King of Ceylon (101-77 B.C.) He was the son of Kākavannatissa (ruler of Mahāgāma) and of Vihāradevī, and was called Gāmani-Abhaya. The antenatal cravings of his mother showed that he would be a great warrior, and his father gathered at his court the most famous warriors of the land skilled in various ways. Chief among them were Nandhimitta, Sūranimila, Mahāsona, Gothaimbara, Theraputtābhaya, Bharana, Velusumana, Khañjadeva, Phussadeva and Labhiyavasabha. Abhaya early showed signs of an adventurous disposition, and resented the confined limits of his father's kingdom, bounded on the north by the Mahāvāluka-nadī, on the further bank of which lay the Sinhalese country ruled by the Damilas. Abhaya was constantly refused permission by his father to fight the Damilas and fled in anger to the hills, whence he sent his royal father a woman's garment, to indicate that he was no man. This earned for him the nickname of Duttha, which always stuck to him. At his father's death he had to fight with his brother Tissa (afterwards Saddhā-Tissa) for the possession of the throne. He was first defeated at Cūlanganiyapitthi, but later he was victorious, and the Sangha brought about a reconciliation between the brothers. When fully prepared, Dutthagāmani marched against the Damila king, Elāra. He rode his state elephant, Kandula, born on the same day as himself. He commenced operations at Mahlyangana, capturing fort after fort, manned by Elāra's followers, and fought his way down to Mahāvāluka-nadī, where he pitched his camp at Kandhāvārapitthi, near Vijitapura, where were concentrated the Damilas. After a siege of four months Vijitapura fell, and Dutthagāmani advanced through Girilaka and Mahelanagara to Kāsapabbata near Anurādhapura, the capital. (Mhv.xxv.75. It is said that in the course of his journey from Mahāgāma to Anurādhapura he captured thirty-two fortresses manned by the Damilas). There he waited for the onset of Elāra and, in the battle that ensued, Elāra was defeated and fled towards the capital, but he was pursued by Dutthagāmani and slain by him in single combat close to the southern gate of the city. Elāra's body was burnt with royal honours, and Dutthagāmani built a tomb over the ashes and decreed that no music should be played by people passing it, a decree that was for long honoured. This act of chivalry, so much in contrast with the usual conduct of victors, earned for Dutthagāmani great honour. Later, he defeated reinforcements from India under Bhalluka, nephew of Elāra, and thus became sole monarch of Lanka.
On the seventh day after his final victory, he celebrated a water festival at the Tissavāpi and, at its conclusion, built the Maricavatthi-thūpa (q.v.) on the spot where his spear, containing the relic of the Buddha, given by the monks at Tissamahārāma, remained firmly embedded, no one being able to remove it. From now onwards, consoled by the arahants of Piyangudīpa, who absolved him from blame for the slaughter of his enemies, he began his great works of piety, after having distributed largesse to his generals and soldiers. He first built the Lohapāsāda (q.v.) of nine stories, resembling the palace of Bīranī, the plan of which was brought to him from Tusita by arahants. He then began his greatest achievement, the Mahā Thūpa, erected on a site visited by the Buddha during his third visit to Ceylon. The devas, led by Sakka, provided the necessary materials, discovered in various parts of the island, and he began work immediately, on the full-moon day of Vesākha. Great celebrations marked the inauguration of the mighty task, plans of various builders were inspected before the final choice and no free work was allowed to be done. After the relics, obtained by the arahant Sonuttara from the Nāga-world, had been enshrined in unparalleled splendour and with great feasting, but before the chatta of the cetiya and the plaster work could be finished, Dutthagāmani fell ill. Saddhā-Tissa was summoned from Dīghavāpi, and he covered the cetiya with white cloth and crowned it with a spire of bamboo, that the king, before his death, might visualize his great work in its complete form. Theraputtābhaya, a former general, now become an arahant, and living in the Pañjalipabbata, was at the king's side at the time of his death and consoled him with reminders of the great merit he had accumulated during his life. A record of the king's good deeds was read by his secretary, from which it would appear that the king had erected ninety-nine other vihāras, besides the buildings already mentioned. He had once tried to preach in the Lohapāsada, but was so overcome by nervousness that, realizing how difficult was the task of the preacher, he ordered special benefactions for those who preached the Doctrine. Two gifts made by him are recorded as of very special merit - one was the sale of his special earrings to procure food for five theras during the Akkhakkhāyika famine, the other was his gift of food during his flight from Cūlanganiya-pitthi (For details see Mhv.xxxii.49ff; also AA.i.365f). He was starving, and his minister Tissa procured a meal for him, but as he never ate without offering some of the food to the monks, he wished for a monk to appear before him. When a thera did so appear, he gave him all he had. He was told later, on his death bed, by Theraputtābhaya, that this food was divided among many thousands of arahants so that the merits of the donor might increase manifold.
It is said that after death Dutthagāmani was born in the Tusita-world, there to await the appearance of Metteyya Buddha. He will then become the chief disciple of that Buddha, and his parents will be the parents of Metteyya. Before his birth, as the son of Kākavannatissa, he was a sāmanera of Kotapabbata-vihāra. He fell ill through his hard work on behalf of the Sangha at the Akāsa-cetiya near Cittalapabbata, and as he lay dying in the Sīlāpassaya-parivena, Vihāradevī visited him at the suggestion of an arahant thera, and after much difficulty persuaded him to be reborn in this world as her son. (These particulars relating to Dutthagāmanī are summarised from Mhv. chaps.xxii.-xxxii; Dpv.xviii.53; xix.1ff; Sp.i.102).
Dutthagāmanī is regarded as the hero of the Mahāvamsa epic. His son was Sāliya, who, however, did not succeed him, preferring to marry a candāla maiden, Asokamālā. Dutthagāmanī's successor, therefore, was Saddhātissa.
The Dhammapada Commentary (DhA.iv.50) mentions a minister of Dutthagāmani called Lakuntaka-atimbara, whose wife was Sumanā.
Dutthagāmanī lived to the age of sixty-eight (Mhv.xxiv.47).
Once, after his conquest of the Damilas, he was unable to sleep for a whole month, then, at the suggestion of the monks, he took the fast of the eight vows and eight monks chanted to him the Cittayamaka. He fell asleep during the chanting.