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PRIMA Volume 3, Issue 1
Actors in Old Buddhist Chronicles: The
sociologists find their theories on human interaction constrained by two
important forces. One of
these forces emerges from structure: that is, humans engage in some form
of calculated, ritual, habitual or recursive interaction because
structures in which they are embedded provide few alternatives. Second,
these actors are able to imbue their interactions with meaning that is
obtained from their own biography or social context. Because there is this
two-sidedness to the activity of humans as agents, that is structure and
biography, one must assume that social structures have a certain
rationality (perhaps agents acting rationally in roles), since interaction
would not be repeated if such conscious understanding is not understood in
some mediated form. Such
structuration is also true of ethnic animosity.
Often ethnic animosity is characterized as emerging from irrational impulses. Social scientists, however, find that it is important to consider such animosity in a different way. If one assumes that ‘ethnic loyalty’, ‘ethnic ideology’, or ‘ethnic interaction patterns’ arise out of irrational sources then one cannot explain these in theoretical language since such language is both abstract in its statements and linear in its logic, (even when using curvilinear models). This assumption leads to the eventual conclusion that ethnic animosity must be treated as a residual element.
discussion takes a different view, that ethnic loyalties and animosities
can be considered to be rational. This
would mean that they could be treated as conceptual building blocks in a
theory at the individual or the collective level; in this case,
collective. Because I consider the conflict between Dutthagaamani and
Ellaalan, as recorded in the monastic chronicles, to have rational bases,
I treat the conflict as a form of strategic interaction. Just as some have
been able to treat interactions among biblical characters as acting
1980) one can treat these
historical humans of early Sri Lankan history as having rational thought,
capable of calculation, strategy and goal achievement.
The Buddhist chronicles sometimes portray the characters,
especially Dutthagamani as being emotionally disruptive and therefore not
amenable to moral persuasion. Part of the motivation here seems to be to
suggest that Dutthagamani was in fact more than human, perhaps a god
reborn and therefore beyond human conceptualization.
It is not possible, however, for a social scientist to grant this. Even a god born as human must be able to think in human terms if historical actions are to bear the fruit of ethnic identification, loyalty and conflict against other ethnic groups, as in the Dutthagamani narrative summarized below. This is partly because other members of the group are human, other ethnic groups one attacks are also human and subject to strategic thinking in making war, and thus loyalty and animosity are both two sides of the same coin minted in human thought. It is not only appropriate but also possible to consider the conflict between Dutthagaamani and Ellaalan as a form of strategic interaction. Such interaction can be modeled in simple and straightforward game theoretic form.
battle between Dutthagamani and Ellalan is well known to those who have
studied Sri Lankan history. It
is significant because Dutthagamani has been used as an archetypal hero in
the modern political arena, and the conflict has been metaphorically
invoked to represent Sinhala-Tamil relations in the modern period (Vijayavardhana
1953; Wriggins1960; Dhammavihari 2000). The legend may be thought to
constitute an ethnic mythomoteur in Sinhala culture.
was a Tamil monarch who ruled the central part of ancient Sri Lanka called
Rajarata. In the Sinhala
monastic chronicle - the Mahavamsa - he is described as a just king, who
was fair to his officials and to his subjects (Guruge 1989).
Dutthagamani was a prince in the lesser kingdom of Rohana (Ruhunu)
located south of Rajarata.
his childhood Dutthagamani was troubled by the dominance of the Tamils,
and on occasion quarreled with his father, Tissa, the king of Rohana, for
the latter's passive acceptance of the status quo.
According to the chronicles, at one point he quarrels with his
father and curls up in his bed saying that with the Tamils to the north
and the ocean to the south there is no room for him to stretch himself.[ii]
At another point he insults his father for his acquiescence to/with
Ellalan's hegemony by sending him a gift of women's ornaments.[iii]
his father's death Dutthagamani sees an opportunity to attack the Rajarata
kingdom and topple the aging Tamil warrior from his throne.
