The Aim of this paper is to record the participation of the Military or the Ancient Sinhalese  Four Fold Army which was composed of the elements the Elephant, the Cavalry , the Chariots  and the Foot Soldiers in  many processions described in the ancient text placed on Palm leaf from the 4 Cent AD.   There is a painting of the perhaps the earliest of these  events at Ajanta caves. Many of these processions are depicted on  temple painting in Sri Lanka and some of the later participation of the armies of Sinhala  is captured by European artist .

The earliest parades on record  the arrival of the Princess from Mathura [ Mathura was the home of a Royal family of Mahasammata Clan],as a consort for King Vijaya[483-445 BC] is described as

‘” ..he sent his daughter, bedecked  with all he ornaments, and all that was needful for the journey,and all the maiden whom he fitted out, according to their rank, elephant withal and horses and waggons, worthy of a king………..”.

Ajantha Cave No XVII- A Painting now identified as the “Coming of the Sinhalese “. This is the closest impression of an artist of the ancient Sinhala army available.

An early Military Parade during the period   of  King Devanampiyatissa[ 247-207  BC].[  He is called  the Lord of the Chariots].

A similar Parade is mentioned in Chapter XV verse 189-190 ”  …. But having commanded in the morning, to  beat the drum and to adorn the splendid city and the road leading to the vihare and all around the vihare, the Lord of the Chariots came upon his car to his Arama adorned with all his ornaments, together with his Ministers and the Women of his Harem, with Chariots, troops and the best for riders, in a mighty train”.

The next King Uttiya time a Military took an important role in the Funeral Party of Rev Mahinda Thero

King Dutugemunu- at Mahaseya – Anuradhapura

The Start of  King Dutugemunu[101-77 BC] Military Campaign .Chapter XXV.

When King Dutthagamini had provided for his people and had  had a relic into his spear he marched, with Chariots, troops and beasts for rider,……………………with  the company of 500 Bukkhus with him marched forward, and when he had caused the road  in Malaya leading hither toward Anuradhapura to be made ready he mounted  the elephant Kandula and surrounded by his  warriors, he took the field with a mighty host. With one end at Mahagama the train of the army reached Gutthlaka.



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

That what was recommend by Arthasastra {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 methods adopted or suggested to Chief of Defense, was to parade the Battle Formation in the assembly area prior to battle, amidst drums and music into battle , in the pep talk to announce –
Arthasastra – {Book 10. Chapter 3, Verse 45,46}
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.
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.Perhaps 50,000 silver Panas may be required to form an cone around an arrow placed vertical 2 Riyan in length.There is a mention of Senapati Suranimala killing the Tamil Commander Diaghjantu,. Perhaps he too was rewarded.

There is a engraving of a seated warrior pouring out what look likes ancient Silver Kahapanas at Dakkina Stupa and forming a conical shape. This stupa is believed to be contain the relics of King Dutugemunu. Is the seated figure covering the arrow of Pussedeva?.

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.

A Parade for Abhidhamma Pitaka written on Gold Tablet– KassayapaV[908-918 AD]-ChapterLII verse 50-55.

Every year the King had the town decorated as the town of Gods, and surrounded by his decked out Army, resplendent as the King of Gods in all his royal robes, riding on the back of his elephant, he marched through  the streets of the town  and brought out the golden book that contained  the true doctrine to the vihare he built.

A Parade for Coronation of Parakkamabahu I [ 1153-1186 AD]Chapter LXXII Verse 312 onwards.

When King Parakkamabahu  who had captivated all those of good disposition without exception, heard that King Manabharana was dead, he had the Prince Kittisirimegha fetched thence. Then  the great dignitaries met together and with clasped hands prayed the Ruler to celebrate the festival of the king’s consecration. At a favourable moment and under a lucky  star the Ruler (now) without rivals held the happy festival of the coronation. The loud noise of the divers kinds of beat drums was then terrible as the raging of the ocean when lashed by the storm wind of the destruction of the world.

Elephants equipped with gilded armour made the royal road look as if it were traversed by lightning-flashing cloud mountains. The whole town in which the colours of the horses  gave rise, as it were to waves, was in agitation like the ocean. [The dark-coloured horses are like the waves, the light coloured ones their crowns of foam].

By the variegated umbrellas and wreaths and the rows of golden flags the heavers were hid as it were, on all sides. Garments were shaken and fingers snap]. The inhabitants of the town sent forth the cry: Live!  O King)! live!  Covered with arches of bananas and thickly studded with jars and wreaths the whole universe consisted of a mass of festivals.

