MILITARY HISTORY OF SRI LANKA

Related Pages on Military History.

1.Military History of Sri Lanka.

MILITARY HISTORY OF THE ISLAND.

 

Our ancient text the Mahawansa has recorded over 1200 battles,the names of Kings or the Generals who led the armies and  fought these battles, the place of battle and probable date,  and the weapons and tactics used, the results etc. This is an attempt to re-record them and tie them with information found in other texts and  on rock inscriptions.

 

FOUR METHODS OF THE WARRIORS.

According to the text Abhidhanappadipika the Catura Upaya, the four means of success in battle is Bheda[ the division or weakening of the enemy] ,Danda [ Open War-fare or offensive operations], Sama [ Peaceful negotiations, treaty] and Danani[ Gifts, Bribes..]. Vijayabahu I[1058-1114 AD] based his military operation on these four methods of Warriors to destroy the Cholas who were ravaging the Rajarata[ Mahavansa Chapter 58 verse 3]. The doctrine of four upayas is also  known in Vedas, the Mahabaratha,in the Amarokosha and other  epics of India.  These  methods was collected and treatises was published by Kautiliya during the time of Chandrapupta in his famous Arthasastra. Kotilla [ Kautiliya] is quoted in the Mahavansa.4 methods of warfare

An example

“Kautilya the Minister of Chandragupta silent war or a war of assassination against an unsuspecting king, his approval of secret agents who killed enemy leaders and sowed discord among them, his view of women as weapons of war, his use of religion and superstition to bolster his troops and demoralize enemy soldiers, the spread of disinformation, and his humane treatment of conquered soldiers and subjects”.

Archer at Ridivihare Late Anuradhapura period.Carries a backpack of Arrows, slung by a perhaps a cross belt.

 

The Mahavansa, Dipavansa the 4/5 Cent  AD ,Text of Sri Lanka  describes wars fought by kings, the start with two peace keeping mission of the Buddha in his visit to Mahiyangana and Nagadipa to settle a disputes between tribes living here before the arrival of Vijeya, one of then was a dispute  over a Throne between two Naga Kings . Here he used two eclipse of the Moon and the Sun to settle the disputes . This may be used as Astroarchaeology tool to test the dates mentioned in these ancient Chronicles.

In these ancient   chronicles are the name the Generals who fought battles, the Tactics used ,the type of Weapons and other logistics activities , and the Peace Treaties enacted . Most facts are substantiated by Folk lore ,contemporary inscriptions , by painting and sculptures. the finding of ancient Fortress . There is an Peace treaty enacted found on a rock Inscription at Sangamuva Vihare in Kurunegala District, as mentioned in the Mahavansa.

The aim of this blog is to present such factors , to encourage the serious students of military history to complete what was started by General Anton. Mutukumarane, a former Army Commander .

This blog is in the memory of the Officers and Soldiers of the Electrical Mechanical Engineers who sacrificed their lives during the recently completed Humanitarian Operation.

I have been reading the Mahavansa ,to extract quotes on the conduct of Battles by our ancient kings- After rereading many times I believe Mahavansa is by it selves a treatise of the conduct of war .

TEXT BOOKS ON WARFARE.

The Mahavansa in Ch70 para 56 describing war preparations of Parakramabahu I.

PARAKRAMABAHU THE GREAT[ 1153-1186 AD ]

With carefull consideration of the work profitable for the carrying out the war, such as the text books Koatalla[ Kautalaya] the Yuddhannava and others[ now lost], He versed in the procedures of war, worked out with ingenuity in way according with the locality and the time, the plan of campaign [ Yuddhopaya], wrote it down, had it handed out to the officers and gave the order.

‘ Doubt not that ye do thing of great moment, if ye do but swerve by a hair’s breadth from this my instruction’.. … “.

The Mahavansa of the Buddhist monks,contains enough material on the thinking of kings, based on potentials threat and remedial actions taken along some interesting details of the battles fought.
Sri Lankan Kings never aspired to conquer the world, though many punitive raids across the Palk Strait and one adventure to Burma in the 12th Century were planned and executed by them. Their main strategy was to safeguard the Island from Invasions. There it differed from that of the Indian, though many of the other Indian methods of Kautiliya were put into practice .

