermore, think for a while, how the world remembers Julius Caesar now? Only by the writings of Plutarch, Suetonius and Shakespeare. As Nehru aptly described in 1946, “Unlike the Greeks, and unlike the Chinese and the Arabs, Indians in the past were not historians. This was very unfortunate and it has made it difficult for us now to fix dates or make up an accurate chronology. Events run into each other, overlap and produce an enormous confusion.”
This source collection is meant to offer what has been written about King Elala, since 1859. I also present the political events that occurred in Europe, North Africa, Middle East, India and China, during Elala’s reign in ancient Ceylon. This has not been attempted by other authors.
Elalan is the Tamil form, and had been used by Emerson Tennent (1859) and Sir Pon Arunachalam (1906). Elara is used by the Sinhalese. Arunachalam had used Elalan in the text, but in his table of kings who had received attention of the author of Mahavamsa chronicle (presented nearby), the Sinhala form Elara is seen. One is not sure whether this is a printer’s error in typesetting, which went unnoticed by the author. In 1926, Mudaliyar Rasanayagam had used both versions ‘Elara or Elala’. The Tamil form, Elalan makes sense, since it is a combination of two Tamil words (Ellai = border; Aalan = ruler), the one who rules the border land. Currently, Elara prevails in many texts, because Sinhalese historians had opted for this.
First, one should distinguish the differences among three words namely event, story and myth. These three words have been used carelessly and interchangeably by many contemporary writers (especially journalists and half-baked scholars). The New Oxford American Dictionary (2001) dictionary definitions of these three words are as follows:
Event: a thing that happens, esp. one of importance.
Story: an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment
Myth: a traditional story, esp. one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon and typically involving supernatural beings or events.
In King Elalan’s case, Elala-Dutugemunu duel that happened in 161 BC was a historical event, akin to Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps in 218 BC. The Mahavamsa chronicle which was compiled more than 600 years later, after the historical event, was a story told for entertainment from a Buddhist priest’s angle. Legendary Sinhalese pioneer Vijaya’s landing in Lanka island or Lord Buddha visiting the island three times were myths, embellished by the Mahavamsa author. Kindly note that in the dictionary definition for myth, the last six words following the word ‘and’ is a critical component.
For the contemporary researchers, the name ‘Elara’ had simply become a backdrop moniker to be passingly mentioned in a sentence or two as the defeated Tamil (or Chola) king, in the duel with Sinhalese prince Dutugemunu. Here are two random examples:
Kristian Stokke (1998) writes, “The legendary conflict between Dutthagamani and Elara is one widely cited example of such ancient conflicts between Sinhalese and Tamil kings.” Rohini Hensman (2015) opines, “One of the stories central to the construction of a Sinhalese Buddhist identity is that of Dutugemnunu, who defeated the Northern Tamil king Elara.”
These analysts hardly have the interest or energy to study the historical background to delve into King Elalan’s period, then population of the island, linguistic and religious composition of the island dwellers, and cite one very recent reference that appeared 1980s!! These analysts also ignore the bias factor of Buddhist priests (bhikkus). The major source book on King Elala, is Mahavamsa chronicle, written in Pali language around 5th or 6th century AD. Pali was not spoken or written by the populace in Ceylon. Only the Buddhist bhikkus had to learn and use it for religious sermons. It is not known, what percentage of the then island’s population were bhikkus. Even among this bhikku population, one cannot assert that all had literacy in Pali language – may be the upper limit could be 20-25%. This remains the same, even in contemporary Sri Lanka.
The thoughts of Garrett Champness Mendis (1966) on the implicit bias of bhikkus deserves notice here. “When the Mahavamsa was written, the writing of history in Ceylon was in the hands of bhikkhus, and they could not have written a work beyond the levels of their knowledge. They were men engaged in the study and teaching of Buddhism, and whatever they wrote had to depend on the knowledge they possessed and what was useful to them and their work in the spread of Buddhism.”
Elalan’s reign has now been ascertained to be from 205 BC to 161 BC – a cumulative period of 44 years. Assuming that he had to be at least 20 years to capture Anuradhapura kingdom, one can fix his birth year to around 225 BC. Thus, Elalan’s life span can be tentatively fixed for 61 years. He died in a duel (fought while riding an elephant) against a young prince Dutugemunu in 161 BC. This was, 61 years before the birth of Roman emperor Julius Caesar (100 BC – 44 BC).
