|Lankan saga of war and peace
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Lankan saga of war and peace
Vijaya and his 700 followers landed on the shores of Tambapanni as this Island was also known then on the very day of the Buddha’s Parinirvana in 483 BC. He reigned for 38 years with Tambapanni as his capital. After his demise there was no threat to the peace and unity of this country and Buddhism the universal philosophy introduced to this country in 247 BC by the great Mauryan emperor Asoka in the reign of Devanampiyatissa (250 – 210 BC) was a further unifying force that cemented the country’s oneness. Buddhism is the religion of peace and the only religion that can claim that not a single life has been destroyed for its propagation.
Written By Chandra Edirisuriya
@ WS /March/April/May 2006
[size=117]Ravana the legendary king who ruled this beautiful Island Lanka had the whole country under his sway. My visiting lecturer in History at Vidyodaya University K. M. P. Rajaratne said one day around 1960 that when he visited India and hired a taxi to go to some place the taxi driver asked him from what country he was and on being told from Lanka Ravana’s country the driver kept on looking back as if to see whether the passenger was aiming a dagger at him. However the peace, the unity the harmony and the amity that prevailed among the people of this Island nation is legendary.
Vijaya and his 700 followers landed on the shores of Tambapanni as this Island was also known then on the very day of the Buddha’s Parinirvana in 483 BC. He reigned for 38 years with Tambapanni as his capital. After his demise there was no threat to the peace and unity of this country and Buddhism the universal philosophy introduced to this country in 247 BC by the great Mauryan emperor Asoka in the reign of Devanampiyatissa (250 – 210 BC) was a further unifying force that cemented the country’s oneness. Buddhism is the religion of peace and the only religion that can claim that not a single life has been destroyed for its propagation.
The early inscriptions found in all parts of the Island indicate that by about the 3rd century BC the Sinhala people of that time who set up these inscriptions had made settlements in the North as well as the South and in the West as well as the East of the Island and that peace and prosperity prevailed in the length and breadth of the Island.
However twenty years after the demise of Devanampiyatissa two horse dealers named Sena and Guttaka wrested the throne from Suratissa the younger of his three sons. But neither the Sinhala race nor Buddhism came to an end with this. The youngest brother of Devanampiyatissa wrested the throne from the Tamil usurpers and established peace until he was vanquished by Elara, a Tamil from Chola country who ruled at Anuradhapura for forty four years.
The incursion of Tamils at this period was perhaps not unconnected with the decline of the Maurya empire after the death of Asoka and the withdrawal of the imperial garrisons from the Deccan.
Sena and Guttaka reigned justly. They were adherents of the faith that water washes away sins. In order to perform their sacred ablutions they diverted Kadamba Nadi (Malwatu Oya) to run by the city of Anuradhapura.
Elara’s love of justice was great that it overcame the natural affection he had for his own son. The Sinhala people under his rule had no excuse for rising in revolt against his authority on the score of oppression, a circumstance which boded ill for the restoration of Sinhala sovereignty in Anuradhapura. But Buddhism under these rulers was deprived of the active support which Devanampiyatissa and his immediate successors extended to it. Moreover some of Elara’s warriors without their master being aware of it treated the Buddhist shrines and Bhikkhus with scant respect and even with hostility. The conduct of the Tamils, no sooner the British left our shores descended to that level.
Elara was slain in an epic encounter by Dutugemunu (161 – 137 BC) a scion of a branch of the Sinhala royal family that had settled down in the South – Eastern principality of Ruhuna. Having restored the sovereignty of the Island to his people when there was a possibility of its passing permanently into the hands of the Tamils, Dutugamunu has become the national hero of the Sinhala people. Dutugemunu’s reign of twenty four years, marked by peace was spent mainly in activities aimed at the advancement of the Buddhist religion.
Thirty five years after the demise of Dutugemunu and five months after the accession of Walagamba in 103 BC a Tamil army led by seven chiefs landed at Mahatittha. Walagamba fled Anuradhapura from the battle field itself together with Anuladevi, the queen of his elder brother and predecessor, his own queen Somadevi, Mahaculi the son of his brother and his own son Mahanaga, all of whom had accompanied the king when he went forth to battle. When the chariot had proceeded beyond the north gate of the city it was found that it was overloaded and at her own sugsestion Somadevi was put down to ensure that others made their escape. When the fugitives were passing the Jaina herimtage near the north gate of the city the head of the establishment name Giri is said to have shouted in derision that the Sinhala mahakala was fleeing. The king vowed that he would demolish the Jain shrine and build a Buddhist Vihara in its place should he recover the throne.
The Tamils entered the city in triumph and one of their leaders returned to his own land with Somadevi and another with the Bowl Relic. Of the remaining five leaders Pulahattha ruled for three years and was slain by his Commander-in – Chief Bahiya who held power for two years. Panayamara secured power by murdering Bahiya and ruled for seven years. Pilayamara slew Panayamara but he could remain in power for only seven months after which he was murdered by his Commander – in – Chief Dhathika who ruled for two years.
The Tamils exercised power for fourteen years and seven months after which Walagamba returned, vanquished Dhathika and re-established Sinhala dominion and peace. His aim seems to have been to follow the example of his great uncle Dutugemunu and lead an army recruited in Ruhuna against the Tamils of Anuradhapura.
Somadevi returned from India after Walagamba’s restoration and the king founded a Vihara called after her to perpetuate her name and her act of self sacrifice. Walagamba also showed his gratefulness to his benefactor, at the time of his taking refuge in the South, Mahatissa Thera by building for him the Abhayagiri Vihara at the site of the Jain monastery of Giri which was destroyed in accordance with the resolve made on the day of his flight.
For about the next five hundred years of the history of the early Anuradhapura period no raids by foreign enemies disturbed the even course of the life of the people and numerous inscriptions of this period (77 BC – 432 AC) recording donations to religions institutions give us a picture of a land enjoying peace and prosperity and of a contented people.
During the period of peace from the reign of King Walagamba (whose reign ended in 77 B C) and the rule of Mittasena 432-433 AD, two monarchs stand out for their singular feats and one Queen Anula for ignominy. Gajabahu 1 or Gajabahuka Gamani (112-134 AC) is known for religious benefactions. A Tamil poem composed about the sixth century AD mentions that Gajabahu was present at the capital of the Cera King Cenkuttuvan on the occasion of a temple being consecrated Goddess Pattini. Gajabahu 1 established a temple of that goddess in his own kingdom and instituted an annual festival in her honour which ensured regular rain and prosperity in his realm. Mahesena or Mahasen (276-303 AC) heralded a period of great achievements in architecture and irrigation. Among the reservoirs constructed by him is the great Minneriya Lake. Mahasena has been deified after his death by a people grateful to him on account of the benefits conferred on them by his public works. He is still worshipped in a shrine close to Minneriya tank. Queen Anula (47-42 B.C) poisoned King Choranaga whose queen she was. She also poisoned the next King Tissa or Kuda Tissa (50-47BC) who in order to satisfy her lust for a palace guard took the control of affairs into her own hands. Anula the first sovereign queen of this country disgraced her sex for she is said to have poisoned one paramour after another. Kutakanna Tissa the second son of Mahaculi Mahatissa who preceded Choranaga, could only preserve his life by donning the yellow robe. He eventually came back to the lay life, raised an army, put the infamous Anula to death by setting fire to the palace in which she led a dissolute life, ascended the throne himself and restored order and good government once more.
