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Elara (Sinhala: එළාර ) or Ellalan (Tamil: எல்லாளன், Ellāḷaṉ),[1] [2][3][4][5] was a member of the Chola dynasty, who upon capturing the throne became king of the Anuradhapura Kingdom, in present day Sri Lanka, from 205-161 BCE.[6][7][8]

Ellāḷaṉ is traditionally presented as being a just king even by the Sinhalese.[9] The Mahavamsa states that he ruled 'with even justice toward friend and foe, on occasions of disputes at law,[10] and elaborates how he even ordered the execution of his son on the basis of a heinous religious crime. Ellāḷaṉ is a peculiar figure in the history of Sri Lanka and one with particular resonance given the ongoing ethnic strife in the country. Although he was an invader, he is often regarded as one of Sri Lanka's wisest and most just monarchs, as highlighted in the ancient Sinhalese chronicle, the Mahavamsa. According to the chronicle, even Ellāḷaṉ's nemesis Dutugamunu had a great respect for him, and ordered a monument be built where Ellāḷaṉ was cremated after dying in battle. Often referred to as 'the Just King'. The Tamil name Ellāḷaṉ means 'the one who rules the boundary".

Birth and early life

Ellāḷaṉ is described in the Mahavamsa as being "A Damila of noble descent...from the Chola-country";[11]Little is known of his early life. Around 205 BCE, Ellāḷaṉ mounted an invasion of the Rajarata based in Anuradhapura in northern Sri Lanka and defeated the forces of king Asela of Anuradhapura, establishing himself as sole ruler of Rajarata.

He has been mentioned in the Silappatikaram and Periya Puranam.[12] His name has since then been used as a metaphor for fairness and justice in Tamil literature. His capital was Thiruvaru.

Defeat and death

Despite Ellāḷaṉ's famously even-handed rule, resistance to him coalesced around the figure of Dutugamunu, a young Sinhala prince from the kingdom of Mahagama. Towards the end of Ellāḷaṉ's reign, Dutugamunu had strengthened his position in the south by defeating his own brother, Tissa, who challenged him. Confrontation between the two monarchs was inevitable and the last years of Ellāḷaṉ's reign were consumed by the war between the two.

The Mahavamsa contains a fairly detailed account of sieges and battles that took place during the conflict.[13] Particularly interesting is the extensive use of war elephants and of flaming pitch in the battles. Ellāḷaṉ's own war elephant is said to have been Maha Pambata, or 'Big Rock' and the Dutugamunu's own being 'Kandula.

The climactic battle is said to have occurred as Dutugamunu drew close to Anuradhapura. On the night before, both King Ellāḷaṉ and prince Dutugamunu are said to have conferred with their counsellors. The next day both kings rode forwards on war elephants, Ellāḷaṉ "in full armour... with chariots, soldiers and beasts for riders". Dutugamunu's forces are said to have routed those of Ellāḷaṉ and that "the water in the tank there was dyed red with the blood of the slain'. Dutugamunu, declaring that 'none shall kill Ellāḷaṉ but myself', closed on him at the south gate of Anuradhapura, where the two engaged in an elephant-back duel and the aged king was finally felled by one of Dutugamunu's darts.

Following his death, Dutugamunu ordered that Ellāḷaṉ be cremated where he had fallen, and had a monument constructed over the place. The Mahavamsa mentions that 'even to this day the princes of Lanka, when they draw near to this place, are wont to silence their music'. Unfortunately this monument has not been found - the stupa which was earlier considered as Ellāḷaṉ Sohona ('Tomb of Ellāḷaṉ') is today identified as the stupa, Dakkhina Stupa. The identification and reclassification is considered controversial.[14][15]


The Mahavamsa contains numerous references to the loyal troops of the Chola empire and portrays them as a powerful force. They held various positions including taking custody of temples during the period of Parakramabahu I and Vijayabahu I of Polonnaruwa.[16][17] There were instances when the Sinhalese kings tried to employ them as mercenaries by renaming a section of the most hardcore fighters as Mahatantra. According to historian Burton Stein, when these troops were directed against the Chola empire, they rebelled and were suppressed and decommissioned. But they continued to exist in a passive state by taking up various jobs for livelihood.[18] The Valanjayara, a sub-section of the Velaikkara troops, were one such community, who in the course of time became traders. They were so powerful that the shrine of the tooth-relic was entrusted to their care.[19][20] When the Velaikkara troops took custody of the tooth-relic shrine, they renamed it as Mūnrukai-tiruvēlaikkāran daladāy perumpalli.[21] There are also multiple epigraphic records of the Velaikkara troops. In fact it is their inscriptions, for example the one in Polunnaruwa, that are actually used to fix the length of the reign of Sinhalese kings; in this case, Vijayabahu I (55 years).[22]