It is also plausible that King Elalan might have been born around the time Emperor Asoka died. Jawaharlal Nehru had assigned Asoka’s reign from 273 BC to 232 BC, “after ruling strenuously for forty one years.” If this be the case, Elalan’s birth year can be liberally advanced by another 7 years, from 225 BC to 232 BC. Then, at the time of his death, king Elalan might have been 68 years – not extremely senescent in comparison to the claims made for other kings listed in the Mahavamsa epic, by its compiler! It should also be noted that Buddhist missionary Mahendra (aka Mahinda), son of Emperor Asoka, died in Ceylon, in his 60th year [193 BC] during King Elala’s reign.
Contemporaries of King Elala
Who were King Elala’s contemporaries, other than his young rival prince Dutugemunu, in the then world? To the best of my knowledge, none had bothered to view this angle. Two of Elalan’s illustrious contemporaries in the Western world were,
Archimedes (287 BC – 212 BC) – Greek mathematician and military engineer
Hannibal (246 BC – 182 BC) – Carthaginian General, who invaded Italy with 37 elephants.
Other renowned Elalan contemporaries include,
Eratosthenes (276 BC – 196 BC) – Greek astronomer
Apollonius (262 BC – 190 BC) – Greek mathematician
Shih Huang Ti (? – 210 BC) – China’s ‘First Emperor’ of Ch’in Dynasty
Terence (195 BC – 159 BC) – Roman dramatist
Hipparchus ( ~ 190 BC – 120 BC) – Greek astronomer
Seleucus (~ 190 BC – ?) – Greek astronomer
Recorded Political Events during King Elalan’s Life Span
246 BC – 210 BC – The reign of Shih Huang Ti (‘First Emperor’) of Ch’in dynasty in
China. He brought China into a unified state. To defend his borders on the side from which they were most frequently attacked, Huang Ti constructed the Great Wall. This had probably already existed in part, but he completed and strengthened it.
221 BC – Cleomenes, King of Sparta, fled to Egypt and died in 220 BC.
220 BC – Euthydemos of Magnesia overthrew Diodotos of Baktria and usurped his
Kingdom. Euthydemos considerably extended the Greek power in India.
219 BC – 201 BC – Second Punic War.
218 BC – Carthaginian general Hannibal crossed the Alps (Little St.Bernard Pass),
Invaded Italy from the North, took Turin, and defeated Publius Cornelius Scipio at Ticinus River.
217 BC – Hannibal defeated Romans at Lake Trasimene.
216 BC – Philip V of Macedon made alliance with Hannibal.
212 BC – Romans under Marcus Claudius Marcellus conquered and sacked Syracuse;
Archimedes killed during fighting.
210 BC – ‘First Emperor’ Shih Huang Ti died.
207 BC – After the defeat of his brother Hasdrubal on the Metaurus, Hannibal retired to
southern Italy. Feeble ‘Second Emperor’ of Ch’in dynasty in China was murdered, and Ch’in dynasty collapsed.
206 BC – Antiochus III of Syria, after making war on Euthydemos of Baktria,
concluded a peace and acknowledged his independence. He then crossed the Paropamisos into India and made a treaty with Sophagasenos (aka, Subhagasena), and returned in 205 BC through Arakhosia
202 BC – Scipio Africanus decisively defeated Hannibal at Zama. Han dynasty
established in China by Liu Pang. Practice of recruiting officials by means
of examinations was initiated.
200 BC – 197 BC – Second Macedonian War.
198 BC – Antiochus III of Syria took Palestine from Egypt.
195 BC – Hannibal fled to Antiochus III of Syria. Demetrios of Baktria invaded and
reduced Panjab during the reign of his father Euthydemos.
193 BC – Mahendra (aka Mahinda), Buddhist missionary and son of Emperor Asoka,
died in Ceylon, in his 60th year.