Refusing to accept obstacles to this goal and supported by the
religious elites he marches against the Tamils.[iv]
With strategic brilliance he overcomes many odds to finally meet
Ellalan on the battlefield.[v]
In face-to-face combat on war elephants,[vi]
he emerges victorious and unites the whole island under the Buddhist
throne or, as the chronicles describe it, ‘brings Lanka under one
parasol’. The Buddhist Sangha (i.e. church) is given pride of place in his reign and this
organization in turn extols the actions of Dutthagamani, and even explains
to him why he need not feel guilty of taking the lives of unbelievers when
he was acting in the interests of Buddhism.
Sinhala vamsa chronicles and other literary sources of different
historical periods between the fourth century and the twenty first century
of the current era repeat this narrative.
One motive in these monastic interpretations is to provide a model
for the medieval monarchs and the present political leaders of Sri Lanka.
One might question how Buddhism a religion so doctrinally emphatic
about non-violence could raise a violent Dutthagamani to the status of a
this context it is important to remember that the goal of monastic scribes
was not simply to report historical events but to present the meaning of
kingly actions in the light of religious interpretations.
The primary motive was to protect the sources of Buddhist religion
in the country -- that is, the doctrine, the monastic community, the
relics, the lay believers, and the material bases of these groups -- from
rival powers such as the South Indian Tamils who were geographical
neighbors and religious rivals. As
Gordon Allport (1954) theorized about prejudice, it is easy to understand
why the chronicles written at times of threat are more invidious in their
comments on the Tamil "other" in their description of the
Dutthagamani episode, than those written at times when the threat was less
intense. At times of high
enmity they were fundamentally prejudiced discriminators.
this material in the chronicles in a different way, as I do here, one can
take account of the strategic options available to Dutthagamani and
Ellalan in the context of the animosity that prevailed at that time.
The essence of these options is invariant in the various
descriptions of the event in different chronicles that follow the
embellishments of this legend, the motivation to treat the Sangha as a
supporter of Dutthagamani, and to describe the Sinhalese and Tamils as
essentialized antagonists constitute a constant theme in the later records
as well. By considering these options one can bring in a game-theoretic
view of the encounter.
Analyses: Motives in a Text
with a Motive
studying various texts and comparing them in relation to the context in
which they were written many scholars of religion, philology and history
of religions interpret not the rational event but the rationality of the
writing itself. By
considering a number of reports, in addition to the Dutthagamani-Ellalan
episode, a scholar can get a good sense of both the motives of the scribes
and the manner in which the motives infuse the contemporary interpretation
of the political events by the scribes, events such as the succession
struggles, conduct of rule, ethnic encounters, and other monarchical
actions. In the case of the
chroniclers of Sinhala history, there was an underlying motive to create a
sense of cohesion among the Buddhists in the island and to link this
sensibility to the political center.
In the opinion of some scholars these early writings can be
interpreted as being nationalist.
In these scribal descriptions the writer, or oral reciter, has usually embellished and accentuated some details and underplayed or even ignored other details of an actual event. Further, the embellished and accentuated account began to function as a source for another re-telling of the tale, as in campaign speeches of current political candidates, or the writings of Sinhala-Buddhist ideologues. In this way the notion of nation is developed through narration.
But the content of the text is not pure fantasy or floating rhetoric in the Buddhist monastic chronicles. It has to be assumed that the text is historically rooted in certain events. One may, through critical understanding of the texts and contexts, unravel some or much of the packaging of the tale. For example, one may search for and find corroborating evidence in epigraphic sources or other Buddhist texts in Sri Lanka or other Asian countries. But even if one comes, through such undressing, to the conclusion that the emperor is naked, that is that most of the story is scribal hot air, one has to face the "fact" that there was an emperor. In the game-theoretic interpretation here, we have to assume that there was indeed an emperor, in fact two contending ones.
Rationality of the Actors
The strategies developed for the game-theoretic rendering arise out of this kind of "sympathetic understanding" of the text, context, and content in the chronicles. The game theorist considers a different kind of rationality from that considered by the literary student of the texts. The latter is concerned with the rationality of the writer(s) of the chronicles while the game-theorist is interested in the rationality of the characters and their actions as reported by the writer(s) because the writers have to assume that the characters were acting rationally in the event. The importance of the tale for the modern individual directly or indirectly engaged in the ethnic conflict, in its violence and in other ways, is in fact contingent on this perception of the authenticity of the actors.
example, consider the following issue.
