The helmet of Dutugemunu -from  Nikawae -kanda cave Temple – Henry Parker- Ancient Ceylon

The planning and execution of the war  between  King Elara a demada who invaded the Island and occupied Anuradhapura and ruled the Rajarata area up to Mahaveliganga  and King Kavantissa who ruled the Kingdom of Ruhuna in the 2 Cent BC will be the subject under discussion.  The regions to north of Ruhuna and East of Elara’s rule was  under sub kings who sided with Kavanatissa. The Kelani region which was on the western flank was ruled by  Sub King Abaya. who was married off to Kings Kavantissa sister.This  alliance. This may been in  diplomatic  move in the grand strategy of Kavantissa to rid the country of an invader. The border between Rajarata under the command of Elara and the Ruhuna was the Mahaveli-ganga, Kavantissa had placed fortifications along the right bank of the Mahaveli River under command of a son of his  through a lesser queen. The establisment of fowarded defences along the  Mahaveliganga was the first line of defence  of the Ruhunu Kings , even King Parakramabahu manned the same forts against his war with Gajabahu 1200 years later.aNCIENT mAP ORGANISATION OF MILITARY AND ECONOMIC RESOURSE There is one Chapter devoted to this aspect in the Mahvamsa  “Levying of Troops”. This chapter describes how King Kavantissa  raised and trained an army commanded by  Ten famous commanders. He established workshops for the manufacture of weapons for his soldiers. He entrusted his younger son Tissa to grow food stuffs  for all.This is described in first paragraph of Chapter XXIV of the Mahavansa  that Prince Gemunu  was well versed in Elephant and Horses and in bearing the Sword and in Archery and stationed at Mahagama. Prince Tissa who was stationed at Dipavapi had under him the Chariots and well equiped troops, in agricultural persuits to feed the troops and the country. All our Princes  were versed in many subject of statecraft, but the main theme was the protection of the nation and the Buddhist order. They were taught the art of war and its is known that there were standard text books on war fare they had to master.Read Military text of Kautiliya Arthasatra.[ Click ]. Perhaps if  some of statement of the relevant material taught in the Arthasastra is read along with that of Mahavansa we may be able to get at least speculated  picture of the type of organisations of the battle groups or Arrays deployed in open war fare and how the Fortifications were constructed and defended and attacked etc. In chapter XXIII Kavantissa set about the war preperations for a future war. He seemed to have carefully selected the Ten Commander in various parts of the Island in Ruhuna. Though this part of military preparation was transalated into Pali  verse , in the Mahawansa by a Buddhist monk, from that compiled by the Ancients in Sinhala for the serene joy etc…. There is much written in between the lines which may be interpreted by future Military historians. Some of these employment of horses is speculated in  Cavalry of Ancient Sri Lanka. After the death of King Kavantissa, the two Princes Dutu Gamini and Tissa fought over the throne. During this period of unrest in Ruhuna , Elara made his move and  won over Kavantissa son by the other queen,  brought over all the forts on the right bank of the river under his control, perhaps for an assault on Ruhuna. In his battle with his brother, army have been a another ploy helped along by Elara agents,  Dutu-gemunu emerged victorious and he had the armies and the where-with-all to start his campaign to liberate the country from the invader, thanks to the preparations of his father.

1. ORGANISATION OF HIS ARMY. King Dutugemunu  marched, with chariots, troops and beasts for riders. 2.Dutugemunu started his campaign from Mahagama Tisssamaharama. The fortress from where Gemunu started in campaign can still be seen from a sat photo, the fortress of Vijithapura was also seen from Sat photo and was identified by Surveyor and famous writer Mr Dennis Fernando. I walked around past of it and the fortification were of earth and now washed off , except for some portions north west portions. This portion is defintely over 20 feet in height and agree with the specifications given in ancient books. 3. King Dutugemunu  mounted the elephant Kandula and, surrounded by his warriors, he took the field with a mighty host. With the one end yet in Mahagama [ Tissamaharama- the sat photo of the ancient Fortress with its moat is  shown above]] , the train of the army reached to Guttahalaka.

Reviewing the Mahavansa and the Rasavahani., H Ellawala in Social History of early Ceylon ,suggests that Velusumana who fought on horse back was the Commander of the Cavalry, and Labhiya-vasabha a famous fighter of Elephants the Commander of the Elephant Corp, while Nandamitta, Suranimala and Dathasena were expert Swordsmen and Phussa deva came from a family of Archers lead the Foot soldiers. The rest of the warriors who had exceptional strength may have been experts in use of the Spears and the Clubs.