The Sri Lanka Navy Northern Naval Command base in Karainagar, Jaffna is named the SLNS Elara.[23]

The Legend of Manu Needhi Cholan

Ellalan got the title Manu Needhi Cholan (The Chola who follow Manu law) because he has executed his own son to provide justice to a Cow. Legend has it that the king hung a giant bell in front of his courtroom for anyone needing justice to ring. One day, he came out on hearing the ringing of the bell by a Cow. On enquiry he found that the Calf of that Cow was killed under the wheels of his chariot. In order to provide justice to the cow, he killed his own son Veedhividangan under the chariot as a punishment to himself i.e. make himself suffer as much as the cow.[24] Impressed by the justice of the king, Lord Shiva blessed him and brought back the calf and his son alive. He has been mentioned in the Silappatikaram and Periya Puranam.[25] His name has since then been used as a metaphor for fairness and justice in Tamil literature. His capital was Thiruvarur.

Chronicles such as the Yalpana Vaipava Malai and stone inscriptions like Konesar Kalvettu recount that Kulakkottan, an early Chola king and descendant of Manu Needhi Cholan, was the restorer of the ruined Koneswaram temple and tank at Trincomalee in 438, the Munneswaram temple of the west coast, and as the royal who settled ancient Vanniyars in the east of the island Eelam.[26][27]

Jat clan


  1. "SL Army build archway depicting battles between Sinhala and Tamil king". Tamil Guardian. 24
  2. Narendran, Rajasingham (9 November 2005). "Dutugemunu strategy and Ellalan response". The Island (Sri Lanka)/The Tamil Weekly.
  3. Jeyaraj, D. B. S. (28 October 2007). "'Operation Ellalan' and the Dutugemunu connection". The Nation (Sri Lanka).
  4. Sivakumaran, K. S. (26 May 2010). "Greek Epics: Gods, Men and Humaneness". Daily News (Sri Lanka).
  5. Ayub, M. S. M. (31 October 2007). "LTTE attack and national conscience". The Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka).
  6. "The Five Kings". mahavamsa.org.
  7. "Early history (from 250 BCE – 1000 CE)". Ceylon Tamils
  8. "Elāra". palikanon.com.
  9. Mahavamsa Chapter XXV
  10. Mahavamsa Chapter XXI
  11. Mahavamsa Chapter XXI
  12. "Tiruvarur in religious history of Tamil Nadu". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 16 July 2010
  13. Chapter XXV
  14. Harichandra, The sacred city of Anuradhapura, p. 19
  15. Indrapala, K. The Evolution of an ethnic identity: The Tamils of Sri Lanka, p. 368
  16. The tooth relic and the crown, page 59
  17. Epigraphia Zeylanica: being lithic and other inscriptions of Ceylon, Volume 2, page 250
  18. Journal of Tamil studies, Issues 31-32, page 60
  19. The Ceylon historical journal, Volumes 1-2, page 197
  20. Culavamsa: Being the More Recent Part of Mahavamsa
  21. Early South Indian temple architecture: study of Tiruvāliśvaram inscriptions, page 93
  22. Ceylon journal of historical and social studies, Volume 2, page 34
  23. http://www.vivalanka.com/newspage/228812ai-
  24. "From the annals of history". The Hindu. India. 25 June 2010.
  25. "Tiruvarur in religious history of Tamil Nadu". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 16 July 2010.
  26. Hellmann-Rajanayagam, Dagmar (1994). "Tamils and the meaning of history". Contemporary South Asia. Routledge. 3 (1): 3–23. doi:10.1080/09584939408719724.
  27. Schalk, Peter (2002). "Buddhism Among Tamils in Pre-colonial Tamilakam and Ilam: Prologue. The Pre-Pallava and the Pallava period". Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis. Uppsala University. 19-20: 159, 503