Yakkas

The Yakkas (demon-worshippers) were an Indigenous peoples of Sri Lanka, They were chiefly responsible for the irrigation system in the dry zone for the development of the famous Hydraulic Civilization in the Indian Ocean's Island, today's Sri Lanka.

The Yakkas had established cities like Sirisavastu, Lankapura, Vijitapura and occupied an extensive settlement in the Mahaweli plain covering an area of over 1,000 sq. miles. At the same time the Nagas (snake-workshippers) occupied the seabord.

They were expert horsemen who assisted king Pandukabaya with their technical skills to upgrade Anuradhapura to a city. In the Mahaweli plain there were hydraulic structures to divert water for irrigation within their settlement area and the Maduruoya reservoir used a unique technology in binding burnt terracotta bricks with resin or tar, which was prevalent in Persia.

The Mahaweli Ganga was called Phasis fluvius by Ptolemy which means the Persian river, indicating a Persian connection. Hence it is reasonable to surmise that the Yakkas who dwelt there were connected to the Persians.

The Mahanaga garden, on the right-bank of the river Mahaweli was a strategic stronghold of the 'Yakkas' during the visit of Buddha to Sri Lanka. When Buddha arrived at the Mahanaga garden to intercept the 'Yakkas' who were assembled there, they were more surprised than alarmed, when they saw him clad in a yellow robe and shaven-headed. Being inquisitive of the intruder and to know who he was, the 'Yakka' chief asked the Buddha, "Who art thou to come here and disturb us?" At once, the Buddha, to their bewilderment, performed a miracle by sitting cross-legged in the air. Now, the 'yakkas' through fear, emotional excitement and apprehensive of danger, begged the Buddha to save their lives and set them free. Whereupon, the Buddha, addressed them saving "I shall, O yakkas, save thee from all danger, provided I am offered a place to sit down, and make known to thee my mission". The evil horde verily agreed saying "O Great Being! We shall offer thee the whole island".

Buddha, having seated at the spot, where the Mahiyangana cetiya now stands, delivered to them a discourse, whereby they became spiritually evaluated and attained the stages of holiness (i.e., the fruits of Sovan, Sakadagami, Anagami and Arhat). Among them was the 'Yakka' commandant Saman who, after listening to the discourse, became elevated to the first phase of spiritual eminence ('Sovan'), and came to be known as Saman deviyo, who is now propitiated as the tutelary deity of Sri Pada. The god, thereupon, appealed to the Buddha to give him something as a token of symbolic worship, in the absence of the Buddha. Buddha in accedence of the earnest request, gave the god a handful of hair from his head, which the god accepted with great devotion. The god had the hair-relic secured in a golden reliquary and enshrined it in a small tope 10 ft. high and 24 ft. in circumference (Mhv. 1:36).

See also

*Kingdoms of Ancient India
*Exotic Tribes of Ancient India
*Nagas
*Balangoda Apeman

References

* [http://72.14.235.104/search?q=cache:fl9YR2Cex2YJ:members.tripod.com/~hettiarachchi/yakka.html+yakkas&hl=en&gl=lk&ct=clnk&cd=1 Yakkas - in Ancient Sri Lanka]


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