After a victory in the conflict with his brother also named Tissa,
Dutthagamani goes to the Sangha (apparently with a Buddhist relic in his royal standard and
tells this ecclesiastical body that he plans to cross the river and spread
the faith in Rajarata. "Give us bhikkhus who will go with us, for the
sight of bhikkhus will be a blessing, as well as a protection for
us". According to the
chronicles, Dutthagamani marches into the battlefield with members of the
Buddhist clergy. Now this is
fundamentally contradictory to the teachings of the Buddha.
First, he is said to commit what amounts to a sacrilegious act by
putting a sacred Buddhist relic in his royal standard while taking it to
war. While the chronicles
report it they fail to admonish him through the editorial voice or that of
any characters. Second, the Sangha gives him five hundred recluses (perhaps initiates) who
accompany him as an act of penance for their poor peacemaking in the
previous war between the two brothers (Mahavamsa 1989: 895, note 5).
Students of Asian religions and other scholars have been interested
in discussing the motives of the chroniclers with regard to this.
Their question is ‘Why does the Sangha
contravene its own rules and support these actions?’
For the literary critic the answer emerges in terms of the
engagement between chronicler and his envisaged audience.
For the modern nationalist such a question is less relevant than
the support that Dutthagamani received from the Sangha
and his subsequent heroic acts. For
the game-theorist the answer comes from a different vantage.
taking account of the strategies of the characters and then placing them
in terms of preferences in an interactive context the game-theorist
attempts to explain the strategic interaction involved.
It is clear that Dutthagamani would like to legitimize his
war-effort in religious terms. He
could not therefore ignore the Sangha;
and he would certainly welcome its support.
But the Sangha does not
have to support Dutthagamani, and there are a few reasons why it would not
be rational to do so. First,
it does not know that he is going to win the battle.
Second, knowing his attitude towards those in authority he may turn
on the Sangha even if he wins.
If its sole concern is influence over righteous rulers, it might be
better to support the brother Tissa than Dutthagamani, because the former
was more malleable. Third, given its own doctrines the Sangha should turn away from issues with regard to violence.
It is likely that the Sangha was itself divided on this issue of supporting even righteous
violence. Fourth, if
Dutthagamani lost then Ellalan would look on Buddhist monks and the Sangha
with disfavor, that is, things could get worse for the Sangha.
These issues are not considered explicitly in the chronicle, but
one can suggest that there is good reason why the Sangha
acting rationally would debate the issue of supporting Dutthagamani in his
war making. In such a debate,
these questions would surely be raised.
the intrusion of this question in the exchange between Dutthagamani and
the Sangha, the strategic
rationality of both Dutthagamani and the Sangha can provide an answer if we take on a game-theoretic
perspective. Let us therefore
turn to a game.
Dutthagamani's options in this encounter with the Sangha are (a) to attack Rajarata or (b) to stay in Rohana. Considering his interests Dutthagamani, has a dominant strategy of attacking Rajarata. But he would like this effort to be legitimated by the Buddhist Sangha. If the argument above is followed, the Sangha has two options, that of (a) opposing violence under any circumstance, or (b) supporting righteous violence. ( because one can assume that it will categorically refuse to support violence that is not considered righteous). Let us call these two strategic options "oppose and "support".
Each of these actors, Dutthagamani and the Sangha, has to consider the options of the other actor. In doing so, each would weigh the outcomes for themselves that result from the interactions of those options. As Elster argues, the reward of each depends on the choice of all. Dutthagamani has to consider the possibility that if he went to war he may not get the support of the Sangha and would have to fight a war unapproved by influential political legitimators. This could prove costly. On the other hand, the Sangha may support his attack on Rajarata. In contrast, he has to consider his losses or gains if he does not go to war after saying that he plans to do so. If the Sangha had opposed war he would be seen as a truly obedient believer, but if it had supported righteous violence, he would appear to be quite cowardly. Similar deliberations can be deduced for the Sangha. The rational thinking behind the encounter between Dutthagamani and the Sangha can be described in the form of a decision-tree. The tree depicts the thinking in sequential form, assuming the prince acts first.
