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Parakrama Bahu the Great ( 1153-1186)
Great Sinhalese king of Sri Lanka from Polonnaruwa Dinasty
Parakramabahu the Great is considered as the greatest king of Lanka in terms of the massive military campaigns he launched locally to consolidate his power and abroad for prestige, for uniting the whole of Lanka under one chathra, for the stupendous religious edifices and unprecedentedly large irrigation works he constructed, for the advancement of agriculture and generally because of the overall prosperity associated with his reign.
Copyright 2006 Sunday Standard
Sunday December 24, 2006
Parakramabahu I

He united the whole island under his rule, and even invaded India and Burma. His name "Parakrama", is derived by the joining of the words "Para"(foreign) "Akrama"(Invader) which illustrates the significant feat of him invading India.

Parakrama was known for the rapid development of hydraulic infrastructure during his reign, builing large amounts of tanks, canals, and artificial lakes. His largest legacy was the Parakrama Samudra or "Sea of Parakrama", a vast lake adjoining his capital at Polonnaruwa.

His most famous quote was "Not one drop of water shall reach the sea without first serving man"

By Chandra Edirisuriya

The Chronicle states that soon after Parakramabau ascended the throne at Polonnaruwa as king of Lanka he put into effective practice four kingly aspirations which he desired to see fulfilled, namely, the happiness of the mass of the people, the stability of the religion, the protection of the nobility and the support of those in want. (University of Ceylon - A Concise History of Ceylon by C. W. Nicholas and S. Paranavitana.


Every year, in the king's presence, a ceremony of admission to the Buddhist Order was held on a mandapa moored in the Mahaweli Ganga. In the capital he had five alms houses built, where monks, mendicant Brahmanas, poor travellers and other supplicants were provided with food daily. A great hall was built to serve as a hospital equipped with every necessity and provided with a staff of physicians and male and female nurses and attendants: the king himself made visits of inspection to the hospital on poya days. (University of Ceylon - A Concise History of Ceylon by C. W. Nicholas and S. Paranavitana).

Greatest king of Lanka

Parakramabahu the Great is considered as the greatest king of Lanka in terms of the massive military campaigns he launched locally to consolidate his power and abroad for prestige, for uniting the whole of Lanka under one chathra, for the stupendous religious edifices and unprecedentedly large irrigation works he constructed, for the advancement of agriculture and generally because of the overall prosperity associated with his reign.

Son of Manabharana

Parakramabahu I was the son of Manabharana the ruler of Dakkhinadesa. Intrigue and dissension followed immediately upon the death of Vijayabahu I the leader of the Sinhalese in the war of independence against the Cholas, who ruled for 55 years from 1055 AC. The princess Mitta (sister of the late king Vijayabahu I and wife of a Pandya prince), her three sons, the ministers and high officials and the chief monks of the ascetic sects conferred together and without informing the adipada Vikramabahu (the late king's son who was the ruler of Ruhuna), consecrated the uparaja Jayabahu as king and appointed as uparaja the prince Manabharana, eldest son of the princess Mitta.


Jayabahu's succession to the throne was lawful because he was uparaja of Vijayabahu I, but in elevating Manabharana the bhagineyya or king's sister's son, to be uparaja of Jayabahu instead of Vikramabahu, the king's son they "quitted the path of former custom".


The case for Manabharana was probably based on matriarchy, that he was bhagineyya as well as on the fact that he was a scion of the Sinhalese royal house, while Vikramabahu, on his mother's side, was of Kalinga (Srivijaya) descent.

The aim of the confederacy clearly was that Mitta's son, Manabharana, should exercise the real power, with her brother Jayabahu I, as puppet king and that Vikramabahu should be liquidated. With this object Manabharana and his brother, together with king Jayabahu, took possession of the regalia and treasure and, at the head of the army, advanced into Ruhuna to seize Vikramabahu.


Vikramabahu took up the challenge. Actions were fought at Kosgoda, Dambagalla, Galabedda and other places in the Moneragala area and in all these engagements, Vikramabahu, who appears to have inherited some of his father's fighting qualities, was victorious although outnumbered. He drove the royal army westward and cut it off from its base, and himself marched north, occupied Polonnaruwa and established himself there as ruler of Rajarata, thus completely turning tables on Jayabahu and Manabharana.


Thereafter, Manabharana and his two brothers shared Dakkhinadesa and Ruhuna between them; Manabharana ruled Dakkhinadesa under the name of Virabahu with his seat at Dedigama in the Kegalle district: Kittisirimegha became ruler of Dolosdahas-rata, that part of Ruhuna, to the west of Walawe Ganga with his capital at Manavulu (the modern Rambha-vihara, near Ambalantota): and Sirivallabha took charge of Atadahas-rata, that part of Ruhuna to the east of the Walawe Ganga, with his headquarters at Undundora (present Galabedda, near Moneragala). King Jayabahu and the princess Mitta lived with Kittisirimegha at Manavulu.

A year later civil war broke out again. However, thereafter, Vikramabahu and his three rivals ceased organised hostilities and each dwelt in his own realm. While this state of affairs prevailed king Jayabahu and princess Mitta both died in Ruhuna. Manabharana of Dakkhinadesa died soon after the birth of his son Parakramabahu: thereupon Kittisirimegha took over Dakkhinadesa and Srivallabha assumed control over the whole of Ruhuna. Vikramabahu died about 1131/32 AC and was succeeded at Polonnaruwa by his son Gajabahu. The brothers, Kittisirimegha of Dakkhinadesa and Srivallabha of Ruhuna, made a combined effort to dispossess Gajabahu but failed in the attempt: they retired to their principalities and made no further effort to renew the war.

