Valiant Vijaya of Bengal: One forgotten past

” Ekoda jahar Vijaya senani helai Lanka korilo joi”

(Once upon a time there was a warrior whose  army had conquered the Lanka  with ease: Dwijendralal Roy)
Who was the victorious fighter who conquered Lanka?  He was Vijaya Singha of  ancient Bengal.He conquered the kingdom of ‘Ravana Raja’ and named it  ‘Singhala’ or ‘Sinhala ‘after his family name.Though the people of Bengal have  forgotten this glorious past, the people of Lanka still remember it with utmost gratitude.
Poet Satyendranath Dutta wrote
“Amader chhele Vijaya Singha helai Lanka koriya jai
Singhal name rekhe gechhe nijo sourjer porichoi”
(Our son Vijay Singha conquered  Singhala with ease and has left the  mark of his bravery there.)
    According to  the ‘Markandeya Purana ‘  the third part of the greater India was Tamraparni  or present day Sri Lanka.
            “Indradvipa Kaserumanscha Tamroparno”

           There is a beautiful account in the ancient Buddhist scripture  ‘ Dipavamsa'(Chapter 9) about transformation of the  infallible Lanka of the Ramayana  into  ‘Sinhala’  (Singhala) under the leadership of Vijaya Singha .
   Avoiding the mythical material, historians have found that during the time of Lord Buddha, a vast area of ​​Greater Bengal  was known as  the ‘ Larha ‘ or ‘Rarha’ (the western plains of the present  lower Gangetic basin and the undulating plateau).It is also mentioned in ancient texts such as ‘Bhavishya Purana’ , ‘Avidhana Chintamani ‘ , ‘Arya Manjushri Mulakalpa’ etc.
     According to the Dipavamsa that the  princess  of Kalinga was married to the king of Rarha.Their only daughter was Susima.She was very beautiful.
       Rebel  tribal leaders often made surprise attacks on Rarha from their forest hideouts.  At one  point of time they were led by a hero with the title  ‘ Singha’ (literal meaning lion).
      The princess of Bengal, went against her father and married  the war lord or the hero tempted her to marry him who had the title ‘Singha’. Thereafter The princess was forced to leave the royal family and move to the forest where she gave birth a baby boy. Son of Susima was ‘Singhabahu’ (or Sihabahu ,a man with lion arm). Singhabahu was very brave from his early childhood as he was born in the forest.
When Singhabahu was sixteen years old, somehow he inherited the throne of his grandfather.  It is believed that Sihapur or present day Singoor was the capital of Singhabahu. There was a port  at that time at Singoor from where seabound maritime activities took place. ‘Singher bheri ‘of Singoor is a large water body which  was formed as a result of change of course of a mighty river left as a part  of old  riverine channel.

       Vijaya Singha was the eldest son of Singhabahu .Vijaya was very arrogant and rude in his early life. When the oppression by him and his companions became unbearable, the king deported them.  Vijaya  along with many of his companions, sailed along the  coast  and reached the island of Lanka.  And at that time the ‘Tathagata Buddha’ was lying in the ‘Salban’ ( forest of sal tree, Kushinagara ) of Mallaraja in anticipation of ‘Mahaparinirvana’ , It was as if he saw in his meditatio “Vijayo Larhabisya Sihabahunarinda joeso Lankan anuppatto sattvachchastanugo, “
In other words,Vijaya, the son of Sinhabahu, is coming to Lanka from Larha or Rarha country with seven hundred followers. (486 BC).
     Vijaya Singha and his companions disembarked at the port of Mahathita (now Manthota) on the shores of the Sea of ​​Mannar.
After reaching Lanka, he conquered that kingdom with strategy and strength.  The cave picture of Ajanta depicts a beautiful picture of Vijaya Singha’s arrival in Lanka (No. 17).
   A Lankan princess named  ‘Kubarna’ (Kubeni) fell in love with Vijaya and married him.  And  with the help of Kubarna, Vijaya killed the then Naga king  ‘Kalasena’ and ascended the royal throne of Lanka . “Vijaya, the legendary Aryan conqueror of Ceylon, is said to have gained the island by the sword.” Therefore It is believed that ” The regular colonization of Ceylon began after the conquest of Island by Vijaya. He laid the foundations of Sinhalese dynasty.”
          It is said that kubarna was killed by her relatives when she went to visit her parental with her  children as they thought that kubarna was a conspirator. They also kept the children with them and left for the mountainous hideouts.
          Vijaya as a khsatriya Prince later married  the Princess of Pandya Kingdom of south India. Who became the Queen consort  of Vijaya.  For this grand occasion ministers went to Madurai (‘Madhuram Puram’) with many jewels and gifts to bring the princess from the Pandya  kingdom. Vijaya’s relationship with his father-in-law’s house was very good.  He used to send valuable conch-pearls worth a lot of money to Pandya King every year.
“Adasi sasurasas tu anubassang sankhamuttang  Satasahasasadvarahang. ”                       

