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Aba:Chittaraja is a reborn spirit

by Ven. Medagama Dhammananda

(November 15, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The character of King Pandukabaya is being discussed widely at present in the media. That is because it has been publicized that the film "Aba" is produced, based on the character of King Pandukabhaya. Though it is named as "Aba", it is not congruent with prince Pandukabhaya’s name.

It is stated in chapter 9, verse 27 of the Mahawansa that at the time of naming the prince Pandukabhaya, the first part of the name of his grandfather Panduwasadewa and the last part of the name of his elder uncle Deegabhaya were extracted and joined together to fabricate the name ‘Pandukabhaya" Among the king-personalities mentioned in the Mahawansa, the descriptions about the naming of the prince are very rare.

Panduwasadewa is the younger son of King Sumittha who reigned in Sinhapura. Sumittha was the brother of King Vijaya. Prince Panduwasadewa became king after King Vijaya. His queen was princess Bhaddakachchana who was the daughter of Pandushakya who hailed from the tribe of Shakya.

This couple was blessed with 10 sons and one daughter. That only daughter was princess Unmadachitra. The astrologers had predicted that the son of this pretty queen would kill his 10 uncles someday and seize the throne and because of this she was imprisoned in a secured small house on top of a tower which was called "Ektam geya" in Sinhala.

The brothers of Queen Baddakachchana too came down to Sri Lanka and formed villages. Deeghagamini, the son of one of the those brothers, Digayu, was entrusted with the services of the palace. Prince Deeghagamini fell in love with Princess Unmadachitra who was his first cousin and started to visit her surreptitiously. The two servants, Chitta and Kalavela who were very fond of the queen, helped the prince. Unmadachitra became pregnant because of Deeghagamini. When this secret was laid bare Kalavela and Chitta were beheaded. The worship of the dead was being practiced in our country during the pre-Buddhist era. There was a belief that the dead are reborn as ghosts or spirits. That might have been the reason why the people must have believed that Kalavela and Chitta must have been reborn as a ghost and had an influence on the life in the womb of Unmadachitra .The intention of the uncles was to kill the newborn child provided that it was a mate. Unmadachitra gave birth to a son. This son was named Pandukabaya alias Panduaba and not as "Aba". Unmadachitra arranged to get down a female child born to a woman on the same day, and arranged to send her son to that lady through a servant. While this maid servant was carrying the prince Pandukabhaya in a basket to Doramandalawa, she met the uncles of the prince who were on a hunting spree. She was ordered to keep the basket down. At this moment Kalavela and Chitta who had been slain and were reborn as ghosts were present in the form of pigs. Since the attention of the princes was diverted towards the pigs, it was possible for the servant to take the baby prince to Doramandalawa free of any trouble.

Even after that the uncles of the prince had sought to kill the prince several times but it had been a futile effort. Prince Pandukabaya received his education from the Pandula brahmana. (Brahmana in Sinhala means an ascetic priest who is an erudite guru as well) This brahmana who knew that this prince would become king one day, gave him the best of education trained him in all skills and provided him with the required resources to enlist soldiers too. After that he sent him away along with the soldiers he recruited.

While travelling with his army towards the territory of Girikanda which was governed by one of his uncles, Girikandasiva, the prince meets Pali the daughter of Girikandasiva. She was serving lunch to her father and his colleagues who were reaping in the field. It is a popular traditional belief that the leaf of a banyan tree she was using to serve rice turned into gold. Thence she was called Swarnapali. Girikanda’s army was chasing after the prince who took princess Swarnapali with him. But the prince was able to defeat them at a place called Kalaha Nagara.

The prince had chosen the surroundings of mount Dola that was situated to the East of the river. When his uncles came and erected campsites around mount Dumarakka, the prince was clever enough to defeat and disperse them over to the other side of the river.

By this time prince Abhaya the elder son of king Panduwasadeva had become king. After defeating the uncles, King Abaya had relegated only the Eastern side of the river to prince Pandukabhaya and had arrived at a compromise. At this juncture, the king had to abnegate his throne because of the death threats he received from his brothers. When prince Pandukabhaya was staying on mount Dumarakka, a she-ghost by the name of Chethiya used to come at the speed of a mare and walk around the mount. When the prince tried to kill her she pleaded before him to save her life and in return she promised to help him to capture the kingdom. That was how the prince got the mare called Chethia. After that with the help of her plans he was able to destroy his uncles.

