King Parakramabahu 1153 AD The Dawn of a Prosperous Era With The Reign of The Whole of Sri Lanka

 King Parakramabahu 1153 AD

It is said that after ascending the throne of Polonnaruwa, the king fulfilled four aspirations: the happiness of the people, stability of religion, protection of the aristocracy and support of those in need. They were his desires and they were fulfilled to the satisfaction of the whole nation. Let us now briefly examine his services and achievements.

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The Services and Achievements of King Parakramabahu Briefly

The ruler After assuming kingship over the whole of Sri Lanka, Parakramabahu the Great started rebuilding the capital of Polonnaruva as well as the whole country. As Paranavitana points out: "the accession of Parakramabahu in 1153 AD, inaugurated an era of prosperity and this king, glorious reign of 33 years was one of the greatest periods of architectural activity in the history of Sri Lanka. 

Royal Place

The reconstruction of Polonnaruva brought its grandeur and beauty. He had a high chain of walls built enclosing the fortified city. He then laid down the streets. He also erected around his palace and dwelling area a second inner wreath of walls and built thereon a palace, seven stories high, furnished with many chambers. This charmiịng palace was given the name Vaijayantha meaning the palace of Gods. He then built the Palace of Parakramabahu.

Reconstruction of Polonnaruwa

The Hemamandira, the golden house for performing the ceremo- nies of expiation by the Brahmins and gave alms to the Brahmins. He built Dharani ghara, the house of incantation for the recitation of magic incantations. The Mandalamandira was built for listening to the birth stories of the Buddha. The Pancasattatimandira the house of seventy-five rooms was built by him for the reception of the magic water and the thread given by the sangha and for holding the partita ceremonies.

Alahana Pirivana Side

He built a Dharmaghara for bana preaching and discussion. The Sarasvatimandapa was built by him near the palace for listening to music and to hold charming dances. A beautiful pavilion named Rajavaisyabujanga meaning the lover of a prostitute or harlot which was three stories high was built. A one-pillar palace, Ekasthambhaprasada was built by him with a beautiful golden chamber. He also erected a private garden close to the palace. It contained many beautiful tanks. It had a large bathroom. In this garden was the stone pond, the Silapokkharani. The king laid out a garden called Dipuyyana, the Island Park with a bathing house. In this Island Park was built a celestial mansion Vijjamandapa to promote various branches of science. 

Offering Rituals and Offering Alms

There was also a swing pavilion- a Dolamandapa. There was the Aila-mandapa, a play pavilion and the Adasamandapa, a mirror pavilion where the king used to amuse himself. In the Island Garden were the Sanimandapa, the Saturn Pavilion, Mora mandapa, the peacock pavilion. There the bathing pond called the Anantapokkharani and the Cittapokkharani, the picture pond captivated the hearts of the people. There was also a four storied palace called singara vimana, the love mansion. The Pulastinagara which is now Polonnaruva had fourteen gates. It was re-named Parakramapura after the development programme undertaken by the king and was furnished with gates, towers, walls, moats, laces, shops and parks. He built the Temple of the Tooth Relic in the middle of the city. 

The King also laid down gardens all over the country including one in the city named Nandana garden. He bestowed office on those who deserved royal favour. He held great almsgiving and distribution of gifts. He cleaned the order of maha sangha which had long been corrupt. This was done with the assistance and guidance of Mahakassapa mahathera of Dimbulagala by expelling many hundreds of sinful monks. He then united them under one Nikaya or fraternity. This incident is recorded in his Galvihara Inscription at Polonnaruva. He built new monasteries and looked after the spiritual and material needs of the venerable sangha. He built the great Jetavana monastery for the monks living there. He built eight three-storied mansions. For Venerable Sariputta mahathera he constructed an extensive mansion. He built the Tivanka patimaghara or the image house. He built three sermon halls together with a cetiya or stupa. He also built the Alahana parivena, Subhadra cetiya, the Rupavati cetiya and the twelve-storied uposathaghara or the chapter house named Baddhasimapasada. It had a fixed boundary of thirty-five staves. He also laid down the foundation of the Pacchimarama, the western monastery. He then built the Uttararama, the north- em monastery which is known as Gal Vihara today. He at least commenced work on the Damilathupa which came to be known as Mahathupa. 

King Parakramabahu Special service rendered to Buddhism


Parakramabahu proceeded to Rohana and brought the Sacre Tooth Relic and the Bowl Relic in procession back to the canit of Polonnaruva all with the intention of consecrating himself the ruler of Rajarata. Without these Relics, his position as the ruler would have been insecure in the eyes of the Buddhist population. Outside the city, in Anuradhapura, the king restored the Lohapasada destroyed by the Colas by raising again its 1600 pillars. The great stupas Ruvanveli, Jetavana, Abhayagiri and Mirisaveti were restored. He also carried out repairs at Cetiyagiri or Mihintale. In order to help the agricultural development in the country as well as to prevent the outbreak of famine, the king made many tanks and canals at many places including Polonnaruva. The great chronicle says that king Parakramabahu re-built 216 tanks belonging to the maha sangha. The Parakramasamudra at Polonnaruva remains a symbol of his dedication to the irrigational development of the country. The great tank Parakramatataka was built with a sluice of 100 cubits. He also constructed a canal called the Gambhira. Among the many canals built by this king is the Kaveri canal which flowed from the Giritale tank and the Godavari canal which flowed to the Parakramasamudra. Parakramabahu's first undertaking was to harness the waters of Deduru-Oya in the Dakkhinadesa. He constructed three dams at three points.

