Deva Hela and the concept of gods

The people in this country had divided their country in to four regions prior to Anuradhapura era namely Uthuru Kuru Divaina, Janbudveepaya, Poorvavidehaya and Apara Goyaanaya and named it as Siw Hela.The people of Deva lived in Damabadiva Janbudveepa. Even by that time, the world knew them as Aaraya. The people of four castes namely Brahman, Kshatriyas, Baththiya (the caste called Kath[1]) and Shudras lived in this Deva Hela in Janbudveepa that day. A caste system was not seen in the Yakkha Hela. A society where people were divided based on a strict caste and tribal system was not found in the Yakkha Hela. It was the kings who ruled the Naaga Hela and the Yakkha Hela.

The Deva Hela was reigned by the Aarayas and was stretching from Jaffna to Mathara, the region to the eastern region of the country when its divided in to two parts from the centre of it. But the people in the Naaga tribe had lived in the cities situated around the county and had engaged in the trading, transportation and controlling and managing the properties.

Naa+gara[2]were the places where the people in Naaga tribe had built their hoses and lived. These place or regions of Naa+gara later were changed in to Nagara(s). The residing places of Deva tribe were Nuwara(s) or Pura(s),[3]for example Kapilawasthupura (The city of Kapilawasthu), Shraawasthipura (The city of Shraawasthi) and Varaanaasipura (The city of Varaanaasi). And also the cities called Vishala Maha Nuwara (The great city called Vishala), Rajagaha Nuwara (The city of Rajagaha), Savath Nuwara (The city of Savath) were situated in Deva Hela. The towns called Naataa(s) such as Aaataanaataa, Puranaataa, Kusinaataa were situated in the Yakkha Hela. ( Please check the stanza 23 in the Aataanaataa Sutta).

There was a tradition in Deva Hela where people addressed the most powerful regional kings reigned in the Deva Hela with the highest title connected with the divinity as “Devayan Wahansa” i.e. your majesty. According to the teaching of Buddha and also the Thika Nipaatha in Anguththara Sutta there had been three categories of Deva lived in Janbudveepa namely,

I. Vishuddhi Deva
II. Uppaththi Deva  and

III. Sammatha Deva.

In the past the term Vishuddhi Deva was used for the great Arahants who had eradicated Desha i.e. anger. It is clearly mentioned in the Tripitaka that the name “Devi had been used as they had totally detached the anger. As we believe today, Uppaththi Deva is the group of beings born in to the divine life. There are six of such heavenly realms called Sadewloka and those beings get ‘self’ births. They were known as Devas by the birth.

Sammatha Deva were the kings who were addressed using the conventional term “Devayan Wahanse” i.e. your majesty, by the people and they were belonged to the tribe which was conventionally accepted as Deva. Most of the kings who governed their people with love, compassion and non-hatred were addressed as Deva by the tradition and also by the honorable title called Devayan Wahanse. Most of those honored kings, after their death, further were addressed using the term Deva and people worshipped and made different offerings for them as well.

Mahaasena, the king in the Deva tribe who reigned in the Kacharagaama[4] in Ruhuna were imposed the concept of divinity by its people. After the death of the king, King Mahaasena was considered as a god by the people even to this date. Kirivehera[5] in Katharagama was built by King Mahaasena. A statue of King Mahaasena can be seen in the grounds of Kirivehera even to this date. Later, King Mahaasena became God Mahaasena and later God Katharagama among the Hela people. And they paid their respect as well. Today Tamil and Hindu devotees consider God Katharagama as God Iskanda mentioned in Iskanda Puraanaya.

In the ancient times Kururata and the region of Sripada was coming under the Kingdom of Kururata and the king “Samana ruled that land and he was a relation of Gautama Buddha as well. According to the hearsay, King Samana was married to the younger sister of King Suddhodana.[6] It was King Samana who arranged the Diva Guha i.e. the Diva Guha Cave, in a suitable way for Gautama Buddha and ministered the Buddha for a period of one year. It was KingSamana” who engraved the sacred footprint of Gautama Buddha in the highest station in his kingdom, made it sacred by the blessings of Buddha and made it a place for people to come pay their homage. A fist full of sacred hair relics of Gautama Buddha was taken by the King Samana, built a Dagabo in Mahiyangana and began to pay his homage to it. King Samana listened to Dhamma from Gautama Buddha and attended in to first fruition of the supermandane path, Sothapanna, and after his death he was reverend as a god by the people in the country. It was for this king reigned in Kururata in Heladiva that people have built Devalas i.e. temple, statues and pay their homage. Today he is called God Saman, God Sumana Saman. The history says that even the Arabian traders came to Kururata for trading had paid their respect to God Saman and the sacred Buddha statue of Buddha.[7]

When Gautama Buddha was residing in the Jethavanarama monastery in the city of Savath, Ruhuna was reigned by a king called Uthpalawanna. Later, this king was known as God Upulwan, a Devala was built in Devinuwara and started to worship him. Later, The Vishnu Puranaya was written and considered this king as God Vishnu. Devalas were built and started paying homage to him. Accordingly God Upulwan became God Vishnu.

