Kingdom of Kurunegala
Buvanaikabahu II (1293-1302 AD)
Proclaimed himself king with Kurunegala as his capital. He ruled for 9 years and after his death his son succeeded him.
Parakramabahu IV (1302-1326)
He gave his patronage to Buddhism and Literature. He built a large number of Viharas. During his reign these was a rebellion by a person named Bodamapananda, possibly a Vanni chief due to this even the Sangha fled from the capital. King Parakramabahu IV had built a beautiful temple for the Tooth Relic. He also built the Parakumba Pirivena and gave Paranagama, Delmada, Thambilihela, Morawaka for its maintenance. He rebuilt Vijayaba Pirivena. He rebuilt this Thotagamuwa complex and a viharaya at Devundara. Weedagama Viharaya near Raigama.
According to Mahawamsa, the translation of the Jataka Katha was one undertaken by the king himself. It was during this period that Sanda Kinduru Jathakaya was written by Wilgammula Thero. Other literary works were the translation of Maha Bodhi Wamsaya by the same Thero. Anagatha Wamsaya , Ummaga Jatakaya, Dalada Pujavaliya, Sinhala Thupa Wamsaya, Dambadeni Asna are some more books written during this period.
Tradition says that Buvanaikabahu III constructed the Kurunegala Tank and his name is mentioned in connection with traditional accounts of the temples of the temples of Vanni Hatpattu. The Kurunegala period gets somewhat confusing. According to Madawala Sannasa Kurunegala period ended with the rebellion by Bodamapananda who would have killed Parakramabahu IV. There is a mention of a period of interregnum from 1326-1341. But again there is a mention of 2 kings, Vanni Buvanaikabahu IV and Vijayabahu (Savulu) V. Both were sons of Savulu Vijayabahu. It is still not quite certain from where these two kings ruled.
Vijayabahu as Kitti
In 1050 AD there was change in the political arena of Ruhuna. Prince Kitti who had a claim to royalty stepped in to politics. He would have the unenviable task of fighting the Cholas for a long period of time. Cholas invaded Sri Lanka. While Kitti was still an infant. They were looked after by a chieftain named Buddharaja or Budana.In the Panakaduwa copper inscription (found by a farmer ploughing his paddy fields in the Morowakkorale) Vijayabahu reminisces about his early rigorous child hood “At the time we were remaining concealed in the mountain wilderness”, having been deprived of our kingdom in consequence of the calamity caused by the Soli Tamils,Lord Budal of Sitnaru-bim Dandanayaka of Ruhuna, with the aid of his retinue protected the entire royal family,including our father, his Majesty King Mugalan the great lord; he brought us up in our tender age, he nurtured us with the sustenance of edible roots and green herbs from the jungle, he concealed us from enemies who were prowling about seeking us where ever we went; engaging him self in this place and, that he secured once again the territory of Ruhuna, took us out of the mountainous wilderness and established us in our own Kingdom.
Buddharaja was their protector no doubt and he was now grooming Prince Kitti for future Kingship. Kitti as a youth began to assist in Buddharaja’s military activities. Clashes between Loka and Buddharaja took place at Bovala near Kirama. Loka was established at Kataragama. Buddharaja was able to defeat Loka at Hunuwala, Rakwana and Ratmale as well.After Loka died Kesadathu Kasyapa took over his place. At this time Chola’s were watching with undue interest the events taking place in Ruhuna.They marched to Kataragama against Kesadhatu Kasyapa.Taking this opportunity prince Kitti and Buddharaja defeated Kesadhatu Kasyapa.
King Vijayabahu I (1055-1110 AD)
When Kitti and Buddharaja unified Ruhuna, Prince Kitti was only 18 years old. He assumed control of Ruhuna under the name Vijayabahu. He continued to be at Kataragama. Still a teenager he had known neither palace nor court. He had a hard life existing as a refugee, leading a nomadic life eating what he could get from the forest or not at all. He began to gain experience in warfare and share the rigours of campaigning with his men. He was a brave and a courageous leader and it is normal that he could earn the devotion and respect of the commanders and followers. This trained him to the difficult
future he had to face.
