Singhapura

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Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (Retd.)

Singhapura (सिंहपुर) or Sinhapura was one of Buddhist Kingdoms visited by Xuanzang in 631 AD. Alexander Cunningham[1] has identified Singhapura with Katas village near Choa Saidanshah in the Chakwal district of Punjab in Pakistan.

Variants of name

In Mahavansa

Sinhabahu was a legendary king of ancient India, mentioned in Sri Lankan texts. He was father of Vijaya (543–505 BCE) of Sri Lanka and king of Sinhapura. [2]

Mahavansa/Chapter 6 tells us that When Sinhabahu was sixteen, he escaped with his mother and sister, Sinhasivali, and arrived in the capital of Vanga. He later killed his father for a reward and was offered the throne of Vanga.

He refused the throne, instead founding the city of Sinhapura, in the country of Lála. He lived there with his sister Sinhasivali, whom he made his consort. They had thirty-two children, of whom Vijaya was the eldest and Sumitta the second.[3]

Mahavansa/Chapter 8 tells that ... The great king Vijaya, being in the last year of his life sent a letter to his brother Sumitta to handover his Kingdom. Within a short time after Vijaya had sent the letter he passed away. When he was dead the ministers ruled, dwelling in Upatissagama while they awaited the coming of the prince. After the death of king Vijaya and before the coming of the new prince the island of Lanka remained kingless for a year.

In Sihapura, after the death of king Sihabahu, his son Sumitta was king; he had three Sons by the daughter of the Madda (Madra) king. Sumitta being old he sent his youngest son Panduvasudeva (r.504 BC - 474 BC) to Lanka. Panduvasudeva took with him thirty-two sons of ministers and embarked (with them) in the disguise of mendicant monks. The ministers entrusted Panduvasudeva with the sovereignty of Lanka. He made Bhaddakaccana, youngest daughter of Sakka Pandu. Sakka Pandu for seeing the destruction of Shakyas took his followers with him and went to another tract of land on the further side of the Ganges and founded a city there and ruled there as king.

Visit by Xuanzang in 631 AD

Alexander Cunningham[4] writes about 4. Singhapura or Ketas:

[p.124]: According to Hwen Thsang, the capital of the kingdom of Seng-ho-pu-lo, or Singhapura, was situated at 700 li, or 117 miles, to the south-east of Taxila. The bearing points to Jhelam, near which is the town of Sangohi, which has been noted by M. Vivien de St. Martin as the possible representative of Singhapura. But Sangohi stands on an open plain, instead of on a high mountain of difficult access, as described by the pilgrim. The vicinity of ten pools of limpid water, with surrounding temples and sculptures, points to the holy tanks of Ketaksh, or Khetas, which are still visited by crowds of pilgrims from all parts of India. I think also that the name of Ketas is only a slightly altered form of the Sanskrit Swetavasa, or the " White


[p.125]: Robes," which Hwen Thsang mentions as the title of the chief religious sect then resident near Singhapura. In the western countries, where the compound sw is changed to kh, the name would have been pronounced Khetavasa, or by a slight contraction, Khetas1 The Brahmans of course refer the name to their own religion, and say that the place was called Kataksha, or the " Raining Eyes," because the tears literally rained from Siva's eyes when he heard of the death of his wife Sati. But as their own spelling of the name Ketaksh, which I received from themselves, is at variance with the meaning which they give to it, I am inclined to adopt the etymology that I have already suggested as Sweta-vasa, or the "White Robes," This sect would appear to have belonged to the Swetambara, or " "White-robed" division of the Jains, while another sect at the same place, who are described by Hwen Thsang as going naked, must be the Digambara, or "unclothed" (literally "sky-clad") division of the Jains. Their books also are stated to have been chiefly copied from the Buddhist literature, while the statue of their god resembled that of Buddha himself. From these curious details it seems almost certain that this heretical sect must have been Jains, whose religion has much in common with Buddhism, while their statues are frequently mistaken for those of Buddha.