Mittasena who ascended the throne in 432 AC ruled for only one year. He lost his life in a Tamil invasion and the sovereignty of the Island was lost to the Sinhala people for a period of 27 years. This circumstance was brought about as on the death of King Mahanama (410-432 AC) a son of his named Sottisena born of a Tamil consort was elevated to the throne but was murdered on the same day by the princess named Sangha daughter of Mahanama by his consecrated queen. She installed her own husband Chattagahaka on the throne but he could remain in power for only one year when Mittasena usurped power. The Tamil invasion took place in they ear 432 AC headed by a leader called Pandu who slew King Mittasena and assumed the sovereignty. Pandu and his two sons Parinda and Khuddaparinda ruled in succession for 24 years. In Khuddaparinda’s reign Sinhala resistance to foreign rule began to stiffen and it developed into organised rebellion during the reigns of his three successors Tiritara, Dathiya and PithiyaThese six Tamil invaders who ruled from 433-459 A.D. were called Sad Dravida. These Tamil rulers were Buddhists or, at least, professed Buddhism while they ruled over the Island. They were not leaders of a band of freebooters but members of a royal dynasty of Tamils commanding troops consisting of their own subjects.
In the struggle for the expulsion of the Tamil Kings and the restoration of the indigenous monarchy there emerged one of the most distinguished characters in Sinhala history, the Prince Dhatusena. Dhatusena was a young Samanera of novice in robes residing in a pirivena at the great Mahavihara monastery in Anuradhapura as a pupil of his uncle who was a monk when the Tamil conqueror Pandu ascended the throne at Anuradhapura. The uncle perceived from certain portents that his young nephew was destined to become king. It is equally likely that the same conclusion could reasonably have been inferred from the political situation then prevailing in the kingdom.
Pandu’s first concern after establishing himself as King, would have been to extirpate, root and branch, all the living members of Mahanama’s royal family of the Lambakama line who might become possible rivals to himself. Thereafter the Sinhala people would have been obliged to seek for an indigenous ruler in the Moriya nobility. The youthful Dhatusena who, apparently was one of the most noble of that line would at once have become a possible contender for the throne. Dhatusena’s uncle who was a man of perception, concluded also that due to his closed environment within the Mahavihara, the young Dhatusena was not worldly-wise, and too meek and mild to develop into a national leader and liberator of his country. The uncle, therefore decided to remove him from the seclusion of the cloistered monastery to a gonisadi-vihara in the country, where there were no enclosing walls and where the boy would come in contact with the outside world, experience its rough ways and acquire qualities of courage and self-reliance. This decision was timely because king Pandu had already become suspicions of young Dhatusena as a potential rival and had planned to lay siege to him. The uncle was forewarned by yet another portent and fled with Dhatusena to a monastery to south of the Kala Oya and beyond the frontiers of Pandu’s realm. The Kala Oya was in flood when the two attempted to cross it, during their flight, and the uncle is said to have told his nephew ‘even as this river holds us back, so do thou in future time hold back its course, by collecting its waters in a tank’ a prophetic reference to the great reservoir, Kalawewa which Dhatusena was later to construct. The Chronicle (Mahawansa) does not name the gonisadi - vihara at which Dhatusena acquired manliness and completed his instruction in worldly wisdom and statecraft. It is probable that it was in distant Ruhuna because Dhatusena’s most active supporters in later time came from that region.
Dhatusena abandoned the religions life and began to collect adherents to fight the Tamil king, in the reign of Khuddaparinda (441 – 456 AC). Uprisings quickly followed each other and led to a state of open insurrection which lasted for five or more years. The fourth, fifth and sixth Tamil kings were all killed in battle with Dhatusena only the fifth king Dathiya, being able to maintain himself on the throne for three years. After the death of the last king Pithiya in a decisive battle with Dhatusena, in which the main body of the Tamil army was annihilated Dhatusena (Dasenkeli) was consecrated king at Anuradhapura in the year 459 AC and became the founder of the Moriya dynasty. But the fighting was not yet over: pockets of Tamil resistance sprang up in different places and Dhatusena had to build forts and carry out a series of mopping – up operations in order to subdue all the rebellious Tamil elements. Punishment was meted out to those Sinhala nobles and big landowners who had sided with the Tamils, while the men of good family, especially those from Ruhuna, who had actively supported Dhatusena were fittingly rewarded.
Dhatusena was free to embark on works of development and on religious benefactions, the Sinhala monarchy having been restored and order re-established in the country. He constructed eighteen tanks, of which four were major works, but by far the largest and the most important of them all was the great irrigation project Kalavapi (Kalawewa) built across the Kala Oya, together with its 54 mile long canal the Jaya Ganga which conveyed water from the new reservoir to Anuradhapura. This was a prodigious engineering feat and its successful completion conferred immortality on the name of Dhatusena. In addition to the irrigation works, which greatly increased the productivity of the land, the welfare services provided by the king included asylums for cripples and the incurable and regular alms-givings for the poor.
Dhatusena’s religious endowments were munificient. He built eighteen new viharas and renovated and embellished all the important structures in the Mahavihara and the Abhayagiri vihara. He founded the Ambatthala Vihara below the summit of Mihintale and made it over to the Abhayagiri fraternity. For the first time lightning conductors were fitted on the pinnacles of the three great chetiyas. Religious festivals were celebrated with great splendour, and alms, robes and other necessities were liberally bestowed on the monks. A religious mission was despatched to China. At this time Lanka was becoming the entrepot of sea-borne trade between the West and the Far-East and from this international trade the Island derived great prosperity during the fifth, sixth and the seventh centuries. Opportunities frequently presented themselves for Buddhist missions and pilgrims to travel to Buddhist shrines and centres of Buddhist worship abroad and were taken full advantage of: journeys to China became increasingly frequent.
It was Moggallava II (Dala Mugalan) who occupies a place second only to Mahasena and Dhatusena among the tank building kings of Anuradhapura. He ascended the throne in 535 AC and reigned for twenty years. He was a gifted poet and a shining light of the good doctrine. Learned theras, poets and writers of distinction were singled out by the king for special recognition and reward. In his own time he was greatly revered because by largess, friendly speech, by working for the good of others and by his natural feelings for others, he won over the mass of his subjects. His eminence in scholarship and saintliness was equalled by his outstanding achievements in the practical field of irrigation, for he built the largest tank constructed in the Island Dhanavapi or Dhanawewa afterwards called Padivapi (now Padaviya) and another immense tank Pattapasanavapi or Patpahanwewa (now ealled Nachchaduwa) which was the key reservoir for all the irrigation projects under the Malwatu Oya.