The Cholas after seeing the reception and acclaim Vijayabahu was getting in Ruhuna, sent a strong force to Kataragama. Vijaybahu learned that his armies were no match for the Cholas retreated to Malayarata. Cholas plundered Kataragama and went back to Polonnaruwa. As they retreated,Vijayabahu came out of his hiding and came to Sippaththalaka possibly near Hambantota. Vijayabahu though very young, settled down to develop the economy, good administration and material resources for war which was inevitable. Within the next few years trade contacts were made with Myanmar, they exchanged goods.Vijayabahu used mainly the Southern and Eastern coasts. There is a possibility that Vijayabahu’s ships got the protection of the Sri Vijaya Kingdom of Malaya. It must be remembered that a century earlier Sinhala royal family had consolidated friendly relations by the marriage of Mihindu IV and a Sri Vijayan princess. Chola too had a powerful navy in the North Western, Northern and North-Southern ports of Sri Lanka. But they were unable to control Vijayabahus’ shipping which was backed by the massive strength of Sri Vijaya.
Later Vijayabahu moved to Thambalagamuwa near Thalawa. By this time disturbances occurred in the Chola occupied territory of Rajarata. These may have been instigated by Vijayabahu’s followers. The people of Rajarata refused to pay taxes. Things became very complicated. The Chola emperor heard of anti Chola activities in Rajarata and sent a powerful army to Sri Lanka. They landed at Mantai, suppressed the people savage ferocity and marched to Ruhuna. At this crucial moment 2 chieftains, went over to the enemy. Vijayabahu had no other option. Than to use his age old tactic and retreated to the hilly region of Yala. This had one pass. It had enough water and was eminently suited for a long siege. From there they could level attacks on the approaching enemy. In the battle which followed their general was killed at Thambaththi near Buttala. The Sinhala army gained much booty and began to prepare to converge and Polonnaruwa.
Vijayabahu then occupied Polonnaruwa. This was temporary to prevent Sinhala occupation of Rajarata, the Chola emperor Virarajendra sent a powerful army wich was met by Sinhala commander at Anuradhapura. The Sinhala army suffered a crushing defeat. The Sinhala commander was killed and so was also a major part of the army. Vijaya bahu retreated to a place called Villbawa in the Weudavilly Hathpaththuwa. (near Kurunegala) Vijayabahu received news that Chola army was chasing him, therefore he went to a protected place called Vakirigala. in the Kegalle district. Vijayabahu had to face enemies from within. This was Keshadathu Kasyapa’s brother. Chola inscriptions mention the they captured Vijayabahu’s queen as well. Brother of Kassapa raised the standard of the revolt in Buttala. As soon as siege of Vakirigala was over Vijayabahu marched to Buttala. The rebel leader fled to the Chola territory leaving his family and followers behind.
Vijayabahu was not shattered by the treachery of his own people and defeat by Chola was unknown to him. His main aim was to liberate the country from foreign domination, he was undeterred. “Not only had he to face the military might of a great empire, more than one occasion, when it appeared that he was on the road to success, his own people proved false to him and he had to start all over again”. Vijayabahu settled down at Thambalagamuwa and directed his energies to rebuilding his army. After 1067 Virarajendra the Chola king had to deal with a war against Western Chalukya. They could not afford to send any reinforcements to Sri Lanka. With this respite Vijayabahu had bought time to organize himself. In 1070 Kullotunga I became king of Chola. He was immediately drawn into battle with the Western Chalukyas. Vijayabahu realized that this was a good time to send Cholas flying out of Sri Lanka.
He planned a two - pronged attack which converged. The western army column marched through Kurunegala and Anuradhapura district with Anuradhapura and Mantai its objectives. The Eastern column moved up to capture Polonnaruwa. The Western column captured the Chola forts at Nuwarakale, Batalagoda, Venaruwa, Menikdena, Talagalla, Nikavaratiya and Mahamadagalla, captured Anuradhapura and on to Mantai. The Eastern column captured Sakamam near Tirukkovil and other places along the Eastern coast and turn into Mahaveli ganga. Word was sent to Vijayabahu who was at Mahanagakula to come and direct the assault on Polonnaruwa. Capture of Mantai prevented reinforcements from coming in and cut off any retreating Cholas. Vijayabahu went first to Mahiyanganaya setting up camp and started operations on the final assault on Polonnaruwa. Vijayabahu fought outside the city. The defeated Cholas took refuge in the fortress. The siege against the Cholas went on for one and a half months and Vijayabahu entered the city. The Cholas fought desperately knowing that no reinforcements will come. To give the devil its due to, they fought to the last. Vijayabahu entered Anuradhapura in 1070. The Chola rule had lasted 77 years. He was king at last. He stood victorious at the age of 33 years.
