King Parakramabahu I - The Greatest King of Ceylon Born From the Kingdom of Polonnaruwa

King Parakramabahu I 

The Warrior Ratnavali was the daughter of Vijayabahu and the wife of king Manabharana. The son of Ratnavali and Manabharana was Parakramabahu who saw the light of day at Punkhagama which Is Dedigama today in the Beligal Korale in the Kegalle district. This place was also the occasional residence of some of the rulers of the Dakkhinadesa. 


King Parakramabahu I - The Greatest King of Ceylon Born From the Kingdom of Polonnaruwa

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Childhood life of King Parakramabahu

When Parakramabahu was a young prince he came to live with his uncle Kirti Srimegha who was then the ruler of Dakkhinadesa but residing in Kegalla. The young prince was given instructions by chosen teachers in language, literature, religion, statecraft, dance, music, sport and the bearing of arms. Because the king had no sons, he brought up this young prince as his heir, Parakramabahu at this stage was about fourteen or fifteen years old. He now planned to leave Kirti, Srimegha with a few companions in order to spy out the conditions prevailing in Rajarata. He was concerned even at this age to bring about the amalgamation of Rajarata and Dakkhinadesa and form one large kingdom and to become the king of the whole country under one banner. One night he left the palace without the knowledge of his uncle and made his way to Pilimvatthu near Batalagoda where he arranged for trusted men to meet him. This place was chosen because of its importance as a frontier post of Dakkhinadesa. He then left Batalagoda and proceeded eastward to Siriyala and reached Buddhagama or Menikdena. From here he sent an invitation to an officer of Gajabahu, who administered the Kalaweva district, to come to his camp. This was done in a cordial manner. His uncle, now having come to know that the prince was camping at Menikdena, and may provoke hostilities between Gajabahu and himself and further involve Dakkhinadesa and Rajarata in war, despatched some royal officers to bring him back by force. But by that time the prince had already left for the Matale district. Avoiding everyone, the prince now went to Ranamure in the Laggala mountains and decided to carry on the fight. He advanced to Nalanda. His camp was attacked by the soldiers of Kirtisrimegha, but young Parakramabahu escaped to Navgala. Then, avoiding his uncle's troops he entered Gajabahu's territory. the king of Rajarata, who in turn invited the young prie to Vis the invitation, visited the king with his retinue. It is spent a long time there studying the conditions in d that he jarata. 

Parakramabahu later became the ruler of the south

Royal Palace of king Parakramabahu Polonnaruwa

He sent a message to his mother in Rohana and had his younger sister Bhadravati married to Gajabahu. In this manner, he won the confidence of the king. But his ambition had not abated and he wanted to study more about the affairs of the kingdom such as revenues, stock of grains, troops, resources for war, etc. However, he left Polonnaruva secretly one night as the king himself had become suspicious about his activities. The reluctant prince who was returning from Polonnaruva was further persuaded by his mother and finally handed over to his uncle by her. Shortly afterwards Kirtisrimegha died and Parakramabahu succeeded him as the ruler of Dakkhinadesa. After assuming authority over the province, he secured his frontiers against possible aggression and established military posts at various points. He brought a large extent of new land under cultivation by providing irrigational facilities and increased pro- ductivity. His theme in agricultural development was that "not even a drop of rainwater must flow into the ocean without being made useful to man". His future intentions were clear; his dream was to become undisputed ruler over the whole of united Sri Lanka. Parakramabahu established his capital, Panduvasnuvara, near Hettipola, and named it Parakramapura. He also constructed a reservoir by enlarging a small tank and named that too Parakramasamudra. Nearby the reservoir, he built his palace within a walled citadel. Having maintained the seaports Uruvela at the mouth of Kala-Oya, Kalpitiya and Colombo now in his Kingdom, he promoted foreign trade and his main revenue was precious stones even at that time. As a person preparing for war, he started building his army drawing mercenaries from Kerala and other south Indian states. Some of these foreigners were Velaikkaras or the king's bodyguards. His initial effort was to annex Mahamalayadesa, the mountain region governed by Gajabahu. capture both Udu Dumbara and Yati Dumbara and bring them tri his control. After capturing this important mountain dis- Rajarata. 

Parakramabahu Defeated Gajabahu's army in an operation

It is said that Parakramabahu himself planned his war operations and communicated them to his commanders. With the help of a Tamil army led by a Tamil commander, he was able to capture the Northern province which included Kalaveva itself and build a fortress that enabled him to consolidate the northwest coast as well. Parakramabahu's attempt to occupy the Kalaveva district failed at this stage because of Gajabahu's heavy reinforcement of the area, though he certainly captured Dambulla. Then he came to the Matale district and sent a detachment to Bogambara on the Matale-Rattota road and entered Laggala. Parakramabahu further strengthened his forces, advanced through Ambangaga and Elahera in the direction of the capĂ­tal Polonnaruva. There was a counterattack by Gajabahu, but it was repealed. Parakramabahu now focussed his attention on the northwest to cross the Kala-Oya and advance towards Anuradhapura. At all these places Gajabahu's troops were defeated. However, Gajabahu retained his hold on Anuradhapura at least for the time being.