This read with another small paragraph at the end of Chapter XIII of the Mahavansa

On these ten great warriors did the king henceforth confer honours like to the honours conferred on his own son. Then summoning the ten great warriors the king charged them:

`Each one find ten warriors.’ They brought thither warriors in this way and again the king commanded these hundred warriors to levy (others) in like manner. They too brought thither warriors in this way and these thousand warriors did the king again command to levy (others) in like manner. They also brought warriors thither. And they, reckoned altogether, were then eleven thousand one hundred and ten warriors.

One  could almost predict the Organisation of the Army , divided into different Corps of a 1,000 soldiers each commanded by the 10 Yodhya’s.




FIRST OBJECTIVE In the march from the Fort of Mahagama  the capital of Ruhuna to Miyangana where the first battle of King Dutugemunu  against King Elara who ruled in Raja rata which was over 120 Kms or about 8 yojanas[ancient measurement of distance] . The other ancient texts states that it was commanded by Chatra who had 32,000 troops guarding the crossing the Mahaveli Ganga.The distance from Mahagama to The first objective was 120 Km, The Tupavamsa give detail of this march to the base camp he set up at Tunagama Kasatpitiya. He broke his march into 7   stops and established temporary camp.


The Route An advance party[ perhaps that of the Engineer Corp] to get the routes leading to the first objective Miyangana Fortress commanded by Tamil Commander.

The king marched forth, when” he has caused the road in Malaya leading hither to be made ready he mounted his elephant Kandula….[ Chap XXV verse 5].

There is an ancient inscription at Mihintale of a Paraka Adeka [Superintendent of Roads] named Sumudda  who gifted a Cave to the Sanga.

Suprintendent of roads



If there is a choice of routes the one most suitable for one own army shall be chosen. For,those who fight from suitable terrain will be superior in battle to those who fight from unsuitable terrain. ORDER OF MARCH-The order of march shall be the commander in front, the king and women in the middle, horses and bodyguards on the flanks, elephant and reinforcements  at the end and finally the  Chief of Defense. The same shall be the order of encampment.


One yojana is 9 Miles is 15 km[per day] is the slowest rate of march];one and half yojanas or 22.5 km per day is middling and two yojanas per day is the best. The rate can be varied according to circumstance The rate of march shall be slowed down in the following cases. This describes that the King’s mother and 500 priest traveled along with the army, which consisted of foot soldiers, Warriors riding on horses, elephant and in Chariot, camp followers ,Courtesans , traders or canteens ,carts and  pack animal etc. The number of soldiers is not given, but during the period of King Kavantissa an army commanded by 10 Warriors consisted of 11,110 Soldiers. The specialty of some of these warriors  covers all but Chariots is covered  in the Chapter  of Mahavamsa.But during the war of the brothers Gemunu and Tissa the numbers mentioned was  that the army when one end  was at Buttala the other was at Mahagama . The Thupavansa states -The locations the Kings party  broke the march and set up camp in the following areas  Kuluwala, Ehala, Gikitha, Guthala[ perhaps Guttahalaka], Girigama, Niyamulla,  and then  made base camp at Tungama-Kastapitiya. Only two of these Villages or towns has been identified. The   Gutala is Buttala  and  Girigama  may be considered in the area having  Yuddhaganava Dagabo. It is interesting be aware of what the ancient text books on warfare had to say about how the Camp of king going to war should be establish Dutugemunu took his time getting there, he recruited many soldiers on his way and trained them as he passed through these villages and increased his strength.

March to Base Camp


We see that the information given by the Mahavamsa on Pandukabhaya’s campaigns, if rightly understood is quite adequate. The military measures taken seem thoroughly methodical; their aim can be clearly understood. on quite similar lines is the advance of Dutugemunu on Anuradhapura, a proof that we have to do in both cases with, connecting roads between the regions left and right of the Mahawali-ganga. – Pankukabaya. was obliged to secure these in order to carry out successfully his operations against Upatissa-gama, Dutugemunu used them for bringing up his troops. Dutugemunu starts{Mah 25.5] from Mahagama in Rohana, the site of which is indicated by the ruins of Tissa- Maharama in the south province, sixteen miles north-east of Hambantota. Taking a northerly direction. marches through Guttahalaka, now Buttala, towards Mahiyangana. This, according to the local tradition is the modern Bintenne or Alutnuwara.


