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Brāhmaṇatissa-cora, °bhaya

Reference is made in the Ceylon Chronicles and in some of the Commentaries to a period of great distress in Sri Lanka, owing to the activities of a robber (cora) called Brāhmaṇatissa in the time of Vaṭṭagāmaṇī-Abhaya (Pitirājā).

According to the Mahāvaṃsa and the Mahāvaṃsa Ṭīkā (Mhv.xxxiii.37 ff; MT.613), Tissa was a brahmin youth of Rohaṇa. One day he heard a brahmin soothsayer announce that if a brigand were to commence his activities under a certain combination of planets, he would conquer the whole of Sri Lanka. Tissa, acting on this idea, turned robber and sent word to the king that he should hand over his throne to him. At the same time seven Damiḷā, with their followers, arrived in Mahātittha with the same demand. The king thereupon sent word to Tissa that the kingdom would be his if he could defeat the Damiḷā. Tissa agreed to this and marched against them, but was taken captive in a battle near Saṅketahāla. The Pāḷi Commentaries give further details. Tissa plundered the land for twelve long years; food became so scarce that, owing to starvation, people lost even their sexual desires, and the birth of a child was such a rare occurrence that all the land rejoiced over such a birth (SA.ii.83). Tissa’s activities were at their height when Vaṭṭagāmaṇī was in hiding. The stores of food in Cittalapabbata-vihāra and in Tissamahārāma were laid waste by enormous rats and the monks could obtain no food, Tissa having ravished the land. They therefore sent eight Theras to Sakka, begging him to rid the country of Tissa; but Sakka sent reply that he was powerless, and suggested that the monks should go over the seas. Some took his advice and sailed from Jambukola, but the leaders of the community — Saṃyuttabhāṇaka Cūḷasīva, Isidatta and Mahāsoṇa — remained behind awaiting better times (see also Nāgā Therī, whose story given in AA.ii.654 f; also MA.i.546). The Mahāvihāra at Anurādhapura was deserted; the Mahā Thūpa was overgrown with trees. The monks had to live on lotus stalks and fruit rinds thrown away by the people. When Brāhmanatissa died, Vaṭṭagāmaṇī once more came to the throne (VibhA.445‑51). v.l. Brāhmaṇatiya cora (from which the Ceylon Chronicles derive the form Bāminitiyā). About the date of the Bāminisāya (the brahmin famine as it was called in Sinhalese), see Cv. Trs. Introd. xvii., section 4. See also Caṇḍāla Tissa (Caṇḍāla Tiya) which evidently refers to this same “bhaya.”

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