Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Who are the 'Isurumuni Lovers'?

Isurumuni LoversAccording to folklore Namalpura near Vijithapura during 455 - 473 A.D. (the reign of King Dhatusena) was ruled by a commander named Namal. This commander was executed by King Kashyapa due to his allegiance towards King Dhatusena and his elder son Mugalan. Commander Namal's only son, who was also known as Namal, was spared by Kashyapa. Young Namal's mother too passed away grieving over her husband's death. Hence, the young prince lost both his parents.

Prince Namal was a charming, talented and strong young man. His life was majorly devoted towards agriculture and religious activities.

One Vesak full moon poya day, this prince was attending religious activities at the Vijithapura monastery. Suddenly he couldn't believe his eyes with what he saw. She was the most beautiful damsel he had seen and he would ever see. He couldn't take his eyes of her, and so was she. They both grew close and talked with each other. While this conversation was going on the prince realized that the girl had heard about him and was longing to meet him. She was Chithra, a granddaughter of King Dhatusena. King Dhatusena had a brother named Kumarasena. Kumarasena had a son named Guptasena. Chithra was his daughter. She had a brother named Bandusena, who was a commander of King Kashyapa. Prince Namal knew Guptasena quite well.

Because of this friendship Prince Namal was invited the next day to Chithra's palace in the vicinity of 'Kala Wewa'. Chithra's parents gave Namal a warm welcome and their marriage was confirmed. The wedding had to be delayed since Chithra's brother Bandusena was abroad at that time. He was spying on Mugalan who escaped to India, according to the orders given by King Kashyapa. So it was decided that the wedding would be held once he returns back home.

During this time Namal and Chithra used to meet every evening and go for a walk. It was a well known fact to everyone in the area that the couple was engaged.

Meanwhile commander Bandusena returned back home from duty with a friend of his, named Mahanaga. Mahanaga was a deputy of Bandusena. Seeing Chithra, he told his friend Bandusena of his intentions of marrying her. Replying to him Bandusena said he may marry Chithra with her consent. Though this wasn't the time for Mahanaga to ask Chithra, he had high hopes that he'll be married to her.

Few days later Bandusena and Mahanaga were coming back from the palace when Mahanaga couldn't believe what he saw. It was prince Namal and princess Chithra seated on the bank of 'Kala Wewa' chatting with each other in a world of their own. Mahanaga couldn't bear it and his jealousy ended up in verbal abuse towards prince Namal. Being the calm character he is Namal wasn't intimidated. In fact he explained to Mahanaga and Bandusena about his relationship with Chithra and that he got her parents approval.

According to Bandusena's response it seemed as if he was totally unaware about the whole situation, because he was on a busy schedule since returning from India. But Mahanaga didn't want to give in, and it was decided that both of them resolute this matter with a 'Duel' (sword fight) between them. This was much to the comfort of Bandusena who didn't seem to have a solution. Though Mahanaga was in no position of denying the challenge, he insisted that someone like Namal was no match for him. Anyway according to the guidance of Bandusena, a venue and time was scheduled for the fight.

As expected the fight began amidst a huge gathering. Facing the first swing of sword from Namal, Mahanaga quickly learned that he had underestimated his opponent. It took another couple of swings for Namal to disarm Mahanaga. The third not only disarmed him but also ended his life. Namal emerged victorious!

Hearing about prince Namal's feat, King Kashyapa appointed him as a commander in chief. Prince Namal and Princess Chithra were married amidst celebrations. But their marriage wasn't to be a long lasting one.

A few months after their wedding came the rainy season. 'Kala wewa' was overflowing due to the heavy rains. And many people gathered towards the lake to watch this scenery. Among them were Namal and Chithra as well. When Chithra was approaching the left canal of 'Kala Wewa', in came a gust of wind and she was thrown in to the gushing water. Namal who jumped in to the water was able to save her life initially but the currents were too strong even for him, and they both were washed away and drowned. Their bodies were found lately and the funeral was held with state honour.

By this time, King Kashyapa had commenced renovation work at 'Isurumuniya'. It was done under the supervision of Kashyapa's elder daughter, princess Bodhi. She was also an expert architect. It is said and believed that the carving of the 'Isurumuni Lovers' was done by herself in remembrance of prince Namal and princess Chithra.

* This is a translation of an original Sinhala article published in the 'Divaina' newspaper of 04-09-2005. Its online version can be reached at: http://www.divaina.com/2005/09/04/scholast01.html