By T. V. Antony Raj
The consort of the king of the Vanga (a seafaring nation, in the eastern part of the Indian Subcontinent, comprising today’s politically divided Bengal region comprising West Bengal and Bangladesh), was Queen Mayavati, a princess from Kalinga. The royal couple had a daughter named Suppadevi, of whom at birth the court astrologers and soothsayers foretold evil falling upon her. They prophesied that the princess would be wilful and would have union with the king of beasts and lead a wild and unbecoming life.
So, princess Suppadevi was jealously guarded. She was very fair and grew up as the loveliest maiden in the Vanga kingdom. However, she was amorous and exuded uncontrollable sexuality. The king and the queen were not able to tolerate her defiance of parental authority and social norms.
One fine day, desiring the joy of an independent life, Princess Suppadevi eluding the vigilant royal attendants left her royal abode. She joined a caravan travelling to the Magadha country.
While camping in the forest of the Lála country the caravan met with disaster.
Scholars identify Lála country with the modern Rarh region of West Bengal, India which is still called Lala/Larh. Sanskrit texts refer to it as Lata-desa. Al-Biruni, a historian, chronologist and linguist of the medieval Islamic era calls it Lardesh at the extreme hilly west of Bengal where Hooghly district and modern Singur is located. Some scholars identify it as modern Gujarat.
According to the Mahavamsa, a lion attacked the caravan. However, the truth seems to be that it was a robber chief named Sinha, who with his men plundered the caravan).
While the other folk fled this way and that, Suppadevi ran along the path by which the lion had come.
After having assuaged its hunger, the lion beheld the libidinous princess from afar. It immediately desired her carnally. Waving its tail and ears laid-back, it approached Suppadevi. Seeing the lion, the princess remembered the prophecy of the astrologers and soothsayers. Without fear, she caressed the lion lustily rousing it to a fiery passion by her sensuous touch.
Suppadevi climbed on to the beast’s back. The lion immediately sped to its cave carrying the princess, and there it united with her. From this union, the princess in time bore twins – a son and a daughter. The son’s limbs were formed like a lion’s and Suppadevi named him Sinhabahu or lion-armed and named the daughter Sinhasivali or lion-maiden.
The lion kept them in a cave and covered the entrance with a huge rock.
When Sinhabahu was about sixteen years old, Suppadevi told him about her ancestry. The youth, longing to know more about the civilized world, wanted to leave the lion’s den.
One day, when the lion left the cave in search of prey, Sinhabahu after rolled off the rocky barrier. He carried his mother and sister on his shoulders and left the cave in haste. They clothed themselves with branches of trees and reached a border-village. There they met a son of Suppadevi’s uncle, a commander in the army of the Vanga king who ruled the border-country.
The commander gave them clothing which transformed into splendid garments. He served them food on leaves and by reason of their merit, the leaves turned into dishes of gold. The amazed commander asked Suppadevi who she was. The princess told him about her family and clan. The commander then took his uncle’s daughter with him and went to the capital of the Vangas and married her.
When the lion, returning to its cave missed those three people it loved most. It grieved after its offsprings. It neither ate nor drank. Seeking its children it went to the villages in the border-country and found them deserted.
The border-folk came to the king and told that a ferocious lion ravaged their land and appealed to him to ward off this danger.
The king offered a thousand gold coins for the person who would kill the lion.
When Sinhabahu expressed his intention to kill the lion, twice did his mother restrain him.
Since no one dared to kill the lion, the king raised the bounty to two thousand and then to three thousand gold coins along with his kingdom for whoever killed the ravaging lion.
Without informing his mother, Sinhabahu presented himself before the aged king and volunteered to kill the lion.
The youth went to his former home, the lion’s den. When the beast saw Sinhabahu from afar it came forward, to greet its lost son. Sinhabahu without any remorse shot an arrow to slay his father, the lion. Due to the paternal love of the beast, the arrow struck its forehead, rebounded, and fell at the son’s feet without causing any harm. Sinhabahu shot another arrow and then a third, but neither harmed the lion. The lion became wrathful and growled. The fourth arrow pierced the lion’s body and killed it.
Sinhabahu cut off the head of the lion along with its majestic mane. When he reached the capital he learned that seven days had passed since the death of the king of the Vangas.
The ministers rejoiced over the youth’s valiant deed. When the ministers saw Suppadevi, they were all happy to learn that Sinhabahu was the grandson of the late king. The ministers in unison requested the valiant young man him to be their king. Sinhabahu accepted the kingship. Later when his mother got married he handed the kingdom to his mother’s husband.
Sinhabahu with his twin-sister Sinhasivali left the capital of the Vangas and went back to Lála country, the land of their birth. There he made his twin-sister Sinhasivali his consort. He built a city, and they called it Sinhapura.
Sinhasivali gave birth to twin sons sixteen times. Altogether there were thirty-two sons. King Sinhabahu named his eldest son Vijaya, and the younger twin-brother Sumitta. Sinhabahu consecrated Vijaya as prince-regent.
- The Sinhalese Too Migrated to Sri Lanka from India: Prelude (tvaraj.com)
- The Sinhalese Too Migrated to Sri Lanka from India: Part 2 – Vijaya (tvaraj.com)
- The Sinhalese Too Migrated to Sri Lanka from India: Part 3 – Kuveni (tvaraj.com)
- The Sinhalese Too Migrated to Sri Lanka from India: Part 4 – Tamil Brides from Madurai (tvaraj.com)
- The Sinhalese Too Migrated to Sri Lanka from India: Part 5 – Panduvāsudeva (tvaraj.com)
- The Sinhalese Too Migrated to Sri Lanka from India: Part 6 – Abhaya and His Sister Ummada Citta (tvaraj.com)
- The Sinhalese Too Migrated to Sri Lanka from India: Postlude (tvaraj.com)
- Mahavamsa: CHAPTER VI – THE COMING OF VIJAYA (lakdiva.org)
- Sinhabahu (en.wikipedia.org)
- Prince Vijaya (en.wikipedia.org)
- Kuveni (en.wikipedia.org)
- The History of the Sinhalese by John M. Senaveratna (books.google.co.in)