192 BC – Antiochus III, aided by Hannibal, landed in Greece. War between Sparta and
191 BC – Antiochus defeated by the Romans at Thermopylae, and at Magnesia (in 190
190 BC – Demetrios of Baktria succeeded his father.
189 BC – Hannibal defeated by Rhodian fleet at Eurymedon River.
183 BC – Pisa and Parma in northern Italy became Roman colonies.
182 BC – Hannibal committed suicide in exile, to avoid extradition by Rome.
180 BC – Rise of Andhrabhritya or Satavahana dynasty.
178 BC – Pushyamitra, overthrew Brihadratha, the last of the Maurya dynasty, and
founded the Sunga dynasty in Mgadha, 137 years after the establishment of
Maurya dynasty by Chandragupta’s coronation. Pushyamitra is also mentioned
in the Asoka Avadana, as a persecutor of the Buddhists.
172 BC – Roman army defeated by Perseus.
168 BC – Perceus defeated by Romans at Pydna.
Compared to the reign and glory of his predecessors like Emperor Asoka (41 years) and his contemporaries like Shih Huang Ti (36 years) and Hannibal (around 16 years), that King Elara had a 44 year reign in Anuradhapura tells something about health vigor, tenacity and popularity among his citizens. Even his successor Dutugemunu could reign only for 24 years!
Description by James Emerson Tennent (1859)
“a Malabar of the illustrious Uju tribe, who invaded the island from the Chola country, killed the reigning king Asela, and ruled the kingdom for forty years, administering justice impartially to friends and foes.
Such is the encomium which the Mahawanso passes on an infidel usurper, because Elala offered his protection to the priesthood; but the orthodox annalist closes his notice of his reign by the moral reflection that ‘even he who was an heretic, and doomed by his creed to perdition, obtained an exalted extent of supernatural power from having eschewed impiety and injustice.’
But it was not the priests alone who were captivated by the generosity of Elala. In the final struggle for the throne, in which the Malabars were worsted by the gallantry of Dutugaimunu,a prince of the excluded family, the deeds of bravery displayed by him were admiration of his enemies. The contest between the rival chiefs is the solitary tale of Ceylon chivalry, in which Elala is the Saladin and Dutugaimunu the Coeur-de-lion. So genuine was the admiration of Elala’s bravery that his rival erected a monument in his honour, on the spot where he fell; its ruins remain to the present day, and the Singhalese still regard it with respect and veneration.”
Description by Sir Pon Arunachalam (1906)
“The Tamils reestablished themselves ten years later under Elala, a prince of the Chola dynasty. The dethroned dynasty took refuge in Magampattu, on the southern coast, where the great tank and dagoba at Tissamaharama still stand as monuments of their rule. Elala at Anuradhapura, according to the Buddhist chronicles, though a heretic, ‘ruled the kingdom for forty-four years, administering justice impartially to friend or foe.’ At the gate of his palace hung, according to the custom of the Chola kings, the Arachchi Mani or ‘Bell of Inquiry’, communicating with the head of his bed and the ringing of which secured immediate inquiry and redress of grievances. Fables, which the Mahawansa gravely records, grew up that the very birds and beasts sought and obtained redress. His unswerving justice inflicted capital punishment on his son. For an unintentional damage caused to a Buddhist dagoba by his chariot he offered his own life as atonement, but the aggrieved persons were pleased to accept other restitution.
The tomb, erected where he fell by his generous foe Dutugemunu, a scion of the old line, is still regarded with veneration by the Sinhalese. ‘On reaching the quarter of the city on which it stands,’ says the chronicle, ‘it has been the custom for the monarchs of Lanka to silence their music, whatever procession they may be heading.’ Well may the Sinhalese be proud of chivalry so rare and unprecedented. So uniformly was this homage continued, says Tennent, that so lately as 1818, on the suppression of an attempted rebellion against the British Government, when the defeated aspirant to the throne was making his escape by Anuradhapura, he alighted from his litter on approaching the quarter in which the monument was known to exist, and although weary and almost incapable of exertion, not knowing the precise spot, he continued on foot till assured that he had passed far beyond the ancient memorial.” The ‘defeated aspirant’ mentioned by Emerson Tennent (as described by Major Forbes, in his 1840 book) was the Sinhalese Adigari Pilima Talawa. James Rutnam had presented this episode in his paper on Elara’s tomb. (see below)
Description by Nandadeva Wijesekera (1990)
Among the items I had read until now, a distinctly negative portrayal on King Elalan appears in Pundit Dr. Nandadeva Wijesekera’s book, The Sinhalese (1990). The author had promoted himself as ‘the first anthropologist from Ceylon’. He had received a Ph.D. in Archeology and Fine Arts from Calcutta University. Wijesekera’s version deserves attention for the presented mix of facts and fiction; as such I quote relevant material in full below, with my annotations within parentheses.