He had spent 17 years of his life fighting the mighty Cholas, faced much difficulties, disappointments, treachery and bitter defeat. This did not deter him from the main aim which was to conquer. He became the King of Sri Lanka 15 years after he was made king of Ruhuna. One of the first things he did was to strengthen the coastal defenses in case of a Chola reprisal. He built a palace at Anuradhapura for his consecration. It was smaller and built from materials collected from earlier buildings which prove the impoverished state of Sri Lanka during this period. 3 years after he had got rid of Cholas, he had his consecration as king at Anuradhapura. He then made Polonnaruwa his capital. Polonnaruwa was strategically important. It commanded the crossings of the Mahaveli Ganga, the defence of which was vital in case of attacks from Ruhuna, or from south Indian invaders. Polonnaruwa was distant enough to give time, to mobilize the army and manning the defences or give time to retreat. Another reason for the choice of Polonnaruwa was centralising, which did away with the autonomy of other provinces specially Ruhuna. He appointed his next younger brother Vikramabahu as Yuvaraja with Dhakkinadhesa as his principality and his youngest brother Jayabahu to be Adipada of Ruhuna. He delegated power and duties to his minis tries, re-established the revenue-collection and tax systems. He also reorganized the system of justice. He took steps to develop agriculture and irrigation which were neglected during the Chola occupation of the Rajarata. While he was immersed in these reconstructions, 3 of his brothers who were the Flag bearer, Chief Justice and Chief of Commerce became hostile they had fled to India and had come back only to raise the standard of revolt in Ruhuna, Malayarata and Dhakkinadesa. The king managed to repress the rebellion, and kill the leaders at Dhakkinadesa. The reason for this insurrection is not given in any source.
Vijayabahu repaired a large number of tanks and channels. It was a matter of repairing rather than build new ones. He had to repair then in order to build back the economy of the country. The Cholas had not maintained these schemes adequately. The patronage given to Buddhism was also lackadaisical even ordination had lapsed. Vijayabahu had to get down ordained priests from Burma and begin afresh. This was not due to the fact that Cholas destroyed Buddhist temples. Looting temples was not a Chola policy. These temples were neglected Sangha population depleted. The temple at Welgam vehera was named Rajaraja Perumpalli, was a temple that received Chola patronage according to Tamil inscriptions of this period but not on a massive scale of the Sinhala kings. Vijayabahu had to work hard to rectify the damages caused by negligence.
Vijayabahu’s first queen consort was Lilawathi. She was the daughter of Jagathipala who had come to Ruhuna during the Chola occupation from “Ayodya” Oudh in North India. His second queen was Thilokasundari of the royal house of Kalinga (Present day Orissa) Vijayabahu’s younger sister Mitta was given in marriage to a Pandyan prince of South India. Even the Chola king had asked for her hand in marriage, Vijayabahu chose the Pandyan prince. This was not due to any ethnic difference but it had been the custom for the Sinhala royalty to marry into Chandrawansa families. Friendship was already established with the Kannata, Western Chalukya king by envoys and exchange of gifts. The alliance with the Srivijaya empire in his struggle against the Cholas, was strengthened and made new bonds of friendship with the enemies of the Cholas. This was a very wise move on the part of the king.
The internal peace was assured and the king was able to engage in constructive activities. After almost a century of civil war invasions and insurrections the country had become impoverished. Buddhism suffered due to pillage and neglect. The Sangha suffered and institutional religion was almost disappearing. There were no new monks and those of high quality and calibre. The king requested the king of Myanmar to send pious and learned theras. When they arrived the king had to request them to perform the necessary ceremonies for ordination over and over again, so that a large number of sangha became priests, who were competent in numbers and learning to resume the religious life of the people of Sri Lanka. A strong parapet wall and a moat was built round Polonnaruwa. The earliest building was a palace of Vijayabahu I.