It was for a human being, for the name of a human being who worked with some extra powers lived in Deva Hela that Hela people have raised up to the status of divinity, considered as gods such as God Vibeeshana, God Ayyanaayaka, God Gale Bandara, God Minneriya, God Ranvala, Goddess Paththini Mani and paid their utmost homage even to this date. Seeking refuge and praying for aids from gods of this nature was the tradition of the ancient Hela people. From the very ancient times it was the practice of people lived in Helabima  to build Devalas, make vows, and make offerings for gods and getting their minds consoled. It can be seen that these faiths in gods and different offerings made for gods did not bring any harm to any one, they were not acts of sin and considered them as the acts of innocence and taken in to Buddhism. From the ancient times faith in gods, offerings and scarifies for god were performed. Due to the influence of India, later, the faith gods was entered in the Buddhism in Lanka as well.

In the ancient times, the forest area situated over the very large mountain called Mahaameru stretched from Poonarin in Jaffna to Alawwa Giriulla was known as Uthurukuru Divaina, Yakkha Hela. Some regions in Kandy and Mathle districts were ruled by some of the same rulers in the Yakkha Hela. After some times of the Enlightenment of Gautama Buddha, Gautama Buddha came to Mahiyangana for as discussion with the people in the Yakkha tribe lived there over the troubles made by them to the disciples of Buddha and made arrangements to control and tame them. Gautama Buddha came to Mahiyangana when he was residing in Rajagala in Ampara.

In the Aataanaata Sutta and Maha Samaya Sutta is clearly says that the great King Vessavana, a descendant of the Rawana Dynasty, was the leader among all other very powerful rulers in the Yakkha tribe that day. Later, this King Vesamuni was raised up to the divine status, the title Sathara Waram Devi was given to him and now he too is considered as a god by the people in Vanni.[8]

The Tripitaka Canon says that people in Yakkha tribe and Kumbanda tribe and some people in Naaga tribe had considered King Vesamuni as their great king. When Buddha was living in this Helabima, another group of Devas who got the divinity by tradition, a group who were considered as gods by people were living in some parts of this country. These were the kings reigned certain regions specially in the upcountry, Kandy, and they were just kings by the generation name and were the descendants from Rawana Chakravarti Dynasty who lived in the ancient times in this country.

Seven Chakravarti Kings of the Rawana Dynasty lived in this Helabima, ruled in this Helabima. Later, the descendants of this same generation who had lost the power of Chakravarti and the power of Chakrarathnas used this title, Sakvithi, Chakravarti. King “Samana and also King Vessavana were related to this same Chakravarti Dynasty. But they did not use the title, Sakvithi.

According to Tripitaka Canon, the kings came to listen to Dhamma from Gautama Buddha namely Sakkassadevaa, Sakkassa Panitha were the descendents of this Chakravarti Dynasty and these kings used the title, Deva. Following the imaginations, today we use the names such as “Sakdew Raja “Sakradevendrayaa” i.e. Sakra – the king of gods, for a king called “Devaanaminda of the same Chakravarti Dynasty who lived in this Helabima  and had learnt Dhamma from Gautama Buddha. It was because he was the king of Sammatha Devas. Sakkassa Devaanaminda was a man lived in this Helabima and learnt Dhamma from Gautama Buddha.

Hence it’s very clear that the religious concepts of gods prevailed in India were different to the ones practiced by the people lived in this Helabima. All the gods, including God Sakra, who are revered by the people in this country even for this date were the people lived in this country in the past and they were possessed with some extra mental or physical powers and did some special service to the society.

Next Chapter…


[1] As in Kathi.

[2]Naa+garaNaa in Sinhala language is the cobra. gara is the ‘gruhaya’ the household. Nagara in Sinhala language are the towns.

[3]Nuwara(s) or Pura(s) were the cities.

[4] Today this place is known as Katharagama.

[5]The Kirivehera Chaithya.

[6]The father of Gautama Buddha.

[7] This could be the reason for the Muslim community to go on pilgrimage to the Samanala Peak. Probably this could be the only place in the world where people in many religions come and pay their respect. English people call the Sripada peak ‘ The adma’s Peak’ and believe that it is the foot print of Adam.

[8] The Vanni is the name given to the mainland area of the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. It covers the entirety of Mannar, Mullaitivu and Vavuniya Districts, and most of Kilinochchi District, and has an area of approximately 7,650 square kilo meters (2,950 sq mi).

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