“….No trace of Elara’s invasion is found in Tamil literature except the legends of a pricne and a calf found in the reign of Manu.
During the reign of King Asela 185 BC, a Damila (Tamil) named Elara from the Chola country landed at Mavatutota with a large army of nearly 100,000 men at the mouth of the river Mahaveli on the east coast of Lanka. From there the army marched to Anuradhapura. King Asela was killed and the Kingdom was seized. Elara destroyed many temples built by King Devanampiya Tissa. Even at that time Mavatutota (probably Trincomalee) was a big harbor which could accommodate a large number of ships. Having overcome opposition Elara established 32 military camps and appointed 20 great giants. An account of these camps is found in the Nikaya Sangrahaya.
It is said that Elara was a Damila of noble descent from the Chola country. Here the Cholas are called Damilas (Tamils). Chola is the name of the country and the people who inhabited it were called Damilas (Tamils). These people were different in race, religion, language and culture from the Aryans of the North. They belonged to the Dravidian stock whilst the Sinhalese belonged to an Aryan stock. These two communities were psychologically opposed to each other.
Mahavamsa refers to the righteous behavior of Elara during his reign of 44 years in Sri Lanka. Three legends are recorded in support of that impression. The Mahavamsa for some unknown reason tries to impress the reader with the sense of justice dispensed by Elara as King to friend and foe alike. Another story stresses the fact that he was a respector of tradition. By this was meant Buddhist virtues. The practice of satyakriya by fasting established the virtue of justice.
…In the case of Elara, too, a section of the Sinhalese of the kingdom of Anuradhapura may have supported the invaders. According to the chronicle Elara was presented as a virtuous and just ruler who respected traditions and honoured the Bhikkhus. Could he have been a local ruler who overthrew the King with the help of a Damila army from Chola country? [Note by Sachi: This proposition had been raised previously by Mudaliyar Rasanayagam in 1926 and Perera in 1970. See below, the sub heading ‘Previous Publications. Wijesekera repeats the same proposition. The logic is, it is rather difficult to reconcile with the fact recorded in Mahavamsa chronicle, that King Elara ruled Anuradhapura for 44 years! Without popular support, he couldn’t have achieved this record, whereas many of Elala’s successors had relatively short reign not exceeding 25 years.]
In the case of all other invasions from South India especially by the Damilas of the Chola country the Mahavamsa refers to the utter destruction caused to temples and dagabas. Books were burnt. [Note by Sachi: This is an anachronism! Books available in Ceylon, before Johannes Gutenberg’s movable print invention of 1438! Wijesekera probably meant, leaf (ola) manuscripts. One can comprehend, why he had to insert this. The description on King Elala appears in the chapter entitled ‘Enemy Invasions – Tamil Terrorism’. Thus, in 1990, he was justifying the 1981 book burning or bibliocaust conducted by the Sinhalese army elements in Jaffna.] Tanks were damaged. The Cholas acted like demons without any regard to life and property. That was not all. They removed the King’s treasures and sacred objects of Buddhist veneration. In a few instances even Sinhala Kings and Queens were taken away as hostages. The Sinhlala literary works agree with the record in the Mahavamsa.
The description of the State of Lanka regarding Elara’s rule given in the Sinhala literary works differs considerably from that in the Mahavamsa. These paint a horrible picture of the Anuradhapura kingdom during Elara’s rule. The Tamils were desecrating the precincts of the Sri Lanka Mahabodhi and Ruvanveli Seya. Nandamitra killed about 50 Tamils every day. (See Rajavaliya, Thupavamsa, Nikayasangrahara, Saddharmalankaraya and Pujavaliya.) [Note by Sachi: What Wijesekera had hidden is the fact that all the cited works appeared only after the 12th century AD, after the Chola empire’s domination of the island. Thupavamsa’s Pali version was written ~ 1250 AD. It’s Sinhlaese version appeared before 1260 AD. Pujavali was authored by Bikku Mayurapada around 1266 AD. Nikayasangrahara was written by Mahathera Jayabahu, surnamed Devarakkita around 1369 AD. Rajavali was compiled as late as the beginning of 18th century. The pejorative descriptions about King Elala’s rule between 205 – 161 BC, without any positive archeological, epigraphical, and radiological data by these later authors have to be dismissed as belonging to the category of fiction.]