The story of the rise to the throne of Manavamma (684 – 718 AC) is an inspiring passage in the history of this country. He was a son of King Kassapa II (650 – 659 AC) and lived in the northern province in comparative obscurity with his wife, who was also a king’s daughter. He stood close in the line of succession but lacking sufficient support and not wishing to be embroiled in the disputes of other claimants he left the Island and made his way to the court of the Pallava King Narasinhavarman I, where he was well received. He entered the service of the Pallava king and was joined soon after by his wife. Narasinhavarman gave him the command of an army division and he proved himself a very capable military commander. When the Western Chalukyas invaded the Pallava Kingdom, Manavamma showed great valour and and resolution in repelling the invasion. Narasinhavarman’s gratitude knew no bounds and he determined to give Manavamma all the aid he could to become the king of Lanka. A complete Pallava expedition was fitted out with ships, army and train and all complementary resources needed to conquer Lanka. The ships made the sea passage quickly and Manavamma landed his forces and advanced on Anuradhapura. On the approach of Manavamma’s army, the Sinhala king Datopatissa fled. Manavamma occupied the city and without delaying to consecrate himself king, set out in pursuit of the fleeing monarch. At this decisive stage in the campaign the Pallava army received tidings that their king was stricken by a mortal disease, and they decided to return to their homeland. Manavamma remained behind with a small body of troops, hoping to capture Datopatissa quickly, was soon able to pit overwhelming forces against Manavamma’s depleted strength and he prepared a strong counter attack. Manavamma realizing that his position was no longer tenable, returned to India and resumed his position at the Pallava court. Narasinhavarmams death actually took place while the expeditionary force was in Lanka or immediately after its return home. Manavamma had to wait twenty years till Narasinhavarman II, the third successor to Narasinhavarman I ascended the Pallava throne. Manavamma continued to serve the Pallava rulers faithfully and well and to increase their obligation wards him. When at long last Narasinhavarman II assembled and equipped a second expeditionary force to proceed to Lanka with Manavamma at its head, the Pallava troops refused to cross the seas in the service of any person other than their king. Then according to the Chronicle, Narasinhavarman disguised Manavamma as the king attiring him in the royal armour with the royal accoutrements and ornaments and so deluded the troops that the king himself had embarked, whereupon they all went on board.
Manavammas army landed in the north and rested a few days. The troops then proceeded to subdue the inhabitants of the northern province to bring that recalcitrant area under Manavamma’s authority before they advanced towards Anuradhapura. The king of this Island at this time was the puppet ruler Hatthadatha, the nominee of the powerful Tamil minister Pothakattha. The Sinhala army with its preponderant element of Tamil mercenaries took the field against The Pallavas with the king commanding one wing and Potthakuttha, the other. Where they met is not known. Manavamma’s tactical plan, which was to break the unity of the Sinhala army and bring the two wings to battle separately was successful: Hatthadatha and Potthakuttha, separated and defeated in turn, took to flight in different directions. Hatthadatha was intercepted and slain, but Potthakuttha made good his escape to the lower Matale hills where he died of poisoning. Manavamma (Mahalepa or Mahalepano) entered Anuradhapura and was consecrated king in the year 684 AC.
In this saga of war and peace there has been no racism or communalism. The Sinhala people had been fighting along with the Tamil people to achieve their ambitions. However Tamil domination in the affairs of state ceased with Manavamma’s accession.
The saga of war and peace continues. When we look at the history of our country we see that wars, mainly against South Indian invaders, have been followed by peace. On some occasions Sinhala kings had to restrict their hegemony to Ruhunu Rata and the invaders held sway over Raja Rata.
When Manavamma ascended the throne he was a man well on in middle age. His long exile in the Pallava kingdom and the protracted delay between his first and the second invasions were a severe testing time which must have left a permanent mark on his attitude and outlook in later life. He lived to an advanced old age and reigned thirty five years.
Tamil domination in affairs of State ceased with Manavamma’s accession. Tamil senapatis and ministers disappear for the time being from the pages of history. It is not recorded and it is very doubtful that Manavamma repatriated any part of the resident Tamil population. Doubtless he curbed their power, removing Tamil from high positions and imposed a stricter supervision over their activities. The Tamils would have themselves understood that their best policy in the changed circumstances would be to bide their time.
Manavamma was undoubtedly one of the most distinguished of the Sinhala kings. His outstanding qualities as a leader of men in battle won the approbation and gratitude of the Pallava kings, themselves great warriors. No other Sinhala king before or after accession, achieved fame on the Indian continent as a military commander. The determination and audacity of the successful soldier were tempered in later life by the lessons of patience and resignation learned during the long years of waiting for the fulfilment of his own personal ambition. The peace which he re-established in the Island was firm and the dynasty which he founded endured for nearly four hundred years.
Manavamma was followed on the throne by his three sons Aggabodhi v, Kassapa III and Mahinda I all of whom were born in the Pallava kingdom during their father’s exile. They are described as just and pious rulers, abounding in devotion to the religion and in charity to the needy and the feeble. Kassapa III enforced the law against killing living creatures. On the death of Mahinda I in 732 AC the peace established by Manavamma had lasted just over fifty years.
The uparaja and the ruler of the eastern districts was Aggabodhi the son of Kassapa III while Mahinda I’s own son also named Aggabodhi administered the province of Dakkhinadesa. Aggahodhi VII (Kuda Agbo) uparaja who assumed kingly power in 772 AC was interested in medicinal herbs and made a study of various plants to determine their curative value. Unjust judges were removed from office by his orders and he carried out a cleansing of the Sangha. Mahinda the son of Aggabodhi VI who held the office of senapathi under his father declined to retain it during the reign of Aggabodhi VII but accepted an assignment to guard the sea-coast and resided at the great port Mahatittha. Evidently there was some fear of invasion from South India. On the death of Aggabodhi VII in 778 AC Mahinda came in haste to Anuradhapura, fearing disorder. In the northern province the inhabitants led by their district chiefs, withheld the payment of taxes and became a law unto themselves. Mahinda first travelled to Polonnaruwa where the king had died, and entered into an arrangement with the late king’s widow that she should continue the succession as queen, while he carried out the tasks of government in her name. He then marched to the north and crushed the revolt there. Mahinda soon discovered that the queen desired to have her own way in matters of state and was plotting to take his life. He had her watched, seized her and her adherents, came to Anuradhapura and had himself consecrated as King Mahinda II (Salamevan Mihindu).