A point to ponder is how much has the Strategic thinking of the Indians changed since Kautiliya?, at least what is the strategic thinking of the giant neighbour India as far as our Island is concerned?. Emperor Asoka changed much of this “world conquering ” attitudes instilled on his grandfather Chandragupta by Kuatiliya.

MILITARY STRATEGY .Then and what of the future?

I remember as a Miserable One Pipper, attending the EME YO’s in Secuderabad India in 1964, just after the Indo – China War.I recollect been sent on a two day tour of the Buddhist sites, during which period the Indian Young Officers’s in my batch was taught the mechanics of equipment ear marked for an eventual invasion of an Island [as informed by my room mate in the Mess at EME School Secundarabad]. The debrief I wrote on the  course contents on my return to Sri Lanka  I mentioned this fact – It was thrown into the waste paper basket by my CO .

It is ironic , I was senior duty officer at the Army Headquarters when the first Brigade of Indian Army landed at Palaly airport, that was 30 years later.

Of a greater concern is the attitudes of the world powers of the west and their bull-dozing actions in Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Egypt, Iraq and Afghanistan[ under the pretext of UN]. All small nations need wake up and consider who is next in the list- we had a narrow escape at Mullativu- imagine the chaos and the unfold suffering we [ including the whole of South East Asia ] had to face had the 7th Fleet and the Drones were sent here and the usual mess they leave behind after their unwelcome adventures. A military Appreciation of the what could have happened need be done at all levels so that lessons can be learnt on how best to deal with such a situation.

A Painting of a Wedlock scene with a Prince holding a Sinhala sword in Asanka JathaKa on the south wall at Tivanka Pilmige Polonnaruva. 12 Cent AD-PHDH De Silva & S Wickremasinghe

The lot could be gained from those strategies and tactics adopted by the ancient Sinhalese, especially regarding the Topography of the Island. H.W.Codrington has published much of this. CW Nicholas in the RAS Journal Vol 4 – Historical Topography of Ancient and Medieval Ceylon has most name places of Battles, Training camps, Fortress, Fords, strategic rivers and mountain ranges all mentioned from these texts.The works done at the Military Academies since Gen Mutukumarana’s historical book, need be collated by serious Military Scholars.

How the Sinhalese were mentally and physically prepared for any eventuality is spelled out by PEP Deraniyagala in Combative Sports of the Sinhalese. The practice of combative sports and the Schools was strategically banned by the English after 1820’s.

“Combative sports were practiced from the earliest times not merely for amusement but in order to foster disregard for pain and death, and to inculcate the valor and pugnacity essential for the survival of a race. ………………. with combat displays between man and man, as well as between animals as staged by the Sinhalese, for producing soldiers who kept their small Island free for over two thousand five hundred years”.

The dire consequences of this unpreparedness on the part of the Army and the country as a whole after the British Forces left the Island, ended with 30 years of bloodshed. What are the lessons learn’d  ?.

MILITARY HISTORY OF THE ISLAND.

The Military history subject matter collected under the following heading. For further information Please click on the links which highlighted.

1. Military Traditions of the Sinhala Kings ?[ click ].The traditions set by General Sarath Fonseka and his illustrious  Commander and Soldiers 2009 was in the blood of the Sri Lankan soldiers, the Valor in the battefield Yuda Vira ,combined with Dhramma Vira and Dana Vira[ humanitarian operation] which were of second nature were old traditions from the days of our kings?.

2. Organisation.

MILITARY PROFESSIONS.

a. Fighting Arm, as mentioned in the Chronicals .The four fold forces [the Chaturangabala]– The Hattharohe,Anikatthe, Rathika, Pattikarika or The Elephants,Cavalry, Chariots,and the Foot-Soldiers. Chaturanga is a game like chess that was played in Sri Lanka ancient Ceylon H.Parker pg 605.

These are substanciated by ancient rock inscriptions, which are published in the rassl.srilanka web site

army4

iThe Elephant Corp.S Paranavitane quotes from inscription IC I[ Inscription of Ceylob Volume I] No 112 the word Ati-Acariya[Pali  – Hattaacariya], denotes one who who trained War Elephant. There appears to have been several of these Elephant trainers and at the same time.They organised themselves into a company, the leader of which had the title of Gamini[ IC I No 404], the only instance in which this word has been used by a personage who was not of royal rank. The donor of this his inscription, Paduma-guta, was the son of Paduma who is called Ati-acariya-gamini, which corresponds exactly to hatathacariyo gamini used in Samyutta-Nikaya to denote the leader of a band of warriors who fought on Elephant’s back or of Elephant-trainers.