Let us label these four outcomes for each actor using B as the best outcome and W as the worst. The outcomes that are between B and W are labeled S for second and T for third. Such labels are purely ordinal. Thus each player has four outcomes: B, S, T, W, in order of preference from left to right.
best outcome for Dutthagamani would be when he could choose to obey the Sangha
and the latter also supports his attack on Rajarata.
Because he is committed to war his second best choice is to disobey
the Sangha if they oppose his
dedication to go to war. He
may sense that with time he could persuade the Sangha
to support the cause provided he first gained political victories in the
battlefield. Victory in
battle would also enable him to make grants and donations to the well
being of the Sangha, and
offending them now through disobedience may be resolved later through such
kingly activities of gifts. Dutthagamani's
worst outcome would be if he disobeyed the Sangha
when it supported righteous violence.
That is, if for some reason he changed his interest in conducting a
war after persuading the Sangha
that he was committed to it. In
doing this he would surely threaten his standing as ruler and as warrior.
The second-worst preference would be if he obeyed the Sangha
against his own strong feelings and decided not go to war.
These preferences can also be labeled as follows:
Dutthagamani is supported by the Sangha
and goes to war (B)
Dutthagamani defies the Sangha's
opposition to war (S)
Dutthagamani obeys Sangha
and decides not go to war (T)
Dutthagamani decides not to go to war despite Sangha
support for it (W).
best preference for the Sangha is to oppose violence and then find that Dutthagamani
dutifully obeys this moral position.
But since some violence can be argued to be righteous the second
best position of these religious legitimators is to find Dutthagamani
obeying their view that he ought to go to war against the Tamil monarch.
Since the support for violence could entail some costs in terms of
doctrinal interpretation and moral authority, this being the first time in
Sinhala history that such a position would be taken, such support would
not be the best position to take.
The difficulty of this stand would be mitigated by cooperation from
Obviously, the Sangha's
worst position would be when Dutthagamani disobeys opposition to violence
and goes to war.
There is also, however, an ambiguous situation when the Sangha
supports righteous violence but finds that Dutthagamani's talk of going to
war is nothing more than talk.
In this situation, the priesthood is in a politically and morally
better position than the ruler.
We could give labels to these preferences as follows:
Sangha opposes violence
and Dutthagamani obeys (B)
Sangha supports violence
and Dutthagamani obeys (S)
Sangha supports violence
and Dutthagamani disobeys (T)
Sangha opposes violence
and Dutthagamani disobeys (W)
It is possible now to place these ordinal preferences of each actor in a game matrix which is different from the decision tree, but produces the same results. The Sangha is the column player and has two options "support" or "oppose" as indicated in the figure. Similarly, Dutthagamani has two options also. The outcomes, which are the results of the interactions of the options the players have, are found in each cell of the matrix. By convention, the first letter represents the outcome for the row player and the letter after the comma represents the outcome for the column player. For example, the top right cell has the outcomes B, S in it. This implies that Dutthagamani, the row player, will have his best outcome (B) in this cell if the players follow the related options. Similarly, for the same options the Sangha, the column player, will get an outcome of (S). The particular options in this context are "attack" for Dutthagamani and "support" for the Sangha. For the four different intersections between these options one finds four combined outcomes.
important property of the above matrix is that Dutthagamani's two best
outcomes ( B & S) come from following his attack strategy.
This is not always the case with players in a game interaction.
But in this case it is so, and it means that Dutthagamani has a strictly
dominant strategy, that is no matter what the column player does
his attack strategy is going to bring him his best (B) or his second-best
(S) return. Now, this
does not mean that the matrix can magically predict victory for
Dutthagamani. What it does
say is that in the interaction with the Sangha,
[not with Ellalan], he will find the attack strategy rewarding in his
relations with the Sangha,
whatever the latter chooses to do, provided the Sangha's
preferences are as we have argued above.
Sangha, the matrix reveals to
us, does not have a dominant strategy.
