Dhatusena was originally intent on being a Buddhist monk. However, he discarded the saffron robes of the novice Buddhist monk and donned the garb of a soldier and undertook a grueling guerrilla campaign to rid his country of foreign occupation. One after another he slew their leaders, but the invaders held on tenaciously. Finally, in about the tenth year of his campaign, he was victorious and restored Sinhala hegemony over the entire island. Dhatusena, having cleared the land of the last vestiges of the enemy, applied himself to peace as diligently as he had previously applied himself to war. He repaired and provided endowments to numerous monasteries. He dammed the rivers and built eighteen new reservoirs including the massive Kalawewa, a reservoir of two thousand six hundred hectares.
Dhatusena had two sons. Kasyapa, the older, was born of a liaison between Dhatusena and "a woman of unequal birth" during his years as a guerrilla fighter. Moggallana, on the other hand, although much younger, was born of the royal bloodline and therefore the rightful heir to the throne.
The Culavamsa tells us that the king also had a daughter, who was as "dear to him as his own life." She was married to his nephew Migara, the son of his sister. Dhatusena himself had appointed Migara as commander-in-chief of his army. We are told that Migara "caused her to be flogged on the thighs with a whip although she had committed no offence." She fled to her father. The king, seeing his daughter's garments trickling with blood, was outraged. In an uncontrollable fit of rage, he had Migara's mother, his own sister, stripped naked and burned alive in retribution. Deeply aggrieved by the gruesome death of his mother, Migara conspired with Kasyapa, captured the king and seized control of the government. Still vengeful and seeking even more revenge, Migara convinced Kasyapa that the old king was hiding a large treasure for Moggallana. Agitated by Migara's constant haranguing, Kasyapa sent messenger after messenger to his father, demanding to know where his treasure was hidden.
The stubborn old man, however, remained silent. With each rebuke, Kasyapa's anger grew more intense, and his demand more shrill. Finally, Dhatusena, acknowledging his impending death, resolved
that he would visit his mentor and friend Mahanama, purify himself in the waters of the mighty Kalawewa, and then resign himself to his fate. Appearing to relent, Dhatusena sent word that he was
ready to point out the place where the treasure was concealed, and he asked to be taken to the banks of the Kalawewa. Kasyapa gladly agreed and intent on amplifying the old king's humiliation, he
provided him with a "chariot with a bent axle." Dhatusena bathed himself in the Kalawewa and merging from the water purified, he pointed to his friend and then slowly, in a sweeping motion to the
shimmering expanse of water before him and said, "O, friends, this is all the treasure that I possess!" On being informed of this rebuke, Kasyapa flew into a rage and he ordered Migara, "Slay my
father." With relish, Migara extracted his revenge. He had Dhatusena stripped naked, bound him in heavy chains, fettered him in a niche of his prison cell, and slowly entombed him alive by plastering
up the opening with clay.
Dhatusena's greatest contribution to posterity was decision to set aside a thousand pieces of money for the interpretations of the Dipavamsa; the first chronicle of the land. He entrusted this daunting task to his uncle Thera Mahanama a monk fluent in Pali verse and prose. The outcome of this enterprise was the Mahavamsa the world's oldest and most comprehensive authenticated metrical chronicle of history. It appears that the Thera Mahanama's brief was clear - rewrite the Dipavamsa and make it comprehensive and eloquent. Mahavamsa, like the Dipavamsa, concludes with the death of Mahasena a century earlier. This has led some modern scholars to suggest that Mahanama's brief did not extent continuing the chronology to his time, or that the reign of Mahasena was seen as a crucial delineation point between the "old" and "new" eras of the Mahavihara.
The Kala Wewa and the possibly the Avukana Buddha statue are monuments associated the Dhatusena.
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