In skimming the five volume bibliography on Ceylon, compiled by H.A.I. Goonetileke, I could locate only one reference to King Elala, in the title of a paper published in an obscure Sri Lankan journal. It was authored by a Perera in 1970, with the caption ‘The lineage of Elara, king of Anuradhapura and his possible relationship with the Aryan predecessors of the ruling house of Ceylon’. Of course, many papers on Elala’s adversary Dutugemunu were listed in Goonetileke’s bibliographical collection. These had to make reference to Elala as well. As I couldn’t check the complete contents of Perera paper, I provide what bibliographer Goonetileke had annotated about this paper. The particular annotation reads, “[It] seeks to sustain a theory that King Elara (205 – 161 BC) was not as commonly believed a South Indian Cola in origin, but more likely belonged to a family of one of the early Aryan rulers of Ceylon. Poses the continuing supposition of this lineage assay to future scholars.”
In fact, Rasanayagam (1870-1940) had raised this suggestion passingly in 1926. According to Rasanayagam’s thoughts, “It is said that Elara belonged to the noble dynasty of the Cholas, and some of the mythical legends of justice and liberality connected with the ancient Chola kings are also attributed to him. His royal connection is, however, doubtful as tradition connects him with voyages on the sea. The traditional belief among the Tamil sea-men that the mention of his name in times of distress would bring relief, and songs containing his name sung while rowing or tacking confirm the tradition. [Foot note: The chorus of the songs sung by Tamil sea-men ends with the words elelo, elelo, elavali, elelo.]”
In 1981, James Rutnam (1905-1988) presented his extensive study on Elara’s tomb, and the excavation attempts of it: (a) first made by the British archeological surveyors S.M. Burrows and H.C.P. Bell from 1884 to 1900; and (b) that of Sinhalese archeologist Senarath Paranavitana (1896-1972) in late 1940s. Paranavitana had attempted to dubiously claim that the Elara’s tomb, was that of his rival Dutugemmunu. Rutnam had rebutted this posturing, by citing the subsequent research by R.H. de Silva. The text of this paper had been posted by N. Satyendra in the now defunct Tamil Nation website. By contemporary standards, based on the subsequent findings of Sinhalese and non-Sinhalese historians, archeologists and epigraphists listed in the foot note 32 (Saddhamangala Karunaratne, Roland Silva, K. Indrapala, B.A.L.H. Gunawardena, A. Liyanagamage, W.H. McLeod, Srima Kiribamune and Kingsley M. de Silva) of Rutnam’s paper, Paranavitana’s archeological research have to be tagged simply as research fraud.
Even 50 years ago, quite a few Tamil researchers had serious doubts on the ‘discoveries and findings’ of Paranavitana’s ‘trend-setting research’ in projecting the ‘Sinhala first’ policy. But, due to political correctness and for fear of being accused as ‘Tamil racists’ by their employers, they couldn’t openly defy the state-sponsored Paranavita brand of research. Now, the other shoe had fallen! On Paravitana’s defective state of mind in 1960s, I located an interesting reference as a foot note, in a 2014 paper related to one Mahanaman, the projected author of Mahavamsa chronicle, published by Vincent Tournier (a French researcher), in the Indo-Iranian journal. Tournier had made it official, “More specifically, at some point during the 1960s and until his death in 1972, Paranavitana seems to have suffered from some kind of mental disorder, which led him to forge a number of epigraphic documents in Sanskrit, the so-called ‘interlinear inscriptions’, which he used to justify his earlier theories. This sad alteration of the scholar’s state of mind, leading to damaging consequences on Sinhalese historiography, has been analysed in detail in Guruge and Weerakkody…Paranavitana’s fallacies have no place in a scholarly work…”
What Rev. W.J. Brodribb wrote about Hannibal (Elalan’s senior contemporary) in 1880, “Considering his fame, we should have expected to find a number of anecdotes about him. There are, however, only a few.” applies equally to King Elalan, too. This could be partly attributed to what Nehru decried as reticence of ancient Hindus in recording history. I plan to follow up with a commentary on the author of the Mahavamsa chronicle [Mahanaman(s)] and the anachronism of the early kings of Ceylon, who preceded King Elala.