A Cavalry Officer wearing helmet and his horse- Isurumuniya Temple Anuradhapura, Kalakeerthi E. Ariyadas has identified this with King Pandukabaya[ 377-307 BC ], the first Cavalry officer mentioned in Mahawansa and his Mare Cetiya, overlooking Anuradhapura his first capital.

ii. The Cavalry.

S.Paranavitane. ” The better known word denoting Cavalryman is found in IC I No 606,in which the a Upasika Gura, the wife of Paramuka Tisa, the Asaruya[ Pali Assaroha]. Asajiriya[ Pali Assa ariya] in No 1158 was not one who himself fought on horse back, but a professional who trained horses and their riders in military Exercises and Manoeuvres. …. the cavalry was confined to kings guards, and Cavalry and bodyguards became synonymous. A commission a Anikata regiment appears to have been highly coveted, and it not only conferred distinction on a person who obtained it, but also his relatives.

12 Cent Chariot- Trivaka Pilmige.

iii.CHARIOTS [ The Waggoners].

LORD OF THE CHARIOTS     King Devanampiyatissa[247-207 BC] from Mihintale, he is addressed as ‘Lord of The Chariots’ is the 5 Cent AD Chronicle the Mahawansa- Chapter XV para 11

Due to the wooded nature of the country, the use of Chariots and Cavalry in Battles would be restricted. Only painting of a chariot is seen at the Trivanka Pilmige at Pollonuruva. This seems to be Two wheeled type drawn by two horses. Each could have carried the driver and one or two combatants armed with Bows, Lancers and with Swords.  As stated in Dhatuvansa,King Mahanaga of Tissa had presented a Chariot to a Mahakala the son of a wealthy  man, which had seats for 4 persons. Vattagamini Abaya was fleeing Anuradhapura in his Chariot, he had his queen and his elder brother’s Queen Anula  with a child and his son. But, to lighten the Chariot the King gave his Queen Soma  his splendid diadem Jewels and let her at her own consent, descend from the Chariot[ Chapter XXXIII verse 46].

For Logistic the larger version of these, the oxen and elephant carts were used.

THE OTTUPANTHIYA-CAMEL CORP.

The Ottupanthiya or the Camel Corp is of the Moors  in the later stages of Sinhala Kings and they proved to be great fighters. The Camel corp played a prominent role in the victory of Rajasinghe II [ 1632-1687 AD] at the battle of Wellawaya Pass.[ Cyrus.D .F.Abeyakoon].

iv.FOOT SOLDIERS.

The earliest mention of Soldier is perhaps from the 1st Cent AD  Habarana Rock Inscription of a Vesamanaya a grandson of  a guard named Naka[ Rakanaka Nakaya ], who  old[ retired] soldier.The name for soldier is Balata which in elu langauge is Balat.A  4th Cent AD inscription at Piligama Uva Province mention a chief officer of an army of 8,000 soldiers as Bala or Batha.

 Profession with in the foot soldiers may be classified according to the type of  weapons carried by them.The ancient inscriptions where these names were used  are
Archers

Calu, dunugaya: Saliya. the archer (IC-I. 490)

Hadaka, danuku: Sadhaka. the archer (IC.II, 39. 6)

Sumana, Dunuga,; the archer (I

Lancers.

Kasub, kolpatti: Kassapa, the lance-bearer (IC.V,I, 30,C. 9;Sg. 92, 314).

Henry Parker names four branches of the Foot Soldiers each bearing their own flag commanded by  young chieftans marching into battle.

The Archers formed the chief branch of the foot soldiers of the Sinhalese army,the weapons of the Sakya. Painting and Sculptures indicate the use of  leather armour, those who could afford were protected by Mail. PEP Dereniyagala suggests that our local tradition dancers are clad in Chain and Mail of ancient soldiers. They had leather scarfs or belts  which passed around the right shoulder and the swords scabbards and Quivers were slung.The Vaddha Bow-men too, belonged to this branch.

