The resplendant and beautiful isle we know as Sri Lanka has a long historical recorded. This rich and vibrant history is faithfully recored in the chronicle we have come to know as the Mahavamsa. The Mahavamsa or otherwise known as the "Great Chronicle" is the single most important work of Lankan origin. It describes the life and times of the people who forged our nation, from the coming of Vijaya in 543 BC to the final takeover by the British in 1815. The Mahavamsa itself is actually comprised of three parts, all written at different times in Lankan history.
The first part was written in the 6th century AD by King Dhatusena's brother, the venerable thera Mahanama. His work was greatly influenced by the Dipavamsa written five centuries earlier. It describes the foundation of the Lankan monarchy with the consecration of King Vijaya and continues to the end of King Mahasena's rule in the 4th century AD. The second part of the Mahavamsa, more commonly known as the Culavamsa was written in the 13th century AD. This chronicles the time between the arrival of the Tooth Relic in the 4th century AD and the end of the reign of King Parakramabahu the Great. Credit for this part is given to the thero Dhammakitti, but many historians believed that it was authored by many monks. The third and final part was written over many years, concluding in the year 1815, when the British occupied the whole of Lanka by military force.
The official translation of the Mahavamsa from Pali was completed by Wilhelm Geiger in 1912 and subsequently the Culavamsa in 1930. The first English translation of the Mahavamsa from Mr. Geiger's native German was done by Mrs. Mabel Haynes Bode. Overall, the Chronicle has over 200,000 words of text in about 960 printed pages. It is as I mentioned earlier divided into three parts. Mr.Geiger called the first part (Chapters 1-37) the Mahavamsa, the second part (Chapters 38-79) the Culavamsa I, and the third and final part (Chapters 80-101) the Culavamsa II.
I felt it imperative that this national treasure be put on the Web, so beginning in July of 2002, I began scanning the text of the Mahavamsa. Using OCR (optical character recognition) technology, I translated the text onto my computer and then began the long task of hand editing any mistakes. The whole process of scanning, editing, and writing the HTML for the first 37 chapters took me a total of three weeks.
What you will see on this website is only the first 37 chapters of the Mahavamsa as written by the thera Mahanama. I hope to OCR and put online the complete Culavamsa as and when time permits over the next two years left for me in high school.
To further aid your reading of the Mahavamsa, I have included many supplements including: a geneology of kings, an index of battles and wars mentioned in the Mahavamsa, a list of sovereigns from Vijaya to Mahasena with corresponding links, and a list of pali words that occur in the text. The end notes however are not included in this website. If you find yourself lost, please consult the actual book or email me.
I hope you enjoy exploring the Mahavamsa in this E-book I have made available on the World Wide Web at the Lakdiva site. For more information on Lankan history, please visit the other E-book, A Short History of Lanka written by H. W. Codrington I put on line in 2000.
August 8, 2002