Arrangements shall be made for protecting the army when any of the following affect its [fighting] strength: (i) a long march in a waterless region; (ii) running short of fodder, fuel or water; (iii) having to march over a difficult route; (iv) harassment by enemy attacks; (v) hunger, thirst or the r:igours of a long march; (vi) crossing rivers in mud or deep water; (vii) climbing or descending hills; (viii) many marching in single file through mountainous terrain or in narrow paths; (ix) suffering from lack of equipment during the march or halts; (x) eating, exhausted or sleeping; (xi) [marching through regions] affected  by diseases, epidemics or farnine; (xii) the infantry, cavalry or elephants falling ill; or (xiii) marching on unsuitable terrain.[conversely] the conqueror shall destroy the enemy’s troops when they suffer from any of the above. The enemy can ascertain the strength of counting it when they march in single file order, food and bedding, or from the number and weapons [the army carries]. Therefore, well hidden. the conquerors army from the quantity of food of cooking fires, banners all of these shall be kept hidden. In this campaign the march to the Base camp atTungama Kastapitiya was through areas under  the King, yet many spies of King Elara who had crossed on to the right bank of Mahaweli and established 32 Fortress .


The army shall cross water by means of elephants, pillar bridges. boats, wood and bamboo rafts, gourds, baskets covered with hides , canoes, tree stems and ropes. If the crossing point has been seized by the enemy, the army shall cross the water at another point and then ambush the enemy [from his rear].  The Army had to cross two rivers the Menik Ganga and Kumbukan-oya on there way.


A study of how the base camp was established , which as speculated and is open to debate and improvement,

An Impression of a ancient base camp Arthasastra

There was an ancient plans for military Camps.The ancient text suggests –

Here the Superintendent of Camps went with an advanced party carpenter and labourers to establish these camps and  made arrangement for protections, cleared the area and catered for water etc. They may be of any shape circular , square, rectangular  according to the shape of the terrain. The model was to  have  five concentric areas.  The inner around the Kings quarters, the treasury , audience area and communication centre[ planning battle and orders etc], his elephant, horse and chariot. The next circle was Counsellors, Purohithos, the Armoury and warehouses. The best troops and the Commander of troops[Senapati]  occupied the next circle. The Other troops and the labour  corp  occupied the last circle. The Merchants and Courtesan occupied the roadways which were marked  within the camp. Out side the perimeter traps were laid and the Hunters and dog handlers  with drum for warning and fires along with secret agents and Sentinels. These were semi permanent camps and according to Kautilliya resembled the town plan of the capital city  with towers, fortification , gates etc. Depending on the stay these fortifications were temporary and made up of Carts, thorny branches [ Podi singho marang] , poisoness branches[ Kahabiliya] , trenches and  earth embankment.

Guards placed at 18 tactical positions and were changed at a specified times.Disputes, drinking and gambling was prohibited. A system of passes with seals shall be instituted. All soldiers trying to leave camp shall be arrested.

From above I have imagined how the various base camp of Dutugemunu along his march to Anuradhapura , he spent over 4 months in some of these camps that he established as mentioned in the Mahavansa and other text.


on parade

Part of Troops review at Kastapitiya about 4 Miles shoulder to shoulder.

That what was recommend by Arthasastra was {10.3.34,37}. The king shall observe a fast the night before the battle and sleep beside his chariot and weapons. He shall make oblations in the fire according to the Atharva Veda. He shall have prayers said for victory in the battle and for attainment of heaven [by those who fall]. He shall entrust himself to Brahmins. What King Dutugemunu adopted  according to Datuvansa was After establishing a Base Camp at Tangama Kasatapitiya, he re-viewed his troops [described as those slashed [with Swords and Battle axes], pierced [ with Lances or spears] and shot [with Arrows and Catapults]. The Army consisting of Foot, the Elephants and Cavalry on parade shoulder to Shoulder[ in close order] was 4 Gautas in length,[ 6400 Cubits or Riyan the length of a Forearm of an average man-].


The  suggested model procedure of open battle  as mentioned in Arthsastra Troops which are brave, skilful, of noble birth, loyal and not unhappy with the wealth and honours bestowed on them shall be placed in the centre of the forces. [Among them] the king shall take his place, bare of flags and distinguishing features and surrounded by warrior kinsmen [paternal relatives, brothers and sons]. He shall [normally] ride a chariot or an elephant and be guarded by cavalry; or he may ride whatever is preponderant in his army or in which he is proficient. A double shall impersonate the king at the head of the battle formation.{ 10.3.38-42}. . Chapter 25 verse 56. Of Mahavansa mentions a similar placing of an effigy of the King instead a of a double  to impersonate him during an open battle with Elara Army after the victory of Vijithapura.`Tomorrow will we give battle.’ The king Dutthagamani also took counsel with his mother and by her counsel formed thirty-two bodies of troops. In these the king placed parasol-bearers and figures of a king;’ the monarch himself took his place in the innermost body of troops. The first battle of Dutugemunu was an attack on an fortress at Mahiyangana. But in his first open battle with Elara, King Dutugemunu too formed thirty bodies of fighting formations and in each of these he had an effigy of him self under the copy of the Royal parasol at each of these formations. It is of interest that Prabakaram too used more than one doubles impersonating him. So did Winston Churchill during WW II. The Arthsastra describes the model open battle warfare


