King Sena I of Anuradhapura

Ritigala ruins
Sena I (Sinhala: පළමුවන සේන රජු; Tamil: முதலாம் சேனன்) was the King of Anuradhapura Kingdom, Sri Lanka from 833 A.D. to 853 A.D. (Ray, 1959) Belonging to the Dynasty of Manawamma, he ruled the country from his capital at Anuradhapura until he was succeeded by Sena II (Ray, 1959).

The king of Anuradhapura
Sena I was the second son of King Dappula II (815-831 A.D.). He succeeded his brother Agghabodhi IX after his death in 833 A.D. (Ray, 1959). Appointing Samgha as his queen-consort he conferred the office of Yuvaraja (the next king) to his next brother named Mahinda (Ray, 1959). He had four brothers namely, Agghabodhi IX, Mahinda, Kassapa, and Udaya and one sister named Deva (Ray, 1959).

Killing of Mahinda
King Mahinda III who reigned Anuradhapura from 801 to 804 was the eldest brother of King Dappula II, the father of Sena I (Ray, 1959). He had a son called Mahinda who was the rightful heir to the kingship after Dappula II (Ray, 1959). However, defying the law of succession, Dappula II neglected Mahinda and ensured his own sons as the next kings (Ray, 1959). As a result that, Mahinda fled to India (Ray, 1959).

Sena I who ascended the throne after his brother Agghabodhi IX wanted to ensure his kingship from his cousin Mahinda who was still alive in India. He, however, managed to kill Mahinda through several agents who were sent to India by him (Ray, 1959).

Pandya invasion & the death of Mahinda
During the early part of the Sena I's reign, South Indian Pandya King Srimara Srivallbha (835-862 A.D.) invaded the northern part of the country called Uttaradesa (Ranawella, 2001; Ray, 1959). Sena I sent armies to expel the invader but it became fruitless when the Sinhalese army was vanquished by them. As a result of the defeat, the Yuvaraja Mahinda who was present at the battle, committed suicide (Ranawella, 2001; Ray, 1959).

After hearing this defeat, Sena I fled to Malaya country and his second brother Adipada Kassapa was also slain by the invader during the clashes that occurred later (Ray, 1959). Thus Sena I lost his two brothers and only Udaya remained (Ray, 1959). Srimara who captured Anuradhapura looted the kingdom and destroyed Buddhist temples while Sena I took up a position well in the south where the Mahaweli Ganga river and Amban Ganga river meet (Ray, 1959).
However, Srimara had no intention to remain in Sri Lanka and he sent his official to Sena I to effect a treaty (Ray, 1959). Sena I accepted the treaty and as a result of that Srimara handed over the country to Sena I and left the country (Ray, 1959).
The next Yuvaraja
After gaining the throne, Sena I appointed his next and last brother Udaya as the Yuvaraja (Ranawella, 2001). However, he also was not destined to live long as he fell ill and died (Ranawella, 2001; Ray, 1959). The king, therefore, offered the office of Yuvaraja to Sena, the son of Kassapa who was slain by Srimara (Ranawella, 2001; Ray, 1959).
Issues in Rohana 
King Dappula II had one daughter named Deva and she was given in marriage to Kittaggabodhi, the ruler of Rohana (Ray, 1959). After the death of Kittaggabodhi, his sister seized the kingdom and murdered Mahinda, the eldest son of Kittaggabodhi (Ray, 1959).  The rest of the family consisting of three sons and three daughters fled towards their uncle King Sena I (Ray, 1959). Sena I raised them as royal members and when Kassapa the eldest of the three sons, was old enough, he gave him an army and sent him to Rohana to recover the kingdom back (Ray, 1959). Kassapa was successful in his battle and occupied the kingdom again with his two brothers named Sena and Udaya (Ray, 1959). However, the three daughters remained with their uncle Sena I. Of them, the eldest named Samgha married Sena, the Yuvaraja (Ray, 1959).
Sena I died in 853 A.D. and the Yuvaraja Sena became the king of the country as Sena II (Ray, 1959).

Services & monuments
As mentioned in chronicles such as Culavamsa, King Sena I has contributed to the development of Buddhist monasteries as follows (Davis, 2013); 
1) Ritigala: Built a monastery for ascetics, given revenues. Provided individuals with compulsory services for ascetics.
2) Jetavanaramaya: Built and rebuilt Pasadas, monuments and provided revenues.
3) Maha Viharaya: With his consort Samgha, Sena I built a dwelling house.
4) Mihintale: Assigned tank to the monastery.
5) Abhayagiriya: During the reign of Sena I, dwelling houses were built at Abhayagiriya by Dignitary Uttara, Vajira, Rakkhasa.
Besides the above-mentioned places, Sena I have developed a number of religious establishments including Uttaramula, Kaparamula, and some other places which are not identified today (Davis, 2013).

Four inscriptions dated in the reign of King Sena I have been found from the country (Ranawella, 2001). 
1) Usgolleva pillar slab inscription (from Anuradhapura District)
This has been dated in the 5th regnal year of King Sena I which means 837 A.D. (Ranawella, 2001). The name of Mahinda, the brother of Sena I who was slain by Srimara, is mentioned in this inscription as "Mihind Mahapa" (Ranawella, 2001). Therefore, scholars have shown that the Pandya invasion of Sri Lanka may have taken place one or two years after 857 A.D. because of the appearance of Mahinda's name (Ranawella, 2001). The object of this inscription is to register certain immunities granted in respect of an estate named Lengalu Deluva..., belonging to a monastery named Duhadara-mahavehera (Ranawella, 2001).
2) Allewewa fragmentary pillar inscription (from Anuradhapura District)
Dated in the 7th regnal year of King Sena I, this inscription preserves only the name of the king and the date of its registration (Ranawella, 2001). The purpose of setting up this record is not clear (Ranawella, 2001).
3) Polonnaruwa Vatadage pillar inscription (from Polonnaruwa District)
This inscription is dated in the 15th regnal year of King Sena I (Ranawella, 2001). The object of this record was to register certain immunities granted in respect of the village Muhundehigama (Paranavitana, 1933; Ranawella, 2001).
4) Kivulekada pillar inscription (from Anuradhapura District)
Although this inscription is not dated, scholars have dated this to a year after the Pandyan invasion (Ranawella, 2001). The object of this record was to register certain immunities granted in respect of an estate which name is not preserved today (Paranavitana, 1933; Ranawella, 2001).

1) Davis, C.E., 2013. Early Buddhist Monasteries in Sri Lanka: A Landscape Approach (Doctoral dissertation, Durham University). pp.543-544.
2) Paranavitana, S., 1933. (Edited and translated by Wickremasinghe, D.M.D.Z.; Codrington, H.W.) Two inscriptions of Sena I. Epigraphia Zeylanica: Being lithic and other inscriptions of Ceylon: Vol. III. Printed at the Department of Government Printing, Sri Lanka (Ceylon) for the Archeological Department. pp.289-191.
3) Ranawella, S., 2001. Inscription of Ceylon. Volume V, Part I. Department of Archaeology. ISBN: 955-9159-21-6. pp.4-12.
4) Ray, H.C. (Editor in chief), 1959. History of Ceylon: Vol. I: Part I. Ceylon University Press. Colombo. pp.325-328.

This page was last updated on 2 January 2023

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