Buddha’s visits to Sri Lanka indisputable

By Upali S. Jayasekera

This has reference to the letter written by ‘CR’ and published in The Island of January 15 under the heading ‘Alexander the Great visits Sri Pada - far fetched’. He ends the letter with a sting in the tail contending that the Buddha’s visits to Sri Lanka, recounted in the Mahavansa, are not historical facts.

The Buddha paid three visits to Sri Lanka. However, certain historians especially those prejudiced against Buddhism tend to cast doubts over the historicity of the visits just as much as they do not give credence to the great Aryan Persian Civilization that has played a big role in the world including India and Sri Lanka. On the other hand, the emphasis on Arahant Mahinda’s visit during the Asoka period has resulted in sidelining or even ignoring the Buddha’s visits to the country and the Thathagatha’s personal introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka. Nevertheless, these same historians accept creations and resurrections that have no scientific acceptance or archaeological evidence, as true!

The Buddha’s first visit was in the ninth month after Buddhahood on Duruthu (January) Full Moon Day.(1 B.E. or 528 B.C.) That was to Mahiyangana where the Yaksa Clan of the entire island was meeting in the Mahanaga Garden. On this visit, the Buddha not only won the Yaksas/Raksas to Buddhism but also succeeded in getting the Naga clan King Maniakkhika of Kelaniya, who came to Mahiyangana to meet the Buddha, to embrace Buddhism. It is after this visit that a Stupa with some hair of the Buddha enshrined, came to be put up at the instance of Deva Clan Prince named Mahasumana of Sumanakuta mountain area. This Stupa, after the Parinibbana or passing away of the Buddha was transformed to be the Mahiyangana Cetiya after Thera Sarabhu, brought the collar bone of the Thathagatha from the funeral pyre and enshrined in it.

The second visit was in the fifth year of Buddhahood (5 B.E. or 523 B.C.). The Buddha on seeing an imminent war between two Naga Kings - Culodara and Mahodara, uncle and nephew, over a Jewelled Throne, visited Nagadipa (Jaffna), settled the dispute and handed over the custody of the Jewelled Throne to Naga King Maniakkika of Kelaniya. On this visit the Buddha was accompanied by Samiddhi Sumana, a representative of Persian King Darius, who came to be referred to as Sakka (Sakkra), the King of Kings of Deva clan. Samiddhi Sumana brought with him a tree from Jetawanarama, which was also presented to Maniakkhika who in turn constructed a Cetiya covering the Jewelled Throne in Kelaniya and also planted the Na tree which precints is Kelaniya Viharaya.

Having spent the seventh Vas (Retreat) period in Tavtisa (in Persia) at the palace of Persian Emperor in Persepolis, King Darius, referred to as Sakka (Sakkra), the King of Devas (Persians were Aryan Devas) and eighth Vas period in Bhesakala close to Sunsumara Giri in India. The Buddha visited Sri Lanka for the third time (that was the last time, too) at the invitation of King Maniakkhika first arriving in Kelaniya, in 9 B.E. (519/520 B.C.) with 500 of his followers.

It was on this third visit that the Buddha placed an imprint of his left foot on top of Sumanakuta (Samanalakanda) on the invitation of a Naga Prince named Sumanasaman as he left his foot imprints in Narmada and Saccabaddha in India. The Sumanakuta, after the arrival of the colonialists also came to be called Adams Peak.

Sumanasaman was appointed the lay guardian of Sumanakuta by the Buddha. It is that Sumanasaman who is now being considered as the guardian deity of Samanala kanda and referred to as Saman Deiyo. He is, in fact, no God in the sense looked upon by those whose faiths consider God as all powerful. In addition to visiting Sumanakuta, the Buddha paid visits to Anuradhapura, Digawewa, Tissamaharama and Kataragama. Deva Clan Prince Visala, Mahasena, Samanibhara and Mahaghosa were appointed guardians of these places by the Buddha. Accordingly, Kataragama Deiyo to Buddhists is not Hindu God Skanda, but Mahaghosa who functioned as the guardian of the Buddhist place of worship and came to be regarded as a deity due to his fearless and valuable services rendered.

Archaeological evidence at Mahiyangana, Kelaniya, Nagadipa and other places coupled with literary evidence and the history of the movement of the Aryan population prove the Buddha’s three visits to Sri Lanka, beyond any doubt.