Why did Emperor Asoka send Ganges water to Sri Lanka?

river map_srilanka

Rivers are called Ganga in Sri Lanka

Research paper written by London Swaminathan
Post No.1292; Dated 16th Sept. 2014.

This is my fifth research article in the Mahavamsa series.
River Ganges has been considered holy water from time immemorial. Sangam Tamil literature which is at least two thousand years old praised River Ganges in several verses.One of the second century kings Seran Senguttuvan came twice to Himalayas and the River Ganges for consecrating two statues. But we have earlier proof from Mahavamsa to indicate Emperor Asoka sent Ganga Jal (water of River Ganges) to his dearest friend in Sri Lanka.

Asoka and Devanapiya tissa – both had the title “Friend of the God (Devanam Priya)”. Both of them spread Buddhist doctrine. Both of them exchanged gifts. Mahavamsa says that Candala Asoka changed into Dharma Asoka. The same book reported that Asoka killed all his 99 brothers to become the king.


When Devanampiya Tissa took over as the king of Sri Lanka several miracles happened. Gems came out on its own from the bottom of the earth. People reported such miracles from every part of the country and gave them to the king. Immediately he thought of presenting them to Emperor Asoka in India, who he never met. At one stage he sent his chief minister and Royal chaplain with more people with gifts to see Mauryan Emperor Asoka. He carefully selected the following gifts:
Three rarest gems
Eight types of pearls
Three jewelled bamboo stems
Right whorl conch

askokar, by thiru arul grand father, fb
Picture of Emperor Asoka

When Asoka received them he was wonderstruck with the gems of Si Lanka. He commented that he had never had anything like that in his life. Immediately he selected some articles to be sent to Devanampiya Tissa. One of them was Ganges water and another was water from a holy lake. He also sent him Dakshinaavarta shank ( auspicious conch shell). This type of shell is found in all the major Hindu temples of India where it is used for worship and bathing of the gods.

Following is the full list of gifs sent to his counterpart in Sri Lanka 2300 years ago:
Fan, Diadem, White Umbrella, Sword, Turban, Ear Rings, Sandals and Pitcher (all necessary of crowning or consecration as a king).

Stamp on Mahawali Ganga Project

Water from Holy Ganges and Anottara Lake
Right whorl Conch
Red sand
Oil brought by the Nagas
Golden pots
Costly clothes
Clothes that don’t require cleansing (ever new)
High quality herbs
A good mattress
A beautiful girl for his care
Sandal wood
6000 Wagon loads of Mountain rice brought by parrots
Two of the above items, Ganges water and right whorl conch (Dakshinavarta Shank), are used in Hindu temples and homes even today.

Jaipur Maharaja took Ganga Jal in six huge silver pots to England

When the minister and Royal chaplain brought them to Sri Lanka from Pataliputra they were given a big welcome.
—-Source: Chapter 11 of Mahavamsa

Mahawali Ganga and Madu Ganga

In Sri Lanka Ganga means river. They are named after the great Ganga of India. Mahawali Ganga, Madu Ganaga and Kelani Ganga are few of the names of the rivers. Probably when Hindus migrated to Sri Lanka they named all rivers as Ganga. There is a tradition among Hindus to invoke the holy Ganga River into all the water sources they use. On the day of Deepavai, wherever one takes bath that water source is considered Ganga. But there are several South Indian temples regularly receive tons of Ganges water every year from the North. The water is used for the bathing of the Gods’ statues.

ganga jal
Ganga Jal sale at Rishikesh

Read my earlier posts on the holy River Ganga
1.Gold under River Ganges (Posted 0n 7th April 2014)
2.Change Indus Valley Civilization to Ganges Civilization ( March 28, 2014)
3.Khandava Vana=Gond wana, River Congo = Ganga (March 17, 2014)
4.Ganga Jal for a Donkey ( March 13, 2014)
5.G for …………..Ganga………………Gayatri……………..Gita (7-5-2013)
6.Ganges Water is in the News Again (4-6-2012)
7.Holy River Ganges in Kalidasa and Sangam tamil Literature (20-2-2012)
8.Great Engineers of Ancient India (12-10-2011)
9.A to Z of Bhagavad Gita (13-11-2011)

Hindu Runners !

Ancient Hindu kings gave much importance to holy rivers and seas. They believed that immersing themselves in holy rivers or ponds or seas would wash away their sins. They visited them on auspicious days and bathed there with their family members. We have lots of references to such holy dips in Tamil and Sanskrit literature. Tamil kings visited the Himalayas and on their way they bathed in the holy Ganges. Seran Senguttuvan did this twice two thousand years ago. He brought a stone from the Himalayas and baythedit in the Ganga water and sculpted a statue for a chaste woman called Kannaki.