His reign was a troubled one, but he was a strong ruler. First of all, the adipada Dappula, a nephew (sister’s son) of Aggabodhi VI laid claim to the throne supported by his two brothers. Aggabodhi VI and Aggabodhi VII were first cousins, the sons of two brothers whose father was Manavamma. The sister’s son (bhagineyya) always held a privileged position in the Sinhala royal family, and stood in line to the succession if the king had no brothers or sons. Dappula, the claimant resided at Kalawewa and there he gathered together his troops and marched on Anuradhapura. Mahinda left the city taking the queen-mother with him because he distrusted her, and gave battle at Sangagama where he routed Dappula’s troops, Dappula himself making good his escape to the mountains.
Dappula returned to the conflict. He collected troops in the hill country and summoning to his and his sister’s two sons, who were in Ruhuna and their men he advanced to Anuradhapura and invested the city after a surprise night march. The citizens were thrown into great alarm and confusion when, in the darkess, the sounds of battle such as the trumpeting of elephants, the neighing of horses, the rhythmic rattle of drums and the war cries reached their ears. King Mahinda and his army beat off the night attack and launched their counter-blow at dawn. Dappula was vanquished and fled, and then a truce was declared, the two princes from Ruhuna surrendering to the king. The king now sent troops to the troublesome northern and eastern districts to subjugate those regions.
King Mahinda married the queen mother, at this juncture, because she could neither be set free or slain. And it is said that after the birth of a son the marriage proved to be a happy one. When Dappula and his two brothers heard that the queen mother, their secret ally, had married the king, they felt that nothing was left to them now but to make a desperate bid to overthrow the king. They joined forces and took up positions, along the Mahaweli Ganga the traditional line of attack from Ruhuna. The king left the capital with his army taking the queen with him because he was still distrustful of her, engaged the rebel forces and defeated them. Dappula fled but his two brothers were killed. Undeterred by this defeat the pertinacious Dappula again began making preparations in Ruhuna to resume the war. The king was unwilling to embark upon yet another military expedition, this time to distant Ruhuna, without popular approval and he summoned at the Thuparama an assembly of the leading monks, ministers and citizens and secured their assent to his plans. He then set out for Ruhuna. The army laid waste a border district and then ascended the Mara mountains, probably the hills above Rakwana. Dappula’s army was overcome by fear and did not give battle. The king was merciful. He exacted from Dappula a large indemnity in elephants, horses and jewels and decreed the Gal Oya, instead of the Mahaweli Ganga as the future boundary of Ruhuna, appropriating all the land between the two rivers as royal territory.
The king’s son by the mahesi died, but he had another son alternatively called Udaya and Dappula, who was born before he became king. This boy was allowed to grow up in a wayward way and to do very much as he liked. He proved to be an admirable soldier and greatly distinguished himself in repelling the night attack on Anuradhapura. As reward the king appointed him senapathi. Thereafter in the battle with Dappula on the Mahaweli Ganga, he engaged Dappula in single combat and put him to flight. The king advanced him to the dignity of uparaja on the death of the mahesi’s son.
Mahinda II built the Ratnapasada the Uposatha House of the Abhayagiri mahesi’s vihara and the counter part of the Lohapasada at the Mahavihara. He founded two viharas at Polonnaruwa which during the past century had gained importance as a temporary royal residence. He encased the cetiya of the Thuparama with sheets of gold alternating with strips of silver. He enlarged the tank Kalawewa to enable it to discharge a larger volume of water. In charity he was lavish to cripples, the sick and the poor. He declared areas of sanctuary for fish and wild animals. He showed leanings towards Hinduism by restoring decayed temples of the gods and by benefactions to Brahamins and presents to Tamils: this may have been part of a policy of reconciliation or appeasement of the Tamil population, because he had twice ruthlessly suppressed rebellious activity in the northern province.
Mahinda II died in 797 AC and was succeeded by his warrior son Udaya I (Uda) also known as Dappula II. When the king was on a visit to Minneriya, he received news that the people of the Ruhuna borderland were in rebellion, and he despatched an army under the joint command of his son, the yuvaraja and the senapathi to quell the rebellion. The two princes instead of proceeding to Ruhuna, joined together in a treasonable conspiracy against the king and began to suborn the loyalty of the people in the Dambulla and Sigiriya districts. The king lost no time in taking punitive action: he marched against them slew his son and the senapathi and took up residence at Polonnaruwa. Soon afterwards, the Prince Mahinda, the son of the adipada Dathasiva who administered the revenues of Ruhuna, fell out with his father and came to King Udaya at Anuradhapura for protection and assistance. The king showed the prince much favour, gave him his daughter in marriage and sent him back to Ruhuna at the head of the royal army to make war against his father. The king’s troops defeated those of Dathasiva, forcing Dathasiva to abandon his principality and flee to India. The prince Mahinda thereupon succeeded his father as ruler of Ruhuna. The lineage of Dathasiva is not known: the union between his son and successor Mahinda and the daughter of King Udaya brought the royal houses of Anuradhapura and Ruhuna, into closer relationship and involved them more directly in each others family disputes and changes of fortune. The remainder of the short reign of five years of Udaya I was occupied in peaceful works. He and his queen built and endowed monasteries, restored decayed buildings and celebrated the religious festivals. He founded alms – halls at various places, homes for cripples and the blind and a hospital at Polonnaruwa. Judicial decisions were recorded and preserved as precedents for the future.
The three sons of Udaya I namely, Mahinda III, Aggabodhi VIII and Dappula II succeeded each other in turn and ruled for thirty years. Aggabodhi VII forbade the bringing into the city of fish meat and intoxicating liquor on poya days. In the reign of the last named of these three kings, Mahinda, the ruler of Ruhuna and the king’s brother-in-law, served his two sons, Kittaggabodhi and Dappula in the same way as he himself had been served by his father: he drove them out of his principality and they came to their maternal uncle, the king for aid, just as their father had done in similar circumstances some twenty years earlier. As on the earlier occasion, the king placed under them a strong division of the royal army with which they marched into Ruhuna to fight against their father. But the result this time was different. Their father Mahinda defeated them and they were compelled to return to the security of the court at Anuradhapura, where they took up their abode, biding their time. Mahinda of Ruhuna was well content with this state of abeyance in hostilities but he soon became involved in another war with a kinsman of his, and in the course of the struggle, both he and his kinsman lost their lives. His eldest son Kittaggabodhi who had married king Dappula’s daughter, then entered Ruhuna, supported by royal troops and established himself as ruler there. Dappula II was succeeded at Anuradhapura by his son Aggabodhi IX whose reign of two years was short and uneventful.
Sena I became king in 833 AC. Important events in history were about to take place. Just over 400 years after the previous invasion by a South Indian power a Pandya invasion of the Island took place probably during the first decade of the reign of Sena I. Thus the peace of this Island nation was disturbed once again with Pandya King Srimara Srivallabha (815 – 862 AC) assembling a massive strength and leading the invading forces in person.