Bards and praise-singers shall describe the heaven that awaits the brave and the hell that shall be the lot of cowards. They shall extol the clan, group, family, deeds and conduct of the warriors. Assistants of the Purohita shall speak of the spells and incantations they have used against the enemy, technicians and carpenters of the machines they have built and astrologers of the good omens for their side and the bad ones for the enemy. {10.3.43,44}.

Famous word

from Mahawansa.[ 175 BC?]

The Queen Viharamahdevi came, and caressing Prince Gamani spoke thus: “Why dost thou not lie easily upon thy bed with limbs stretched out, my son?”

“`Over there beyond the Ganga are the Damilas, here on this side is the Gotha-ocean, how can I lie with outstretched limbs?”. The Prince answered. The Ocean, the Kalu ganga that form the border between Ruhuna and Malaya Ratas, the Mahaveli Ganga which forms the border between Ruhunu Rata and Raja rata where Elara was reigning  , strangely looks similar to the Prince sleeping thus.

The topography of Ruhuna takes the shape of Prince Gemunu before he stretched and kick out the Invader from India.The Kulu ganga take the shape of a Face?.

The topography of Ruhuna takes the shape of Prince Gemunu before he stretched and kick out the Invader from India.The Kulu ganga take the shape of a Face?.

King Dutugemunu too had his religious ceremonies the previous day, and he and all his warriors had a good night rest and Eat and Drank, before advancing into battle amidst all the sound of drum, musical instruments and singing etc. He addressed his troops .


The chief of Defenses shall make the troops happy with wealth and honours and announce the following rewards – a hundred thousand panas for killing the enemy king, fifty thousand for a prince or the Army chief, ten thousand for a division chief, five thousand for an elephant or chariot warrior, thousand for a horse, one hundred for an infantry section leader, twenty for a soldier, as well as double normal wages and whatever booty they seize. These rewards shall be made known to the leaders of groups of ten [i.e, the company, battalion  and divisional commanders]. {10.3,45,46} .

A similar reward is mentioned in Mahavansa Chapter XXV verse 88 onwards, when the Arrow that killed the Chief Commander Bhalluka as nephew of King Elara was placed upright and covered with Silver Panas and handed over to Phussadeva who shot that arrow. When the king of elephants had halted here the Damila Bhalluka came toward the king in that place and mocked at the ruler of the land. Covering his mouth with his sword the king returned insult for insult. `I will send (an arrow) into the king’s mouth,’ thought the other, and he let fly an arrow. The arrow struck on the sword-blade and fell to the ground. And Bhalluka, who thought `He is struck in the mouth,’ uttered a shout for joy. But the mighty Phussadeva sitting behind the king, let fly an arrow into his mouth wherewith (as the arrow passed) he lightly touched the king’s ear-ring. And since he made him thus to fall with his feet toward the king, he let fly yet another arrow at the falling man and struck him in the knee; and making him (now) to turn with his head toward the king, thus with swift hand he brought him down.’ When Bhalluka had fallen a shout of victory went up. To make known his fault Phussadeva himself forthwith cut off the lobe of his own ear and showed the king the blood streaming down. When the king saw this he asked: `What does this mean?’ `I have carried out the royal justice upon myself,’ he said (in answer) to the ruler of the land. And to the question: `What is thy guilt?’ he answered: `Striking thy ear-ring.’ `Why hast thou done this, my brother, taking as guilt that which was no guilt?’ replied the great king, and in gratitude he said moreover: `Great shall be thy honourable guerdon, even as thy arrow.’ When the king, after winning the victory, had slain all the Damilas he went up on the terrace of the palace, and when, in the royal chamber there in the midst of the dancers and ministers, he had sent for Phussadeva’s arrow and had set it in the ground with the feathered end uppermost, he covered the dart over and over with kahapanas poured forth upon it, and these he forthwith caused to be given to Phussadeva. Dutugemunuis here on the banks of the Mahaweli-ganga. Now follows the enumeration of a whole series of forts which  were occupied bv Damilas and taken by Dutugemunu. Among these too appears  Kaccha-tittha (now Mahagan-tota), to take which required  a four months siege (Mah 25.12). I think therefore that the places mentioned are mere frontier-outposts or forts which had been placed along the Mahaweli-ganga   from the bend of the river above Bintenne to the neighborhoods of the mouth. The individual names cannot now be settled.

