We can find mentions of ancient archers and their exploits in the sinhala texts of our ancestor and those mentioned in ancient inscriptions. Dr Raj Somadeva informed me that they excavated an inscribed seal of an Archer from Mahagama, Ruhuna the present Tissamaharama. Perhaps he used it to seal document of importance.

The ancient archery units were known as Dunu-madula, while the members were  known as Dunumadullan and individal archers were known as Dunuva or Dunupa.

Few Archers known as Dunugaya of ancient past have placed their names on rock inscriptions during the period 300 BC-100 AD .

These are recorded in Inscription of Ceylon Volume I.[ IC Vol I]-S Paranavitane.Here archers and one who was an instructor in archery  had donated caves to the sanga[ Buddhist Monks].

Calu, dunugaya: Saliya. the archer (IC-1. No490)

Hadaka, danuku: Sadhaka. the archer (IC. Vol II,No  39. line6)

Sumana,; the archer (IC Vol.l,  No 846)

Dunu-acariya[ IC. Vol I – No 925] was a designation of who was not only proficient in archery, but also trained others in the skilful use of this weapons.Training

The Dhunu Silpa- THE ART OF ARCHERY.

The Saddharmalamkaraya ( An medieval Sinhala text-page 88) also refers to the finer divisions of the dhanu silpa or archery, viz.:

(1) aksana vedhi, shooting as quickly as lightning or with the help of lightning

(2) Vala vedhi, shooting at a hair

(3) Sabda vedhi , shooting or hitting an object only in the direction of the sound of which is heard ;

(4)Sara vedhi, shooting at a falling arrow;

(5) diyehi vidamanaya, shooting in water;

(6) goda vedhimanaya,shooting on land ;

(7) ahasa vedhi, shooting in the air .

(8) dura vidamanaya, long-distance shooting ;

(9) asanna vidamanaya, short-distance shooting;

(10) yapata tambapata vidanranaya, shooting through iron and copper plates;

(11) piduru bisi vilibisi vidamanaya, shooting through bags of straw and bags of sand ; (12) miham udalu tatili vi.amanaya, shooting through buffalo skin, mamoties, metal dishes, etc.;

(ry) dimbulporu piya poru vidamanaya, shooting through wood

From Inscription of the later period , the Archers were organized into fighting formations. This is evident from the undermentioned inscription of the late Anuradhapura period.

The names for archery units in inscription

Dunu-madul – IC .Volume V No 34, A 12.

Dunu madula- in EZ[ Epigraphia Zeylonica] Vol Iv  No21 line 6]

Dunu- madulu- in EZ II -3. B- line 15-16.

The Archers were known as on inscriptions.

Dunupa– EZ II,6,  B line 21: IC Vol  III No 15 C, line 6

Dunuva– EZ III, N0 10, C 13-14.; IC Vol III No 78;

Dunuvavan– IC Vol II No 60 C 2-3.

The most famous archer was of the second century BC, Phussadeva, one of the champions or Generals of Duttha-gamini, is described as being an extraordinarily expert archer, who shot , by ” flash of lightning, or through a horse -hair, or a cart filled with sand, as well as through hides a hundred-fold thick ; through an Asoka plank eight inches, an udumbara plank sixteen inches thick, as well as a plate of iron, too, and a plate of brass four inches thick. on .and his arrow would fly the distance of eight usabhas and through water one usabha;[Mah, p. 92).An usabha is 149 cubits, or, about 204 feet.- H Parker.

S. Paranavitane in IC Vol I pg ixxi ” There is no doubt that Senpathi Paramuka Pussadeva of No 724 inscription at Vala-ellu-goda-kanda a Situlpavu is identical with Dutugemunu Senpathi. According to the Mahavansa, the birth place of this warrior was a village of Cittalapabbata[ Situlpavu]. Many other inscription is associated with him and his family by Dr Paranavitane. He was also a blew the Chank to bring terror to the enemy, he is associated with Inscription of Pussadeva at Sankapala Vihare at Embilipitiya which has a Chank engraved, and his grave is by the road side next to the Vihare .