Ketas is situated on the north side of the Salt Range, at 16 miles from Pind Dadan Khan, and 18 miles from Chakowal, but not more than 85 miles from Shah-dheri, or Taxila. Now the distance of Singhapura from Taxila is given at 700 li, or 117 miles, which is


1 Thus the Sanskrit Saraswati became the Zend Harakhaiti, and the Greek Arakhotos.


[p.126]: certainly too great, as it would place the capital about 30 miles beyond the most distant point of the hills in any direction between the south and east. Singha-pura is described as situated on the top of a high hill of difficult access ; and as the climate is said to be very cold, it is certain that the place must have occupied one of the isolated peaks either of the Salt Range on the south-south-east, or of the Balnath Range on the east-south-east.1 But as there are no clear pools swarming with fish in the Balnath Range, I have little hesitation in identifying the place described by Hwen Thsang with the beautiful limpid pool of Ketas, which has been esteemed holy from time immemorial.

The capital of Singhapura was situated at from 40 to 50 li, or 7 to 8 miles, to the north-west of the sacred tanks ; but I know of no place that corresponds with this bearing and distance. Malot was the capital of the Janjuhas at a very early period ; but its bearing is south-east, and its distance 12 miles. If we might read 4 to 5 li, instead of 40 to 50, the capital might at once be identified with the ruined fort of Kotera, which is situated on a steep hill to the west, about 200 feet in height, that overhangs the town and holy pools of Ketas. This is called the ancient town. It consists of an upper fort, 1200 feet long, by 300 broad, and of a lower fort. 800 feet long, by 450 broad, the circuit of the two being about 3600 feet, or less than three-quarters of a mile. But the whole circuit of Ketas, including the modern town on both banks of the stream, both above and below the fort, is about 2 miles. This is rather smaller than the capital described by Hwen Thsang, which was 14


1 See Maps Nos. V. and VI.


[p.127]: or 15 li, or 2¼ to 2½ miles, in circuit. But as it corresponds in all other material particulars, I think that Ketas has a very good claim to be identified with the capital of Singhapura.

According to Hwen Thsang,1 the district was 3600 li, or 600 miles, in circuit. On the west it was bounded by the Indus, on the north by the southern frontier of Taxila, 120 miles in length, and on the south by the Jhelam and the northern frontier of Taki, or the plains of the Panjab. It cannot therefore have extended much beyond the foot of the Salt Range.

This limit would make the Indus frontier about 60 miles in length, the Jhelam frontier about 50 miles, and the northern and southern frontiers each 120 miles, or altogether 350 miles. The only explanation that occurs to me of the difference between this number and that of Hwen Thsang, is the probability that the ancient kos of the Panjab was the same as the modern one, that is, a short kos of 1-9/32 mile, or 1 mile and 2¼ furlongs, and that the Chinese pilgrim, ignorant of the difference, made his calculations in the common Indian kos of about two miles. This would reduce his numbers by very nearly one-third, and at the same time bring them into close accordance with the actual measurements of our maps. Thus, Hwen Thsang's 3600 li, or 600 miles, for the circuit of Singhapura, would become 400 miles, which is within 50 miles of the actual measurement already given. Great accuracy cannot be expected in these estimates of frontier distances, as the pilgrim had no means of checking the numbers of his informants. With the road distances which he had himself travelled it was different, as


1 Julien's ' Hiouen Thsang,' ii. 162.


[p.128]: he could test them by his own knowledge of the time occupied, as well as by the number of journeys between any two points. In the present instance of Singhapura it is quite certain that the frontier distance is exaggerated, as the boundary of Tsekia, or Taki, is also said to have extended to the Indus, which could not have been the case if the frontier of Singhapura had stretched further to the south than I have placed it.

