King of Sri Lanka (101‑77 B.C.) He was the son of Kākavaṇṇatissa (ruler of Mahāgāma) and of Vihāradevī, and was called Gāmaṇi-Abhaya. The antenatal cravings of his mother showed that he would be a great warrior, and his father gathered at his court the most famous warriors of the land skilled in various ways. Chief among them were Nandhimitta, Sūranimila, Mahāsoṇa, Goṭhayimbara, Theraputtābhaya, Bharaṇa, Veḷusumana, Khañjadeva, Phussadeva and Labhiyavasabha. Abhaya early showed signs of an adventurous disposition, and resented the confined limits of his father’s kingdom, bounded on the north by the Mahāvāḷukagaṅgā, on the further bank of which lay the Sinhalese country ruled by the Damiḷā. Abhaya was constantly refused permission by his father to fight the Damiḷā and fled in anger to the hills, whence he sent his royal father a woman’s garment, to indicate that he was no man. This earned for him the nickname of Duṭṭha, which always stuck to him. At his father’s death he had to fight with his brother Tissa (afterwards Saddhā Tissa) for the possession of the throne. He was first defeated at Cūḷaṅganiyapitthi, but later he was victorious, and the Saṅgha brought about a reconciliation between the brothers.
When fully prepared, Duṭṭhagāmaṇī marched against the Damiḷa king, Eḷāra. He rode his state elephant, Kaṇḍula, born on the same day as himself. He commenced operations at Mahlyaṅgana, capturing fort after fort, manned by Eḷāra’s followers, and fought his way down to Mahāvāḷukagaṅgā, where he pitched his camp at Kandhāvārapitthi, near Vijita-pura, where were concentrated the Damiḷā. After a siege of four months Vijitapura fell, and Duṭṭhagāmaṇī advanced through Girilaka and Mahelanagara to Kāsapabbata near Anurādhapura, the capital. (Mhv.xxv.75. It is said that in the course of his journey from Mahāgāma to Anurādhapura he captured thirty-two fortresses manned by the Damiḷā). There he waited for the onset of Eḷāra and, in the battle that ensued, Eḷāra was defeated and fled towards the capital, but he was pursued by Duṭṭhagāmaṇī and slain by him in single combat close to the southern gate of the city. Eḷāra’s body was burnt with royal honours, and Duṭṭhagāmaṇī built a tomb over the ashes and decreed that no music should be played by people passing it, a decree that was for long honoured. This act of chivalry, so much in contrast with the usual conduct of victors, earned for Duṭṭhagāmaṇī great honour. Later, he defeated reinforcements from India under Bhalluka, nephew of Eḷāra, and thus became sole monarch of Lanka.
On the seventh day after his final victory, he celebrated a water festival at the Tissavāpi and, at its conclusion, built the Maricavaṭṭi-thūpa (q.v.) on the spot where his spear, containing the relic of the Buddha, given by the monks at Tissamahārāma, remained firmly embedded, no one being able to remove it. From now onwards, consoled by the Arahants of Piyaṅgudīpa, who absolved him from blame for the slaughter of his enemies, he began his great works of piety, after having distributed largesse to his generals and soldiers. He first built the Lohapāsada (q.v.) of nine storeys, resembling the palace of Bīranī, the plan of which was brought to him from Tusita by Arahants. He then began his greatest achievement, the Mahā Thūpa, erected on a site visited by the Buddha during his third visit to Sri Lanka. The devas, led by Sakka, provided the necessary materials, discovered in various parts of the island, and he began work immediately, on the full-moon day of Vesākha. Great celebrations marked the inauguration of the mighty task, plans of various builders were inspected before the final choice and no free work was allowed to be done. After the relics, obtained by the Arahant Soṇuttara from the Nāga-world, had been enshrined in unparalleled splendour and with great feasting, but before the canopy (chatta) of the cetiya and the plaster work could be finished, Duṭṭhagāmaṇī fell ill. Saddhā-Tissa was summoned from Dīghavāpi, and he covered the cetiya with white cloth and crowned it with a spire of bamboo, that the king, before his death, might visualize his great work in its complete form. Theraputtābhaya, a former general, now become an Arahant, and living in the Pañjalipabbata, was at the king’s side at the time of his death and consoled him with reminders of the great merit he had accumulated during his life. A record of the king’s good deeds was read by his secretary, from which it would appear that the king had erected ninety-nine other vihāras, besides the buildings already mentioned. He had once tried to teach in the Lohapāsada, but was so overcome by nervousness that, realising how difficult was the task of the teacher, he ordered special benefactions for those who taught the Doctrine. Two gifts made by him are recorded as of very special merit — one was the sale of his special earrings to procure food for five elders during the Akkhakkhāyika famine, the other was his gift of food during his flight from Cūḷaṅganiya-piṭṭhi (For details see Mhv.xxxii.49 ﬀ; also AA.i.365 f). He was starving, and his minister Tissa procured a meal for him, but as he never ate without offering some of the food to the monks, he wished for a monk to appear before him. When an elder did so appear, he gave him all he had. He was told later, on his death-bed, by Theraputtābhaya, that this food was divided among many thousands of Arahants so that the merits of the donor might increase manifold.
It is said that after death Duṭṭhagāmaṇī was reborn in Tusita, there to await the appearance of Metteyya Buddha. He will then become the chief disciple of that Buddha, and his parents will be the parents of Metteyya. Before his birth, as the son of Kākavaṇṇatissa, he was a novice (sāmaṇera) of Koṭapabbata-vihāra. He fell ill through his hard work on behalf of the Saṅgha at the Akāsa-cetiya near Cittalapabbata, and as he lay dying in the Sīlāpassaya-pariveṇa, Vihāradevī visited him at the suggestion of an Arahant thera, and after much difficulty persuaded him to be reborn in this world as her son. (These particulars relating to Duṭṭhagāmaṇī are summarised from Mhv. chaps.xxii.– xxxii; Dpv.xviii.53; xix.1 ﬀ; Sp.i.102).
Duṭṭhagāmaṇī is regarded as the hero of the Mahāvaṃsa epic. His son was Sāliya, who, however, did not succeed him, preferring to marry a caṇḍāla maiden, Asokamālā. Duṭṭhagāmaṇī’s successor, therefore, was Saddhā Tissa.
The Dhammapada Commentary (DhA.iv.50) mentions a minister of Duṭṭhagāmaṇī called Lakuṇṭaka-atimbara, whose wife was Sumanā.
Duṭṭhagāmaṇī lived to the age of sixty-eight (Mhv.xxiv.47).
Once, after his conquest of the Damiḷā, he was unable to sleep for a whole month, then, at the suggestion of the monks, he took the fast of the eight vows and eight monks chanted to him the Cittayamaka. He fell asleep during the chanting.