The ten giant warriors Dasa Maha Yodayo | Sunday Observer

The ten giant warriors Dasa Maha Yodayo

The word ‘GIANT’ describes a person of superhuman size and strength and has its roots in Latin and Ancient Greek. Giants can be imaginary, mythical, legendary or real. There are many fairy tales and stories about giants and giantesses. Jack and the beanstalk, ‘The gentle giant by Oscar Wilde and The selfish giant are among them.

Throughout millenia there have been mention of real life giants too. Goliath was a giant who lived in biblical times. In modern times, the Sumo wrestlers of Japan come close to real life giants for they are enormous and very, very strong.

In Sri Lanka, the most famous giants are the warrior giants who formed part of the army of King Dutugemunu, famed for conquering the Chola invaders and uniting Sri Lanka and building many temples such as the Ruwanveliseya, Mirisawetiya, Thuparamaya and the Lovamahapaya or the Brazen Palace in Anuradhapura. There were ten of them who were known as the Dasa Maha Yodayo (The ten giant warriors) and their names were Nandimithra, Suranimala, Mahasona, Gotaimbara, Therapuththabhaya, Velusumana, Mahabarana, Kanjadeva, Pussadeva and Labiya Wasaba. Another famous giant warrior was Bulatha.

In the coming weeks the Junior Observer will bring you the stories of these mighty giant warriors whose great deeds of valour and strength are spoken and written about with reverence and awe by generations of Sri Lankans.


The giant warrior Nandimithra was one of the most important warriors in King Dutugemunu’s army. He joined the army during King Kavantissa’s (King Dutugemunu’s father's) reign.


Nandhimithra’s mother was Shamana, sister of Mithra, a trusted Sinhalese General in King Elara’s army. His father, Nadeeka, was a village chieftain in Kadaroadha (Chiththa Nagaraya) , a craft and industry village near Sithulpauwwa (Chiththala Pabbattha) in the South of Sri Lanka. They named their son Nandimithra, including his uncle General Mithra’s name.

Even as a little child Nandimithra was very strong. When his parents left the house, they were in the habit of tying little Nandimithra to a mill stone (grinding stone) with a leather strap. Nandimithra used to drag the mill stone around with him. One day, the mill stone got entangled with a stone step and he tried to disentangle it. His mother Shamana saw this and came running towards him screaming. She feared that the mill stone would fall on her son.

The next recorded feat of Nandimithra as a child was to do with a clump of bamboo (bamboo bush). There are several versions of this story. According to one, by the time he was about 12-years-old Nandimithra had grown to be very fearless and naughty. So, one day before his parents went to work his father tied him to an enormous clump of bamboo. A little while later, the parents saw a bamboo bush and a man walking towards them.

It took them a few moments to realise it was their son, Nandimithra. Another legend has it that there was a huge clump of bamboo in the yard of the village temple. The villagers tried to remove it but failed. Nandimithra volunteered to remove it and did so by himself very easily.

According to folklore young Nandimithra had the strength of 10 elephants. Nandimithra’s maternal uncle, General Mithra, heard about his fearlessness and strength and invited him to come and live with him in Anuradhapura.

Nandmithra was very religious and while in Anuradhapura he often worshipped at the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya and the Thuparamaya. He noticed that these holy places were often vandalised. He soon found out the culprits, caught them and threw them into the jungle. Yet another version says he killed them and threw the bodies into the jungle.

King Elara heard about the disappearance of his men and ordered his officers to find out what had happened to them. When Nandimithra found out about the King’s order he decided to leave Anuradhapura and go home to Kadarodha, his native village.

When he went home, Nandimithra heard that King Kavantissa was looking for strong and brave young men for his army. He decided to join the King and went to Magama to see the King and enlist in his army. His parents accompanied him.

The King was in his armoury when Nandimithra and his parents arrived at the royal palace. He gave Nandimithra a long sword and asked him to sharpen it. Nandimithra sharpened it so well that King Kavantissa was very impressed.

On King Kavantissa’s death Prince Dutugemunu was crowned King and the army and warrior giants came under his command.

King Dutugemunu wanted to test Nandimithra’s strength just before the Battle of Wijithapura. He fed the royal tusker Kandula many kalayas (vessels) of toddy (a strong, fomented drink made out of coconut or kithul) . The tusker got drunk and very aggressive. Then King Dutugemunu sent Kandula to meet Nandimithra. The enraged tusker lifted his trunk and charged towards Nandimithra. Nandimithra decided to face the tusker maddened by drink. He caught hold of Kandula by his tusks and brought him to his knees. Kandula was humiliated and from that moment bore a grudge against Nandimithra.

During the Battle of Wijithapura Kandula was sent to break into the mighty fortress of Wijithapura.

As Kandula struck with his tuskers to bring down the fort walls and main doorway, they all started to collapse on him. Nandimithra on observing this sprang forward and took all the, rubble of the eighteen riyan walls and threw them away. From this moment onwards the royal tusker bore no grudge towards th emighty warrior giant Nandimithra.


To be continued....