Epic of Parakramabahu I

The next epoch of Lanka's history, a period of about 50 years, constitutes the epic of Parakramabahu I, the son of Manabharana, ruler of Dakkhinadesa who was the contemporary of Vikramabahu of Rajarata. He was brought up by his uncle, Kittisrimegha, who had no son, at the then seat of the ruler of Dakkhinadesa Hatnagoda, in Beligal Korale, Kegalle district. He was instructed by chosen teachers in language and literature, religion, statecraft, the bearing of arms, sport, dance and music. Kittisirimegha encouraged the prince in his studies and took him on tours of inspection.

Great military commander

Parakramabahu I was a great military commander. Even at fourteen or fifteen years of age Parakramabahu was ambitious and precocious. In the plans for the future formulating in his young mind, the annexation of Rajarata to Dakkhinadesa was the first step in his scheme for the unification of the whole of Lanka into one kingdom, with himself as king. Upon assuming the overlordship of the principality of Dakkhinadesa, the prince Parakramabahu's first step was to secure his frontiers against possible aggression and, to this end he established military posts at various points, in particular on the east and north where his boundary was contagious with that of Gajabahu.

An unified kingdom comprising the whole of Lanka

He then proceeded to develop the agricultural resources of his territory by putting in hand a number of irrigation projects designed to bring large areas of new lands under cultivation. It was in the incipient stage of this great new program of development that he is said to have declared, referring not to Lanka as a whole but to the peculiar physical features of his own principality that 'not even a little of water that comes from the rain must flow into the ocean without being made useful to man'. These activities had as their basic object the building up of the material resources of Dakkhinadesa to make it the most powerful of the three principalities (Rajarata, Ruhuna and Dakkhinadesa). They were preparations for the inevitable armed struggle ahead in which Parakramabahu would have to be victorious in order to achieve his growing ambition of establishing his authority as undisputed ruler over an unified kingdom comprising the whole of Lanka.

Trade was established with foreign countries

The development projects were centred mainly on the harnessing of the Deduru Oya, but they extended also to the wet zone: the Pasdun Korale, which was a great, swampy wilderness, was drained of its marshes and a large extent of new land was rendered cultivable. Parakramabahu established his capital Parakramapura, now the ruins known as Panduwasnuwara, near Hettipola, a central position and constructed there the first Parakramasamudra, also known as Bana Samudra by enlarging the existing tank Pandawewa: close to the tank he built a palace, with a walled citadel. The administration of the principality was re-organised: the army, the militia and all military affairs were placed under the Senapathi while finance, administration and civil affairs in general were the responsibility of a chief officer of state. The latter, in particular, had a large number of executive officials under him. All lands of extraordinary value, such as lands containing gems, metals or minerals, were administered by a special department. Trade was established with foreign countries and precious stones were exported: the main seaports of the principality were, probably, Kalpitiya, Chilaw and Colombo. The export trade added materially to the prince's money resources.

Military training was made part of the education of all able-bodied youths

The organisation and training of armed forces of the principality were a complementary part of the expansion in agricultural and commercial activity. Foreign mercenaries, Malays and south Indians, formed the nucleus of the standing army: a section of these constituted the Velaikkara regiment or the king's bodyguard. Certain units of the standing army were especially trained and equipped for night-fighting, others for breaking into fortifications and defended buildings. Throughout the principality the acquisition of skill in the use of military weapons and martial training of every kind were greatly encouraged among young men: youth were orgnaised as cadet units bearing special names. Military commanders were appointed to direct the training of the militia and the rural bands. In these ways, military training was made part of the education of all able-bodied youths, so that in times of war, a large body of trained militia would become available for service in the field.

Parakramabahu's plan of attack provided first of all, for the annexation of Mahamalayadesa, that is, that part of the hill country which fell within Gajabahu's realm. It was a sound plan, because the possession of this region which included Laggala, Patha Dumbara and Uda Dumbara, secured the right plank of operations which were to follow against the Elahera-Polonnaruwa area. The terrain was difficult for military operations because many parts of it were inaccessible except by narrow, steep and winding footpaths: heavily forested hills separated the inhabited valleys and the larger mountain streams were crossable only where the banks were not rocky and precipitous.

Parakramabahu resorted to intrigue in the first instance. He won over to his side Rakkha, Gajabahu's dandanayaka in the Southern part of Mahamalayadesa and hoped to make use of Rakkha's influence and authority to gain control over the whole region. Patha Dumbara was quickly seized and then with Rakkha's influence the areas around Napana, Rambukwella and Dunuvila were subdued. But resistance around Mediwaka and in the Kosvagga district was strong and had to be overcome by guile as well as by force. In a final battle in Kosvagga district, the preliminary campaign for the annexation of Gajabahu's mountain territory terminated successfully.

Parakramabahu himself planned the operations

Parakramabahu now launched his main series of attacks upon Rajarata. He is said to have himself planned the operations, following the text-book injunctions of Kautilya and other authorities, and to have set down his orders in writing and delivered them to his commanders. The opening attack was on the west coast, the objective being the Pearl Banks. The commander on this sector advanced from Vellavela, near Battulu Oya and captured Gajabahu's fortress near Puttalam. He then embarked his troops, sailed to the Pearl Banks and fought a naval action. Apparently this operation failed but it was repeated shortly afterwards by another commander: this time it was successful and troops secured the Pearl Banks, landed in the mainland and built a fort from which to control the north-western sea-board. In support of the naval operations, a parallel advance was made inland: the Kala Oya was crossed and Kattiyawa was captured. Further inland in the Kalawewa district where the command was held by one of Gajabahu's ablest generals, a number of engagements was fought at different places, including Kahalla, Talakiriyagama, Madahapola, Nilagama and Dambulla but the defences held and Parakramahabu's attacks came to a standstill.