Singhapura in Mahabharata

Arjuna's Conquest - Arjuna was sent north by Yudhisthira to subjugate kingdoms for the Rajasuya Yagya, after crowning as the Emperor of Indraprastha. Sabha Parva, Mahabharata/Book II Chapter 24 & Sabha Parva, Mahabharata/Book II Chapter 25 tell us countries Arjuna subjugated, which include Singhapura (town) (सिंहपुर).

Then the son of Indra (Arjuna), putting forth his might, pressed the delightful town of Singhapura that was well-protected with various weapons. Then Arjuna, that bull amongst the son of Pandu, at the head of all his troops, fiercely attacked the regions called Suhma and Sumala.
ततः सिंहपुरं रम्यं चित्रायुधसुरक्षितम
परामदथ बलम आस्दाय पाकशासनिर आहवे (II.24.19)
ततः सुह्मांश च चॊलांश च किरीटी पाण्डवर्षभः
सहितः सर्वसैन्येन परामदत कुरुनन्थनः(II.24.20)

Arjuna was sent to North by Yudhisthira to subjugate kingdoms for the Rajasuya Yagya, after crowning as the Emperor of Indraprastha.Sabha Parva, Mahabharata/Book II Chapter 24 & Sabha Parva, Mahabharata/Book II Chapter 25 tell us countries Arjuna subjugated. The list includes: Shakyapura (शक्यपुर) and Singhapura (town) (सिंहपुर) in addition to many countries. So from Mahabharata we know that Singhapura was in the north of Indraprastha.

In Rajatarangini

Rajatarangini[5] mentions works done by various chiefs during the reign of king Jayasimha (1128 - 1155 AD) of Kashmir....The chief among the kings made his own matha a specially desirable object. He was without vanity, and gave away in gifts many villages, the principal among which was celebrated as Simhapura by those who knew of his gifts. In this place the son of the daughter of the lord of Kārapatha established a Colony of the twice-born who were going to Sindhu and of the rough out caste people of Dravida who formerly lived at Siddhachchhatra. (p.218-219)

Identification of Sinhapura

The location of Sinhapura is uncertain. It is variously identified.

1. Singhapura in Pakistan : Singhapura (सिंहपुर) was one of Buddhist Kingdoms visited by Xuanzang in 631 AD. Alexander Cunningham[6] has identified Singhapura with Katas village near Choa Saidanshah in the Chakwal district of Punjab in Pakistan. This is further supported by Mahabharata.

Arjuna was sent to North by Yudhisthira to subjugate kingdoms for the Rajasuya Yagya, after crowning as the Emperor of Indraprastha.Sabha Parva, Mahabharata/Book II Chapter 24 & Sabha Parva, Mahabharata/Book II Chapter 25 tell us countries Arjuna subjugated. The list includes: Shakyapura (शक्यपुर) and Singhapura (town) (सिंहपुर) in addition to many countries. So from Mahabharata we know that Singhapura was in the north of Indraprastha.

2. Rarh region: James Legge[7] writes about the travels of Fahian and writes that in 412 AD he reached the country of Singhala i.e "The Kingdom of the Lion," or Ceylon. Singhala was the name of a merchant adventurer (Vijaya) from India, to whom the founding of the kingdom was ascribed. His father was named Singha, “the Lion,” which became the name of the country; — Singhala, or Sinhala Kingdom, “the Country of the Lion.

In this connection We find mention of a region called Rarh in the Sinhala history, which traditionally starts in 543 BCE with the arrival of Prince Vijaya or Singha, a semi-legendary prince who sailed with 700 followers on eight ships 860 nautical miles to Sri Lanka from the southwest coast of what is now the Rarh region that lies between the Chhota Nagpur Plateau on the West and the Ganges Delta on the East. [8] He established the Kingdom of Tambapanni, near modern-day Mannar.

3. Some identify with Sinhapura, Odisha or Singur, West Bengal.[9] Those who identify the Lala kingdom with present-day Gujarat place it in present-day Sihor in Bhavnagar district.[10]

4. Yet another theory identifies it with the Singupuram village near Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh.[11]

See also

References