The peace of the Island was again disturbed during the reign of Sena I (Sen or Matvala Sen) who ruled from 833 – 853 AC by a Pandya invasion over 400 years after the previous invasion by a South Indian power.
The power of the Pandya kingdom had been growing during the preceding century. Jatila Paranataka or Varaguna, the ablest of the Pandya rulers of the age succeeded to the Pandya throne in 765 AC. Pandya imperial power attained its greatest extent under him and the expansionist policy of its kings who now controlled greater part of South India placed Lanka in great danger of invasion or conquest.
The Lanka Chronicles say nothing of the impending calamity or of the military or political measures taken to meet or avert it. But nevertheless it can be conjectured that there was great uneasiness and foreboding at this time in the councils of the Sinhala king.
The Pandya invasion of Lanka took place during the reign of the Pandya king Srimara Srivallabha (815 – 862 AC) who succeeded Varaguna I. Although the exact date of the invasion is not known it can be surmised that it took place during the first decade of the reign of king Sena I. The Pandya king had assembled massive strength and led the invading forces in person. They landed in the north and began operations by taking possession of the coastal districts. The Sinhala king mobilised his army at once but there was discord among the generals and no resistance was offered by the Sinhala army to the occupation of the northern province. The resident Tamil population now played their role. The many Damilas who dwelt here and there went over to the side of the Pandya king: thereby he gained great power. The augmented and unopposed Pandya army advanced in the direction of Anuradhapura and encamped on the fatal battlefield of Mahatalitagama. The Sinhala army before Mahatalitagama was commanded by they uvaraja Mahinda. Several Sinhala generals had absented themselves from the battle and the army was without fighting spirit but the Pandya troops were imbued with determination to conquer. The yuvaraja fought bravely but to no avail. The Sinhala army was overwhelmed and scattered in all directions. The yuraraja saw the rout of his troops and took his life with his own hands: his personal followers also killed themselves around their leader. The Pandya army continued its advance and encountered a show of resistance in the vicinity of the capital from the troops of the adipada Kassapa: but this was soon overcome and the Pandyas entered the city. The Pandya king gave orders that the body of the courageous yuvaraja Mahinda was to be cremated with royal honours. Anuradhapura was then given over to pillage, from palace and vihara to private dwelling and ‘the splendid city was left in a state as if it had been plundered by the Yakkhas.’
The Sinhala king, Sena I, had meanwhile taken to headlong flight and in great fear and alarm had reached Trincomalee where he planned to escape across the seas to the Srivijaya kingdom of Malaya. Apparently friendly relations already existed between the Sinhalas and the Malays. The Pandya monarch sent envoys to the Sinhala king proposing a treaty. It may be surmised that the reason was that he did not wish the political ties between Lanka and Srivijaya to be strengthened. In addition to retaining the spoils of war which included the entire royal treasure, the Pandya king demanded a heavy indemnity. The Sinhala king was only too ready to agree, concluded the treaty and sent the envoys back with presents. The Pandya king, entirely satisfied, handed back the capital to the Sinhala officials and departed for the seaport where he embarked his troops and returned to his own country.
The first task before Sena I after the withdrawal of the invaders was to rebuild the wrecked structures in the capital. This he largely did and then turned his attention to pious works which occupied the rest of his reign. He founded a large monastery on Ritigala for the panskulika (ascetic) bhikkhus and constructed several other religious buildings: his queen, the princes and the ministers followed the king’s example.
His successor was his nephew Sena II (Mugayin Sen) a king of great renown in Lankan history who reigned from 853 AC to 887 AC.
In the year 862 AC prince Varaguna, the son of Srimara Srivallabha (the Pandya king who had conquered Lanka) came to Lanka as a rebel and a refugee. He sought the aid of the Sinhala monarch to dethrone his father and gain the kingdom for himself. A request such as this was meaningless unless the Sinhala king possessed sufficient sea power to carry out an invasion of the Indian mainland, and to beat off all naval opposition the on seas until the invading army returned to its native soil. Such loss of sea power as the Sinhalas suffered during the Pandya conquest in the preceding reign had apparently been made good by an accelerated build-up in the two succeeding decades.
A great opportunity presented itself to the Sinhala king to avenge the defeat which his predecessor had suffered and to erase its disgrace. But before he made his decision to give aid to prince Varaguna, he must have satisfied himself that Varaguna had good support and resources in his own country and that the combined strength of the strong Sinhala forces together with those of Varaguna were capable of accomplishing their mission.
There was also the additional favourable circumstance that at this time the Pandyas were under attack by the Pallavas and the Pandya king was preoccupied with the Pallava war. It is not impossible that the simultaneous Pallava – Sinhala offensive against the Pandyas was the outcome of a common plan for co-ordinated action by the two countries. King Sena duly went to Mahatittha and there proceeded to collect, organise and equip on expedition to Pandya. The Senapati Kutthaka (Senevirad Kuttha in inscriptions) was appointed the overall commander.
The Sinhala army landed in Pandya territory and it may be surmised, was joined by Varaguna’s adherents. The march to Madhura, the Pandya capital, was rapid because it was unopposed. The Pandya king Srimara had but recently suffered a severe defeat at the hands of the Pallavas in the battle of Arisil and was still in the field when the Sinhala army appeared before Madhura. He hastened to the relief of Madhura, but arrived after the capital had been taken. The battle which followed went against him and his troops were thrown back: he was wounded and escaped from the battlefield, but died of his wounds.
The victorious Sinhala army sacked Madhura and recovered the royal treasure of the Sinhala kings as well as the gold and the jewels of the monasteries which the Pandyas had carried away twenty years earlier. The Sinhala senapati placed the prince Varaguna on the throne and consecrated him king and the Sinhala army took part in the coronation festivities. The senapati then marched back to the coast, re-embarked his army and returned to Mahatittha where king Sena II who had been waiting there for his return, received him with great honour. In commemoration of the victory over the Pandyas, Sena II was accorded the epithets Madhura pahala, ‘he who smote Madhura’ and Madhura – dunu, ‘the conqueror of Madhura’ in his own and his son’s inscriptions. The conquest of Pandya would have been a great humiliation to the Tamil population of Lanka and it is not unlikely that they were subjected to some repression during the years immediately following it.
The victory over Pandya did not make the Sinhala king complacent about the security of Lanka. He feared some retaliation because he strengthened the coastguard service and the other defensive measures on the coast and ‘made the Island hard to subdue by the foe.’ – The remaining six years of the reign of Sena II were a period of peace and affluence. The king endowed the monasteries, built new shrines and gave alms liberally. In irrigation he extended the Minipe scheme on the Mahaweli Ganga and constructed a feeder canal to augment the supply of Mahakanadarawewa tank near Mihintale.