The lancer or Spear-men carrying Swords  formed another branch of the foot-soldiers.

Spears & Knifes excavated by Raj Somadeva in Ruhuna.

The third branch perhaps were those who carried the Battle Axe, the Sinhala Keteriya or the broad Axe.

The fourth branch were composed of those who carried the straight Sword and the Shield.

b. The Service Units.

i. Training Establishments.

ii. MEDICAL SERVICES IN ANCIENT ARMY.

Surgical Instraments from Pollonnaruva.

Mahavansa Chapter 76 Verse The Medical Services in the Seaborne Military Raid to punish a king in Burma in 12 Cent AD- Parakramabahu I .

“…………………and also different kinds of medicines, preserved in cow horns for healing of venous wounds caused by poisoned arrows, as well as all kinds of remedies for curbing the poison of infected water in the many swampy stretches of the country; also iron pincers for extracting arrowheads which are difficult to move when they have pierced deeply and the shaft has broken, lastly also skilful physicians and serving women’.

ANCIENT MEDICAL FACILITIES AND SANITATION.

1. A First Century AD Medical Facility.

2. Sanitation and Health Care -Ancient Sri Lanka- Prof WI Siriweera-Daily News.Feature/07/11/2011
3.
Surgery in Ancient Kingdom-Prof. L. Prematilleke and Prof A.Aluvihare- Sunday Times/plus/30/10/2011

4.Veterinary Surgeon who attended to the wound of  Kandula at the battle of Vijita-pura.

iii.Ordnance Services/ Factories.

“….. and abundant weapons of war, such as armour and the like; further gokannaka arrows of iron with sharp points many hundred thousand in number for defense against elephants , .. “.

The ancients mastered the Iron technology and used advanced technologies such as the wind assisted Furnaces that produed high quality steels. This they used for hand tools required for the maintence and construction of Tanks and Canal system as well as the agricultural tools. In time of war, these craftsmen were deployed for the manufacture of war hardware such as swords, Arrow and Spear heads , Armour etc. Sri lanka was blessed with Iron ore and other metals , which the Kings utilised to the maximum, unlike the present generation which is fully dependent of foreign imports of all war like material.

Iron smith of ancient Sri lanka were very important trade and well recognised, S Paranavitane in Inscription of Ceylon Volume I states

iv.Supplies Corp.

“……………..endowed with vast royal power he had provisions supplied for a whole year such as rice and the like…”.

v. Military Bands.

vi. The Armourers. – Vama-kara is mentioned in inscription IC I No 85.Perhaps a supplier of Chain mail and Leather protective to soldiers.

Pollonaruva Period

Pollonaruva Period

The only armour worn by  the Sinhala armies that survive is the perhaps a modification of  dress of Vas dancers of Sri Lanka. This was light and  acrobatics like somersaults with twists etc are performed by the dancer wearing this dress, perhaps some of the steps and movement too is connected to art of  Sword fighting ???. Perhaps this protected the vital organs of the body with out sacrificing dexterity.

Ancient ola books mention Buffalo hide was used as armour and a mentions a Mini Van Balayo- a Battalion in Jewelled Armour. The soldier used heart and oval shaped Bucklers for defence as seen in ancient sculptures of Anuradhapura..Sinhala dancer

 

vii. The Waggoners- Rathe– The Chariots, the Elephant and Oxen driven carts etc.

3.Fortified Citadels in Sri Lanka.

4. WEAPONS

a.Anuradhapura period . Pasavi or Panchayudha.

b.Pollonaruva Period. The Sinhala Swords as mentioned in texts.

c.Weapons of the Sinhala Army during the Portuguese, Dutch and British Period.- Capt MSC De Silva, CA

5.COMMAND STRUCTURE OF ARMIES OF SRI-LANKAN KINGS ?.

a. W. Geiger  has suggested that Senapati or Senevi is the of Commander-in -Chief,  Samata is a rank corresponding to the  Corp Commander, A Nayaka is at Colonel rank etc  etc  Sinhala Kings.The names of Commanders of the Kings in these ranks as recorded in texts and on inscriptions.[ For more click on Link]. The rank of Maha-senpathi found on inscription perhaps an equivalent of Field Marshal.