Prince Pandukabhaya with his wife Swarnapali selected the city of Anuradhapura to live. This city was built by one of his uncles, a soldier named Anuradha. Their coronation took place there. For the post of chief minister the king selected prince Chandra the son of Pandula brahmana the monastic priest who gave him education and gave a helping hand in all his feats. The rest of the followers too were allocated suitable positions A large reservoir and four hamlets were built for the development of the kingdom. All this work was named after King Abhaya. Basawakkula which we see in Anuradhapura today is that reservoir.

Chitta, Kalavela as well as the maid servant who volunteered to take prince Pandukabhaya in a basket are said to have been reborn as ghosts, but they were not stated as resurrected from the dead. Only the incident of the pigs being possessed by these spirits is described in Mahawansa, chapter 10 verses 1-6.

According to the book "History of Buddhism to Ceylon" written by Ven. Walpola Rahula thero, these ghosts were only the spirits of the departed ones that have engulfed human minds. The character of Chittaraja appearing in our traditional stories is not unnecessarily inflated in the film "Aba" though it is said so.

Turning the people in our culture to an ultra-human state is described as ‘yak kireema’ which means deification or beatification. ‘Yak kireema’ has a twofold meaning. One is beatifying after death and the other is beatifying before death. Beatifying before death is attributing a super human nature to humans, and beatifying after death means attributing super human qualities to humans after their death.

According to the religious beliefs that were prevailing at that time it could be believed that every body including Chitta and Kalavela were beatified after their deaths. But depicting it as something similar to the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not congruent with our traditional human insights.

In addition, it is not stated in our traditional stories that prince Pandukabhaya had the blessings of Chittaraja for the purpose of becoming king. Something similar to "Beatification in Christian tradition has not happened here. When prince Pandukabhaya becomes the king it is the Pandula the brahmana (ascetic priest) who lingers like his gigantic shadow.

During the childhood of the prince, on several occasions Chitta and Kalavela helped save him from being killed by his uncles. But, knowing that he would be king one day, it is Pandula the brahmana who enhanced his skills, helped him organize an army and provided the necessary resources for that. Even for reigning Pandukabhaya is given advice by Pandula brahmana. Panduia’s son becomes the chief minister of Pandukabhaya. But this is not something mysterious as some theistic religions teach. Very clearly it is a realistic scenario.

The brahmana Pandula who is of a Hindu Aryan cultural background very devotedly helps the victory of Pandukabhaya. This may be because he had a personal wish to establish a strong sovereignty in Sri Lanka which represents the Indian Vedika culture. The city of Anuradhapura was built by king Pandukabhaya, according to the plans of Indian city building systems. By this it could be observed that his intention had been fulfilled. King Pandukabhaya who erects temples in the city of Anuradhapura according to Vedika city building plans, dedicates these shrines to local gods.

King Pandukabhaya builds a temple for Chittaraja in the corner of Abhaya reservoir and builds a temple for Kalavele on the Eastern side of the kingdom. For the servant who was reborn as a ghost a temple is built in the South. This is mentioned in the Mahawansa chapter 10 verse 9. The she-ghost named Chatia who was born as a mare and supports the king is allowed to stay within the precincts of the palace. Thus it is apparent that by exalting the locals to the state of deity, the plan of the king might have been giving honour to the dead who were from the tribe of ‘Yaksha’ of which he himself was a member, and thereby to consolidate his kingly power. A statement that confirms this is found in Mahawansa.

The Mahawansa says that the king Pandukabhaya had been sitting together with Chittaraja in seats erected on an equal level and enjoyed watching dancing. Even though the Mahawansa states as Chittah Dissamanehi" there is no reason why a dead person is made to appear. As such, it may be considered that there had been something like a statue on the equal-levelled seats.

Through all these it becomes clear that it was Pandula the Brahmana who helped king Pandukabaya to access the throne. And it is clear that Chittaraja who had been killed while prince Pandukabaya was in the womb had later been worshiped by the people, or that king Pandukabhaya had exalted him to that position.

Thus, to say that the dead Chittaraja had helped king Pandukabhaya to achieve kingly power through something like beatification which is observed in the non- realistic theistic religions, creates a doubt in us about an ulterior motive of a cultural belief of an other religion.

It would an underestimation of king Pandukabhaya’s power and a disgrace to king Pandukabhaya. During Pre-Buddhist era what we had in our country was the worship of the dead or spirits. It is apparent from these descriptions that in Mahawansa what is explained as ghosts or spirits is the spirit of the departed ones.

It is stated in the Mahawansa that as a gesture of gratitude for what they had done for him while they were living the king annually offered a sacrifice called a ‘bali danaya’ to every male and female ghost. Also it is our understanding that king Pandukabhaya who was from the Aryan tribe had been more actively engaged in this activity because he wanted to impress the locals of the Yaksha tribe.
- Sri Lanka Guardian

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