In 915 AC during the reign of king Kassapa V (914 – 923 AC) the son of a famous father (Sena II) the Pandya ruler Maravarman Rajasinha II appealed to the Sinhalas for armed assistance against Chola king Parantaka I. The Cholas were now on the rise to imperial power and the other South Indian kingdoms were beginning to feel the weight of their aggressiveness. Kassapa of Lanka responded to the Pandya appeal.
A Sinhala expeditionary force was equipped, the king encouraged the departing troops with brave words and the army set sail and landed on Pandya soil. The Cholas met the combined armies of Pandya and Lanka at the battle of Vellur.
The fortune of war favoured the Cholas but they had to fight very hard to gain victory. The Chronicle says that the Sinhalas made ready to renew the combat but the Sinhala commander died of a plague and on the disease spreading to the troops, rendering the army unfit for war the Sinhala king ordered the recall of all his soldiers to Lanka. It is more likely that the Sinhala commander fell in battle at Vellur and that after his defeat the position of the Sinhala forces in Pandya became untenable and they were compelled to evacuate and return to Lanka to avoid destruction. The Chola king Parantaka is referred to in an inscription of his eighth year (915 AC) as conqueror of Lanka’ which is a fiction for ‘victor over the Sinhala army.’
After the death of Kassapa V in 923 AC he was succeeded by his yuvaraja who became king as Dappula III and reigned for less than a year. His successor was Dappula IV (924 – 935 AC) and in the latter’s reign the Pandya king Rajasinha II driven out of his kingdom by the Cholas sought sanctuary in Lanka. The abandonment of his throne by the Pandya king completed the Chola conquest of the Pandya kingdom. The Sinhala king was willing to give military assistance to the refugee Pandya ruler to regain his kingdom but the Sinhala nobles violently opposed the plan and the king had to give way. Finding that he could get no practical help in Lanka the Pandya king left his diadem, regalia and valuables in the care of the Sinhala king and departed for the Kerala kingdom the home of his mother. Although the military alliance between Lanka and Pandya had become virtually ineffective, the political alliance continued. Lanka remained committed to the side of the Pandyas against the Cholas although the fighting power of the Pandyas had already been broken and their king had fled his country.
The next king of Lanka Udaya III whose accession was in 935 AC was succeeded by Sena III in 938 AC. He was a pious as well as a practical ruler for he carried out a general repair of the dams and sluices of the major tanks in addition to building and endowing monasteries. Udaya IV ascended the throne in 946 AC. The Chola power was vigorously pursuing the path of conquest and the Chola king who had already conquered Pandya and put its king to flight now desired to be consecrated as king of that kingdom. But the ceremony could not be performed without the Pandya royal regalia which was in Lanka having been left here by the refugee Pandya king about fifteen years earlier.
Udya IV was a slothful ruler, addicted to liquor and unmindful of his duties. In consequence government was lax and corruption rife.
The Chola king learning of the misrule and weakness of the Sinhala king, sent envoys to demand the surrender of the Pandya insignia. King Udaya refused the demand and the Cholas immediately dispatched an expeditionary force across the seas to secure the regalia by force of arms. The Sinhala army commanded by the senapati, intercepted the advancing Chola forces but was defeated and the senapati lost his life. The king abandoned Anuradhapura and fled to Ruhuna taking the Pandya regalia with him. The Cholas entered and pillaged Anuradhapura and then set out for Ruhuna in pursuit of the king. But being unfamiliar with the terrain, they were unable to locate him abandoned their quest and returned to their own country with a great booty.
Sena IV had a short reign and was succeeded in 956 AC Mahinda IV the last of the great kings of the Anuradhapura period. He was ‘rich in merit, rich in splendour, rich in military power and rich in fame.’
His first mahesi was a princess of the line of Kalinga, not Kalinga in India but the Buddhist royal house of the same name which ruled the Srivijaya kingdom extending over a large part of Malaya and Indonesia.
Sundara Chola Parantaka II the Chola monarch, suffered several reverses at the hands of the Rastrakuta king Krsna III the wave of success carried Krsna to Lanka. He invaded the northern districts in 958 AC and is the king called ‘Vallabha’ in the Chulavansa. His attempt to gain a foothold in Lanka was foiled by the Sinhala senapati Sena and made a treaty with the Sinhala king and withdrew. A Chola invasion also took place in the following year 959 AC. The Cholas landed at Kayts but were compelled to take to their ships again after their general had lost his life. This Mahinda IV was able to repel two attempts to conquer his kingdom.
Mahinda IV was a great benefactor of the austere pansakulika sect of Buddhist monks who led the lives of ascetics. He restored several edifices, including the Temple of the Tooth which had been burned down or despoiled by the Cholas during their invasion in 947 AC. He repaired the damaged tanks and canals throughout the country and assured a sufficiency of food. His generosity to the poor and the sick was unbounded and his alms included a distribution of food to wild animals.
Sena V, son of Mahinda IV by the Kalinga mahesi succeeded his father in 972 AC. He was twelve years old on accession and he died at the age of twenty two of chronic alcoholic excess. ‘After taking intoxicating drinks he was like a wild beast gone mad.’
The senapati Sena the general who had repelled the invasion of Krsna III in 958 AC, was removed from office by the king and replaced by a palace official. At the time of his dismissal the senapati and his army were engaged in suppressing a border rebellion. He broke off these operations and marched against the king. The king offered no resistance but left the capital and fled to Ruhuna. The queen-mother and the yuvaraja remained behind and took the side of the dismissed senapati: all three went into residence at Polonnaruwa, the object being to intercept the king if he attempted to return form Ruhuna to Anuradhapura. The king sent troops from Ruhuna to fight the senapati, but the senapati won a resounding victory over them.
The Tamil mercenaries of the senapati’ now plundered the whole country like devils and pillaging, seized the property of its inhabitants. ‘The situation was saved for the time being by a reconciliation between the king and the senapati: the senapati was restored to office and the king married the senapati’s daughter.
The Sinhala kingdom had now entered upon a parlous condition. The last of the Anuradhapura kings Mahinda V succeeded his elder brother in 982 AC. Anuradhapura was ‘full of strangers brought hither by the senapati Sena.’ The king was of very weak character lacking in statecraft. The peasantry neglected to pay their taxes and soon afterwards stopped paying them. Law and order were not enforced. By his tenth year the king had expended all the resources of the Treasury as well as his own private fortune and had no means of paying his soldiers. The Malay mercenaries from Srivijaya armed themselves, surrourded the palace and threatened the king saying ‘so long as there is no pay he shall not eat.’
Faced with no solution to his dilemma other than flight the king escaped from the palace with his regalia by an underground passage and secretly made his way to Ruhuna where he established himself within a fortified camp at the place Sidupabbatagama. Chaos reigred in Rajarata. Leaders of the Sinhala, Malay and Kanarese soldiery became each in his own way a lawless tyrant carrying on the administration as he pleased for the benefit of his personal following. The machinery of central and local government ceased to function. Plunder and pillage, violence and oppression and the submission of the weak to the strong became the law of the land.