The Weapon or Bow.

bow arrows

Prince Sidhartha had  been a Ksatriya was an expert at the use of this weapon, the bow .

The types of Bow and the Arrows of the ancient period is best described in a  Buddhist story where Mulunkyaputta told the Buddha that he will not become a holy man unless he explained to him is the Universe eternal or is it not eternal, is the universe finite or infinite,……., does  the Buddha exist after death or not exist or both. The Buddha explained to him that it was not necessary to know the answers to become a holy man and told him if a soldier is wounded by an arrow and brought to a surgeon, suppose the soldier would say ” I will not let the arrow be taken out until I know who shot the arrow,…………..,I will not allow the arrow to be taken out until I know the kind of bow with which the arrow was shot; the kind of bow string  used, the type of arrow; what type of feather was used, on the arrow, and  with what kind of material the point of the arrow was made”.

BOWS[-Dunne ] and ARROWS- [ Iya or Igaha ]. The most important weapon of the ancient Sinhalese.

SINHALA BOWS;  Henry Parker- ” The correct length of bow is commonly considered to be a few inches  more than the height of the Man who carries it[ 5 ft 6 Inches approximately]. The British Museum has two bows about 7 ft 6 inches and 8 ft long.The is the Maha- Dunna or the Long Bow at a fixed measure of 9 ft.

Long Bow of Ma-weval Creeper

The strogest bow is out of Ma- Weval[ Calamus rudentum]. Creeper found in the rain forests of  Sri Lanka.These Bows are thicker than the common bow of other wood , such as those made  of the strong tough rib or the of the leaves of the Talipot Tree. These Bows are slightly flattened on the outer edge.

Bows of Talipot Tree flattened at ends

The Better Bows are highly decorated, been covered with patterns  in Lacof various colours chiefly Red, yellow and black, and in early designs also green.The bows have no notches; the string , Dunu-diya or Duna-lanuwa is made of the inner bark of trees or fibre of Niyanda plants[ Sansievera Zeylanica] is merely tied  permanently to at one end and looped over the other end when the Bow is about to be used. ”

Stone Arrow heads- Belihui-oya

ARROWS.They are about half an inch thick and 3 to 4 feet in length; they vary greatly in the size of the steel head[ Eethale]. which are 2 1/2 unches up to 18 inches in length, usual size being 4 to 5 inches. The ones in use now are thin narrow leaf shape and represents a a leaf of growing rice.The arrows-heads have distinct rounded butts, with an arrow-stem or tang which is driven into shaft and they are invariably unbarbed .

Warrior 4

Sinhala Arrows – Henry Parker

The arrows have usually four feathers of pea-hen’s wing, but  may vary from three to six Hard gum or Lac is occasionally placed  as protection from fraying, over the fine string which is used  for tying them to shaft.Th e shaft slightly narrowed between the the notch and the feathers..An illustration of a Yaksha from a vihare of North Western Province below show the manner of holding  the arrow and string, which is drawn by the first and second fingers, one being on each side of the arrow form of Quivers  or Hi-kopuwa hold seven arrows.-Henry Parker.

Description from ancient text Mahawansa on the Battles fought where the use of this weapon the Bow

About Arrows from our ancient texts, battle of Mahasenagama between Parakramabahu the First army led by Senpathi Lankapura Rakkha and rebel force of Queen Sugula.

“Now the warriors of both sides flung themselves at each other on to the battlefield. With the sparks born of the of their arms as they beat each other, starring the whole firmament as it by day, and with the outpouring of their rain of arrows filling all regions of heavens , they began the battle, letting their battle cry sound forth.”

The battle continues to Mahanagahula where General Lankapura soldiers take on General Sukrabhatu army.

” They betook themselves to the battlefield and with arrows sent unceasingly covering the whole sky and raising their thundering battle cry, slew the General and shattered the foe”

The comparison of the Mass of arrows as clouds darkening the sky and the battle cry is Thunder.

To be continued.


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