6 a.Historic Battle Flags

b. Martial Music. The Kingdom of Sitawaka- Dr Rismund Amerasinghe:-Many instance mentioned Mahavansa ,the use of martial music in battles. Mhv; Chap XV verse 16.

i.Blowing of the Conch. References in Mahavansa- Ch 25 ,v64 ;Ch 65 V 27; Ch 88 V 74-75.

“……. the shield thus released Dighajantu fell there and Suranimala spring up, slew the fallen with his spear. Pussadeva blew his conch shell and the enemy was scattered…..”

ii.Use of drums 3 types of drums beats the victory drums-Jaya -bera[ Mhv88-v 74-75,- Rana Bera[ Mhv 70-v 226] and Anda Bera to pass messages .

iii. Reference Mahvansa Ch 96.v 15-16 –Use of drums to motivate soldiers to advance in to battle. The present army too used drums- the Anda- Bera at Forward Defence Lines ‘s to demoralize the LTTE.

iv. War Songs

V. Chapter 74 verse 220; All above is in the Military Parades is best described in the ancient texts,

“…..With row of umbrellas and whisks, with rows of coloured banners and all kinds of pennons he veiled the whole firmament. With trumpeting Elephants and neighing of horses, with the clatter of chariot wheels and the rattle of kettledrums; with the enraptured tone of all festive Chanks or shell trumpets; with the roll of great drums and the cries of victory by the Bards…….. filled the region ….

v.

7. THE ANCIENT NAVIES OF THE SINHALESE.

Signet Ring Stone of rock crystal , probably of a ship captain.

a. Ship Building In Ancient Sri Lanka- Prof WI Siriweera.

Daily News .features/03/11/2011

b. Parkramabahu I Fleet.

“……..Then the highly famed one gave the order without delay to make ready ships of various kinds, many hundreds in number. Now all the country round about the coast was one great workshop fully occupied with the building of the ship taken in hand. When in five months he had all the ships built, he assembled them in haste at the port of Pallavavanka…..”.

Parakramabhu I – Battles King Kulasekera of South India.

He[ General Lankapura] embraked his great army on many hundreds of ships, started off and sailed a day and a night on the back of the ocean. When he caught sight of the coast, since a hostile army was standing there, he made all his troops put of armour on board. As the ships had to lie in deep water[ Gieger- Agadhe samnivttanabhavatoThe coast is so flat that ship cannot lie close] and because with a landing just at this spot, the armour of the whole army would have been wet through, he made the troops get into hundred of boats of small size[Gieger commnts;-EkadoninacaDroni means boat as also a measure of volume]

Then when the rain of arrows from the Damilas standing on the coast, came flying, he had shields fashioned of leather set up in front of the soldiers against the arrows and so landed in the Pandu Kingdom at the port of Taladilla……”

c.Sinhala Navy of the Portuguese and Dutch periods – Capt Sally De Silva CA.The kings of Sinhala had Navani, or Naval Forces, (Nau – sanskrit nau, ‘ship’ and, ani-sanskrit anikca, army,).

d.Moggallana [ 497-516 AD] instituted a coastal Guard to prevent possible invasion from India.[ History of Ceylon Vol I pt I pg 298]. The Coast Guards concept has been reintroduced a few years back.

e. Naval Ports on record in the Island.

8. Pages – History of Air Force in Sri Lanka.

a.LEONARD BIRCHALL AND THE JAPANESE RAID ON COLOMBO‏- http://www.journal.forces.gc.ca/vo7/no4/stuart-eng.asp

b.Saviour of Ceylon

http://www.lankalibrary.com/geo/japan1.htm

9. Battle Tactics. Can the mechanics of skirmishes be worked out from the that described in the texts avialble ?. The aim of this study is to spot light at higher levels what was in the minds of Kings and Commader and at ground level training , covering fire, break through defence and final assault and other technical factors of battle described in the Mahavansa. The type of weapons and defence and methods used in describing battles will extruded from these texts written down in the spirit and in the interest to his church by Buddhist monks.

