The Kingdom of Polonnaruwa During the Reign of King Nissankamalla

King Nissankamalla

The Kalinga King The chronicle Culavamsa has devoted only some nine verses to describe Nissankamala when compared with Parakramabahu who was given a heroic description as in a Mahakuvya. Nissanka Malla King birth year is 1158. But this shortcoming was compensated by Nissankamalla himself who installed a large number of inscriptions praising his own achievements. It is an acclaimed fact that this king was responsible for the largest number of inscriptions credited to any single king to have ruled this country. Bur some of them are merely repetitions contained in other inscriptions installed by previous kings like Vijayabahu and Parakramabahu.

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Nissanka Latha Mandapaya - Polonnaruwa

King Nissankamalla Royal Family and Dynasty

Remain of the Royal Palace of Nissankamalla
Therefore historians are careful to separate historical facts from fiction created and written by this king. He has taken much credit for what he has actually not done, Nissankamalla, according to all sources of information, was a Kalinga prince, and his original home was Simhapura in Kalinga, the home town of the first legendary king Vijaya of Sri Lanka. His father was Jayagopa Maharaja and his mother was Parvati Mahadevi. Though he had some connection with the royal family of Kalinga, he was certainly not of the imperial line of Kalinga kings and in fact, his parents were not even mentioned in the history of India as rulers of the day though he was bold enough to claim that fact which was again a deliberate lie. Nor was he related to his Sri Lankan predecessors, but according to the Culavamsa he was the sub-king of Vijayabahu II and according to Nissankamalla himself, he was invited to this country from Kalinga. It is possible that Vijayabahu invited him to come to this island to succeed him and continue the Kalinga dynasty after him. However, it seems that the people were not very happy about foreigners ruling the country. Therefore the insecure Kalinga king, at this time, made up an argument that he belonged to the Vijaya dynasty, whereas the Kalinga dynasty had no hold in the political affairs of the country. This situation became more clear when Nissankamalla advised his subjects that people of the govikula caste should not be encouraged to aspire to kingship. This was a direct reference to rulers like Parakramabahu who became king from the govigama caste. Nissankamalla anyhow did not want this situation to continue, thinking that another from the same caste would threaten his continuation on the throne. Nissankamalla further declared that "kings are gods in human form and that treachery towards a king is an unpardonable sin.

council chamber-king nishshanka malla

 he also made a very strong appeal to the people that "non Buddhists such as Colas and Pandyas should not be allowed to claim kingship. This shows the insecurity of Nissankamalla as a foreigner governing the country. As historians rightly point out" "though matrimonial alliances paved the way for princes of Kalinga and Pandya descent to attain to kingship in the island, there probably were scions of the indigenous royal families who looked upon these foreign kings as usurpers, and they seem to have had a certain amount of popular support." Viewing from this point we see some truth in this statement. Nissankamalla seems to have had trouble with the Rohana kingdom which challenged his right to govern the country. This is evident from the gav pillars he installed in the south appealing to the people of Rohana to behave themselves properly and not mislead people living in the other two principalities, namely Maya and Pihiti. 

Actions are Taken for the welfare of the people and the clergy

In the midst of all these threats and worries, he made a tour of inspection of the entire island and looked after the interest and the welfare of the people and the clergy by building alms-houses and making gifts equal to the weight of a particular person, an act called Tulabhara. Among those who were weighed in this manner were himself, his two queens, namely Subhadra and Kalyana Mahadevi of Kalinga, and his son Virabahu and the daughter Sarbangasundari.
Gal Pota stone book-ancient

The largest stone inscription (Gal potha) in Sri Lanka

This largest stone inscription is known as the Gal Potha and stone book. It is situated in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. Polonnaruwa is the second ancient kingdom of Sri Lanka.

This city is located in the North-central province of Sri Lanka. King Nissankamalla was one of its rulers. When his ruling period he did so many important works for the people in Sri Lanka. The stone book is described king Nissankamalla and his rule. 
The stone book is a giant stone slab located in Dalada Maluwa premises of the main archaeological site in Polonnaruwa. It is 26.10’ feet long and 4.7’ feet wide. It contains over 4300 characters.  This inscription’s text is written in three columns and 72 lines. The inscription upper surface is very smooth. It talks about king Nissankamalla’s period that is 1187-1196AD.
According to Sri Lankan history, this stone book was in the Mihintale area in the Past. There are about 50 kilometres away from Polonnaruwa to Mihintale. How can now it be in Polonnaruwa. It said that our ancients had known to technology to bring giant things to move another place.

Gal potha is decorated with some carvings. On its lengthy side, there are two rows of swans. Its Sinhala meaning is Hansa bird. There are carvings of the god Lakshmi on the other two sides of this Inscription. It may have done that the Hindu influence of the Polonnaruwa Period. These carvings are called Gaja Lakshmi also. There are two elephant decorations on both sides of God Lakshmi. The god Lakshmi holding two flowers in her hand and the elephant are pouring water into it. It is a very smart stone carving in that period.

