A Short history of Lanka

by Humphry William Codrington | 1926 | 48,606 words

Printed Edition 1926 Macmillan and Co., Limited St Martin's Street, London Web Edition 2000 Rhajiv Ratnatunga Pittsburgh. PA USA...

Chapter V - The Dambadeniya and Gampola Kings (1215 AD—1411 AD)

While the Kalinga Magha was ruling at Polonnaruwa, a Sinhala prince Vijaya Bahu III. (c. A.D. 1220-1224) gradually gathered power into his hands, and succeeded in expelling the foreigners from the Maya country. The contemporary records state that he was of the Siri Sanga Bo family; in greater detail he is said to have been the son of Vijaya Malla, descended from the princes who brought the Bo-tree. His son, however, in his poem the Kavsilumina claims to be of the Lunar race descended from King Pandu. Thus Vijaya Bahu either was of the Pandyan branch of the royal family himself or more probably married a princess of that race. From hence:forth all the kings of the mediaeval period style themselves Siri Sanga Bo.

The Sinhala king, who had attained the sovereignty well, on in life, made his capital at Dambadeniya in Kurunegala District, and calling back the priests from India conveyed the Tooth and Bowl Relics from their hiding place in Kotmale to the seat of government, and thence to Beligala in Kegalla District, where they were lodged for the sake of safety. He also had the Scriptures transcribed, and in addition built at the capital the Vijayasundararama, so called after his own name, besides repairing many temples. His convocation for the reform of priestly discipline appears. to have been held about 1222. He only reigned four years, and before his death committed to the care of the priesthood his sons, Parakrama Bahu and Bhuvanaika Bahu, both of whom were children. He was cremated at Attanagalla in Colombo District.

The regnal years of Pandita Parakrama Bahu II  (1234-1269), who was born at Sirivardhanapura not far from Dambadeniya, are reckoned in the contemporary Pujavaliya from about AD. 1234, or some ten years after his father's death. A popular legend, which may have some foundation in fact, seems to assign to this period the usurpation of Prince Wattimi (Vathimi), the son of a king by a Muhammadan concubine. His rule was unpopular, and the chiefs having lured him to a high place at Kurunegala threw him over the precipice. His tomb, in the hands of the Muhammadans, is venerated also by the Sinhala, to whom he is known as Gale Bandara. The true heir, who was in hiding and who was traced by means of the state elephant, from the details given by the legend should be Parakrama Bahu II. But the Kurunegala Vistaraya, a work of no authority, while calling the heir Pandita Parakrama Bahu of Dambadeniya, states that his father was Vanni Bhuvanaika Bahu.

Parakrama Bahu's coronation took place in 1236. His first act was to bring the Tooth Relic and lodge it at the capital. He then turned his attention to the recovery of Polonnaruwa from the Tamils, and achieved this purpose by 1244. In this connection two kings are mentioned, Magha and Jaya Bahu, who had been in power forty years, apparently reckoned from the time of the military rule after Sahasa Malla. As the Tamil war' and the `Malala war' as specifically mentioned by contemporary chronicles the two kings may have held different parts of the country. In the king's eleventh year (1244/5) Lanka was invaded by Chandrabhanu, a Javanese (Javaka) from Tambalinga, with a host armed with blow-pipes and poisoned arrows: he may have been a sea- robber, and though now repulsed descended on the Island later on.

The rest of the reign according to the contemporary records was spent in pious works; the king also held a convocation for the purpose of reforming the priesthood, whose discipline had been relaxed during the Tamil occu pation. The chronicles make no mention of a great Pandyan invasion which seems to have taken place between 1254 and 1256, in which one of the kings of Lanka was slain and the other rendered tributary. From this it is clear that Parakrama Bahu- never had recovered the north of the Island, which certainly had been held by his great namesake.

After reigning thirty-three years he abdicated in favour of his eldest son Bosat Vijaya Bahu IV  about A.D.1267/8. The new king occupied himself in works of piety, and in completing the restoration of Polonnaruwa. Chandrabahu again fell upon Lanka with a mixed host of Pandyans, Cholas and Javanese, overran a considerable part of the north of the Island and encamped before Yapahu, where! he was defeated. The names Chavakachcheri (`the! Javanese settlement'), Chavankottai (`Javanese fort') at Navatkuli in the Jaffna Peninsula, and Javakakotte (`Javanese fort') on the mainland possibly record settlements of his followers. Having attended to restorations at Anuradhapura, Vijaya Bahu sent for his father to Polonnaruwa, where he was crowned a second time. The Tooth Relic having been brought, Parakrama. held his ninth ordination festival at Dahastota, and then returned. to Dambadeniya, where he died in his thirty-fifth year, probably in AD. 1269 or early in 1270.