He also constructed a temple for the Tooth Relic. New Viharas were built within city limits. The Alahara canal was given to these viharas for their maintenance. Most of the religious edifices which were in disrepair were restored. The road to Samantha Kuta was repaired provided rest houses (ambalam) and alms houses (dana sala) on 3 roadways. There were the Sabaragamuwa route through Gilimale, Rajarata Road through Ulapane,Valigampola, Ambagamuwa and Kehilgamuwa, the road through Uva. Most members of the royalty, the ministers and other officials followed the king’s example. The king sent envoys to Buddha Gaya with pearls, gems and other jewels to offer on his behalf for Ananda Bodhi. All these activities formed an important part in the king’s life.
When Kullotunga I of the Chola’s took over their kingdom certain sections of the Chola kingdom had broken off. Sri Lanka broke off in his first year. Sri Lanka’s strength was the backing of Srivijaya, Western Chalukya and Pandya kingdoms. This fact would have stopped the Cholas directly attacking Sri Lanka. Kullotunga was a shrewd and a cunning ruler. He made overtures to Vijayabahu. He asked for the hand of Vijayabahu’s sister for 15 years he did nothing that could be visible. About 1085 he made a visible attempt to create disorder in Sri Lanka. Envoys bearing gifts arrived at Polonnaruwa. They were from Western Chalukya (Kannata) and Chola and were welcomed cordially. Vijayabahu sent back the Chalukya envoys accompanied by Sinhala envoys bearing gifts. They had to travel through Chola territory and the Sinhalese envoys were captured by the Cholas. They were captured, tortured, their noses and ears were cut off. They arrived home to Sri Lanka and the king was informed. Vijayabahu was furious, he called the Chola ambassadors before him, charged them to convey his challenge to the Chola king and sent them back dressed in female attire. Vijayabahu mobilized his army and sent two divisions, to Mahatitta and Mattikavatitta to take ship and invade Chola kingdom.
At this moment Velaikkara troops revolted as they did not want to fight their own kind. They killed the 2 generals who led the 2 divisions, captured the king’s younger sister with her 2 sons, burnt down the royal palace, looted and plundered Polonnaruwa. Vijayabahu was forced to take refuge at Vakirigala. Then with the help of his loyal troops and the Uparaja Veerabahu he defeated the Velaikkaras at Polonnaruwa. He dealt with the leaders severely and the rest became submissive.
The King’s Velaikkaras were sworn to defend him with their lives. They were mercenaries and were popular even among the Cholas. But even after the rebelion Vijayabahu still employed them, for his personal protection. In 1100-1101 AD Vijayabahu marched to Mahatittha awaiting an attack by the Cholas. Upto the end of Vijayabahu I no other invader appeared on Sri Lankan soil. With 2 difficult rebellions which were quelled by Vijayabahu there was a prolonged peace within the country. Vijayabahu found it an uphill task to develop the country’s economy from its impoverished state.
Culawansa describes Vijayabahu as a poet. He patronized literature and many scholars gathered round him. Ambagamuwa inscription says this of Vijayabahu. “Veneration of the triple gem, hospitable attention to preceptors homage to the righteous, prosperous conditions to the learned, assistance to kinsmen, intimacy to friends haughtiness towards foes compassion for all living beings, wisdom in council”. C.W.Nicholas says that “repair, restoration, reorganization and rehabilitation following a hundred years of lax government, internal strife and finally, subjection to foreign powers were as difficult a task for Vijayabahu, with depleted resources in country long impoverished as his prolonged war of liberation.”
The Panakaduwa copper inscription is one of its kind.It says that Vijayabahu I granted certain priviledges to Sitnaru-Bim Budalnavan, Dandanayaka of Ruhuna who protected the king and other members of the royal family, when they had to seek refuge in the forests during the Chola occupation. Vijayabahu was later established in Ruhuna. The very words of a king, spoken in a royal assembly are written down in the grant. They are very eloquent of the hardships and danger that Kitti and his family had to undergo before he was made king. This is the only details concerning himself - a biographical account - of a great man in days of adversity. The king’s brother Veerabahu died before him. He was succeeded by the Adipada Jayabahu, while the son by Thilokasundari, of Kalinga, Wikramabahu was made Adipada of Ruhuna.
Vijayabahu died in 1110-1111 in the 5th year of his reign when he was 73 years old. The was the greatest of warriors. It would be quite correct to say that “Had there been no Vijayabahu, there would have been no Sinhalese in Sri Lanka today.” According to Dr.Paranavithana “Beyond a shadow of doubt he was the author of Sinhalese freedom, and one of the chief architects of Sinhalese nationality.”