This section is from the book "Some Contributions Of South India To Indian Culture", by S. Krishnaswami Aiyangar. Also available from Amazon: Some Contributions of South India to Indian Culture.
1 Silappadhikaram, Canto 30, 11. 151-164.
This is in a way confirmed by a statement prefixed to the work either by the author him-felf or more likely by the author's friend or preceptor or disciple, who usually write the introduction to the poem. The statement in this part follows that in the body of the work, and states that these temples were built in the Chola, Pandya, Kongu and Lanka, and duly consecrated as a means of expiation for the suffering to which, at any rate, the Pandya country was subjected as a result of the miscarriage of justice which constituted the seed of the tragedy. The statement in the text is a prayer, and the statement in the preface is a record of the accomplishment of all that was prayed for; but the statement in the text itself is very clear and leaves no doubt as to the contemporaneity of the "Red-Chera" with Gajabahu of Ceylon. The introduction of the supernatural in the poem leads some scholars to doubt the historicity of several of its statements. These scholars forget that the author was a younger brother of this selfsame Chera. He refers more than once to the contemporary poet, his own friend and a much valued friend of his elder brother the king, Sattan, the author of the companion work Manimekhalai, apart from the reference in the introduction to both the works. As a kavya the two works together constitute one, as otherwise this work alone would deal with only the first three of "the four ends of life" chatur-vida-purusharthaj. If Gajabahu then went as far out as the court of the Chera and constructed a temple to Pattini-devi why does not the Mahavamsa say so? The Mahavamsa is essentially a history of Buddhism in Ceylon, and not a secular history of Ceylon. It deals with those kings of Ceylon whose benefactions to Buddhism were the greatest, and passes over those with rare exceptions, who were not Buddhists with comparatively short notice. The establishment of the temple to Pattini-devi would go just against the grain of Buddhist tradition, and the Buddhist priests of the Mahavihara therefore apparently felt disinclined to record this particular incident. There are other histories of Ceylon however, which have much more to say of this Gajabahu. They ascribe to him an invasion of the Chola country for the recovery of a large number of the Ceylonese who were taken prisoners and who were detailed for work at "the city of Kaveri in the country of Soli," which apparently means they were set to work as prisoners in the city of Kaveripattanam, the Chola capital. He is said to have taken back some of the Buddha relics and Buddha's begging-bowl which, according to this account, was carried away before his time. We know from tradition on this side of the channel that the great Chola
Karikala it was that constructed, or vastly-enlarged the Chola capital Puhar or Kaveripatta-nam. We have noted already that one of the Tamil usurpers among the seven carried away "the alms-bowl of the master endowed with the ten miraculous powers" that was in Anuradha-puram in the period B.C. 44-29, according to Geiger's Chronology. One of these other accounts of Ceylon actually does state that the King of Ceylon on that occasion brought away the "foot ornaments of Pattini-devi" and also the four arms of the gods. Thus the evidence on both sides seems inevitably to lead to the conclusion that it was Gajabahu I of Ceylon that came into connection with the Tamil country.1
We have a date for Gajabahu which we have not for the others. On the basis of the date of Buddha's nirvana being 544-43, the Ceylon dating for Gajabahu would be 112-132; with 483 B.C. for the Buddha's nirvana, the date in Christian era would be 171-193. Overlooking for the moment the discrepancy of 60 years, Gajabahu and his contemporaries must be placed in the middle of the second century A. D. which is exactly the conclusion to which we have arrived without this specific chronological datum. Gajabahu's relations with India as is clear from the above account was of a friendly character. He appears to have been one of those monarchs who like the monarchs of India in general patronised all religions alike, and this latitudinarianism of the monarch was not quite approved of by the monkish chroniclers of the Mahavihara, on whose accounts the Mahavamsa is professedly based. The omission in the Mahavamsa proper of the details regarding the temple to Pattini-devi is perfectly natural from the point of view of the orthodox Buddhists, but that is no evidence that that incident is not historical.
1 For fuller reference in regard to this particular incident see pp. 363-367 of my "Ancient India." The Rajavaliya translated by Gunasekhara is quoted below.
The following extracts from the Rajavaliya contains a fuller account of Gajabahu's doings l which it would be interesting to note here:
"His son King Bapa, surnamed Vannesi or King (1) Vannesinambapa, (2) Sinnanambapa, reigned 3 years. During his reign the king of the Soli country landed on this island with an army of Tamils and carried away 12,000 prisoners."
"Gajaba, son of King Bapa Vannesi, succeeded to the throne. One night, when walking in the city, he heard a widow weeping because the king of Soli had carried away her children. He said within himself 'some wrong has been done in this city,' and having marked the door of her house with chalk, returned to his palace.
1 Edn. by B. Gunasekhara, Colombo, pp. 47-48.
In the morning he called his ministers and inquired of them what (they knew of any) acts of justice or injustice in the city. Thereupon they replied, 'O Great King, it is like a wedding house.' The king, being wroth with his ministers, sent for the woman, the door of whose house he had marked with chalk and asked her (why she wept). The poor woman replied, 'I wept because among the 12,000 persons taken captive by the Soli king were my two sons.' On hearing these words the king expressed anger against his royal father, and, saying 'I will go tomorrow and to the Soli country,' assembled an army and went to Yapapatuna,1 thinking 'I will (myself) bring back the people forcibly carried off by the king of Soli,' and having declared it openly, he dismissed the army. Taking the giant Nila with him he went and struck the sea with an iron mace, divided the waters in twain, and going quietly on arrived at the Soli capital, struck terror into the king of Soli, and seated himself on the throne like King Sak; whilst the giant Nila seized the elephants in the city and killed them by striking one against another.