King of Sri Lanka (247‑207 B.C.). He was the second son of Muṭasīva. It is said that on the day of his coronation many wonderful treasures miraculously appeared, some of which he resolved to send as tokens of esteem to his contemporary Asoka of India, with whom he had long been on terms of friendship. An embassy, led by his nephew Mahāriṭṭha, was despatched to Pāṭaliputta, and the emperor showed the ambassadors every mark of honour. He sent back with them all the requisites for a coronation, with instructions to celebrate the inauguration of the Sinhalese king, whom he invited to embrace Buddhism. On the return of the embassy, the king was solemnly crowned a second time.¹
The chief event in the reign of Devānampiyatissa was the arrival of Mahinda in Sri Lanka. He arrived at the head of a mission in the year of the king’s second coronation. Mahinda met the king hunting on the full-moon day of Jeṭṭha. The king welcomed him with great honour and speedily embraced the new religion, to which Asoka had already drawn his attention. His conversion was the direct result of Mahinda’s teaching of the Cūḷahatthipadopama Sutta. His earlier religion is not known, it may have been Jainism. His example was followed by a large number of his subjects, many of whom entered the Order. Devānampiyatissa dedicated to their use the Nandana park and the Mahāmeghavana, which he himself had laid out a little earlier. In the Mahāmeghavana he built the famous Mahāvihāra which, for many centuries, remained the centre of the orthodox religion in Sri Lanka. The dedication of the Mahāvihāra took place in the two hundred and thirty-sixth year after the death of the Buddha. The king’s next pious work was the erection of the Cetiyapabbata-vihāra and he, later, built the Thūpārāma, containing the Buddha’s right collar-bone.
When the women of the palace, led by Anulā, wife of the sub-king, Mahānāga, expressed a desire to become nuns, Devānampiyatissa sent another embassy to Asoka asking him to send Saṅghamittā, together with the right branch of the sacred Bodhi-tree. This branch miraculously severed itself from the parent tree and, together with Saṅghamittā, was conveyed down the Gaṅgā and arrived in Jambukola, where it was received with all honour by Devānampiyatissa. From Jambukola it was taken in procession to Anurādhapura, where it was planted in the Mahāmeghavana, the king instituting in its honour a festival, which was observed for many centuries. For the use of Saṅghamittā and the nuns the king erected various buildings, the chief of which was the Hatthāḷhaka-vihāra and the Upāsikā-vihāra with its twelve mansions.²
Among other works of Devānampiyatissa we are told of the building of the Issarasamana° and the Vessagiri-vihāras, the refectory called Mahāpāli, the Jambukola-vihāra in Nāgadīpa, the Tissa-Mahāvihāra, the Pācīnārāma and the Paṭhamathūpa. He also built the Tissavāpi at Anurādhapura.³
Mahinda survived him by eight years. Devānampiyatissa seems to have died without issue, for he was succeeded by four of his brothers.
¹ This confirmation of Devānampiyatissa’s sovereignty under the aegis of Asoka may have been due either to the commanding position of Asoka or for the strengthening of family connections. Asoka was a Moriyan (a branch of the Sākyā) and Devānampiyatissa had Sākyan blood.
² This account is summarised from the Mahāvaṃsa (chaps.xi., xiii.– xx.); also Dpv.xi.14 ﬀ; xii.7; xvii.92.
³ The Cv. (xxxvii.94) mentions also the Dhammacakka as having been built by Devānampiyatissa. It later became the Temple of the Tooth at Anurādhapura,