Further to the East, Parakramabahu's troops astride the Amban Ganga near Nalanda made their approach march to Gajabahu's frontier, and his detachments at Bogambara entered Laggala. Parakramabahu now strengthened his forces advancing directly upon Polonnaruwa, Gajabahu's capital and this threat brought immediate counter-measures. Gajabahu launched two counter-attacks, one to halt the progress towards Polonnaruwa and the other a strong diversionary blow, directed at the fortress on Parakramabahu's left flank on the north-western coast. Parakramabahu's troops succeeded, however, in penetrating into the Elahera district where they captured Talagoda and then occupied Alagamuwa and built a strong fortress there by the river. Gajabahu's troops made repeated efforts to capture this fort, but they were defeated and Parakramabahu's general won a notable victory. Parakramabahu now turned his attention to the threat to his left flank. His Senapathi Deva advanced from Giribawa, bridged the Kala Oya opposite Angamuwa and fought his way to the neighbourhood of Anuradhapura. The commander on the north-western coast was ordered to support the Senapathi's advance from the west: he marched inland, fought two successful actions and reached Tissawewa at Anuradhapura. Here he found himself under heavy attack by strong reinforcements which Gajabahu had sent up, and was soon entrapped and besieged within the city. The immediate concern now was to relieve the beleaguered commander: he was eventually able to breakout and join the senapathi after a series of successful attacks in his aid had been made. Gajabahu retained his hold on Anuradhapura.

The main thrust towards Polonnaruwa was now resumed, and Parakramabahu established his battle headquarters at Nalanda, in proximity to the scene of operations. The Elahera district was systematically conquered in a series of encounters and when this had been accomplished Parakramabahu gave orders for the capture of Polonnaruwa. Hitherto Manabharana the ruler of Ruhuna had allied himself with Gajabahu and his troops had fought alongside those of Gajabahu in several battles: but seeing that the course of war was now going against Gajabahu and that triumph for Parakramabahu appeared to be in sight, he abrogated his alliance with Gajabahu and entered into a treaty with Parakramabahu. In order to attack Gajabahu from the rear while Parakramabahu made his frontal assault upon Polonnaruwa, Manabharana set up camp with troops at Sorabora. The advance to Polonnaruwa now reached its climax. Converging columns now forged to the Kahandigama pass in the Sudukanda range of hills. This pass was the gateway to Polonnaruwa from the west and was strongly defended by Gajabahu's troops, but they could not resist the weight of Parakramabahu's assault found themselves hemmed in on three sides within the pass and after suffering severe losses, yielded their ground. Parakramabahu's troops streamed through the pass, while the survivors of Gajabahu's forces retreated in disorder into Polonnaruwa. In a last attempt to save his capital, Gajabahu assembled all his available troops, including his Tamil bodyguards, war elephants and chariots and moved out of the town to give battle to the advancing army of Parakramabahu. The struggle was short and decisive. Thrown back in confusion, Gajabahu's troops broke and fled. Gajabahu had the gates of the town locked and hid himself within. The victorious army of Parakramabahu, in close pursuit, soon swarmed over the fortifications and assisted by spies within the town who unlocked the gates, entered Polonnaruwa, discovered Gajabahu's hiding place, made him captive and imprisoned him in his palace.

Parakramabahu, who had remained behind at Nalanda, desired that Gajabahu should retain his regal dignity and sent him presents of garments and ornaments and gave instructions to his officers to treat him with honour. But the victorious and elated soldiers had got out of hand and pillage, rioting and disturbances were taking place in Polonnaruwa. Parakramabahu's commanders at Polonnaruwa and the district chieftains conferred together and sent him the following message: "So long as the king Gajabahu is alive, the people dwelling in his kingdom will not submit to thy sovereignty: he must therefore be put to death." Translating this idea of political expediency into practice, they and their soldiers intensified their pillage of Polonnaruwa, breaking into houses and plundering property to such an extent that the enraged population gathered together under their own officials and councillors and sent an urgent appeal to Manabharana of Ruhuna who was at Sorobora to come speedily to their deliverance, promising him the rulership of Rajarata. Meanwhile Parakramabahu had fetched the senapathi Deva from the Anuradhapura area and sent him and his troops to Polonnaruwa to restore order and discipline among the unruly soldiers there. When the senapati arrived at Polonnaruwa, Mahabharana had answered the appeal made to him and was already marching on the town. The senapati found himself engaged in battle with Manabharana before he had time to organize the disorderly rabble which occupied the town and the result was that he and all Parakramabahu's troops at Polonnaruwa suffered a crushing defeat, the senapathi himself being taken prisoner.

The first few days of Manabharana's occupation of Polonnaruwa reassured the population: he restored order and calm and treated Gajabahu with reverence. But his real intentions became apparent as soon as he had secured firm control. He put to death all the high and influential officers of Gajabahu and then seized Gajabahu and imprisoned him in a dungeon. He had brought to Polonnaruwa from Ruhuna, the Tooth and the Bowl Relics which had been removed for safety in the time of Wikramabahu, with the obvious intention of celebrating his own consecration. He then began to starve and ill-treat Gajabahu so that he would die by slow degrees. Gajabahu in his miserable plight and conscious of Manabharana's intentions, succeeded in getting a secret message delivered to Parakramabahu, imploring the latter to release him from his torment. Parakramabahu responded at once: with the least delay he mounted another attack on Polonnaruwa in aid of Gajabahu. Columns moved rapidly from Wewalawewa, Makulebe and other points: the roads from Ruhuna to Polonnaruwa were blockaded. On all sides supplies and communications were cut and the encircling troops closed in on Polonnaruwa. Manabharana marched out to fight but was driven back and abandoning the town, made good his escape to Ruhuna together with the Tooth and the Bowl Relics. Parakramabahu's troops broke into the town and released Gajabahu: he did not wait to receive Parakramabahu but betook himself at once to Kottiyar with the intention of taking ship out of the country if his misfortunes became worse.