Two Brothers-in-law fight over a throne

What does it mean when two brothers-in-law start fighting each other over a throne? How would the sister who is caught up in this conflict feel? Should we interpret this situation on the basis of religion and culture? As some sociologists and anthro- pologists have done in the past, are we going to say that an incident like this reflects the mentality and the attitude of the Sinhalese? First, we have to understand that this is a power struggle between two rulers and that it had nothing to do with their relationship. Secondly, situations like this are common to all societies irrespective of their ethnic identity and religious belief. We do have many examples from various countries where fathers, sons and brothers fight and kill each other for power. So an incident like this cannot be isolated and interpreted as an inhuman quality of a particular nationality. This is a common feature of a power struggle where human qualities and ethnicity are completely ignored. If we look at the battle between the Kshatriya brothers who fought each other in Kurukshetra as described in the great Indian epic Mahabharata and enumerated in the Bhagavatgita, we see that the duty of the Kshatriyas is to fight and that there is no consideration of relationships. We read in the Bhagavatgita: "Those for whose sake we desire kingdom, enjoyments and pleasures, they stand here in battle, renouncing their lives and riches. Teachers, fathers, sons and also grandfathers, uncles and fathers-in-law and other kinsmen. These I would not consent to kill was the lamentation of Arjuna in the battlefield to which Krishna replied: Happy are the Kshatriyas O Arjuna for whom such a war comes of its own accord as an open door to heaven. But if you do not face this lawful battle then you will fail in your duty and glory and will incur sin. Besides, men will ever recount your ill-fame and for one who has been honoured, ill-fame is worse than death. Either slain you will go to heaven or victorious you will enjoy the earth; therefore arise, O Arjuna resolved on the battle". This is what governed the minds of the young Kshatriya princes even here in Sri Lanka who had been taught various

Conquest of King Parakramabahu And the capture of Polonnaruwa

Council Chamber of King Parakramabahu
sciences including the art and science of war by reputed scholas of the time, When the Chronicle Culavamsa reminds us abo the young Parakramabahu following the instructions given in the Arthasustra of Kautilya, it is quite clear that he was guided by the Indian texts on statecraft that included the Mahabharata which tells us the story of a historic battle between brothers. It must also be considered that in this case we are dealing with a period immediately following the Cola rule in Sri Lanka which was guided by Hindu practices. Buddhism, I believe, did not play a major role when it care to statecraft and the duties and functions of a king though the Sangha played an important role. This is further evident through archaeological discoveries such as the hero-stones where the sculptor tells us that a warrior killing his enemy on the battlefield goes to heaven. War and peace were two different acts. In order to march toward Polonnaruva Parakramabara established his headquarters at Nalanda. Because of its strategic importance, the Elahera area was used as a conquered territory by him. Immediately afterwards, Parakramabahu gave orders to capture Polonnaruva. Now, Manabharana who was ruling Rohana had allied himself with Gajabahu of Polonnaruva but he soon abrogated his treaty realising that Parakramabahu's triumph was in sight. Manabharana then entered into an alliance with Parakramabahu. It is said that in order to attack Gajabahu from the rear, Manabharana set up a camp at Sorabora in Mahiyangana while Parakramabahu himself attacked frontally. In order to save Polonnaruva from falling into the hands of the invader, Gajabahu, as the last attempt, assembled all his troops including his Tamil mercenaries, elephants and chariots and then moved out of the city ready for battle. But this was unsuccessful, and Gajabahu's troops broke in confusion and fled. Gajabahu himself was locked within the city and Parakramabahu's troops swarmed over the fortification, opened the gates and entered the city victoriously. Gajabahu was captured and imprisoned in his own palace. Parakramabahu who was at Nalanda by this time, having heard of the victory and the capture of the king, sent word that

Gajabahu's defeat and Parakramabahu's plan to become the ruler of Rajarata and the whole country

Gajabahu should be treated with dignity and that he should be allowed to retain his regal honours. He further instructed his officers to look after Gajabahu carefully and he himself sent some garments and ornaments for the former. Though this was a gesture of a dignified man the ethics and rules of war and statecraft did not permit him to consider his relationship or his human qualities at this point. By this time the victorious soldiers had gone completely out of hand and were rioting and pillaging the city, a usual occurrence in a situation like this. Parakramabahu's commanders and chiefs sent him a message saying that "as long as Gajabahu is alive the people of the kingdom will not submit to your sovereignty: he must therefore be put to death. Having sent this message, the soldiers intensified their pillage of Polonnaruva to such an extent that the enraged citizens under their own officials and councillors decided to send an urgent message to Manabharana of Rohana to come to their rescue promising him the custodianship of Rajarata. Soon Parakramabahu sent his army commander with a battalion to Polonnaruva in order to restore order. When the army commander arrived in Polonnaruva, Manabharana had already responded. With the officials of Gajabahu and his soldiers, he was marching towards the city. At this point, the two armies met and a battle took place for the final victory. Anyhow Manabharana emerged victoriously and the commander himself was taken prisoner Immediately after Manabharana took over, he maintained disc pline, restored order and peace and treated Gajabahu with the utmost reverence. This situation prevailed only for a few days. He first executed all the high officials of Gajabahu, and then seized Gajabahu himself and imprisoned him in a dungeon. Having taken all his treasures and other belongings, Manabharana then brought the Sacred Tooth Relic and Alms-Bowl Relic which had been removed during the reign of Jayabahu I to Polonnaruva from Rohana with the intention of becoming the king of Rajarata. He mapped out his plan to become the ruler of Rajarata and the whole of the country. 

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