Vijaya Bahu now was sole king, but was soon assassinated, possibly about October 1270, by his general, who assumed the crown. His younger brother, Bhuvanaika Bahu I  succeeded in escaping; the usurper failing to secure the allegiance of the Rajput mercenaries, who had been won over by the true heir, was murdered, and the prince crowned at the beginning of 1271. Early in his reign he had to deal with a Pandyan invasion, which he repelled; thereafter he lived for a few years at Dambadeniya, and then removed to Yapahu. In the first months of 1283 he dispatched an embassy to the Sultan of Egypt proposing an alliance. As he reigned eleven years, he must have died shortly afterwards. Hamir Sank, the father of the `Lanka princess,' Pudmini, who married the regent of Chitor about 1275, perhaps was one of the Rajput mercenaries who took service in the Island.

The Mahavansa relates that, apparently after Bhuvanaika Bahu's death, there arose a famine and that the Pandyan king Kulasekhara (AD. 1268-1308) sent his minister Arya Chakravarti to invade Lanka. The minister; who is mentioned in a Pandyan inscription of A.D. 1305, succeeded in taking Yapahu, and in carrying off the Tooth Relic. But the Dalada Sirila, almost a contemporary document, places this event during Bhuvanaika Bahu's reign though doubtless it occurred at the very end of it.

The chronicles represent Vijaya Bahu's son, Parakrama Bahu III. as immediately succeeding to the throne. But the Tamil poem Sarajoti Malai, recited at his court in May A.D. 1310 was commenced in the seventh year from his coronation, and thus the reign must have begun about A.D. 1302 or 1303. This supposes a long interregnum of some twenty years, during which the Island perhaps formed part of the Pandyan empire. It is at this time, between 1292 and 1294, that Marco Polo passed by Lanka and mentions its king Sendemain, whose identity is obscure. An embassy also was sent in 1284 from China to secure the Tooth and Bowl Relics. Parakrama Bahu had to humble himself by a personal embassy to the Pandyan court, before he was able to get back the Tooth Relic: this he placed at Polonnaruwa, where he himself lived. The length of. his reign is not known. Suspecting. his cousin Bhuvanaika Bahu, son of the king of that name, of conspiring to seize the throne, he sent his barber to blind him: the prince, however, fought and defeated the king, seized the Tooth Relic and removed it to his own city of Kurunegala. It may be conjectured that Parakrama had secured the Relic at the price of vassalage to the Pandyan court, and that the overthrow of that kingdom by the Muhammadans in 1310 was the occasion of his cousin's rebellion.

Vathimi Bhuvanaika Bahu II. usually is said to have died in his second year. This is due to a slight mislection in the received text of the Mahavansa The Dalada Sirita, composed in the next reign, assigns to him nine ordination festivals; accordingly lie must have reigned at least nine years.

Ancient Divisions of Lanka

His son, Parakrama Bahu IV , came to the throne in the Saka year 1247 or A.D. 1325/6. He translated the Jataka stories of Buddha's previous births into Sinhala, built various temples, and in particular the Alutnuwara Dewale in Kegalla District. The length of his reign is unknown, and the Mahavansa chronicle ended with his death, until continued in the eighteenth century.

He was succeeded by Vanni Bhuvanaika Bahu III and Jaya or Vijaya Bahu, of whom nothing is known. About the end of this last-named king's reign or the beginning of his successor's Lanka was visited in 1344 by the famous traveller, Ibn Batuta, who found the north of the Island, including the port of Puttalam, in the possession of the king of Jaffna: the Sinhala monarch he calls Alkonar, and states that he had been blinded in a palace revolution, but was still living while his son reigned in his stead. Colombo was then the seat of a Muhammadan pirate with an Abyssinian garrison. This city, which can be traced back as far as A.D. 949, is mentioned by a Chinese author in 1330. It has always been a foreign settlement. In the same year 1344 an inscription at Kelaniya records that the wife of the minister Alagakkonara helped to repair the Kit Sirimevan Vihara at that place. Ibn Batuta's `Alkonar ` clearly is the same name; the relationship with the royal family is obscure, but the queen of Parakrama Bahu II. was of the Giri-vansa, to which clan belonged the great Alagakkonara, the all powerful minister of Vikrama Bahu III.