Songs of praise were heard hymned by many hundreds of singers and the smoke of (kindled) aloe wood filled with firmament. Clad in many-coloured garments, adorned with divers ornaments [ornaments were bestowed on them by the king for their bravery, corresponding to our medals].   and bearing sundry weapons in their hands,  practiced  warriors strutted around here and there with well rounded limbs goodly to look at with their heroic forms, like Rutting elephants. The many thousands of archers with their bows in their hand made it look as if the army of the gods trod the earth. Filled with hundreds of state chariots of gold, jewels and pearls the town looked like the starry firmament. While the mighty King whose eye was large as a lotus flower, thus performed a long series of marvelous things, he ascended himself, adorned with a wealth of ornament, to the golden baldachin that rested on a couple of elephants covered with golden cloths, wearing on his head a diadem sparkling with the brilliance of its jewels, Iike to the eastern  mountain when it bears the rising sun, vanquishing the fairness of the spring by the power of his own fairness and making moist the eyes of the women in the town by the water of their tears of joy. Thus beamed on by auspicious signs, after he had encircled the town with his right side turned towards it, he entered like unto the thousand-eyed (Indra) into the beautiful royal palace. While thus as ruler of the middle world, he filled the chief and the intermediary regions of the heavens with festive glory, King Parakkamabahu, the excellent ruler of the universe, carried out the second consecration as king in the second year of his reign.

An Escort provided by the King Of Kandy to an Ambassodor is also on record. This was not only for the protection of the Ambassodor but seems to have all the ceremonial traditions of the Sinhalese described adopted as early as  the 5 Cent BC  by the Ancient Sri Lankan Kings.

An impression of an artist of an Escort provided to a European Ambassador in the 17 Cent AD.

Funeral Processions of Royalty.

200 BC

The earliest mention of well described Funeral procession in 5 Cent AD text the Mahawansa Chapter XX para 34 onwards. King Uttiya the brother of Devanampiyatissa when he heard of the demise of Arahat Mahinda.. caused the dead body of the thera be placed in a golden  chest……and caused it to be laid upon a bier, commanding  solemn  ceremonies , he caused it to be  escorted by a great multitude of people from this place and that and by by a great bevy of troops… through the adorned streets through the city to the Mahavihare…,

1700 AD

A similar military procession over a thousand nine  hundred year may give some idea of what this procession looked like.

A funeral procession of the 17 Cent AD described and illustrated by Phillipus Baldaeus in his book ‘The True and Exact Description of the Great Island of Ceylon’ was very similar to a Military Funeral. For those interested it need be placed under the traditions of Kings.

The Funeral Procession of Prince the son of Wimladhramsuriya and Queen Dona Catarina.

  1. Musicians clad in black linen or Ginghams,,
  2. then followed by Musketeers or Lancers in rank of three,
  3. and by bearers of Honorific Discs mounted on staffs[ Sesaths ],
  4. Shield bearers and and Halbdiers with sloped arms,
  5. then by War Elephants led by 40 nobleman
  6. Riderless Horses– these succeeded by 8 stately Persain Horses led by 8 gentlemen of the order of the Golden Sun[ Suryvansa?].
  7. Followed by the Chamberlains according to their rank and standing.
  8. The Scepter was then borne upon a black Cushion,
  9. then the Golden Crown and the Regalia.
  10. The Body borne by 8 Principle Lords,
  11. immediately behind was the Royal princes Palanquin surrounded by 16 men bearing large fans , 4 white parasols and 8 sunscreens, 6 beetle boxes and a Rod[ Yasthi or Mace] none but the Emperor can carry.
  12. His Imperial Majesty
  13. and the Royal Princes
  14. and  all great men and rulers of the lands.
Impression of a Dutch Artist.

Impression of a Dutch Artist.

There is an instance mentioned in the Mahavansa that the Funeral Procession order of march was changed during the last rites of King Gothabaya in 322 AD. Th kings elder son suspecting the minister supporting the younger son Mahasen, perhaps changed the the order of march and let Prince Mahasen to to lead the procession followed by the body of the king, followed by the Minister wile he placed himself at the end. As soon as the Body passed the gates of Anuradhapura he ordered them closed and had the Ministers killed and then impaled their bodies around the funeral pyre.


It was the practice to maintain a written down book of meritorious deeds of the kings of Sri Lanka and read them at their death beds.Example [ King Dutugemunu  – Chapter XXXII para 25…….The book of meritorious deeds was maintained for King Dutugemunu and this was read out at his death bed by a scribe.]

This is similar to the Order issued by the Commanding Officer or the Army Commander, and read out aloud at a present day Military funerals. So some of the tradition that we believe was inherited  from Europe may require rethinking.


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