In a short while hostilities with Gajabahu broke out once again, the immediate cause being an attack by Gajabahu's followers on a detachment of Parakramabahu's troops who were recuperating at a place by the river. Incensed by what he considered to be a hostile and ungrateful act, Parakramabahu gave orders for the capture of Gajabahu's person and his troops began to march on Gajabahu's abode in Kottiyar Pattu. Several actions were fought on the river and to the east of it, and Gajabahu even launched an unsuccessful counter-attack on Polonnaruwa, but it was not long before that he realised that his powers of resistance were nearing exhaustion and that his capture was approaching. As a last resort Gajabahu approached the Sangha for intervention and mediation. The Sangha undertook the task and sent a deputation to Parakramabahu at Giritale. They reminded Parakramabahu that he sought the sovereignty only to serve his people and further the cause of religion, and that this object was near attainment because Gajabahu was old and had no son or brother to succeed him: they asked Parakramabahu therefore, to end the war, return to his own principality and bide his time. Parakramabahu heeded this request and returned with his army to Dakkhinadesa. Gajabahu took up residence at Kantale and passed the evening of his life there happily.

But Manabharana of Ruhuna continued to plot. He sent envoys with gifts to Gajabahu and sought a renewal of their old alliance, hoping that if it was renewed he would be nominated as Gajabahu's successor. But Gajabahu rejected these advances, and to put an end to further approaches by Manabharana, he went to Medirigiri-Vihara and had the words, "I have made over Rajarata to king Parakrama engraved there on a rock. Gajabahu returned to Kantale and soon afterwards died there in the year 1153. The inscription which the chronicle asserts was engraved at Medirigiriya has not been found. But a copy of this record, incised on the rock surface, has been discovered at Sangamu-vihara, fourteen miles north east of Kurunegala, a site in Parakramabahu's principality of Dakkhinadesa. The Sangamu inscription is a treaty between the two brothers-in-law, Gajabahu and Parakramabahu, in which they agree not to make war against each other, to nominate one another as the heir of the other, and to regard the enemy of one, as the enemy of the other. The last clause was, apparently directed against Manabharana of Ruhuna.

On the death of Gajabahu, his minister had the body conveyed to Kottiyar and in violation of the treaty with Parakramabahu, sent a message to Manabharana of Ruhuna to come with all haste and assume the rulership of Rajarata. Manabharana responded to the call and marched to Kottiyar with a host of troops. Parakramabahu, on hearing the news, sent forward his army and occupied Polonnaruwa. He prepared for war at once: troops were dispatched to guard all the fords on the Mahaweli Ganga from Trincomalee as far as Vilgamuwa, so as to prevent Manabharana from crossing the river to the Rajarata side. Then Parakramabahu celebrated his consecration at Polonnaruwa as ruler of Rajarata and set forth to war. Manabharana's soldiers made unsuccessful attempts to cross the Mahaweli Ganga at a number of places principally Vilgamuwa, Talangamuwa, Hembarawa, Marake, Polwatte, Yakkure, Nikagollewa and Malagamuwa. Every attempt by Manabharana to cross the river having failed and the position in this region remaining static, Parakramabahu decided to carry the battle to his opponent and to attack him in his own territory, from an unexpected direction, the south-west.Parakramabahu's two commanders stationed in the Maniyamgana area and in Pasdun Korale advanced into Navadun Korale which was then a possession of Ruhuna. Continuing their progress they ascended the hills, took possession of the mountainous country of the Kukul, Atakalan, Kolonna and Morawak Korales and descended down the valley of the Nilwala Ganga into the Matara district where they fought a successful action near Akuressa and crossed the river at that point. Manabharana had to detach substantial forces from the Mahaweli Ganga front to meet this threat to his rear, and he might have lost the war at this stage but that fortune favoured him.


Certain inhabitants of Rajarata who supported Manabharana made known to him the existence of a ford on the river, unknown to and unguarded by Parakramabahu's troops where his soldiers could cross: Manabharana took immediate advantage of this valuable information and began to send detachments across the river at that point. Parakramabahu on hearing of this manoeuvre instructed one of his commanders to build a fort on the left bank and neutralize this new crossing. But this officer, being jealous of the praise given to a rival commander, was lax and dilatory in carrying out his task, and a spy in his camp set word to Manabharana to attack him while he was still unprepared. Manabharana himself led the attack on the negligent commander: it achieved complete success and the commander himself was slain after displaying great personal gallantry. The confusion caused by the breach in the defences spread to neighbouring units: other commanders on the river were compelled to fall back to conform to the new tactical situation and soon a general withdrawal of Parakramabahu's forces on the river-line commenced. Manabharana exploited his success to the full: by morning in the next day the retiring troops were passing through Polonnaruwa and the inhabitants of Rajarata joined in harrying Parakramabahu's dispirited troops in retreat. It was soon evident that the retirement would have to be continued to the frontier districts of Dakkhinadesa in order to secure a respite from fighting and enable the scattered and demoralized troops to be reformed for effective resistance. Manabharana occupied Polonnaruwa and advanced to Giritale. Some of Parakramabahu's troops reached Huruluwewa and others were trying to reform on the line Karavilahena-Dambulla. Parakramabahu was counseled to retire further to Panduvasnuwara or even to Kelaniya to rest and rehabilitate his soldiers for a resumption of war, but he rejected this pessimistic view of the situation and decided that the time had come to halt, re-group and turn around and fight. Manabharana's rapid advance from the river had lost its momentum and was now halted, and Parakramabahu was ready to take the offensive again. From his base at Nalanda he sent forward columns to recover lost ground and these formed a new line curving north-east from Elahera to Kantale. Manabharana now created a diversion in Parakramabahu's rear by delivering an attack from Anuradhapura southward across the Kala Oya: it was a partial success at the beginning but Parakramabahu strongly reinforced his troops in the Kalawewa region and restored the situation.