There are many interesting incidents where the conduct of operation and military tactics are spelled out in our ancient texts. Perhaps the orders given to his Generals Bhuta and Kitti by the Commander in chief of Parakramabahu I , when he facing the armies of Queen Sugula in the South which is quoted with in brackets by W. Geiger

……………”Of the enemy who have invaded our country we shall not let a single foe escape. On the road which would be the line of retreat of the foe, we shall place barricades and make the roads to an extent of two to three gavutas impassable and round about the territory occupied the enemy cut off the supply of food .Then when the whole hostile army is weakened we shall an action with it in which because of our rain of arrows they will have difficulty in approaching us, and destroy them”.

  1. Battle of the Nagas.The Mahavansa and Dipavansa relates the war between two Naga Kings,this was before the arrival of Vijaya. This battle over the gem studded throne , was settled by Lord Buddha himself. The battle ended without spilling a drop of blood. No winners or losers and for the Soldiers ,Peace is the Nibbana of Battles .
  2. Vijaya.
  3. Panduakabya.
  4. Sena and Guttika.Invade Lanka, ch 21 P 82.Two Damilas, SENA and GUTTIKA, sons of a freighter who brought horses hither, conquered the king Süratissa, at the head of a great army and reigned both (together) twenty-two years justly.
  5. ASELA .Defeats the Tamils, ch 21 P 82. But when Asela had overpowered them, the son of Mutasiva, the ninth among his brothers, born of the same mother, he ruled for ten years onward from that time in Anuradhapura.
  6. Elara –A Damila of noble descent, named ELARA, who came hither from the Chola-country to seize on the kingdom. King Elara had a general named Mitta; and he had, in the village that he governed, in the eastern district near the Citta-mountain, An uncle of Nandi – Mitta-The foremost of the 10 Yodayas of Dutugemunu. How he organised the defences against the kingdom of Ruhuna along the mahaweli-ganga. His forts and the Commanders.His winning over of Kavantissa son by minor queen during the Dutugemunu – Sadatissa wars.
  7. Battles of Dutugemunu.
    • The Kavantissa preparations for war.Raising of the Army from Ruhuna,; Resolved the rivalies in areas not under Elara control; matrimonial ties with the Kingdom of Kalani by marrying Princess Vuharamahdevi; Established workshops for manufacture of weapons which equipped his army; He had Garrisons posted on the strategic points along Mahaweli -ganga-, with a son named Dighabaya from another queen, entrusted with Guarding the Frontier
    • War with Sada-Tissa-ch-24.Culananiyapitthi.Mahagama ,
    • After gaining the Kingship Gamini entrusted his brother Prince Sadatissa to an intensive campaign of food production and to store provision at Digavapi. Army marches on it belly dictum
    • War with Elara -ch 24 ,p 94.; Ch 25 ,p96 Mahiyangana; Khemarama; Antarasobbha;Dona.;Ch -25 p 96;Malakoola;Nali;Dighabhyagallake.Kaccha.;Kota.; Valuttha;Gamani;Kumbagama;Nandigama.;hanu;Tamba;nama;25 p 97;
    • Battle of Vijithapura ,Girilake, Mahela,Ch 25p 98;
    • Anurhadapura Ch ,p99;
    • Lolambahalaka Ch 25 p 100.

The Dutugemunu – Elara Combat from Dambulla painting. Foot Soldiers capturing prisoners

8.Vatta Gamani

His strategy which failed in the war with 5 Pandyans Ch 33 p 129 Battles Mahatittha, Kolambaraka, Ch 33 p 129

Anurhadapura, Ch 33 p 131

9.Kalatha Tissa

War with Anula ch 34 P 134

10. llanga

War with the Lambakannas ch 35 p 138; battle Ahankarapitthika.ch 35 P139

11.Vasabha.

War with Subha ch 35 P 140

12.Sirinaga

War with Kuddanaga ch 36 P 144

13.Abhayanaga

War with Voharaka Tissa, ch 36 p 146

14.Gothakabhaya

War with Sirisanghabodhi ch 36 p 147/

Read the rest Click

Battles and conflicts in Sri Lanka from 2500 BC on the Blog

Vulnarability of Soldiers with out Protection

A good example is placed on rock sculpture now at Anuradhapara Museum. It is believed to be a Virugala or Munument to a Soldier Killed in Action. Here the Warrior is wounded by two arrows one in the Head and One in the groin. The Kneelin warrior spearing the adversery is shot through the chest.Soldier been shot by arrows  from Apura museum.I read some where that it is not becoming of a Noble Kat [kastriya] warrior to wear armour.