If it opposes Dutthagamani and he decides not to go to war, then
the Sangha will have its best
outcome. But if it supports
righteous violence and Dutthagamani goes to war it receives its
second-best outcome. Since players in the game have information about the
options and preference orders of other players, and there is no doubt that
this would be the case in a small polity such as Rohana in Southern Sri
Lanka, the Sangha, in its perceptive analysis of the prince, knows that
Dutthagamani will rationally choose to go to war regardless of its own
choice. He has all along
signaled this as his best preference.
If it chooses to oppose him however, it receives its worst result. The argument for this has already been made.
Since it wants to avoid its worst result the Sangha
will choose to support the war effort.
Both parties will find the outcomes in the upper left cell more
rewarding than any other.
game will end in the upper left cell if the players were rational and not
deceiving each other. The equilibrium position for the players is also in
that cell. There is no reason
why either of the players would want to switch strategies since they would
get worse outcomes if they do so. And
of course, there is no guarantee in a game that rational players will get
their best outcomes at the point of equilibrium.
The Sangha is therefore
likely to support Dutthagamani's dominant strategy of "attack",
be content with a second-best outcome, and construct the doctrinal bases
for a just war. In this way
the game-theoretic analysis contributes to the understanding of the event
by considering the rationality of the actors involved.
that we have considered the internal game within Rohana between two
important actors, it is possible to turn to a second game, the main ethnic
event in the legend. In doing
so we must first concern ourselves with the strategic options of each
player and the outcomes they expect when these options cross each other.
options for each player
us consider the strategic options available to Dutthagamani. He
could take the same position as his father and cooperate with Tamil
domination and rule in Rohana. This
is a rational position to take. According
to the chronicles it appears that threats to his rule would be more
probable from his own brother Tissa, and ambitious chieftains, than from
Ellalan who was far more interested in maintaining the existing
arrangements. According to
the chronicle Ellalan had ruled for forty four years before his death in
battle (Mahavamsa ibid.:607). As a result given the life-expectancy
of the time Ellalan could not be expected to live long.
Therefore Dutthagamani can expect that Ellalan's kingdom will pass
to heirs who would then have to rebuild loyalties and perhaps test their
mettle in the battlefield. Dutthagamani could, therefore, await his chances.
Cooperation with Ellalan was an attractive strategic option.
Dutthagamani could choose to try to conquer the Rajarata kingdom, though
such an attempt would not be an easy task.
Ellalan had a loyal following among both Sinhalese and Tamil
chieftains and petty rulers. These warriors could be expected to oppose Dutthagamani with
great force, particularly because the latter's victory would surely
threaten their own positions of power.
Between Ellalan and Dutthagamani the former seemed more disposed to
let smaller rulers manage their own affairs.
In fact, according to the chronicles even Dutthagamani's
stepbrother may have gone over to Ellalan's side probably because of
attractive incentives of this type.
on evidence in the chronicles, one could say that Dutthagamani already had
a reputation of being quarrelsome and ambitious.
His filial disrespect for his father, consistent with these traits,
earned him the prefix Duttha to his name, a prefix that has been
translated as "enraged one" or "wicked one". These
qualities suggest that he would be expected to want more central control
over petty rulers, not something that the latter would like very much.
us now turn to the options available to Ellalan.
It is reasonable to assume that Ellalan would have had enough
military intelligence about Dutthagamani's ambitious and aggressive
behavior in Rohana. His
skirmishes with his brother, which were pacified by the Sangha, or the arguments with his father were not unknown.
Knowing these matters and Dutthagamani's ambitions, it is very
probable that Ellalan had posted sentries all along the riverbanks
bordering the two kingdoms, sentries whose efforts were supplemented by
the information brought in by other loyalists to the court.
He also had a buffer zone of petty rulerships between Rohana and
the capital of Rajarata.
would therefore have to consider (a) whether to carry out an immediate
offensive strike, whenever Dutthagamani's movements intruded in Rajarata
territory, or (b) wait and respond when he was personally threatened.
The chronicle also implies that Ellalan had a third option (c)
retreat to South India, because he has Chola kinship links. This was a
gambit encountered in the annals of other monarchs -Sinhala and Tamil - in
the medieval period. Retreat
to South India would imply that Ellalan could return with a strong force
and attempt a re-conquest.