The battle was resumed in the Polonnaruwa sector by columns based on Elahera. They attacked with new vigour and made good progress towards Polonnaruwa. Instead of closing in on Polonnaruwa and besieging it, Parakramabahu brought into action his specially trained commando units, consisting of hunters, path-finders, night fighters and house breakers. These troops made day and night forays around Polonnaruwa so that communications were severed, all business on the outskirts of the town ceased, the citizens were unable to go outside of the city in safety and a state of panic prevailed in the town. Manabharana marched out of the town with his troops and launched an attack in the direction of Dambulla but he engaged and delayed on his way by three of Parakramabahu's columns from three different directions. Diverted from his objective by this resistance and unwilling to divide his forces, Manabharana took up a position at Konduruwa on the Elahera canal. Guerrilla warfare continued for six months longer in the course of which two pitched battles went in Parakramabahu's favour: Manabharana's forces had become seriously weakened by losses and he began to build a stronghold where he could fight a delaying action until he was finally forced to fall back on Polonnaruwa. Parakramabahu judged that his was the time for decisive attack. The stronghold was captured, but during the night, in darkness and heavy rain. Manabharana abandoned his troops and made good his escape, crossing the river at a secret ford.

At dawn, detachments hastened to the river in pursuit of Mahabharana, but Parakramabahu recalled them allowed the fleeing ruler of Ruhuna to travel unmolested back to his own territory. Parakramabahu entered Polonnaruwa in triumph and celebrated his second consecration, this time as ruler over the whole of Lanka. The Chronicle gives a picturesque description of the event and of the rejoicings of the populace. In the Devanagala inscription of his twelfth regnal year, Parakramabahu declares that he made war with two persons, Gajabahu and Manabharana and 'made the authority of one umbrella of dominion prevail in the island of Lanka'.

Parakramabahu's great architectural undertaking was the building of Polonnaruwa and its embellishments with palaces, monasteries, parks and ponds to make it a worthy royal city. Parakramabahu I also took in hand the restoration of ruined stupas and temples at the ancient capital, Anuradhapura, which, but for two short spells of a few months each, had not been occupied by a Sinhala king since the Cholas captured and devastated the city over 160 years earlier. The four great stupas were 'overgrown with great trees, bears and panthers dwelt there and the ground of the jungle scarce offered a foothold by reason of the heaps of brick and earth.' The Chronicle claims that the king restored all important monuments at Anuradhapura as well as the entire Mihintale monastery. The rebuilding of the Mahatupa (Ruwanweliseya) was carried out by Tamil prisoners-of-war and when the work was completed the king himself visited Anuradhapura and was present at the ceremony of placing the golden finial on the stupa's summit.

The king promulgated a law giving protection to all wildlife and fish in the forests and tanks on the four poya days of every month. He gave instructions to his district administrators how taxes were to be collected without loss to the revenue and without oppressing the taxpayers. The Nikaya-sangraha says that the king created fifteen chief officers of state and that he also established the eighteen departments of record, the eight departments of transport, the four departments of the treasury, the eight departments of the elephant industry and the eighteen thousands villages not included in the services to be rendered in the above departments.

The administrative organisation of Parakramabahu I shows the influence of the Arthasastra, according to which the army (danda) and the treasury (kosa) are the two instruments by means of which a king could not only maintain control over his own territory but also keep his opponents in check and the well-being of the treasury and the army depend on the revenue brought by the pursuit of agriculture and trade (varta). The chief of the antharanga-dhura had charge of the pearl fishery, gemming and other valuable sources of trade, as well as of the king's commercial undertakings: his designation antharanga implies that he had ready access to the king.

The Chulavamsa states that Parakramabahu during his reign, constructed or restored 165 dams, 3910 canals, 163 major tanks and 2376 minor tanks, a prodigious achievement unmatched by any other king. Pride of place in the list of irrigation works of the reign is given to the second and much larger Parakramasamudra, that king of reservoirs at Polonnaruwa. The bund of Parakrama samudra, as now restored, is 8 ½ miles long and 40 feet high, the area of the tank is 5940 acres and it irrigates 18,200 acres.

Conquest of Ruhuna

The first of the major military operations undertaken by the king was the renewal of the war with Ruhuna, now ruled by Queen Sugala, the mother of the late ruler, prince Manabharana. She was in possession of the Tooth and Alms Bowl Relics, and there seems to be little doubt, notwithstanding other explanations in the Chronicle, that this was another war of aggression whose object was to secure these relics for Parakramabahu because his right to the sovereignty remained imperfect and challengeable without them.

