This is what Wikipedia says is the First King of Sri Lanka and this is what most of us have been taught in school. In most of the History books, Prince Vijaya is named as “the first king of Sri Lanka”. Why is this ?
There are sources which speaks of history far before King Vijaya or even King Ravana. “Vanni Rajavaliya” published by Professor Gananath Obeyesekere contains of a royal line far before King Vijaya. It is written in the “Vanni Rajavaliya” that the first king of the world is “Maha Sammatha Manu”.
Who is “Maha Sammatha Manu”?
Maha Sammatha Manu is known as the Son of Brahma, the creator of the world.
Mahāsammata “the Great Elect” also known as Khattiya and Rāja, was the first monarch of the world according to Buddhist tradition. The chronicles of Theravada Buddhist tradition such as Mahāvaṃsa state that he was the founder of the Sakya dynasty, to which the historical Buddha belonged. He was the first of the fourteen world monarchs named Maha Sammata, each of whom founded the eleven dynasties that existed from the beginning to the day of the Buddha.
The name of the King known as “Maha Sammatha Manu” is Swayambhuva. There are 13 other kings that followed Swayambhuva.
He was brought to earth at the beginning of time.
The future king was born “in the beginning of the world” in Jambudvīpa, the only habitable continent on earth, to a family descended from the solar race. As no leaders or political orders were in existence, the people elected him to be their king. He ascended to the throne with the title Mahāsammata (“the Great Elect”), and took Manikpala, the sister of Viṣṇu as his queen. As king, he constituted the order of the city-state, the various duties and offices defined for the state, and the boundaries of armies of their protection. Moreover, he also established four different human estates (castes): the rulers, brahmins, the wealthy and the poor. He also compiled the first dhammasattha (law treatise).
There are various historical facts, literature, poetry and cultural practices can be found in Sri Lanka related to Mahāsammata dynasty. Mahāsammata Manu was a rice paddy farmer became the king of the land called Oja Dheepa (today Sri Lanka). He was elected through a participatory democratic election conducted among the civilians, and he also had to show his talents with armory, regarding the country’s security. The area where his ancient capital was Manu Arama today called Mannar District. His wife’s name is Sankapali. Local people in the island today welcome scholars to study about him.
A King from Manu lineage is said to rule 432000 years. This time period in which a Manu King rules is called a “Manvantara” in Sanskrit.
Fourteen Manus and their respective Manvantaras constitute one Kalpa, Aeon, or a ‘Day of Brahma’, according to the Hindu Time Cycles and also the Vedic timeline. Thereafter, at the end of each Kalpa, there is a period – same as Kalpa – of dissolution or Pralaya, wherein the world (earth and all life forms, but not the entire universe itself) is destroyed and lies in a state of rest, which is called the, ‘Night of Brahma’.
After that the creator, Brahma starts his cycle of creation all over again, in an endless cycle of creation followed by Absorption for which Shiva, Hindu God of Absorption, and renewal, is invoked towards the end of each such cycle.
Image depicting the line of kings from Maha Sammata Manu
Rtr. Hasitha Jayasuriya