  As Pandya Princess was childless, Vijaya summoned his younger brother Sumitra  ( Sumitta) from Bengal to be the next ruler.
    “Hittaban pubbacharitang bismang samen
      Dhammen Lanka’makhilang anusasomano
      So Tambapanni Nagare Vijayo narindo
      Rajjang akarayi samakhalu attattingsati .. “
       (Abandoning the evil practices of the past and ruling the whole of Lanka according to religion, great king Vijaya  ruled in the Kingdom of Tamraparni for thirty-eight years – ‘Mahavamsa’.)   
      Vijaya’s brother could not come because he was too old. So his younger son Vasudeva came. Vijay died before the  arrival  of Vasudeva to the Island (448 BC). But his entourage completed  with Vasudeva’s coronation. Queen of Vasudeba was   ‘Bhadrakatyayani’ .She was also a princess of South Indian Kingdom. After that the descendants of Vijaya Singha ruled Sinhala for a long period of time.
         From Vijaya Singha’s conquest  of Lankan Island it is understood that the people of Bengal have been skilled in navigation and maritime warfare  since ancient times.The re-stablishment of relations with Sri Lanka  to the mainland of India  was further strengthened by the close alliance between Emperor Ashoka and the Sinhalese king Devanampiya Tishya.
          The overall contact that Sinhala had with Bengal is evident from  the architectural style of Sri lanka  which was highly influenced by the  Pal and sen  architecture of Bengal.
   Evidence of commercial contact with Lanka is found in the Mangal Kavya. Dhanpati Sadagar tells Sinhala king:                                                      
  “Badalashe nana dhana annachhi singhale” ( I have brought many treasures to Sinhala   for the purpose of exchange.)      
   Sinhala music is also influenced by the music of Bengal.The national anthem of the country is also sung following the tune of ‘Jana Gana Mana’ (“Sri Lanka Mata, Apa Sri Lanka Namo, Namo Sundar, Srivarani, Surendri, Atishobhamana Lanka Dhanya …”).  Renowned Sri Lankan linguist W.S.Karunatilake has proved that Sinhala language has more than fifty percent Bengali words.
             Vijaya in Sinhala is so memorable and popular that  the word  Vijaya was in the names of many kings of that country afterwards. This trend continued till the ‘seventh Vijayabahu’, the king who was killed by the Moore Pirates in 1534 AD.  The “suicidal”and self-absorbed Bengalis, with a little effort, will find out why Sri Lanka still has so many ‘Vijayas’ at there home. Regrettably, the Bengali educated Hindu community is completely indifferent to this.  In the  education curriculum , this glorious past is ignored  depicting as fictional. The subject is taught in the college level as a part of Bengali literature to determine the poetic style of Mangal kavya .  Historical aspect of this glorious event is still  ignored.  Though the arrival of Vijaya Singha in Sri Lanka has been marked as a turning point in the history of the Island country.
       The political history of Sri Lanka has been written since the demise of Lord Buddha and the entry of Vijaya Singha into Lanka. Which is also the beginning of the Buddha era (486 BC).  The two most famous and ancient books written in Pali on this subject are ‘Dipavamsa’ and ‘Mahavamsa’ which are also considered to be authentic in the construction of ancient history of India as well as Sri lanka. An all-encompassing cornerstone mentioned in Dipavamsa is
“Dbe satani  cha bassani autras bassani cha
   Sambuddhe parinibbute abhisitto piyadassino .”
That is, the inauguration of Emperor Priyadarshi was completed two hundred and eighteen years after Mahaparinirvana. The coronation of  Emperor Ashoka  took place in 268 BC .Whole world accepted this chronological event mentioned in pali texts .
             Now time has come for the Bengalis to learn the truth and revive its glorious past.

Main sources:
1.The Dipavamsa (translated by H.Oldenberg,EBL,2017edition)
2.The Mahavamsa (translated by W.Geiger,EBL,2017 edition)
3.History of Ancient Bengal 1,2 (R.C.Majumder,General,1981)
4.Political History of Ancient India (H.C. Raychaudhuri, OUP,1996 edition)
5. Industry and Civilization of Sinhala( Bengali version,Manindrabhushan Gupta,Viswabharati Bengali year1360)
6.The wonder that was India (A.L.Basham,Picador,2004 edition)
7.Ancient India (V D Mahajan, S.chand,2018)