In chapter 74 verse 73, the Mahavansa staes that General Bhuta was sent to reinforce General Rakkha who was bogged down inacessable fortifications in the forestb of Divacandajntabatava hemmed inby mountains on either side by the troops of Queen Sugula,

” with out in any way departing from the orders of the Illustrous Lord of men[ King ParakramabahuI], they both had doublets of baffalo hide for their men for protection against Arrows, made the great Army ready for battle, offered a sharp encounter,…..”

The Dress of a Sinhala Soldier interposing the Armour Like Dress of Vas dancer of Sri Lanka.

Name of Dress items from words in  Saddharmalamkaraya and Dambedeniasanaya as described in Society of Madiaeval Ceylon Ariyapala. The dress of Dancers were  was suggested by experts of Weapons of Sri Lanka Mr Nanayakkara and Werakkody who paint ancient Milatry scenes, that they were modification of ancient soldiers armour. Perhaps the Dancer of the Army Dance Troup should now practice the Angampadi or swordmenship of the ancient, to see if its fesiable proposition.

The Armour worn by Sinhala Soldier modified for dance A statue found at Anuradhapura, ascheologist belive it to be of Asvin.

Dress of a cavalryman early AnuradapuraThe arrival of Vijeya Kastriya queen from Mathuraas depicted at Ajanta accomplamied byElephant and Horse etc,wearing JacketCavalry depicted on Ajanta paintings

I have now traced two photo’s done by experts in this field.Mr Weerakkody the painter. Please go to his web page and look for more, but I am copying a part of this fantastic painting for those interested,Dancers -Armour-kOTAVEHERA lamp

2013 Weerakkody Paintings (1) ~King Sri Wickrema

Mr Weerakody’s painting of the body armour of our last king,sold off in London.

Artist Impression of Armour. Weerakody

The impression of armour worn by Mr Weerakkody, from which I got the idea of the above description of armour.

22 thoughts on “MILITARY HISTORY OF SRI LANKA

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    • I get the stuff from books published in the last century, fact analysed from books written down in the 13, 14 Cent AD. The authors of that period quote and name many books of the ancient period written in the 4/5 Cent AD. The authors of these books state that they obtained the facts from the book of the ancients.

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  5. What a wonderful post! 🙂 I’m sorry, but …. I have another question (I’m just a very curious person, I guess.) In a lot of the depictions of these ancient armies, none of them illustrate the armor sufficiently covering the body. A lot of the stuff they are shown to wear seems very decorative and heavy, and the added weight would have been a great disadvantage during battle. Although, once I did come across an article in which the author mentioned that there hasn’t been much found about ancient armor, and therefore, the little information they do have could be misleading. Here’s a drawing just to humor you! (Sorry for spelling your name incorrectly in the picture, I just noticed now)

    Anyways, my question is, what do you think they actually wore?

  6. I have added some data on to the blog ,what experts in SL think about the armour soldiers wore.

  7. Thanks to your question, I worked on a probable description of dress mentioned in Saddharmalamkaraya and dambedeniasanaya about the 13 Cent AD and try to project the description of dancers costume that has come down through the ages, as suggested by the experts of Arms and armour like Mr Nanayakkara and the Military Art Painter Werrakody. Any comments.

    • Wow! The description was so thorough, I had never even heard of the terms (of armor) mentioned. I had assumed that these Sinhalese soldiers just wore protection that was similar to that of their Indian neighbors, like the Rajput warriors (which, I guess, was a pretty far-fetched assumption to make). Your interpretation makes a lot more sense, so thank you for helping me again! (:

      I just have another tiny question (I apologize for my never-ending inquiries). I reviewed the part in the beginning of this post that talked about combative sports, and how its objective was to, “foster disregard for pain and death, and to inculcate the valor and pugnacity essential for the survival of a race”. In ways, the excerpt reminded me of other civilizations that had similar ideologies, such as the Spartans in ancient Greece, and the Xiongnu (in Central Asia, near Northwestern China?), who both focused on producing soldiers. Both of these armies were notably skilled and forceful. Therefore, I always wondered how efficient and strong the Sinhalese army was. I mean, in a bigger, “world” perspective, the Sinhalese weren’t recognized for their military power (and my World History book from school only mentions them once); I’m assuming because unlike these other armies, they never really tried to conquer other lands.

