Nestled in South Asia, is an island known and visited by many, but understood by few. Although modern-day Sri Lanka is a roaring urban power, its history has long and mysterious roots stretching and reaching out to demons, magic, lore, and of course, war. For Indians, Ravana’s rule epitomises ancient Sri Lanka. The tug of war in history between India and Sri Lanka consisted of two great rulers, Lord Ram and Ravana. Much of Lord Ram’s reign has been written and spoken about in India, however, Ravana’s rule has been sadly misunderstood and villainized to a great extent. So let’s try to understand the Lankan rulers kingdom, and what it was like to be in ancient Sri Lanka!
‘Lanka’ is the name given to Ravana’s kingdom by the Indian epics. The kingdom was termed as ‘Lankapura’ by the ancient Sri Lankan population that resided in Lanka and were Ravana’s subjects. As the story goes, much of Lanka was burned down by Hanuman when he came to scout the land for Sita, who was abducted by Ravana. During the war between Ram and Ravana, the latter was killed and Lanka had a new ruler- Vibhishan, Ravana’s younger brother. Things changed in Lanka with a new ruler, however, Ravana’s policies, way of governing, and laws were still present, and they continued to exist for hundreds of years.
Now as to whether how much of ancient Lanka is still related to modern-day Sri Lanka is a topic worth debating over. Apart from the monuments, very little proof exists that ancient Lanka and Ravana’s rule was spread across the entire island. The most prominent proof is Sigiriya, a place where the infamous fortress still stands. Rumour has it that before the rock fortress, Sigiriya was used as a palace site for Ravana. Looking at Sigiriya now, it’s not hard to imagine how the gigantic rock would have been utilised by Ravana, a man known to have genuine interest and skill in managing manpower and architecture.
A few sites relevant to Ramayana can be found in Sri Lanka. After the abduction, Sita was first taken to ‘Weragantota’ which translates to a landing site, and it was in Lankapura. This was Sita’s first vision of Lanka, it’s here that she first stepped foot in Lanka. She was then taken to ‘Sita Kotuwa’ which means Sita’s Fort. After Sita Kotuwa, she was finally held captive at Ashok Vatika, the infamous garden when Lord Hanuman finally found Sita. ‘Ussangoda’ is one of the places where Lord Hanuman torched the entire city after his tail was set ablaze by Ravana. All these places can be traced in modern Sri Lanka, and naturally have a great significance for Sri Lanka as well as India. Ravana’s kingdom can also be analysed by these places.
‘Yudhaganawa’ is the place where the major battle between Lord Ram’s and Ravana’s army took place. Dunuvila Lake is where Lord Ram finally fired the ‘Brahmastra’ to take down Ravana. ‘Laggala’ was the war-administration place of Ravana, it’s here that he first glimpsed Lord Ram’s army, and it’s here that Ravana established most of his army prowess during the war. After Ravana’s death, his body was kept at ‘Yahan Gala’ and this place would be his final resting place. Yahan Gala holds tremendous importance for the Sri Lankans and is now a place of worship. Vibhishan was finally crowned as Lanka’s ruler at Kelaniya, the place which closely resembles the geographical locations of modern-day Colombo. It’s here that Lanka would become Sri Lanka eventually, and the country’s future would be relatively peaceful and celebrated.
Curated by Yashodhaan Burange