The state of affairs in Lanka was reported to the Chola king, now the renowned couqueror Rajaraja I (985 – 1015 AC). He had already in two campaigns destroyed the Pandyas and conquered the Keralas. The third member of the Pandu-Kerala-Sihala confederation, which had always opposed the Cholas was now not only isolated but also in a state incapable of defence. It was the year 993 AC. The invading Chola army landed in the north and carried all before it. Anuradhapura was captured, sacked for the last time and set on fire. Everywhere there was looting: the Cholas took all the treasures of Lanka for themselves.
The principality of Rajarata was annexed as a province of the Chola empire and the seat of the Chola viceroy was moved from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa because Polonnaruwa commanded all the crossings along the defended river – line of the Mahaweli Ganaga.
For twenty four years the Cholas remained satisfied with their conquest of Rajarata and allowed Mahinda V to rule Ruhuna. Then in 1017 AC they broke into Ruhuna and captured the Sinhala king and queen and all the royal regalia and jewels. The king was removed as a prisoner to the Chola kingdom and died there in captivity in 1029 AC.
In 1017 with the conquest of Lanka by the Cholas the Island ceased to have a king of her own and was called Munmudi Chola Mandalam.
Organized resistance to Chola rule took a more vigorous and determined turn upon the death in captivity in the Chola kingdom in 1029 AC of the Sinhala king Mahinda V: it would appear that as long as the last consecrated Sinhala monarch remained alive as a prisoner of the Cholas the Sinhalas generally submitted to Chola rule but upon receiving news of his death they began especially in Ruhuna to build up active and unceasing rebellion against the Chola invader.
The prince Kassapa, the son of Mahinda V, had escaped capture when his parents were taken prisoner, and was brought up in secret in Ruhuna, carefully nurtured and protected. At the time of his father’s death in 1029 AC he was about twelve years old. A Chola force dispatched by the Chola viceroy at Polonnaruwa made a powerful attempt in 1029/ 30 AC to sieze the person of the young prince who had now inherited his father’s kingdom. These troops traversed the whole of Ruhuna in the course of their search but the prince’s adherents were successful in protecting him.
Two Sinhala generals fortified themselves on the rock-group called Magul-maha-vihara near Palatupana and from this stronghold made surprise attacks on the Cholas destroying a large number of the enemy. After six months of this warfare the Chola casualties were so high that they abandoned further attempts to capture the prince and retired to Polonnaruwa. Thereupon prince Kassapa assumed the sovereignty of Lanka, but with factual rulership only over the principality of Ruhuna under the name of Vikkamabahu, and proceeded to build up loyalty and adherence to himself and to collect and organize military resources for a decisive conflict.
The Cholas made no sustained effort to stamp out these menacing preparations in Ruhuna thought it is probable that they carried out punitive raids at various times. In South India at this period, resistance to Chola rule was increasing in the subject kingdoms of Pandya and Kerala, and it is possible that the forces of liberation in all three conquered kingdoms, Pandya, Kerala and Lanka were in secret contact with each other. Nevertheless, Vikkamabahu’s preparations for battle with the Cholas, were protracted although they were little interfered with and he was not ready to launch offensive operations for at least eight years: but at this critical moment he fell ill and died at Devundara sometime between 1037 and 1041AC.
Young prince Kitti
Ten years of internal disorganization and disunity in Ruhuna followed and the Cholas took full advantage of it, for they defeated and put to death three of the five princes who assumed the rulership of Ruhuna during this decade. On Vikkamabahu’s death, his senapati Kitti seized power, but was able to maintain his authority only for eight days. He was slain by a personage called Mahalanakitti, who bore the title of ‘chief secretary’ but whose parentage and claim to the succession are not disclosed. Mahalanakitti ruled over Ruhuna for three years and then fell in battle with the Cholas: this was evidently a victory of great magnitude because the Cholas captured a considerable booty, including the royal diadem and the chief treasures. Vikkamapandu, a Pandya prince who through fear of the Cholas had taken up his abode in the Dulu country, came to Ruhuna after Mahalanakitti’s death and established himself as ruler with his seat at Kalutara: the choice of Kalutara at the western extremity of the principality, as the seat of government, instead of a place in the more populous and productive south-east, appears to have been governed more by regard for the ruler’s personal safety then by considerations of effective government. Vikkamapandu was slain after a year by Jagatipala of Oudh in North India. Jagatipala ruled over Ruhuna for four years and then suffered defeat at the hands of the Cholas who slew him, and seized his mahesi and his daughter and all his valuable property. His successor was Parakkamapandu, son of the Pandya king, who ruled for two years and then suffered the same fate as his predecessor.
When Vikkamabahu died leaving no heir the Sinhalas in Ruhuna were without a leader in the direct line of the Sinhala royal dynasty, around whose person an united and determined resistance to Chola rule could once again be simulated: the will to resist was there, for they accepted any royal personage as their ruler, even foreigners (such as Vikkamapandu, Jagatipala and Parakkamapandu) who would lead them to freedom, but alien leadership brought only disaster after disaster a tightening of the Chola grip on Ruhuna and a bleaker vision of the final day of liberation.
An army leader named Loka or Lokissara took over the government of Ruhuna after the death of Parakkamapandu and established himself at Kataragama about 1050 AC. At this time there was growing up at Mulasala in Ruhuna the young prince Kitti whose parents were prince Moggallana, a descendent of king Manavamma and the princess Lokita of the line of king Datopatissa. ‘With the death of Vikkamabahu, the son of Mahinda V, the royal house of Anuradhapura became extinct: and Moggallana the representative of a collateral line which had established itself in Ruhuna, was the prince who could claim the throne by right of descent.’ There is no evidence that Moggallana ever exercised royal powers nor does it appear that he took a prominent part in the warfare that was then being waged in Ruhuna against the Cholas: on the other hand the Panakaduva inscription gives the impression that he passively placed himself and his family under the protection of a Sinhala chieftain both for sustenance and safety. His son Kitti (afterwards Vijayabahu I) was of different mettle.