Ellalan's point of view what were the merits and demerits to each of these
options? Carrying out an early
strike would have been risky. If Dutthagamani returned to Rohana the
ensuing chase would mean that Ellalan's forces would have to cross the
river, scour the highlands and the coast of the Rohana region to ensure a
solid defeat. It is probable
that this option had earlier proved to have sufficient costs for the
establishment of peace. The strike option would have disturbed the balance
of power between Rajarata and Rohana.
Further, attacking Dutthagamani's stronghold in this way may also
have cost Ellalan the loyalties of Buddhist and non-Buddhist rulers who
were in his own camp.
retreat option was a feasible alternative.
Ellalan could anticipate that Dutthagamani would not have a stable
rule. If Rohana itself seemed
too topsy-turvy, how would Dutthagamani manage more chiefs and petty
rulers, not to mention an ambitious brother, in a larger kingdom?
Therefore returning from India with a replenished force would be
viable strategy. Yet, this
option was also fraught with risks. Dutthagamani could use his new wealth to appease his brother
and other nobles. Once in
control at the Rajarata center he might prove to be extremely difficult to
Playing the waiting game would transfer some important costs to Dutthagamani. His troops would be in unfamiliar Rajarata territory, and they would need to find provisions and logistic support in this area or have a long and constantly threatened supply chain. Waiting would also allow Ellalan the choice when and where to engage in battle. Among these three options, one might conclude that Ellalan would prefer waiting. The chronicles point out that Ellalan did play the waiting game. For many months Dutthagamani made slow but steady progress towards Ellalan's seat of power, that is the Rajarata capital called Anuradhapura. As Dutthagamani waged battle after battle with petty kings and chiefs and emerged victorious after each encounter, Ellalan remained in the capital. It is only when Dutthagamani finally pitched camp near Anuradhapura that Ellalan consulted his ministers and decided to give battle the next day (Mahavamsa ibid.: 632).
that king Dutthagamani had come to war, Elara, the lord of the earth,
assembled his ministers and told them, 'This king is himself a warrior. He
also has many warriors, what do my ministers think? What should be really
done?` The warriors of Elara, starting with Dighajantu, resolved, 'we will
give battle tomorrow.
let us remember, that as in the Sangha game above, a game-theoretic approach assumes that the
players are aware of each other's options. This is not a difficult
assumption in this instance. Second,
in putting their strategies into action each player would be expected to
consider the outcomes of the interaction of his own strategies with those
of the opponent.
1. Dutthagamani has two strategic options.
He can (a) stay in Rohana and accept the Ellalan hegemony or (b)
carry the battle into Rajarata.
2. Ellalan's three strategies are similar to the above.
He can (a) stay in Rajarata and play the waiting game or (b) carry
out an attack against Dutthagamani and assert his hegemonic position. He
can also (c) retreat to South India and hope to return.
Each of these actors has to consider the options of the other and
therefore weigh the outcomes that result from the interaction of those
options with their own.
3. Dutthagamani has to consider the consequences of his actions if
he accepted the status quo and stayed in Rohana, and Ellalan (a)
did not attack but stayed in Rajarata, (b) carried out an early offensive
strike (c) retreated. Similarly
he has to consider the outcome if he attacked Ellalan and found that (d)
the latter had already begun an offensive strike against the Rohana army, (e) was waiting in Rajarata, (f) had retreated to South
India. If we order each of
these six outcomes for Dutthagamani from 1 to 6, with 6 being the best
outcome and 1 being the worst, then we arrive at the following arguments
and preference order.
As we know from his behavior towards his father Dutthagamani would consider staying in Rohana among his lower preferences. Among these he would least prefer staying in Rohana and being attacked by Ellalan. Staying in Rohana when Ellalan did not attack would be the second worst option. This would be an acknowledgment of the Rajarata hegemony. But staying in Rohana when Ellalan leaves his kingdom for South India, an event of very low probability, would be the best outcome for Dutthagamani because he can then march into Anuradhapura.