The capital, perhaps because of civil commotion, was now moved to Gampola under Bhuvanaika Bahu IV., who came to the throne in AD. 1344/5: the same date marks the accession of Parakrama Bahu V., perhaps his brother. There were thus two sovereigns, a senior and a junior, at the same time, an arrangement which is found in the Chola empire arid with which we meet later in Lanka. The chief works of Bhuvanaika Bahu's reign are the Lankatilaka and Gadaladeniya Viharas, not far from Kandy. He ruled at least until 1353/4. Parakrama Bahu V. is said to have reigned in Gampola, but the Tisara Sandesaya or `Message of the Swan,' the earliest of this class of poem, is addressed to him at Dedigama in Kegalla District; he may have resided here while Bhuvanaika Bahu was at Gampola. His last known year is 1359. Joint king with him at least for a time was Vikrama Bahu III. (about 1357 to 1374 at least). It is in his reign that the great minister Alakesvara or Alagakkonara came into prominence. Finding it expedient that the enemies of his country and religion should be kept at a distance the minister built the fortress of New Jayavardhanapura or Kotte, not far from Colombo. Arya Chakravarti, the king of Jaffna, attacked by sea and land, but was defeated Alagakkonara capturing his encampments at Colombo, Wattala, Negombo and Chilaw. This campaign can hardly be other than that assigned by the Rajavaliya which at this period is very confused, to the reign of Bhuvanaika Bahu V. According to this lath chronicle the war was brought about by Alagakkonara hanging Arya Chakravarti's tax collectors. It is unlikely that this is an invention. The very position of Kotte in the swamps near Colombo is a proof of the straits to which the Sinhala had been reduced, and there can be little doubt that the Jaffna kingdom was for a time paramount in the low country of Lanka; the Tamil inscription at Kotagama in Kegalla District, however, is almost its only surviving relic. The attribution to Bhuvanaika Bahu possibly may be due to a confusion between this campaign and the wars of Vira Bahu, his co-regent, vaguely referred to in the Nikaya San graka In Vikrama Bahu's titne there took place in 1369/70 a reform of the priesthood, which lasted until the fifteenth year of the next reign

Lankatilaka Vihara, Kandy District

Bhuvanaika Bahu V. (A.D. 1372/3 to 1406/7 at least), reigned in Gampola: he seems to have been little more than a figure-head. A Vijayanagar record of A.D. 1385/6 relates that the prince, Virupaksila, conquered among others the Sinhalas, and presented crystals and other jewels to his father Harihara; this may refer to the kingdom of Jaffna, which in the next century was tributary to the great empire on the mainland. The fifteenth year of Bhuvanaika Bahu fell in A.B. 1929 or AD. 1386/7, and in his twentieth (A.D. 1391/2) the sub-king Vira Bahu, his cousin and brother-in-law, came to the throne. The documents, however, prove that Bhuvanaika Bahu continued to reign, in name if not in fact, for some fifteen years longer.

Before Vira Bahu's accession, however, the actual royal authority had been wielded by Kumara Alakesvara, the son of the great Alagakkonara, who had died after 1382/3, and then by Vira Alakesvara. With him fought his brother Vira Bahu II., who resided at Rayigampura in Kalutara District, and Vira Alakesvara fled to India. Vim, Bahu had to deal with hostile designs on the part of Tamils, Moors and others; he was pious, and held another convocation for the reform of the priesthood in A.D. 1939 or AD. 1396/7. He was succeeded by his two sons, whose reigns must have been very short, as Vira Alakesvara returned from India, seized the supreme power, and reigned for twelve years, apparently under the name of Vijaya Bahu VI. According to the Chinese authorities he was a' Soli,' as was Parakrama Bahu VI., that is, not a Chola as has been supposed, but one of the Savulu or Sakya race, for these Alakesvaras were members of the Sinhala royal family, being of the Mehenavara clan on the one side and of the Ganavesi on the other. Vijaya Bahu had the misfortune to deal unfairly with a Chinese mission, and the ambassador Ching Ho retaliated by carrying off the king with his wives and children, returning to China in A.D. 1411. The emperor ordering the captive's family to chose a successor, they selected the Epa, who was sent back to Lanka with the deposed king. The prince so chosen does not seem to be the Parakrama Bahu Epa, the successor of Vijaya Bahu, and grandson of Senalankahikara Senevirat, minister of Bhuvanaika Bahu IV. This Parakrama was followed by Parakrama Bahu VI. An inscription in Chinese, Persian and Tamil, dated in A.D. 1409, found at Galle, refers to Ching Ho's expedition.

