Historical information from inscriptions
Inscriptions of ancient and medieval Sri Lanka are the source for
much important information on ancient Sri Lanka. They help historical
research in several ways. They corroborate statements in the Mahavamsa.
Mahavamsa said that king Gotabhaya (249-262) was also known as
This is confirmed in an inscription of Gotabhaya. Anuradhapura slab
inscription of Kassapa V confirms much of what is said about Kassapa V.
Kivulekada pillar inscription and Tamaraveva inscription support
Mahawamsa information on Sena I and Sena II.
Devinuvara pillar inscription confirms the Mahavamsa account of a
rebellion in Ruhuna during time of Sena I. Usgollava pillar slab
inscription makes it possible to determine the probable date of the
Pandya invasion in the time of Sena I. Inscription at Chetiyagiri,
Mihintale, supports Mahavamsa information on Chetiyagiri. Kukurumahan
damana pillar inscription confirms the Mahavamsa account that the
commander-in-chief of Kassapa IV built a hospital and nunnery on the
high street of the inner city of Anuradhapura.
Important historical events are supported by inscriptions.
Situlpahuwa cave inscription refers to Nandimitta, one of the ten
commanders in Dutugemunu's army. Vala-ellu-goda inscription (near
Dombagahavela, Badulla district) refers to Pussadeva. Inscriptions of
the Senapati of Dutugemunu are found in places far removed from each
Inscriptions also provide fresh political information. It is from
inscriptions that we know that Vasabha ruled over the whole island. His
inscriptions were found in the North at Vallipuram, South at Sandagiri
temple, (Tissamaharama), West at Perumyankulam, (Anuradhapura), East at
Casimottei (Batticaloa) as well as Madawala, Andarawewa and Aluth
Halmillewa. After Vasabha, his three sons divided up the kingdom and
ruled amicably. This is indicated in Habessa and Ledorugala
inscriptions. Gajabahu I thereafter united the three kingdoms. The 14
inscriptions of Gajabahu are scattered all over the island, including
Batticaloa and Vavuniya. Mahavamsa does not say anything about any of
Mahavamsa does not give the succession from Dappula III (923- 924).
From Panduvasnuwara inscription, Bandara Ratmale inscription, Kaludiya
Pokuna slab inscription and Ramba Vihara inscription Ranwelle was able
to compile a table which showed systematic succession within one royal
group from Sena II to Kassapa VI.
Information on the political history of Ruhuna between 877 and 923 AD
are provided in the Kirinda, Bolana and Mayilagastota inscriptions of
Apa Mihindu. Tamgoda inscription helps revise the chronology of the
kings from 6th to 10th Century.
Kusalanakanda inscription (Batticaloa district) gives information on
the genealogy of Mahanaga, Gotabhaya and Kavantissa.
Inscriptions also amplify the information given in the Mahavamsa.
Kottadamuhel inscription in Hambantota district tells us that Viharamaha
Devi's name was Savera and that she entered a cloister later in life.
Mulllikulam inscription confirms this information and refers to her as 'Rajamata',
the king's mother. She was involved in the administration of the state,
she had territory under her. The date of the Pandyan invasion by Sena II
is supplied in the inscription of Kassapa V.
Inscriptions record success in war. Vessagiri slab inscription
confirms that Tamil king Parantaka II invaded Sri Lanka and was defeated
by the army of Mahinda IV. Iripinniya Wewa inscription, Nagama pillar
inscription and Kaludiya Pokuna inscription confirm the exploits of
Senapati Kuttaka, who was sent by Sena II (853-887) together with a
Sinhala Army, to meddle in the Tamil succession. Devanagala rock
inscription records a grant from Parakrama Bahu I to Kit Nuvaragal for
his part in the successful expedition against Burma. Usgollava pillar
slab inscription makes it possible to determine the probable date of the
Pandya invasion in the time of Sena I.
The historical chronicles do not provide much information on how the
island was administered. Inscriptions fill this gap. There are edicts
issued by the king, known as 'vavastha' edicts. Vessagiriya edict shows
that Mahinda IV provided a definite supply of water from Tissa tank for
the land adjoining Kasubgiri monastery.
The edict was issued because of disputes among the monks in Kasubgiri.
Kondavattam inscription of Dappula V lays down rules for the
administration of the village at this site.
The immunity grant pillars show the administration at work. They give
the lineage of the reining king, the regnal year, a list of names of the
officials who were prohibited from entering and a list of officials who
were assembled to grant the immunities.
Immunities were granted at a ceremony. The immunities were first
entered in a register, and the order declared before an assembly. It was
presented as a decision of the King's Council.
Inscriptions provide information on the royal administration. The
designations of the officials in Nissanka Malla's council are inscribed
on pillars. Kapuru vadu oya inscription refers to the retinue of
The governors were known as Pasladdan. Dakkinadesa was ruled by the
heir apparent. Many edicts of the Mahapa (heir apparent) were found.
Ruhuna was administered by a prince designated as 'apa 'or 'adipada'.
The Adipada who administered Ruhuna during the reign of Dappula II
was a prince named Kittaggabodhi. He issued the Devinuvara pillar
inscription. Inscriptions show that the terms Yuvaraja, Uparaja, Mahapa
and Mahadipada mean the same thing.
Inscriptions of the 9th Century have yielded about 170 official
designations which were not known before. Some of them are unfamiliar
and need interpretation. Rajamaligava pillar inscription of Mahinda V
indicates that there were two classes of state officials, Vel Vassam and
Several different territorial and administrative units such as
Danaviya, Pasa, Kuliya, Bima, Rata, Dasagama, Pasgama and Desa are
listed in the inscriptions of the 9th and 10th Century. Padaviya, Hurulu
Palata and Vavuniya belonged to the Uturupasa. Panduva Nuvara and
Tambutta in Kurunegala district were in Dakunupasa.
Secondary information is also available from inscriptions. The
inscription of Udaya II confirms that Sena II named his younger brother
as Mahadipada. Bilibava inscription gives the name of the son whom
Kassapa V had elevated to Senapati. The name of the commander,
Viduraguna Nimala, who subdued the rebellion against Udaya II, is given
in three inscriptions dated to Kassapa IV and in the inscription of Apa
Mihindu who accompanied the army commander.