An engraving on stone at Dakkinastupa Anuradhapura, showing an object been covered with coins in the shape of Silver Kahapanas of King Dutugemunu's period.

An engraving on stone at Dakkinastupa Anuradhapura, showing an object been covered with coins in the shape of Silver Kahapanas of King Dutugemunu’s period.

Battles along Mahaveli ‘l’he remains the vanquished Damila-divisions retreat towards Vijita-nagara. It still seems to me most probable that we should, look for  this city in the neighborhood of Ka!u-wewa where the Vijitapura Vihare is now situated, and ruins in the jungle testify to its former existence of a larger settlement. In all the probability Dutugemunu will have crossed the Mahaganga near Kacchaka-tittha; On the advance against Vijita he first the followed the same road that Pandukabhaya.used when he marched from the Kasa-prabbata to the Dola-pabbta.: It must have run somewhere between  Sigiri and the Mineri- tank. The siege and storming of Vijita are described  with great  clearness and vivacity. The further  stations, Girilaka, Mahela-nagara, and Kasa-pabbata lay far along the road which  leads from Dambul to Anuradhapura. On the Kasa-pabbata Dutugemunu entrenched him self , evidently in order to await in a favorable position his adversary Ellara. Here again in fact it comes to a decisive battle, ,the fortunate issue of which opens to Dutugemunu the road to the Capital. The conquered foe was pursued up to immediate vicinity of Anuradhapura. – In a last attempt to bring the fleeing troops to a halt beneath the walls of the city Ellara falls by the hand  of Dutugemunu in heroic single combat. REVIEW OF ABOVE . Vijitha-Nagara where the great battle was fought has been identified off a a satellite photograph by Mr  Dennis Fernando close to the crossing Kacchaka-tittha and close to Polonnaruva. To be continued…..


Battles durations



  1. Absolutely fascinating reading about the strategies and detailed planning. Very clever people in the old days.

  2. The design of the military camp…now, would this design have been carried out to later periods as well? What of frontier outposts and the like? Would they have been so vast and extensive as this one seems to be?

    • Frontier out post in Sri Lanka.
      There are many instances of the mention of out posts an amp mentioned in the Mahavansa. Most of them of temporary nature.The Uncles of Pandukabaya set up a camp on the West bank of Mahaveli, east of present Pollonnaruva. This as to keep Pandukabaa on the other side of Mahaveli, whih later became the border between Ruhuna and Raja rata. Even Elara and Kavantissa had out post right along the river. In fact there are 32 mentioned in Mahawansa and the battles to overcome these forts are only accesible after a river rossing et and then the wall et] described. Elara perhaps made a mistake when he got around Kavantissa General who commanded the troops on the East Side, a son by a lesser queen, when Gmunu was fighting his brother Tissa. This enabled G-Gemunu to over come the forts with out crossing over until the last fort]Some of these forts or the crossing places are places where many battles were fought by later kings[ out of about 1500 battles are mentioned in Mahavansa]

      The Fortress are ,mentioned as Durga and by other names too. Perhaps may be due to the size and nature.Few studies been done on them. The natural lay of the land and it importance as blocking an attack into own territory or from where to attack an enemy camp . The natural lay of the land may be protection by the Water or Mash, by height or mountainous or protcetion from Forest cover etc.

    • The The sinhala word is Kadhavar and Durgga or Dhugga has been used, may be used to diffrenciate between temporary or permanant..An examples of extra protection to a Camp surrounded by Giriba Water or mash set up b Senpathi Deva alongside the Kalavapi . During the period of Magha invasion in 14 Cent, the Sinhalese set up three Rock Fortress at Subha Kande[ present Yapahuva],at Dambedeibiya and Govinda Sela[ present Westminister Abbey eah ommanded by a General, who is named.
      The use of Forest is desribed in Mahavansa during the period of ParakramabahunI,At Mihirana Bibbila where large sharpened sakes wer planted inter-spersed with thick branches, trenhes, and trap holes dug and covered etc

  3. I see…so this design and placement was pretty much everywhere and lasted right through Sri Lankan history? Have any been described from the Vanni region? Like from the time of the Medieval Chola rule?

  4. Oh, alright, but thank you for the rest of the information 🙂 Really do appreciate it

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