The Princess in a tower - Unmada Chithra | Sunday Observer

The Princess in a tower - Unmada Chithra

8 August, 2021

When you look at history, fairy tales, myths and legends it is amazing how many girls and women have been imprisoned in towers. The mother o the legendary Greek Prince Jason, Danae was one such woman.

She was imprisoned as her father King Acrisius was told by the Oracle of Delphi

that Danae’s son would someday kill him.

The fairy tale of Rapunzel is famed and loved the world over. There are several versions of it. One version says that Rapunzel’s mother and father were walking past a witch’s garden and that feeling hungry they took some of the witch’s lettuce. The witch caught them and released them only after they promised to give her their first born child to her. When their first baby, a girl, was born the witch took her away and locked her in a tower with one window She also named her Rapunzel.

Rapunzel grew up in this tower and she had long, beautiful hair which would flow down through the window. Whenever, the witch wanted to visit Rapunzel she would call out to her to let down her hair and climb up the tower.

In the end Rapunzel was rescued by a Prince and they married and lived happily ever after.

All versions of Rapunzel are basically the same with slight variations.

Did you know that here in Sr Lanka too we have had a real princess locked in a tower like Rapunzel?

She was Chithra, the only daughter of King Panduvasdeva and Queen Bhaddakachchana. Some historical records say tha they had ten sons while others say that they had seven sons.But all sources agree tha Unmada Chithra was their only daughter.

Her beauty was so great that it caused men to go mad. Thus, she was called Unmada Chithra meaning Chithra who makes men go mad. Unmada is the Sinhala term for mad.

When soothsayers foretold that someday Chithra’s son would kill her brothers and gain the kingdom her brothers wanted Chithra put to death instantly. But one brother felt sorry for her and pleaded for her life.

Ultimately, it was decided to imprison Chithra in a high tower in the woods and have it guarded day and night so no one could approach her. Her faithful handmaid also stayed in the tower and looked after the princess.

However, the Princess’s relation Prince Deega Gamini heard about her and wanted to meet her. He was queen Bhaddakachchana’s brother’s son. The two met in secret and fell in love.

When her brothers found out that Unmada Chithra was going to have a baby they were furious and wanted her baby killed. But Prince Abhaya, the brother who had pleaded on his sister’s behalf earlier too did so again and asked that the baby tbe killed only if he was a boy.

Unmada Chithra gave birth to a baby boy but managed to ssend him away to safety before the uncles had him killed.

It was Unmada Chithra’s faithful maid who took the Baby Prince away to safety hidden in a sack. Legend has it that she met Ummada Chithra’s brothers while going through the woods. They wanted to know where she was going and what was in the sack.

The badly frightened woman said that she was going to see her daughter and was taking her kavum (oil cakes) as she loved them.

One prince said that they were hungry and to give them the oil cakes to eat.

The poor maid did not know what to do. She knew that if the princes saw the baby both she and the baby would be killed. But to her great fortune to great wild boars broke cover distracting the princes who chased after them. The maid was able to scurry to her destination.

Unmada Chithra named her son Pandukhabhaya, Pandu after her father , Panduvasdeva and Abhaya after her brother Prince Abhaya.

The little Prince who grew up in a village later became King Pandukhabaya, the first Monarch of the Kingdom of Anuradhapura.


Sources: Unmada Chithra by Martin Wickramasinghe, Untold tales of the Kings of Sri Lanka/ King Pandukhabaya by Kumudini Dias Haputhnathri,Stories from the History of Ceylon for children by Marie Musaeus Higgins,Tales from Sri Lanka, Folkand history, Manel Ranatunga