The reputation enjoyed by Parakrama Bahu II. is due to the religious and literary activities of his reign. He recovered the two old capitals from the foreigner, but never succeeded in ousting him from the extreme north, nor do we know that he ever attempted to do so. It is at this period that we hear of the Vanniyars, to whom the safety of Anuradhapura was entrusted. These chiefs in later days occupied the frontier country between Jaffna and the Sinhala kingdom, and were subjects of one or other of these states, or affected complete independene according to the strength of their neighbours. The reign which had begun so well, ended in weakness, and Parakrama set the fatal example of dividing his kingdom among his sons and nephew, piously enjoining them to live at peace with one another. This policy later on was to be the direct cause of European settlement in the Island. The weakness of the government also is disclosed by the failure of Vijaya Bahu IV. to enforce the payment of taxes, and his custom of supplying the deficiency from the royal treasury. The mutiny, which cost him his life, probably may be attributed to his inability to pay his mercenary troops.

The whole period indeed is one of slow decline. The Lankatilaka and Gadaladeniya temples, already mentioned, are the only buildings of note, and Dambadeniya, Kurunegala, and Gampola are in marked contrast to Polonnaruwa in the absence of structural remains. Even the Tooth Relic temple erected by Parakrama Bahu V. in his early years had to be rebuilt before the end of the reign An incontrovertible sign of national poverty is the fact, attested by a contemporary work, that by the time of Parakrama Bahu IV. the `gold massa' had become a copper coin. There are indications that the removal of the seat of government to Gampola was due to internal trouble: the palace revolution recorded by Ibn Batuta has been noted, and tradition attributes the abandonment of Kurunegala by Parakrama Bahu V. to war. We have also observed the great extension of the power of Jaffna in the second and third quarters of the fourteenth century. We shall see that the decline of the Sinhala monarchy was arrested for the time by Parakrama Bahu VI.


For general history see Mhv. (of little value after the reign of Parakrama Bahu IV.); Puj., especially the unpublished longer version, and Hatthavanagalla Vihara-vansa, both contemporary with Parakrama Bahu II.; the N.S., composed at the end of the fourteenth century, and its derivative and continuation the Saddh. For the Dambadeniya period see `Notes on the Dambadeniya Dynasty,' V.A. x. pt. i. pp. 37 ff. and pt. ii. pp. 88 ff.

Parakrama Bahu II. For the Pandyan invasion see A.B.E. inscriptions Nos. 421 of 1907, 356 of 1906, and also volume for 1912, p. 65. For Javakakotte, situated between Mavatupatuna (Mantota) and Kalmunai, see Kokila Sandesaya, v. 236.

Bhuvanaika Bahu I. The Pandyan incursion seems to be referred to in A .R.E. No. 698 of 1916. For the Rajputs in Lanka see Tod, Annals of Rajastan, i. p. 276, and V.A. x. p. 88; their chief was called Thakuraka, a well-known Rajput title. For the embassy to Egypt see J.B.A.S., C.B. xxviii. No. 72, P. 82. The inscription referring to Arya Chakravarti is A.R.PJ. No. 110 of 1903.

Parakrama Bahu III. The Sarajoti Malai is published at the Kokuvil Press, Jaffna, 1910 (second edition). For the conspiracy of Bhuvanaika Bahu see Wijesinha's Mhv. p. 316, and Upham's Mhv. (Sacred and Historical Books of Lanka, 1833, vo]. 1. p. 355). Civil war is definitely mentioned in the Dalada Sirita. written under Parakrama Bahu IV.

Bhuvanaika Bahu II. For the mislection see 02. a. pt. ii. p. 91, and Geiger's Culavamsa, xc., 63.

Parakrama Bahu IV. The date of accession appears in the contemporary Dalada Sirita. For Alutnuwara Dewale see C.A. ib. p. 92. Tradition assigns the foundation to Bhuvanaika Bahu. I. (Lewuke Sannasa,. Report on the Kegalla District, p. 47).