Rajarata would be his preferred strategy.
He would most prefer attacking Rajarata and find Ellalan
retreating. But this seems
unlikely. It seems probable
that he would have to fight Ellalan.
But in doing so, would he prefer to attack Ellalan's territory when
the latter himself is playing the waiting game, or would he prefer to
encounter Ellalan's strike option? This
is not a difficult question to settle.
Dutthagamani had always wanted to be on the offensive against
Rajarata. The chronicles
point out that Dutthagamani wanted to set off into battle with his troops
as soon as he stabilized his position on the Rohana throne (ibid.:625).
Thus he would prefer to attack when Ellalan exercised his wait
option over the strike option. In
this way he could capture as much territory and plant his own loyalists
before meeting Ellalan. Accordingly
we can give these outcomes high ordinal positions.
4. Ellalan would also have a similar set of six preferences. It is likely that he would not want to retreat given either of Dutthagamani's options. The other two strategies therefore dominates this one. Given the arguments made previously, he would most prefer to wait and not go to war with Dutthagamani if the latter had selected to stay, since this would preserve his kingdom and hegemonic position for no effort. If the latter launched his troops into battle, he would prefer to conserve his forces, play the waiting game, and meet Dutthagamani on his (Ellalan's) own territory. If he decided to go on the offensive, his better outcome would come if Dutthagamani himself brought his troops on a campaign into Rajarata that is if the latter also followed his own attack option. Carrying out an attack in Rohana would be the least rewarding, even If Dutthagamani stayed in his kingdom. The reasons for this have been already discussed. These arguments suggest the following preference order for Ellalan.
that I have allocated numbers instead of letters of the alphabet, whereas
in the previous game I had used letters from the alphabet.
It seems better to do so because numbers would prove to be less
confusing. The numbers reflect ordinal positions of the outcomes for
each player, in this case Dutthagamani and Ellalan.
Such an ordering system does not imply an interval scale, so the
best option with number 6 does not mean that it carries six times
the value of the worst option 1.
account of these points we can now introduce the game into a normal matrix
form as given in Figure 3. There
are two actors, one of whom has three and the other has two strategic
options we have a two by three matrix.
Each of the six cells has two numbers, which represent the ordinal
preferences of each player. Again, as mentioned earlier, conventionally
the row player's outcomes are placed before the outcomes of the column
player's outcomes in each cell.
figure summarizes what we have already discussed above.
Retreat is Ellalan's worst strategy, since he can expect to receive
his two worst outcomes (5,2 & 6,1).
He will therefore not rationally exercise that option.
Dutthagamani will therefore have to forego his best two outcomes
since they coincide with Ellalan's worst returns.
This leaves us with four cells. Among these we note that
Dutthagamani has his worst outcomes if he acts on his "stay"
option. As a rational actor
he will not stay in Rohana. He
therefore will use his "attack" strategy.
Given this certainty, Ellalan has two choices to make, namely,
"strike early" or "wait".
As argued earlier waiting would appear to be more rewarding.
He will therefore exercise his wait option.
The equilibrium point for this encounter is in the top
middle cell of the above matrix. If
either player moves from this position, they will get or can receive worse
outcomes in relation to the other player.
information do we gain from game-analysis? The representation of the
conflict in game-matrix form gives us some information.
It tells us that once we know that Ellalan will not retreat,
Dutthagamani viewing his options in the light of information about
Ellalan's strategies (as well as his own) discovers he has a dominant
strategy. A dominant strategy
is one where the player will get more than or at least as much as what he
would get using any other strategy. In
this case Dutthagamani's attack strategy is strictly dominant
because he cannot expect better outcomes by changing his strategy to
also has a strictly dominant strategy: to wait whether Dutthagamani
mobilized or not. His best
outcome would occur if he stayed while Dutthagamani also stayed . His wait
strategy would still be strictly dominant because he would get better
outcomes than through a strike strategy.
all the information about Dutthagamani's options Ellalan knows that
Dutthagamani is going to use his dominant strategy.
If he decided to strike while Dutthagamani attacked he would then
receive his second-worst option. The
alternative is therefore to play the waiting game. This brings him his
second best outcome found in the upper left-hand cell.
