The Pre-Historic Era
There are historical records and literary works in the island that speak for the greatness and antiquity of Kelaniya. For the earliest mention of Kelaniya in books, we must turn to the epic poem, Ramayana written by Valmiki the Indian sage of the 5 th century B.C. It records some events that had taken place about 1000 years before the Christian era.
Lanka at that time had been inhabited by Rakshasas, a highly civilized race of non Aryan origin. Their king was the mighty emperor Ravana whose territories spread over many regions in neighboring India too.
The Ramayanaya relates how Rama, the north Indian Prince invaded Sri Lanka to punish Ravana for having abducted his beautiful wife, Princess Sita to Sri Lanka. After a siege of twelve years Lankapura, Ravan’s capital was taken and burnt. A long and arduous battle followed. In the battle Ravana was slain by Rama in duel. But prior to that Rama succeeded in winning over Vibhishana, Ravana’s own brother, to his side by convincing him of the righteousness of his cause. Vibhishana was of immense help to Rama for not only was he a mighty warrior, but also had intimate knowledge of the wiles and strategies’ of war used by his brother Ravana and his armies. Therefore after his victory and before he left for India, the victorious Rama paid tribute to Vibhishana by crowing him as the king of Sri Lanka, with his capital at Kelaniya.
Vibhishana was later deified for his chivalry and valour and to this day there is a ‘devala’ at Kelaniya built and dedicated to him as the patron deity of Kelaniya.
Apart from this Kelaniya is also mentioned in the ‘Valahassa Jathaka’ which is one of the birth stories of the Buddha. Here Kelaniya is referred to as a busy marketing centre of international fame where foreign traders met and did their trades. All these literary records bear testimony to the fact that Kelaniya had been the only principal city of Sri Lanka worthy of mention in these pre-historic times.