Agricultural and Local Development of the Country

Nissankamalla King also paid attention to the agricultural and Ir national development of the country through his accounts are not always reliable. He speaks of building and repairing tanks and- canals. He says that he built the Nissanka Samudra, obviously referring to the Parakrama Samudra built by Parakramabahu This reference may well have been to a repair made by the king. He also is reported to have built another lake called Pandivijayakulam which is identified as Galmetiyanaveva. It is further reported that this lake was constructed in order to commemorate his victorious expedition to the Pandya country and that this lake was completed in a day. On the other hand, we are not quite certain whether he was referring to a repair as in the previous case. Pandavapi was another of his constructions. 

Construction and economic activities

Government control

Lion Throne
The Culavamsa tells us that Parakramabahu enlarged the Pandavapi tank and provided a sluice. He also claims to have constructed many religious buildings in the city of Polonnaruva and elsewhere in the country, The Rankot Dagaba was constructed by him. This is one of the largest monuments in Polonnaruva. The Golden Rock Temple at Dambulla was embellished by him. He is also known to have built the Hetadage, the Tooth Relic House of his time and also the Vatadage, the circular shrine in front of it. It is said that the Hetadage was constructed in sixty days. Among the large number of Alms-houses he built in the country, the building in the city was known as Nissanka-dana-vinoda - mandapa where the king sat and supervised the distribution of alms. It is difficult here to separate truth from exaggeration. He is also said to have united the three nikayas like his predecessor, Parakramabahu. He also showed tolerance towards other religions and repaired a Hindu shrine in South India and named it Nissankeshvara. In politics, he followed a liberal policy. Nissankamalla ruled for only nine years but scholars are of the view that "his achievements, both religious and secular are even more remarkable in view of the very short time in which they were accomplished".


King Nissankamalla Died

Nissankamalla died in the year 1196 AD and with his death, the country fell into confusion with weak rulers on the throne supported by king-makers. Kings followed one after the other in quick succession. In addition to this, Kalinga and anti-Kalinga factions were also fighting each other for power. After Nissankamalla, his son Virabahu I ascended the throne at Polonnaruva. But this young prince was assassinated by a general the day after his accession. Another member of the Kalinga royal family succeeded. He was Vikramabahu II. He too was not able to hold power and was thrown out after a reign of only three months. The next Kalinga prince to ascend the throne was Chodaganga who was responsible for the death of Vikramabahu II He was the nephew of Nissankamalla. 
Remain of the Audience Hall of nissankamalla
Once Vatadage again, a king-maker named Kirti assumed control and the next to succeed to the throne was Lilavati, the chief queen of Parakramabahu. We see her becoming the Queen of Sri Lanka again twice in later times. This was only a temporary setback for the Kalingas because Lilavati's paternal side was of the Pandya line. She too was thrown out by the Kalinga loyalists after three years, which was a long time, especially taking into consideration the chain of events that took place at the time. Some of her ministers themselves had invited Sahasamalla from Kalinga to occupy the throne since the country, they felt, was kingless. Sahasamalla, who succeeded Lilavati in the year 1200 AD, was able to remain on the throne only for two years. He was a member of the Kalinga royal family and a half-brother of Nissankamalla. Sahasamalla was deposed by a general called Ayusmanta who installed Kalyanavati on the throne. Kalyanavati was the second queen of Nissankamalla. She too was a Kalinga queen. After Six years of rule, she was ousted again by the same old general Ayasamanta, who brought in this time a young infant prince named Dharmasoka who was just three months old. He was a Kalinga baby no doubt, but the general was a powerful kingmaker in the royal court. This means that Ayusmanta was ruling in the name of baby Darmasoka. Thus, it is clear that Ayusmanta was the real power behind the three rulers at the time of these events. It looks as if there was a foreign invasion during this period. Amidst all these events Kalyanavati seems to have devoted time to the propagation of the Buddha sasana by building several viharas and donating land for their maintenance. The foreign invasion referred to above was led by a person called Anikanga who came to the island with an army from the Cola country and put both Ayasmanta and Dharmasoka to death. Anikanga was supported by the Colas but he was unable to retain power owing to heavy opposition. Anikanga was killed by another general named Vikkanta, after seventeen days of his accession, and Lilavati was now placed on the throne for a second time. This incident took place in the year 1210 AD. However, she was able to sit on the throne only for a year. She was deposed by Lokeshvara of the Kalinga dynasty who invaded the country with a Tamil army. The generals had not given up their traditional role even now. With the help of another general called Parakrama, once again, for the third time, Lilavati became the of Polonnaruva. This general trained a Pandya prince named Madhurinda in the arts and further taught him Buddhism.

The Pandya king Parakrama, the ruler of Lilavati's kingdom, invaded the country

In the sevenih month of Lilavati's reign, a Pandyan king named Parakrama invaded the country, deposed her, and occupied the throne, He was supported by local ministers. As we have observed above, during the Kalinga period of the Polonnaruva kingdom1186 to 1215 AD, the country suffered its worst political decline in history having no permanent or stable ruler except Nissankamalla. Ii was a period of anarchy.

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