Dissension among leaders now disrupted the unity of the people of Ruhuna. A chieftain named Buddharaja (Lord Budal of Sitnaru bim, as he is styled in the Panakaduva inscription) quarrelled with the ruler, Loka, and set up his own armed camp at the foot of the Malaya mountains at Hunuvala near Opanake. He brought this region and the adjacent foothills under his control, his primary concern in the early stages of his succession being to take up a defensive position where he would be secure from attack by Loka. Prince Kitti joined Buddharaja. The Chulavansa says that Kitti was then fourteen years of age and skilled in archery, but the Panakaduva inscription implies that the association with Buddharaja began when Kitti was much younger. In Kitti’s (Vijayabahu’s) own words in this inscription: ‘At the time we were remaining concealed in the mountain wilderness, having been deprived of our kingdom in consequence of the calamity caused by the Soli Tamils, Lord Budal of Sitnaru-bim, dandanayaka of Ruhuna, with the aid of his retinue protected the entire royal family including our father, His Majesty King Mugalan, the Great Lord; (he) brought us up in our tender age; (he) nurtured us with the sustenance of (edible) roots and green herbs from the jungle; (he) concealed us from enemies who were prowling about seeking us wherever we went; engaging himself in battle in (this) place and (that) place (he) secured once again, the territory of Ruhuna, took us out of the mountain wilderness and established us in our own kingdom.’
It is very probable, since Buddharaja was the protector of the surviving royal family and was now grooming the prince Kitti for future kingship, that Kitti as a youth began to take part, as the Chronicle states, in Buddharaja’s military activities in a limited way. Clashes between Loka’s and Buddharaja’s troops took place at Bovala, near Kirama and in the district around Hunuvala, and Buddharaja succeeded in extending his authority over the entire mountain region bordering Ruhuna: all Loka’s efforts to evict him failed. More chieftains allied themselves with Buddharaja and the combined forces fortified themselves on the Remuna rock in Ranmalakanda range. Loka attacked this stronghold but was unsuccessful: he then ceased hostilities and soon afterwards died. He was succeeded at his seat, Kataragama, by a chieftain named Kassapa.
The Chola viceroy who had apparently been watching the turn of events in Ruhuna during the past few years without active intervention, now resumed offensive operations and dispatched a detatchment to attack the new ruler, Kassapa, this undertaking was a failure: Kassapa defeated the Chola forces, strengthened his frontier posts and returned to Kataragama. The next development was an attack upon the, victorious Kassapa by the forces of Buddharaja and the prince Kitti. Evidently Kassapas encounter with the Cholas had depleted his strength and the moment was favourable for a quick and probably decisive, attack upon him. Kassapa marched westward to meet his opponents but received only lukewarm support, and he thereupon retired behind Kataragama to a stronghold to the eastward named Khadirangani: here he was attacked and slain.
Srivijaya kingdom protects
Two more years passed before Buddharaja and Kitti secured complete and undisputed control over Ruhuna and in 1055/ 56 AC Kitti, then in his eighteenth year, assumed the rulership of Ruhuna under the royal name Vijayabahu. Vijayabahu’s seat of government on this occasion continued to be Kataragama. He was now on the threshold of manhood and though of royal lineage he had known neither Palace nor Court. His life had been one of tribulation and trial; as a child he was a refugee with his parents in the mountain region, moving secretly from one hiding place to another, and often subsisting upon jungle herbs and roots: in early youth he had begun to gain experience of warfare and to share the rigours of campaigning with his men, and by his personal qualities of courage and leadership he had earned the devotion of the chiefs and followers who supported him. This was a fitting background for a formidable task which now lay ahead of him of liberating his country by a long and determined struggle against an enemy far more powerful than himself in arms and resources.
The Chola viceroy’s reaction to the celebrations and acclamation with which Vijayabahu’s accession was received by the people of Ruhuna was to dispatch a strong punitive force to enter and subjugate that principality. Vijayabahu realized that his troops were no match for the superior Chola forces and he abandoned Kataragama which the Cholas plundered and withdrew into the security of his familiar mountain jungles. He moved back into the plains to Sippatthalaka, probably near Hambantaota, after the Cholas returned to Polonnaruwa, and settled down to restore order and good government in his principality, to organize and develop it and to build up material resources for war. This task occupied some years. Trade contacts were established with Burma (Myanmar) and cargoes of merchandise were exchanged, Vijayabahu’s ports being those on the eastern and southern coasts. Such shipping as Vijayabahu possessed was very probably convoyed and protected on its voyages by the powerful navy of the Malay kingdom of Srivijaya with which the Sinhala royal family had consolidated friendly relations by the marriage between Mahinda IV and a princess of Srivijaya nearly a century earlier. Mahinda IV’s wise policy was bearing fruit. The Cholas apparently made no serious effort to disrupt Vijayabahu’s administration of Ruhuna during these years: although the Chola navy was in full control of the north western, northern and north – eastern ports of Lanka, it appears to have been incapable of blockading Vijayabahu’s ports or of impeding the sea-borne activities of Vijayabahu’s attenuated navy augmented by the massive strength of Srivijaya.
In course of time Vijayabahu transferred his seat of power to Tambalagama, probably near Talava. About 1065 AC widespread disturbances occurred in the Chola – occupied territory of Rajarata. Neither famine nor want is mentioned as the cause of the disturbances: it may be that they were stimulated by the advanced state of the preparations being made for war in Ruhuna, or they may have been instigated by Vijayabahu as a prelude to attack. Reprisals followed: Chola reinforcements landed at Mantai and proceeded to subdue the inhabitants of Rajarata with savage ferocity. Having completed this mission the avenging army advanced into Ruhuna. It was now the eleventh year (1066/67 AC) of Vijayabahu’s reign.
Magul – maha – vihara
At this critical moment two powerful chieftains deserted him and went over with their troops to the Chola commander. Thrown on the defensive by this desertion, Vijayabahu repeated the tactics successfully adopted thirty seven years earlier and fortified himself at Magul – maha – vihara near Palatupana and awaited attack. This group of rocky hills has one, main, narrow pass through it, numerous caves at all levels (the abode in pre-Christian times of a large community of eremite Buddhist monks), water – supplies in rock water holes, steep and easily defended rocky ascents and commanding views over the surrounding countryside. It was eminently suited to withstand siege as well as for sudden, devastating attack up on the enemy passing through the narrow defiles. In the battle which followed, the Cholas suffered overwhelming defeat and their general was killed. A great booty fell into the hands of Vijayabahu. Greatly encouraged the prince and his commanders made immediate preparations for an advance to Polonnaruwa, the seat of Chola Government in Lanka, and marching unchecked, they captured Polonnaruwa.
Rock fastness of Vakirigala
When the news of this very serious turn of events reached the Chola monarch Virarajendra he organized with great speed the despatch of very strong, fresh forces to Lanka to aid his viceroy, himself supervising their embarkation. The troops landed at Mantai and advanced towards Anuradhapura and in the neighbourhood of the ancient capital they were intercepted by the main body of Vijayabahu’s army led by his senapati. The Sinhalas suffered a crushing defeat with great losses in killed and prisoners. Vijayabahu had to abandon Polonnaruwa at once: he retired to Vaudavili Hatpattu where he spent some hurried days reforming his forces. On hearing that the Chola general was in pursuit of him, he withdrew again to the rock fastness of Vakirigala in the Kegalle district, fortified himself and kept the Cholas three months at bay. The Sinhala defeat
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