The people of Ruhuna, it is alleged, built strongholds in various places, blocked the roads, garrisoned the defences of the principality, and started to revolt. The king dispatched the senapati Rakkha with a division of troops to enter Ruhuna and quell the rebellion. When these troops had departed, the Sinhala and the Malay mercenaries in Kottiyar Pattu, together with the Velaikkara regiment, took advantage of the depletion of the king's forces, to mutiny, expecting that they would soon become masters of Rajarata. But their plans were completely foiled: the mutiny was quickly suppressed, the ringleaders were put to death, and the villages allotted for the maintenance of the rebel soldiers were taken away and assigned to other services. Meanwhile the general Rakkha had marched as far as Mahiyangana and overcame strong resistance. Continuing his advance down a line corresponding to the present Mahiyangana-Uraniya-Bibile road, he made slow progress in a difficult terrain and was finally brought to a halt by natural obstacles as well as determined opposition. The enemy had built a succession of seven strongholds in a forested valley, two or four miles long, hemmed in on both sides by high hills, a description which fits the vicinity of modern Hepola and Rakkha spent some months in ineffective efforts to break through these defences. Impatient of Rakkha's tardy progress, the king sent forward powerful reinforcements, and the combined forces soon penetrated the defile and pressed forward to the neighbourhood of Bibile. Here, a division was diverted to the north to subdue the enemy troops in the flanking hilly region of the Loggal Oya valley: this force brought that area under subjection and rejoined the main body. The danger of a flank attack from the overlooking hills having been removed, the general advance was resumed and after further fighting at Medagama and Katupelalla the troops reached Udundora (modern Galabedda), the residence of Queen Sugala. The queen, taking the Tooth and Bowl Relics with her, took refuge at Ethimole.

Meanwhile a fresh area of operations had been opened in the Dighavapi district, the present Gal Oya valley, and a pincer movement now developed from east and west on Ethimole, the queen's new residence. Parakramabahu's troops entered the Dighavapi district through Eravur, and advanced through Divulana and Uhana to Dighavapi itself. The king now received news that Queen Sugala contemplated crossing the seas, taking the Relics with her, and it became imperative to act quickly and effectively to prevent the Relics, objects indispensable to sovereignty, from being removed to a foreign land. He therefore ordered the troops in Dighavapi to close the pincers by marching westward to make contact with the forces already in the Moneragala area who were endeavouring to fight their way to Ethimole from the west. A major action was fought at Galabedda, where the queen's troops made a determined attack upon the combined forces of the king. After further encounters at Marawa, Badaguna and other places, the encirclement of Ethimole was completed and the Relics were captured: but Queen Sugala made good her escape.(University of Ceylon - A Concise History of Ceylon by C. W. Nicholas and S. Paranavitana)

At this time a former general of the Ruhuna army named Sukarabhatudeva, who had been made a prisoner-of-war by Parakramabahu in the previous campaign, escaped from captivity and made his way to Hapatgamuwa, north-west of Badulla. He was an influential and able officer and was a great asset to the Ruhuna army in its present struggle. Attempts to recapture him failed, and he soon appeared in the field as Sugala's chief commander. The overall commander of the king's army fighting in Ruhuna was the senapathi Rakkha and under him were three adhikarins in addition to other titled leaders holding superior commands. The Ruhuna army under Sukarabhatudeva now began to exhibit an offensive spirit and launched attacks on the several units of the king's forces. At Bhattasupa, to the west of Moneragala, the king's army was heavily attacked and driven westward past Okkampitiya. At this stage in the campaign the senapathi Rakkha fell ill and died. Formerly a commander under Gajabahu, he had joined Parakramabahu at the very beginning of the latter's campaign and served his new master thereafter with conspicuous ability and distinction, receiving advancement to the highest office in the state. At the site of his cremation Parakramabahu afterwards built a large alms-hall to commemorate the memory of his distinguished general.

The men of Ruhuna now assembled in large and threatening strength in the Buttala district, and the opposing forces inter-locked in combat, moved towards the Tissamaharama area. Parakramabahu sent his generals the following message, 'That ye fight as chance wills it, while dragging the Relics about from village to village pleaseth me not, send ye both Relics to me at once'. The generals decided to send the Relics to the commander in Viyaluwa Korale, for conveyance by him to Polonnaruwa. The sacred objects were escorted by a strong force, and the journey to Viyaluwa was marked by resistance during most of the way. Enemy troops attacked the escort from the flanks and the rear and heavy fighting took place at six or seven places before the Relics finally reached Kuruwepotha in Madulsima where they were received by the Viyaluwa commander. The further journey of the Relics to Polonnaruwa was without incident. On learning that the Relics were on their way to him, the king left the city and went forward about eight miles to the river: there he took personal charge of them and brought them to the city in procession along a decorated route thronged with people. A great festival or rejoicing and adoration of the Relics was celebrated in the city for several days, the Relics being exhibited to the people in a specially constructed mandapa, and they were then deposited in the Temple of the Tooth.

Parakramabahu's campaigns against Sugala

The king's commanders in Ruhuna met in conference after the safe dispatch of the relics and discussed the military situation. They summed up the enemy's tactics in the following words - "Our foes know their own country. When we come near them they disperse or every side, and penetrate again into the territory that we have brought into our power in order to re-conquer it." As a counter-measure, they decided as for the future they would, in every area which they subdued, post a strong garrison to hold and consolidate their gains and so prevent the enemy from re-entering or re-occupying it. Serious rebellion had broken out again in the Dighavapi district (the present Gal Oya valley) and it was agreed that in the first instance, a concealed attack should be launched upon it to bring this region under complete submission before the scope of the military operations was further extended. Accordingly, the combined forces marched east and fought their way past Sakamam to Balapasana, a place between Sakamam and Malwatta, where they built a formidable fortification and garrisoned it with a strong detachment. The main body then continued their march in order to subdue Dighavapi district from end to end. Various columns of this body fought successful engagements at a number of enemy-held points of resistance including Malwatta, Vadinagala and Sengamuwa, the direction of their attack being from east to west, the reverse direction to that in which they had entered the district. Dighavapi was subdued and all the columns from the different sections converged on Hintalavanagama, forty or fifty miles west of Dighavapi district, where the troops of queen Sugala had taken up their position in a powerful stronghold. Hintalavanagama was stormed, but the defeated defenders, resorting to their usual tactics, created a diversion in the rear of the king's forces by attempting to retake the Dighavapi district. The garrison left behind at Balapasana, reinforced by the column from the main body, which made a forced march to its aid, foiled this attempt. The main body again broke up into columns to traverse and subdue the Buttala district and after fighting actions at Dambagalle, Horombava and other places, rejoined and halted in the Wellawaya area.