- Arunachalam: Sketches of Ceylon History, Colombo Apothecaries Co., Colombo, 2nd ed. 1906.
Rev. W.J. Brodribb: Hannibal. In: Encyclopedia Britannica, 9th ed., vol. 11, Adam & Charles Black, Edinburgh, 1880, pp. 441-445.
Mahinda Deegalle: Is violence justified in Theravada Buddhism? Ecumenical Review, 2003; 55(2): 122-131.
Mabel Duff, C: The Chronology of Indian History: From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Sixteenth Century, Cosmo Publications, Delhi, 1972.
Bernard Grun: The Time Tables of History, new updated edition, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982.
Rohini Hensman: Post-war Sri Lanka: exploring the path not taken. Dialectical Anthropology, 2015; 39: 273-293.
Kenneth Scott Latourette and C. Martin Wilbur: China, In: Encyclopedia Britannica, vol. 5, Encyclopedia Britannica, Chicago, 1958, pp. 508-538.
G.C. Mendis: Problems of Ceylon History, Colombo Apothecaries Co., Colombo, 1966, p. 76.
Jawaharlal Nehru: The Discovery of India, Ninth impression, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1989 (originally published in 1946).
Mudaliyar C. Rasanayagam: Ancient Jaffna, being a Research into the history of Jaffna from very early times to the Portuguese period, Asian Education Services reprint, New Delhi, 2003 (originally published in 1926).
James T. Rutnam: The tomb of Elara at Anuradhapura. 1981. Complete text in Tamilnation.org [http://tamilnation.co/heritage/tomb_of_elara.htm]. accessed, Feb. 12, 2018.
Kristian Stokke: Sinhalese and Tamil nationalism as post-colonial political projects from ‘above’, 1948-1983. Political Geography, 1998; 17(1): 83-113.
James Emerson Tennent: Ceylon – An account of the Island Physical, Historical, and Topographical. Vol.1, Longman, Green, Longman and Roberts, London, 1859, pp. 353-355.
Vincent Tournier: Mahakasyapa, His Lineage, and the wish for Buddhahood: Reading Anew the Bodhgaya Inscriptions of Mahanaman. Indo-Iranian Journal, 2014; 57: 1-60.
Nandadeva Wijesekera: The Sinhalese, M.D. Gunasena & Co, Colombo, 1990, pp. 515-519.
A very interesting analysis of our ancient Tamil Saivite king Elala by Mr. Sri Kantha.
Regarding the name Elalan, Elala, and Elara, it would have been a little more informative if the author also mentioned the Tamil King’s name as per the ancient stone inscriptions. Even though the Tamil name should be Elalan, the ancient written Tamil names (as per inscriptions) were ending with an ‘a’ very similar to Prakrit/Pali (presently Sinhala) names. It was only during 2nd century CE to 4th century CE (Tamil Brahmi III – the third stage) that the Tamils developed what is called as the ‘pulli (dot) system’ after which the Tamils were able to write the names ending with ‘an’ and ‘am’.
The Mahavamsa was an elaboration of the earlier Dipavamsa. However, it should be noted that nothing is said in the Dipavamsa of a war between Elara and Duttugemunu nor about Duttugemunu killing Elara (appears to have been added by the Mahavamsa author for a specific reason – to make Duttugemunu the savior of Buddhism). Just around ten lines/verses in the Dipavamsa about the Elara – Duttugemunu was blown up into 11 chapters in the Mahavamsa written 2 centuries later.
Could Elala be a local Chieftain who overthrew the Anuradapura King with the help of a Tamil army from Chola country? Even though some Sinhalese writers consider not only Elala but also Sena and Kuttaka as invaders, some others consider them as local Saivaite Chieftains who rebelled against the imposition of Buddhism and were able to conquer the throne at Anuradapura. Also, there is no historical records in Tamil Nadu for any reference to Chola invasion during Elala’s period.
Hope Mr. Sri Kantha can elaborate further on the above.
I do appreciate the thoughts and additional comments provided by correspondent Anandan.