Thus Dutthagamani gets his best outcome and Ellalan gets his second
best outcome by following the attack strategy.
This is a rather odd thing to envision because the historical
solution is tragic. Ellalan
meets his death by following this strategy.
He may not have gone into battle thinking that this would be the
result. But all warriors know
that death in battle is a real possibility and hence he may have chosen
between honorable and ignoble death.
As a warrior king, death on the battlefield would be an honorable
one. Indeed, he did make a
wise choice, because the victorious Dutthagamani honors his enemy
victorious in battle, he, with chariots, infantry and cavalry, brought
Lanka under one parasol and entered the city.
Announcing by the beat of the drum, in the city, he had the people
for a radius of a yojana assembled and paid homage to the king Elara.
At the place where the body fell, he had it cremated in a pyre.
He got a cetiya built there and ordered reverence.
that order of reverence, even today, the lords of Lanka, approaching that
area, silence their music.
The Advantage of Game Analysis
story of Dutthagamani, which is used today in the context of Sinhala-Tamil
animosity, contains events that are amenable to game-theoretic analysis.
Two of these events were considered here. Different versions of the
story in various chronicles have commonly contextualized Dutthagamani's
actions in terms of his religious loyalties.
We could not expect monastic scribes, who wrote the chronicles, to
do anything less than this. But
the argument that flows out of game-theoretic logic suggests that regardless
of ethnic or religious loyalties rational rulers would have gone to war
under the circumstances. It
appears that Dutthagamani's preference order was indeed influenced by his
religious beliefs, but it is also possible that, being politically astute,
he acted out his preferences as if he held these beliefs when he
did not truly do so, in order to mobilize support for his efforts.
The game theoretic analysis reveals some concord between two
preference orders, that of Dutthagamani and that of the Sangha,
but this occurrence might have different structural motivations.
Because of their different locations in the power structure each
sought a goal that would give them security. We could conclude that under
the circumstances even a non-Buddhist Dutthagamani would have gone to war.
Similarly his opponent the Tamil Hindu Ellalan would have played
the waiting game even if he were not a Tamil Hindu.
this is so, then in what way can this event be characterized as an ethnic
event? One of the important
findings of rational choice theories is that rational individual
encounters have effects on the collectivity.
Even though the kings in this battle are rational players taking
account of individual preferences, the consequences of the battle are
visited on more than the immediate actors.
The battle had an effect on the society of the time, and especially
on the Sangha.
As Heinz Bechert (1970) argued, the Sangha
itself was a rational political actor that was required to justify its
actions in terms of religious ideology. This justification led to later
valorizing of the battle with ethnic content and the interpretations of
this battle eventually came to influence Sri Lankan politics and ethnic
[i]. The chronicles and most
scholarly considerations of this event refer to Elallan as Elara.
The Tamil version of Elara is Ellaalan (pronounced Ellaalan).
I have chosen to use the Sinhala usage for Dutthagamani
(instead of the Tamilized version Tutthakamani) and the Tamil Ellalan
(instead of the Pali-Sinhala version Elara).
At a ceremony when they were ten and twelve years old, Dutthagamani
and his brother were asked to promise that they would not fight the
Tamils. Both brothers
refused to do so. Dutthagamani
goes to his bed and lies down in a curled position.
When the queen asks him why, he says that he cannot stretch
himself with the Tamils to the north and the ocean to the south. See
Mv 1989 22:78-86 p615-616.
When the king refuses permission for the warrior prince to fight the
Tamils, Dutthagamani states, " If my father were a man, he would
not speak like this. Therefore,
let him wear this" and sends the king a female ornament.
The king angered by this threatens to bind him up so as to
protect Dutthagamani from his own ambitions. Mv 1989 24:3-7 p625.
This series of events is preceded by a minor war with his brother
Tissa. Mv 1989 24:14-58.
Dutthagamani fights a series of battles before he finally meets
Ellalan. These are described in Mv 1989 25:7-51 p629-632.
Mv 1989 25:55-75.
© 2003 Davidson College
- Dean Rusk International Studies Program