The work of Ibn Batuta as far as it touches Lanka has been translated in J.R.A.S., C.B. 1882; for `Alkonar' see ib. nix. No. 75, p. 106. The Muhammadan tombstone at Colombo, giving the Hijra year 337 (A.D. 949), is published in Transactions R.A.S. i. 545. For the Chinese book Tao I Chi Lueh see J.R.A.S., C.B. xxviii. No. 73. For the Kit Sirimevan inscription see C.A. i. p. 152.; ii. pp. 149, 182. For the Giri-vansa see D.B. Jayatilaka's`Daily Routines of Parakrama Bahu' in the Buddhist, July 8, 1922.

According to Chau Ju-Kua's work on the Chinese and Arab trade in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries (F. Hirth and W. W. Rockhill, St. Petersburg, 1912), Si-lan was under the rule of Nan-p 'i or Malabar and sent a yearly tribute `to Sanfo-ts 'i (Palembang in Sumatra). The first statement perhaps refers to Magha and his Keralas ; the second may furnish a clue to Tambalinga, the home of Chandrabhanu; There is a Tambilang river on the east coast of Sumatra.

For the cause of the abandonment of Kurunegala see under Parakrama Bahu V.

Bhuvanaika Bahu IV. The date of accession is given in the Lankatilaka (J.R.A.S., C.B. x. No. 34, pp. 83 if.) and Gadaladeniya inscriptions as Saka 1266. The date A.B. 1894 = A.D 1351/2 for his fourth year expired appears in N.S., which is wrong also in two other dates (C.A. ix. p. 186).

Parakrama Bahu V. For the war which caused him to leave Kurunegala see Lawrie's Gazetteer, vol. ii. p. 581, and C.A. x. p. 97. The date of accession is given in the Hapugastenna inscription (J.R.A.S., C.B. xxii. No. 65, p. 362).

Vikrama Bahu III. For date of accession see Vigulawatta inscription in Report on the Kegalla District, p. 79, and for the last known year the Niyangampaya record in J.R.A.S., C.B. xxii. No. 65, p. 343. For the war with Jaffna I have followed the slightly later N.S. rather than the more modern and confused Raj., which,. however, contains valuable details. The Kotagama inscription is published in the Report of the Kegalla District, p. 85; but the translation has to be amended, `Setu' being the motto of the Jaffna kings and `Anuresar' meaning `Lord of Anurai,' a word used in Tamil originally for Anuradhapura, and then for any capital of the Sinhala.

Bhuvanaika Bahu V. For the Virupaksha inscription see Ep. Ind. iii. No. 32. For the date of accession see N.S., and for the thirty-fourth or thirty-sixth year, J.R.A.S., C.B. xxii. No. 65, p. 366. The last mention of the great Alagakkonara is in Saka 1304 (1382/3) in the Sinhala Attanagalu-vansa. The' prabhuraja `of the Mayura Sandesaya is Vira Alakesvara, brother of Vira Bahu and brother-in-law of Bhuvanaika Bahu V.

For the successors of Bhuvanaika Bahu V. see Saddh. p. 295, a nearly contemporary work. For Vijaya Bahu VI. see the controversy in J.R.A.S., G.E. xxii. No. 65, pp. 316 ff. Keragala inscription No. 1, referring to 11 Vijaya Bahu, in reality is a schedule to inscription No. 2, but Mr. H. C. P. Bell's contention that Vijaya Bahu reigned shortly before Parakrama Bahu VI. is not affected thereby as the sister of Alagakkonara is mentioned in No. 1. The royal descent of the later Alakesvaras is given in the Sagama inscription (J.R.A .5., G.E. ib. p. 364). For the Chinese authorities sec lb. xxiv. No. 68, pp. 74 if. and xxviii. No. 73, p. 32, and for the trilingual record Spolia Zeylanica, viii: pt. xxx. 1912. The proof that Parakrama Bahu Epa is not identical with Parakrama Bahu VI. Is found in the numeration of the kings in Saddh p. 71, where however' 116 `in line 3 should read' 115 (pasalos for solos}.

For the building and restoration of Parakrama Bahu II's Tooth Relic temple see Mhv. lxxii, 8; lxxxv. 91; and Puj. The reference to the copper` masuran' coins is in the Sinhala Ummagga Jataka; see version by T. B. Yatawara, London, 1898, p. 158, line 31, where, however, `gold' should be `coin.'

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