On special occasions like Coronation of a king or consecration ceremony of a temple or  a Pattabishekam of a head of a Mutt they brought holy river waters from different parts of the country. Some people have even boasted of getting waters from 108 holy rivers and four seas for such ceremonies. The great Gupata king Samudra Gupta boasts that his rule extended to both the seas. It was true he had access to the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. But Tamils kings are more specific about bathing. They said in the copper plates that they bathed in the waters of four seas on a single day. How is it possible?

Mayan Runners

Mayans in the Central America did not know the wheels. They had no carts. (They used wheels only in Children’s toys). So they used fast runners for different purposes for sending messages or medicines etc. They have even shown such runners in their paintings. They ran very fast like the Marathon runners.

A Cheran king  Palyanai Selkezu Kuttuvan, who ruled Kerala 2000 years ago,  made elephants to stand in a row to bring waters from the three seas, says Sangam Tamil book Pathtru Pathu.  Another king Veerapandiya Kattabomman who lived just 250 years ago built Bell Towers to ring the bell as soon as the main Arti was done in his favourite Skanda Temple at Tiruchendur. When the temple bell rang for the morning Deepa Aradhana (Arti), the bells in the towers rang in succession. They were located at a distance of a furlong or so. Even today we can see the remnants of those towers. He was so devoted to God.

How did they do it?

Dalawaipuram Copper plates  of Paranthaka Veera Narayanan of ninth century CE say that the Pandya king bathed in the waters of Four Seas on the same day. Many other Tamil kings also said the same thing. Gauthami Putra Sathkarni’s rule extended to the three seas.

A Marathon runner can run 13 miles per hour. So if the Pandya king hired relay runners each one can run 13 miles easily and pass the message or the product to another person. If he used horse riders each rider could have covered approximately 25 miles per hour. The holy waters from different seas would have reached his capital city Madurai  in four to six hours. The three great kings of Tamil Nadu Chera, Choza, Pandya had their respective capitals in Vanji (Karur), Uraiyur and Madurai. All these cities are within 150 miles from the three seas (Bay of Bengal , Arabian sea and Indian ocean). More over in Kanyakumari, India’s southern most town, all the three seas meet and people thronged this place for holy dips from time immemorial.

In Kanyakumari  district there are 12 important Shiva temples. On Shivratri day every year, thousands of devoted Hindus run 50 miles and cover all the temples at one go. They were given all facilities all along the route. They chant Govinda while running. This strengthens the unity between the followers of Shiva and Vishnu. There is a story behind this ritual linking Mahabharata and Purusha Mrugam.

Even today, Hindus bring Ganges waters in pots and use it on special religious occasions. Several temples in Tamil Nadu receive Ganges water in trucks on regular basis. Hindus believe that they have to visit Varanasi at least once in a life time and bring the holy Ganges water to Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu and bathe the Shivaling with it. Such beliefs give not only mental satisfaction, but also generate a good income to tourist industry.




Hindu Wisdom: Copper kills bacteria!

Hindu saints have been using copper vessels for thousands of years. They keep water in it for drinking purposes. When Aluminium vessels became cheaper and copper turned expensive people slowly moved away from copper. But Western countries are going back to copper. Hindus keep Ganga Jal (holy water from Ganges) for years in copper pots. They never go stale.

Read the latest news from British News Papers:

An Irish hospital is the first in the world to embrace the latest science by specifying hygienic copper door handles throughout in a bid to reduce healthcare associated infections such as MRSA, providing the best possible solid protection to its patients.

St Francis Private Hospital, a 140-bed facility located in Mullingar, County Westmeath, and its associated nursing home, St Clair’s, made the decision after examining the compelling evidence from the clinical trial at Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham, which showed that copper surfaces such as taps, toilet seats and door push plates can reduce microbial contamination by 90-100%.

A hospital in Birmingham, Britain tried copper fittings and pens against MRSA (Medicine Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus). This bacterium Staphylococcus aureus can’t be killed by antibiotics.

About 80 percent of MRSA transmission comes through surface contacts so an 18 month trial found that replacing stainless steel fittings with copper can greatly cut infection. The clinical trial was conducted at Selly Oak hospital in Birmingham. Key surfaces such as door handles, push-plates, bath taps, toilet flush handles and grab rails were changed to copper. Even the pens used by the staff were of copper alloy.

MRASA lives for days on stainless steel but dies within 90 minutes on copper, tests at Southampton University found. Copper can also tackle the resistant bug Clostridium difficile and could even act as a defence against bird flu.

In Britain, 30 000 patients pick up infections in hospitals each year. At least 5000 are likely to die the cost to the NHS is estimated at £ 1 billion a year (Source : Metro News paper, London).