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Sinhala king and South Indian invasions

The two major invasions of Sri Lanka by South India are well known. Chola King Rajaraja I (985-1014), took Anuradhapura and chased the Sinhala King Mahinda V down to Ruhuna. Rajendra I (1014-1044) captured Mahinda and completed the conquest of Rajarata. Cola rule ended in 1070. Thereafter, Magha of Kalinga occupied Rajarata from about 1215 to 1232. But there are less well known invasions which make interesting reading.

There was a happy period in the seventh Century, when the Pallava and Sinhala kings were on good terms. This appears to be the only period of friendly relations between the Tamil and Sinhala kings. Manavamma (684-718), who had been living in the court of the Pallava king Narasinhavarman I, helped him defeat the Chalukyas who were fighting him. I think that he would have advised on war strategy. In return, Narasinhavarman supplied him with an army to challenge Hattadatha in Sri Lanka.

The Sinhala king meddled in the conflict between Cholas and Pandyas in the Tamil kingdom. He supported the Pandyas against the Colas. When Vira Pandya attacked the Chola king Parantaka II, Sinhala King Mahinda IV (956-972) supported Vira Pandya. Parantaka defeated Vira Pandya and promptly invaded Sri Lanka.

Pandya king Srimara Sri Vallabha invaded the island during the reign of Sena I (833-853). He plundered Anuradhapura, handed back the city to Sena and left. Sri Vallabha’s son rebelled against the father and sought the assistance of Sena II (853-887). Sena II sent an army to India under Senpati Kuttaka. Kuttaka captured Madhura, the Pandyan capital. He placed Srimara’s son on the Pandya throne as Varaguna II, the nominee of Sena II. He brought back the valuables taken by Srimara, as well as some of the Pandya valuables.

In a subsequent episode, Chola King Parantaka I (907-953) challenged Pandya ruler Marvarman Rajasimha II (905-20) inside the Tamil kingdom. Rajasimha sought the assistance of Sinhala king Kassapa V, who dispatched an army. Rajasimha lost the war and fled to Sri Lanka taking with him the crown and other regalia. He arrived in the reign of Dappula IV (924-935). Dappula wanted to fight but the army objected. So Rajasimha went to Kerala, his mother’s home, leaving the crown jewels with Dappula.

Parantaka asked for the regalia. Sinhala King Udaya IV (946-954) refused. Parantaka invaded. Udaya took the regalia and left Anuradhapura. Parantaka took Anuradhapura, but had to rush home because the Gangas and the Rastrakutas had attacked and he was about to lose his throne. The Sinhala king also seems to have made a lightening raid on the Tamil kingdom at this point. Rajasimha’s regalia remained in Sri Lanka until Chola King Rajendra I acquired them when he conquered the Rajarata. Mahavamsa and Tiruvalangadu plates of Rajendra I record these events.

Nicholas thinks that Pandya, Kerala and Sri Lanka kings were in secret contact with each other against the Colas in the time of Vijayabahu I and Parakrama Bahu I. A remarkable episode occurred in the reign of Parakrama Bahu I (1153-1186). The Cholas and Pandyas were continuing their unending battle for power, with the Pandyas fighting each other as well.

Parakrama Pandya, one of the Pandya claimants, turned to Parakrama Bahu I while his opponent, Kulasekhera ran to the Colas. Parakrama Bahu sent an army with instructions to depose Kulasekhara, who had by then killed Parakrama Pandya. He wanted a Pandya prince placed on the throne.

Sinhala General Lankapura put Virapandu, the youngest son of the late king on the throne. Since Virapandu was in a ‘destitute condition’, Parakrama Bahu had sent him the necessary clothes, jewels and ornaments. But Kulasekhara defeated the Sinhala Army, beheaded Lankapura and deposed Virapandu. Parakrama Bahu got ready to invade again, around 1178 AD.

The Colas heard of this and sent an expedition led by Parakrama Bahu’s nephew Sri Vallabha, a rival claimant to the Sinhala throne who had escaped to the Cholas. The Cola army captured and set fire to several places including Kayts, Mantota and Valikamam, killed some of the Sinhala chiefs and took others captive.

Kulasekhera, in the meantime had turned against the Colas, who had supported him. Parakrama Bahu entered into an alliance with Kulasekhara and provided him with an army.

The Colas defeated Kulasekhera and put Virapandu back on the throne. Then in 1186 Virapandu turned against the Cholas. Parakrama Bahu sent an army to support Virapandu but this army was defeated by the Colas. Parakrama Bahu clearly had no hesitation in supporting princes whom he had previously fought against. His policy was to help any Tamil prince who opposed the Colas. Nissanka Malla had also sent a naval force as far as Ramesvaram. There is some doubt as to whether he actually fought a war in Tamil country.

Chola kings continued to eye Sri Lanka even after they were expelled in 1070. There were Chola invasions during the time of Queen Kalyanavati (1202 -1208), Anikanda (1209) and Lokesvara (1210-1211) There were three Cola invasions during time of Queen Lilavati (1197-1212). These were repulsed.

The Pandyas were also interested in ruling Sri Lanka. Vikkamapandu ruled in Kalutara during the Cola occupation of Rajarata. He was slain after a year by Jagatipala of Oudh (Ayodaya, North India) who ruled in Ruhuna for four years till he, in turn, was slain by the Colas. Parakrama Pandya ruled in Polonnaruwa around 1215 to1232.

In the 13th Century, the Pandyas at last succeeded in getting exclusive power in the Tamil kingdom. Power was shared by several princes, with one having primacy over the rest. Jatavarman Vira Pandya ruled together with Jatavarman Sundara Pandya. Jatavarman Sundara Pandya II (1253-1270) was an outstanding king. He ruled over Chola and Chera territory and parts of present day Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

Jatavarman Sundara Pandya invaded Sri Lanka around 1258 Jatavarman Vira Pandya followed around 1263. Sundara’s contemporary in Sri Lanka was Parakrama Bahu II. These invasions seem to have been short lived. The invasion launched by Maravarman Kulasekhara (1268-1310) returned with the Tooth relic. Sastri says Parakrama bahu III (1287-1293) had to go to India, speak to the Pandya King and get back the relic. A second invasion by Marvarman was beaten back by Buvaneka Bahu I.

(The writings of A Liyanagamage, C.W. Nicholas, KA Nilakanta Sastri, L.S. Perera, S Wickremesinghe and W.M.K. Wijetunga were used for this essay).

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