Kingdoms of Sri Lanka – Part II 0 321

For those interested, we did a part one to this article that spoke about the Anuradhapura era.

Following up from the Anuradhapura era, King Dhatusena’s eldest son King Kashyapa (473-495) moved from the kingdom capital Anuradhapura to Sigiriya to build his empire. He believed the lion rock was secure location and built his palace atop the rock.

Did you also know that Kashyapa was also King Dhatusena’s illegitimate son? This made his brother Moggallana the rightful heir to the throne after King Dhatusena. However, Kashyapa with his lust for power and greatness, forcefully took the throne by usurping his brother and imprisoning his father and later assassinating him. His assassination earned him the nickname Pithru Ghathaka Kashyapa (Kashyapa the Patricide). However, Kashyapa was later defeated by Moggallana. The brother, who fled to India during his exile, returned with an army to regain the throne.

The Cholas

The 1,400 year long Anuradhapura Kingdom comes to an end with the rule of King Rajaraja and his son Rajendra belonging to the Chola dynasty. The Cholas then shifted their focus to Polonnaruwa and continued their rule for 53 years. Following nearly a half a decade long Chola-rule King Vijayabahu I took back the throne and thereby re-establishing the Sinhala kingdom in 1055. History states considers Polonnaruwa as the medieval capital of Sri Lanka from 11th century to 1310  CE.

It’s also interesting to note that during the height of the Anuradhapura Kingdom, Polonnaruwa served as a secure outpost for Sinhala forces and camp during internal conflicts between the North (Anuradhapura) and South (Mahhagama). What’s more, all reservoirs built during the Anuradhapura time including King Mahasen’s “Minneriya” and Giritale, Kaudulla and Topavava are surround Polonnaruwa. Since the seventh century Polonnaruwa became the residence for Anuradhapura royals and the shift in kingdoms was a natural choice. 

Interestingly, during the time of the Cholas, the country began promoting Hinduism. This influence was then taken down to the kings that came after the Cholas and still has pronounced effects in the ruins of Polonnaruwa.

The Polonnaruwa Kingdom after the Cholas

Here are some notable successors during the Polonnaruwa Kingdom.

King Vijayabahu I (1055- 1110)

Having taken back the kingdom from the Cholas in 1055, Vijayabahu resurrected Buddhist cultural activities. The King also looked into repairing damages caused to public and cultural infrastructure during the time of war. His successors for the next four decades included King Jayabahu (1110-1111), King Vikramabahu I (1111 -1132) and King Gajabahu II.

King Parakramabahu I or King Parakramabahu the Great (1153-1186)

Parakramabahu’s time of reign is commonly referred to as the golden era of Polonnaruwa. During his time Parakramabahu created the Sea of Parakrama or Parakrama Samudraya and contributed to the development of agriculture and irrigation. Parakramabahu also constructed Buddhist monasteries including Alahana Parivena, Veluvana Vihara, Lankatilaka and Tivanka Patimaghara (lofty image shrines). The King was also known for his construction of hospitals for local communities.

Following his death, nephew Vijayabahu II (1186-1187) took over the reign. After his year-long succession, Mahinda VI was in power for five days until he was killed by King Vijayabahu II. Following this sub-king Nissanka Malla took the throne in 1187.

King Nissanka Malla (1187-1196)

Best known for his architectural constructions including Nissanka Lata Mandapaya, Hatadage and Rankot Vihara, Nissanka Malla was a staunch Buddhist. He believed that the right to rule should be limited to Buddhists and spent much on refurbishments and constructions. The King was also keen on maintaining good international relations and tried to keep a peaceful country at all times.

After many successors, Polonnaruwa was also ruled by a Queen for a short period. Queen Lilavathi was the wife of King Parakrambahu I and a supreme ruler in her own right. Parakrama Pandayan II invaded her dynasty in 1212 CE and ruled until 1215 CE until Kalinga Maga detained the kingdom in 1215. History recalls Kalinga Maga’s ruthless rule for for 21 years, until he was removed from Polonnaruwa. He was also the founder of Jaffna kingdom and ruled Jaffna till 1255.

Stay tuned for the next article in this series.

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Nastashia Ekanayake is a travel enthusiastic who enjoys travelling solo when budget and time permit. Having currently moved back to Sri Lanka, she functions as an administration professional by day and wanderer and foodie by night. She enjoys journaling her adventures, exploring the joys of Instagram and looking up her next travel destination.

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