The king had, while these operations in east Ruhuna (Atadahas-rata) were in progress decided upon a new front in west Ruhuna (Dolosdahas-rata) with Mahanagahula (Rambha Vihara), a former seat of the rulers of Ruhuna, as its objective. One commander made his advance down the western and southern coasts while his collaborator, the Damiladhikarin Rakkha, made his way over the hills of Ratnapura district and Morawak Korale into the Matara district. The coastal advance began in Pasdun Korale and after the advanced guard had captured Gintota, the main body followed and camped at the mouth of the Gin Ganga. The enemy retired to Weligama. This place was then an important port and there were many rich merchants there. The commander of the seacoast column offered terms to the people of Weligama: freedom from punishment and protection to all if they submitted without resistance. The terms were accepted and the merchants and the people surrendered. The king's troops then resumed their easterly advance and various detachments fought successful actions at Pelena, Kamburugamuwa, Matara and Devundara and converged on Akuressa to make there a crossing of the Nilwala Ganga in force. The enemy offered strong resistance and a severe struggle ensued, but the king's soldiers were victorious and took up a position on the opposite bank. The defeated enemy troops retired to Ranmalakanda, near Kirama and fortified themselves in the hills on the flank of the line of advance to Rambha-Vihara. This menace to further forward progress had to be removed before the king's troops could continue their march to their objective, and a strong detachment was dispatched to dislodge the enemy from their positions on the Ranmalakanda. It was a difficult operation owing to the rugged nature of the terrain, but spies guided the troops along unguarded paths through the forest, and the enemy's entrenchments were stormed and captured in a surprise attack. The way forward being now clear, the king's commander advanced to a point between Ranmalakanda and Mamadola, was joined by the detachment which captured Ranmalakanda and halted there.

Simultaneously with the coastal advance, the Damiladhikarin Rakkha entered Denawaka with a strong force and set out to subdue Navadun Korale. Anxious to secure a quick and decisive victory, he pushed through, precipitately to Atakalanpanna, only to find the enemy rising up behind him and re-occupying the districts he had passed through. He was compelled to return to Denawaka and start operations all over again, but this time he was prudent, consolidated his success in each district and appointed officials to continue ordered administration. The enemy forces retiring before him, established themselves in an entrenched position at Dandava near Kahawatte. This position as well as another at Tambagamuwa, near Madampe, were captured, the latter in a night attack and the Damiladhikarin returned to Dandava and sent divisions of troops in different directions to clear the ground for his next forward move. These advanced troops engaged the enemy successfully at Bogahawela, Binnegama and Bathkanda, forcing the enemy to retire over the hills, past Urubokka and Beralapanathara to the Giruwapattu boundary. The Damiladhikarin following with the main body, found the enemy in position and ready to fight at Obada, north-west of Weeraketiya. He marched to Mahasengama and launched his attack on Obada from there. The battle was decisive: the Damiladhikarin's troops overwhelmed their opponents, slew the enemy commander and completely routed the enemy forces. Untroubled by further resistance, the Damiladhikarin occupied Mahanagahula (Rambha-vihara), the objective set him by the king.

The troops who had advanced along the coast joined the Damiladhikarin at Rambha-vihara and the combined forces were given a period of rest and recuperation. The rebels now assembled on the eastern side of the lower course of the Walawe Ganga and the Damiladhikarin engaged them at Koggala-Udawewa and put them to flight. More sorties were made against enemy forces at Hambegamuwa and Tissamaharama and at the latter place the enemy Commander-in-Chief, Sukarabhatudeva was killed in battle. The enemy approached Tissamaharama again, but were driven back to Koravakgala, near Situlpawwa and there defeated.

For the third time they made a desperate bid to capture Tissamaharama, but they were repulsed yet again. It was clear to the king's generals in this region that the rebels, though defeated in open combat, were still dangerously active underground, every now and again breaking out in open hostility when they thought they were secure from attack and then subsiding into uneasy quiescence when the king's troops entered their territory. The Damiladhikarin resorted therefore to a stratagem: he pretended to carry out a forced retirement and went right back to Dandava in the Ratnapura foothills, leaving the territory which he had conquered ungarrisoned, thus inducing all the rebels, who were hitherto acting in secret, to come out into the open in the belief that they were free men once again. When they had in this way, showed their hand, the Damiladhikarin marched back with his army, fell upon them at Bogahawela, Urabokka, Beralapanatara and Meegoda and annihilated all the rebel elements in Morawak Korale. Then he descended to the lowlands, sent detachments to penetrate every part of the Giruwa and Magam Pattus and destroyed all rebellious activity root and branch.

The Damiladhikarin now proceeded to the Buttala district and conferred with the three adhikarins there who had completed the subjugation of the Buttala district. Queen Sugala was a refugee in the wilderness of Atadahas-rata, but the remnant of the rebel forces in Dolosdhas-rata was still at large. The generals decided to overcome the latter first and then take up the pursuit of the queen. The Damiladhikarin marched his troops to the Walawe Ganga and found that the enemy was on the move to the foot-hills. He continued in pursuit and found them entrenched on Mahapabbata, a peak in the Ranmalakanda range: he besieged them and then broke into their fortification and took prisoner all those who escaped death. This victory completed the subjugation of Dolosdahas-rata and the Damiladhikarin returned with his troops to Rambha-vihara and punished the rebel prisoners with savagery, impaling or hanging a large number of them. He then sent word to the king that he had accomplished his mission.