Tivanka Pilimage Art

A broad deep canal released water from the dam through the Rattakara district and emptied it into the sea. The whole area was irrigated by this scheme. It was named Kotthabaddha after the dam. The second scheme originated in a dam at Ebavalapiti from which a canal conducted water to Magalveva at Nikaveratiya. The third scheme was built at Demodara. He then paid attention to a small tank called Pandavapi or Pandaveva near Panduvasnuvara. 

Construction and rehabilitation of dams and canals

It is recorded that Parakramabahu enlarged fifty-three tanks in Dakkhinadesa alone. He irrigated the Pasdun Korale and thereby brought large areas of new land under cultivation. During his period of kingship, the Culavamsa says that he constructed or restored one hundred and sixty-five dams, three thousand nine hundred and ten canals, one hundred and sixty-three major tanks, and two thousand three hundred and seventy-six minor tanks, a great achievement unparalleled by any king in the history of Sri Lanka. The account given in the chronicle about his construction of dams and canals is more interesting. From a dam across the Mahaveli river at a point slightly upstream of the island now called Kalinganuvara, the Aciravati flowed west and terminated beyond the Minneri- Oya, while the Gomati canal flowed eastward past Dimbulagala and terminated at Maduru-Oya. Besides, twenty-seven other canals are mentioned in the Culavamsa as having been constructed.

Village Development and construction of new tanks & on the life and time of Parakramabahu

Galvihara site by Parakramabahu in addition to eleven channels which issued from Parakramasamudra. Among the major irrigational works that this great king restored were: Minneriya, Mahagalkadavara, Kavudulla, Kalaveva, Jaya ganga, Mahakanadara, Padaviya, Naccaduva, Yodaveva and Pandikulama in Rohana. The great king erected the Sutighara cetiya in his birthplace which is Dedigama today. In Rohana, he had many buildings erected in villages and market towns. On the site of his mother's pyre in Khiragama or Yudaganava in Buttala he constructed the Ratnavali cetiya, 180 ft. high. Parakramabahu was not only a warrior within his country but also beyond its shores. In South India, Parakramabahu persuaded the steady policy of supporting the Pandyans against the Colas, a policy adopted by Sri Lanka at this time in its history. "It is possible that Parakramabahu's continual war with the Colas caused attrition of their strength and contributed to the later collapse of the Cola power". In the year 1164, the eleventh year of his reign he carried out an invasion of Ramanna or Burma, but actually applicable to Pegu. The reasons for this battle are given in the chronicle.

Silapokkharani of the Rayal gardens
According to this, the Burmese king at the time was a haughty old monarch who did not care about anything anybody. Parakramabahu felt very angry when he started to harass his envoys and refused to allow Sri Lankan ships to enter his territory and also disregarded traditional customs observed by the two countries. Therefore he decided to invade Burma. It was only a raid, and the Burmese chronicles ignored this incident though the Culavamsa says that the Burmese king was killed, a story hard to be believed. Alaungithu, Commenting on the many campaigns of Parakramabahu, one historian has said that the wars fought by this king both at home and abroad needed considerable resources and therefore he increased greatly the material resources of his principality before he embarked on the warlike activities which brought him to the position of king of the whole country. Even as king he continued this work of development in every part of his realm and among the greatest of his achievements were his irrigation works. Culavamsa which deals with the life and times of Parakramabahu, devoted a fair number of chapters to praise his last days. It says that Parakramabahu adorned the country with beautiful viharas, gardens, tanks and numerous other such works. Parakramabahu is the greatest of the Polonnaruva kings and undoubtedly one of the finest of all the kings who ruled this land. He ascended the throne in the year 1153 AD and continued to rule till 1186 AD, thus carrying the government for nearly thirty-two or thirty-three years. He died without issue, but before his death, he secured the throne to his sister's son, Vijayabahu II who was living in Kalinga with a royal family.

Successors of Parakamabahu

Historical sources are silent as to how this prince came to live in Kalinga and why he was chosen as successor to Parakramabahu. In any event, the majority of the Polonnaruva kings after Parakramabahu were princes of the Kalinga dynasty and therefore the period following Parakramabahu is sometimes called the Silapokkharani of the Rayal gardens "Period of Kalinga Kings'. 

Period of Kalinga Kings

The reason for Vijayabahu to live in Kalinga must have been the fleeing of the family of Gajabahu I to Kalinga during the period of a bitter war between Parakramabah and himself. But this hypothesis is doubtful because Gajabahu I had no sons. Therefore we cannot say who this sister's son was However, this prince claimed his right to the throne by stating that the first king of the country, Vijaya, belonged to the Kaling dynasty of which he was a scion. But it is apparent that there was many objections from the opposition to his rule and as a result h was killed by his successor Mahinda VI at the end of a year.

Assassination of King Mahinda VI by King Nissankamalla

What actually happened after Mahinda VI became king is another interesting story. Mahinda is designated as belonging to the Kalinga or Kalinga clan. This name occurs variant as Kilim in literary sources as well. By this time Nissankamalla was an up raja or heir-apparent of Vijayabahu II who was killed. But something took place for Mahinda who had no legal right to the throne to take over the kingship. So, it is apparent that Mahinda VI, who had no support, was allowed to rule only for five days and he was put to death by Nissankamalla who had the legitimate right to the throne. Thus, Nissankamalla ascended the throne at Polonnaruva in 1187 and reigned till 1197 AD. He was undoubtedly the most successful king to rule after Parakramabahu.
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