Dasa Maha Yodayo: Gotaimbara | Sunday Observer

Dasa Maha Yodayo: Gotaimbara

Gotaimbara was born in a village called Netolpitiya (Nitulpitiya) in Giruwapattuwa, Dolosdhas Rata in the ancient Kingdom of Ruhuna. (This is on the modern Matara - Tissamaharama Road, about three kms away from Tangalle). His father was a wealthy Sinhala chieftain named Mahanaga and he was the father of seven sons. Chief Mahanaga named his youngest son Abhaya.

Abhaya grew to be very strong but he was short and was nicknamed Gota. Though he had the strength of about 10 elephants Gotaimbara was lazy and did not join in any of the work done by his family. His older brothers who farmed decided to entrust him with some agricultural work.

One day, his brothers started to work to clear many acres of land and prepare the ground to plant meneri, thala, kurakkan, undu and other varieties of grain.They worked very hard for several days and came home.

Then they told Gotaimbara, their youngest brother, “We cleared a huge land and did chena cultivation and we left you a very big share of the land.You are much stronger than any of us,so, now prove it. Accept our challenge and clear the land and cultivate it.”

Gotaimbara did not argue with his elder brothers and without saying anything went to the land and just looked at it for a while. Then like a small child pulling out thuththiri plants, he uprooted the flourishing, huge imburu and katu imbul trees growing on the land in a flash and with a mammotty dug the land planted the seeds and seedlings. To protect his chena he cut logs and broke jungle creepers and built a very strong fence.

All this he did in one day. Gotaimbara’s brothers came the next day to see what their brother had done and was astounded to see the work he had done. They all declared “Our youngest brother who had silently done all this work is a real brave and strong person. He is indeed a giant.” Because of such deeds Gotaimbara became famous .

Very soon the courtiers of King Kavantissa informed the King about Gotaimbara’s mighty deeds. The King sent a message to Gotaimbara to see him immediately. Gotaimbara out of respect for the King obeyed immediately. He set off for the royal palace accompanied by a group of friends.

While still on the road they came across a large land full of thambili (king coconut) and coconut trees. This land belonged to a temple named Sathpaduru Viharaya. Gotaimbara and his friends entered the temple premises but could not see anyone so, he went and shook the coconut and thambili trees with his strong hands and made the young coconuts (kurumba) and thambili drop to the ground. Then he and his friend had great fun dashing the fruit on the ground to break them open and eating the tender and tasty flesh and drinking the cool juice. Then, they went to sleep on the land and the temple ground.

At this time, the priest in charge of the Sathpadura Viharaya, Therapuththabaya Samanera (novice monk or a monk yet to be ordained) was away from the temple. When he returned and saw all the kurumba and thambili husks and broken coconut branches strewn all over the temple ground he was shocked and angry. He called the abiththaya (acolyte) of the temple to him and said, It looks as if there has been a big commotion here; what has happened? There are coconut and thambili husks and coconut branches strewn all over the bomaluwa”.

The place where the (Bo tree is) Then the abiththaya replied; “The person who did this is sleeping over there.” Therapuththabaya Samanera had a look at the mighty man who was sleeping peacefully. He grabbed him in a pincer like grip and dragged him across the land and threw him out all the while scolding him soundly. Then the Samanera threw Gotaimbara out of the temple land.

Later, Gotaimbara begged for forgiveness from Therapuththabaya Samanera and cleaned the temple land he and his friends had desercreated. After this, Gotaimbara resumed his journey to meet King Kavantissa.

When the King heard about Gotaimbera’s deeds of strength and valour, he promptly enlisted him into his Army, gave him a house in Magul Maha Veediya (close to the Royal Palace.) He also gave him wealth and servants.

Gotaimbara told the King about Therapuththabaya Samanera and when the King heard about the Samanera’s strength and bravery he persuaded him to give up his robes and join the Army.

The Battle of Vijithapura took place during the war between King Dutugamunu and the Soli King Elara who reigned in Anuradhapura. Sheersha Kunda was the mighty giant General in charge of the Soli Army and it is said that his strength was equal to that of seven Sinhala men. During the Battle of Vijithapura this giant emerged from the southern gateway of the Vijithapura Fort and there was a hand to hand combat between Sheersha Kunda and Gotaimbara. Suddenly, Gotaimbara leapt two bamba’s into the air and decapitated the Soli Giant. When the rest of the Soli Army saw their Chief dead they scattered in disarray in the fort itself.

According to the Thupavansa Gotaimbara who bravely entered the Fort had uprooted a coconut tree and rained blow after blow on the enemy. It was also Gotaimbara who made the Royal Tusker Kadol to quickly break the door to the Fort. King Dutugamunu and the Sinhala Army won the war against King Elara and his Army. King Dutugamunu honoured and rewarded Gotaimbara handsomely for his bravery during the war. Gotaimbara continued to live in Anuradhapura and the Tisa Wewa was about one yoduna away from his residence. According to folklore Gotaimbara engaged in Agriculture in the Sathkorale. He also undertook irrigation work in the area. The people of Sathkorale in gratitude elevated Gotaimbara as a deity, built devalayas in his name and worshipped him.

After the war Gotaimbara’s beautiful wife was possessed by the yakshaya Jayasena who lived in the nearby hill of Ritigala. This angered Gotaimbara who challenged Jayasena to battle and killed him.(According to some people Jayasena was a very strong member of the Yaksha tribe to which Kuveni also belonged.) King Dutugamunu heard that after killing Jayasena Gotaimbara was coming to see him in a celebratory procession after celebrating for seven days. The King disapproved of this and banned Gotaimbara from coming to see him.

Gotaimbara was very hurt by the King’s action that on that very day he travelled a distance of twelve yodun and arrived in Nagadeepa in northern Sri Lanka. From here he travelled many yoduns to Kaveripattam in India and from there went to to the Pabbahara Senasanaya (a monastery or place of retreat).

According to legend, while here Gotaimbara obtained ordination from Arahaths who came there from the Himalayas. It is said that Gotaimbara meditated and engaged in religious observances and in a short while became an Arahath.

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