The three adhikarins in Buttala took up the task of capturing Queen Sugala. They marched to Aralugasmeda (a hamlet of Parana Alupotha), Kinivelgoda and Beddegama where they caught up with her and her troops. In the engagement which followed the queen's soldiers were put to flight and she was taken prisoner. Those who escaped from the battle were hotly pursued to Galabedda and Maragala and were killed or taken captive. Vengeance was now taken on the rebel leaders and their active supporters: several hundreds were put to death by public execution in villages and towns. On the king's orders garrisons were posted in the various districts, stable government was established, and the whole principality of Ruhuna was placed in charge of the adhikarin Bhutha who was appointed by the king to govern it. The other commanders and the troops returned to Polonnaruwa taking Queen Sugala with them and presented themselves to the king.

The Chronicle ends its narrative of the 'Conquest of Rohana' at this point. The next chapter begins with the statement that in the eighth year (1161 AC) of the king's reign, all the inhabitants of Ruhuna rose in rebellion again, "stirred up by a foolhardy villain". The previous campaign was repeated: large forces commanded by generals, entered Ruhuna, fought the rebels at many of the places where battles had been fought previously and in a shorter time than before, suppressed the revolt. No details are given of this second campaign. We may infer that, in the first decade of his reign, Parakramabahu's sovereignty over Ruhuna was powerfully resisted by the majority of its inhabitants.


Parakramabahu invades Burma

Parakramabahu I carried out an invasion of Burma (now Myanmar) in 1164 or 1165 AC. There had existed a strong bond of friendship for many years between the two countries Lanka and Burma. Both were ruled by Buddhist kings and it had been the established practice for them to exchange costly gifts and to maintain regular and cordial intercourse. Parakramabahu I continued this friendship with Alaungsithu, the king of Burma. Alaungsithu according to the Burmese chronicles, was a monarch of haughty temperament, now enfeebled by extreme old age and troubled in his last years by dissension caused by the conduct of his sons.


Lanka elephant prized for its intelligence

It had been customary for the Burmese king to present an elephant to every vessel from Lanka which carried gifts to him. (Lanka also exported elephants and the Lanka elephant was much prized from very early times for its intelligence and docility, but the Lanka race has the lowest proportion of tuskers among Asiatic elephants and the only object in importing elephants into Lanka from Burma would appear to have been to secure tusked animals). (University of Ceylon - A Concise History of Ceylon by C. W. Nicholas and S. Paranavitana)

The unrestricted export of elephants from Burma to foreign countries had always been allowed, and there were many merchants in Burma engaged in the trade. Alaungsithu made the trade in elephants a royal monopoly, and doubled and trebled the price to be paid for them: he also discontinued the practice of presenting elephants to Lanka ships. Although Burmese envoys to the Sinhala court were accorded great distinction, Alaungsithu found excuses for treating in a barbarous manner Sinhala envoys who came to his kingdom. He deprived one group of them of their money, the elephants they had purchased, and their ships, imprisoned them in a fortress in the hills, fastened fetters on their feet and put them to draw water in the prisons.

On board a leaking vessel
Later, he had these envoys brought before him, told them that henceforth ships from Lanka would not be permitted to come to his kingdom, and compelled them to sign a document indemnifying from blame if he put to death any Sinhalese who came to Burma in defiance of his prohibition: then he sent the envoys back to Lanka on board a leaking vessel. These insults and frauds were repeated and his last provocative act was to seize a Sinhala princess who was passing through Burma on her way to Cambodia.

Incensed by this succession of affronts, Parakramabahu I decided that there was no alternative but to go to war and he accordingly set in motion preparations for an invasion of Burma. The building of the invasion fleet in the ports of Lanka took five months.

Special arrows for use against elephants

In addition to the usual accoutrements of war, the troops were equipped with special arrows with sharp points for the use against elephants.

The ships were abundantly provisioned and the health of the troops amply provided for: physicians and nurses who accompanied the fleet were provided with medicines of every kind preserved in cow-horns, and special surgical instruments for extracting arrow-heads. When all was ready the expedition set sail from the port of Palvakki on the north-east coast: it was commanded by the Damiladhikarin Adichcha his deputy being the Nagaragiri Kitti. It encountered adverse winds and some ships sank while others drifted to foreign shores.

One ship made land at Kakadipa ("Crow's Island", probably one of the Andaman Islands) and the troops on board landed and captured several of the inhabitants and brought them back to Lanka as prisoners. Five ships under the command of Nagaragiri Kitti entered the port of Bassein and the Sinhala soldiers landed and laid waste the surrounding country, defeating in a series of engagements the Burmese troops who opposed them. The Damiladhikarin Adichcha landed at Ma-pappalama and advanced and captured the town of Ukkama. The Chulavansa claims that Alaungsithu was killed at Ukkama but this claim is entirely at variance with the Burmese accounts of the death of their king.

Nagaragiri Kitti captures Kusumiya
The Sinhala invasion was no more than a punitive raid and the Burmese chronicles say nothing about it. It achieved its intended result. After the return of the Sinhala troops to Lanka, Alaungsithu through the mediation of the Sangha entered into a pact whereby he undertook to restore all the privileges and concessions which Sinhala envoys and merchants had previously enjoyed, and so made peace with Parakramabahu I.

Devanagala inscription
The Devanagala inscription, dated in the twelfth year of Parakramabahu I records a grant of lands to Kit Nuvaragal (Nagaragiri Kitti of the Chronicle) as reward for his services in the expedition to Burma. The inscription confirms the Chronicle that the Burmese town of Kusumiya (Bassein) was captured and that thereafter the Burmese king Bhuvanaditta (A title of Alaungsithu), sent envoys to Parakramabahu to negotiate a treaty.


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