      I had trouble trying to word my question, but I hope you understand what I mean: In your opinion, how developed, or efficient, was the ancient Sinhalese army in comparison to their neighbors up north? (For instance, I know it’s hard to say, but in a fictional battle between the Sinhalese and Emperor Asoka’s army, or even the Rajputs, who would win?)

      P.S. I’m not sure if you need this anymore, but in one of the comments above you asked how to place a donate button. So here you go! (: http://en.support.wordpress.com/paypal/

      • Thank on donate button. The strength of armies is mentioned in Organisation of Sri lankan army, facts from Mahavansa are reinforced by those in the Arhasastra of Kuatiliya first quoted in the Vasaba Period[ 1 Cent AD. the Vedas were taught to the other Kings. Devanampiyatissa sent a delegation to Asoka’s Court of the army Comd, a Brahman, an Accountant and an Astrologer in 250’s BC. The comd was given the rank of senapati, he should have bought back the Arthasatra.Any way the army was organised perhaps on same line depending on the three condition of Might, Place and Time.[ quoted in Mahavansa]. If there was a war the army would depend on the Might of enemy and place of battle and time etc.Dutgemunu father gave him an army of 11,110 composing of 10 divisions with Horse and elephant and Chariots in 1 cent BC. Parakramabahu during 50 Generals and was fighting all over the country in the 12 Cent AD. A later king had 24 division of 25,000 strong and 890 horses and 990 elephants etc during the 13 Cent AD. According to the Portuguese Writers the last Sinhala army who fought with out Muskets, the King of Kotte in the 15 Cent assembled 20 men, 150 horses and 30 elephant to attack the Colombo Portuguese Fortand almost succeeded . The ship and cannons fired from a flank and the Elephant panicked and the sinhalese reorganised the army and put into the field 20,000 Flint and Firelock a Century later. So the army strenght depended on the threat.

  8. About who would have won, if it was a surprise attack, perhaps give battle ahead of capital . at Apura, if the battle is lost then hold the enemy off at Mahaweliganga crossing and retreat to Ruhuna and the mountains. Then allow the enemy to settle down and get careless in the mean time build up forces at strong points and wear down the enemy and defeat them. This was the strategy during over 12 expeditions from India

  9. I have been following Prasanna Weerakkody’s work-his paintings, mainly-with great interest and to be honest, the asvin carving surprised me a great deal. We’ve all grown up with all those stereotypical cloth-around-the-waist images but when I heard the Vas dancer idea, it suddenly made sense. Lightweight and strong armor..but how old was this buffalo leather jacket armor anyway? Does the Vas dance system date back to the Anuradhapura Era?

  10. A very good question, how old in Vas dancing. I dont know, but Royal ornaments are mentioned very early in ancient text. There are many sculptures of Dancers in ancient temples and many ancient inscriptions etc.Worth a study.,

  11. In my writing, I made this description of one of my characters’ rooms when he’s uh…threatening someone…-
    “There was a tiny altar dedicated to the Buddha on a small shelf nailed to the opposite wall, and another chest nearer to the bed contained a large steel bow and a number of rather heavy arrows. Toying with the faceguard of his helmet, Abhaya stood confidently near the door.
    A short and highly decorative battle jacket made of buffalo leather sat outside along with a leather kilt. They were being aired out as it seemed to her.
    All manner of swords-lengthy cavalryman’s blades to short, curved ones-were on display, sheathed in leather to keep the rust away.”

  12. Thanks Interesting

    • Thus this seem accurate? It’s set between the Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa Eras. Actually, once I finish my drafts, I could hand it over to you if you’d like…I need someone to verify historical detail and authenticity of details,um like the visual descriptions I’ve made and suchlike 🙂

  13. I would love to read. the type pf bows and swords are given at length in Parkers Ceylon and Society in Mediaval Ceylon by Ariyapala. I have condense them on my blog.

  14. Thank you. It’s going to take a very long time since the draft is quite long, but I’ll send you a message as soon as I’m done. I’ve never heard of Ariyapala’s publication. Is it readily for sale?

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