Vijayabahu I, born as Prince Kitti, assumed rulership of Ruhuna in 1055 and freed it from the Cholas a few years later. After a seventeen-year-long campaign with many setbacks and internal struggle with rivals, he finally managed to repulse the occupying forces of the Chola Empire and regained Sinhalese control of the whole island, when the Chola power was weakened by a civil war in southern India. Vijayabahu seized Polonnaruwa in 1070. After defeating further internal rebellions, Vijayabahu held a coronation ceremony in Anuradhapura, which was considered to be the official capital, though neither Vijayaba nor any of his successors ever resided in Anuradhapura any more. Apart from his his military achievements, Vijayabahu played a major role in reestablishing Buddhism after a period of decay due to lacking rocal protection. The validity of the ordination lineage in Sri Lanka was in doubt because of misconduct of the monks. Monks from Myanmar (Burma) introduced a new ordination lineage and helpd to educate new monks.
After decades of fragmentation and civil war in Sri Lanka, Parakramabahu, a local ruler of the western part of the country called Dakkhinadesa since 1140, conquered Polonnaruwa, capital of Rajarata, and finally Ruhana in the south, reuniting the whole island. Already during his reign in Panduvasnuwara in the west, Parakramabhu, who was a well-educated ruler, was eager to build reservoirs and uttered: "Not even a raindrop of water must flow into the ocean without being made useful to man". He restored and extended the ancient irrigation system and built hospitals and other social welfare institutions. His greatest achievement was the Parakrama Samudra (“See od Parakramabahu”). Today’s vast Topawewa near Polonnaruwa is only a small part of what once the largest reservoir that ever existed in Sri Lanka. Most of the buildings in Polonnaruwa are from the internally peaceful reign of Parakramabahu. His military campaigns outside Sri Lanka, in southern India and in Myanmar, turned out to be unsuccessful. Parakramabahu intiated a monastic reform by calling a council in Polonnaruwa. It united the largest three orders, but what is more important, the Theravada doctrine of the Mahavihara became the only accepted Buddhist doctrine. Later on, the monastic order disintegrated again, but Theravada remained to be predominant. This also effected the evolvinf Buddhist kingdoms in Southeast-Asia. Particularly Sukothai, the earliest Thai empire, introduced the Mahavihara tradition from Sri Lanka as official religion.
Nissanka Malla is the other king who left many of those edifices you can see in Polonnaruwa today. He left many rock inscriptions praising him. He claims to be a member of the Kalinga dynasty. Nissanka Malla was the son of King Jayagopa of Kalinga in India. Though the Kalinga dynasty already played an important role in Polonnaruwa, since Vijayabahu had married a Kalinga princess, Nissanka Malla was born in India and came to Sri Lanka only about one year before ascending the throne. Thus he was a foreigner, but married with Parakramabahus daughter. He also legitimized his rule by claiming to be as a descendant of Sri Lanka’s very first king, Vijaya, who also was of Kalinga origin. Nissanka Malla furthermore tried to appear as a just ruler by stressing the significance of being a Buddhist king. He was eager to embellish monasteries, Dambulla being the most prominent example. And he hoped to become popular by reducing taxes. Nissanka Malla is famous for his journeys throughout the kingdom, fostering pilgrimages in the country. He maintained close relationships with Southeastasian kingdoms, too.
Sinhalese people don’t like Kalinga Magha to be mentioned among their great kings, understandably, since he was a foreign invader causing destruction and persecuting Buddhism and dividing the country by founding die Jaffna kingdom. For Sri Lanka Kalinga Magha’s reputation is similar to that of Attila or Dschingis Khan in Europe. However, doubtlessly he played a significant role in the history of the island. Kalinga Magha was a prince from Kalinga, too. In contrast to Nissanka Malla from Kalinga, Magha was an invader and a cruel ruler and looter of sacred sites. He landed in 1215 with a large Tamil army and seized Polonnaruwa. After being expelled from Polonnaruwa two decades later, he established an independent rule on the Jaffna peninsula.
Vijayabahu III drove the Kalinga Magha’s forces from the west of the island and established his local principality. His capital was Dambadeniya, where he hold a Buddhist convention in 1226. Parakramabahu II, his son and successor, was the most significant Dambadeniya king. He was considered a great poet. He wrote the Kausilumina which is regarded as Sri Lanka’s greatest Mahakavya. Mahakavya is a genre of classical Indian Sanskrit poetry, a short epic with lyric descriptions of the beauty of sceneries or love affairs. Many historiographic works originate from the reign of Parakramabahu II. The monk Dhammakirti wrote a sequel of the Mahavansa chronicle. Completely new chronicles of the island’s entire history are the Pujavaliya and the Dathavansa, the chronicle of the Tooth Relic now kept in Dambadeniya.
Bhuvenaikabahu was not a powerful ruler. He was engaged in battles with the newly established powerful Jaffna kingdom, probably Bhuvenaikabahu was an ally of the Southindian Pandya dynasty. Bhuvenaikabahu is worth mentioning as the king who resided in Yapahuwa and built the impressive grand staircase.It may be influenced by Indian styles but also resembles Southeastasian architecture. The 13th century was a time of intense relationships between Sri Lankan and Southeastasian Buddhist monks. The Yapahuwa period of Bhuvenaikabahu is a time of trade with China, nowhere else on the island have been found more Chinese coins and higher quality porcelain than in Yapahuwa.
Parakramabahu VI was a the first king residing in Kotte, which is toay’s official capital in a suburb of Colombo. Parakramabahu VI is the last king who managed to unite the whole under one rule, when his son conquered the Jaffna peninsula in the middle of the century. Relations with China continued, tribute was sent in 1436 and in 1445 and for the last time in 1459. Parakramabahu's religious works included the building of a temple for the Tooth Relic at Kotte, he restored the Maha Saman Dewale near Ratnapura. The long reign of Parakramabahu VI is the classical period of Sinhalese literature. The king himself wrote several books. He fostered arts and literature, this period was the heyday of “Sandesha Kavya”. “Sandesha” means “message”, “Kavya” is a typical Indian style of poetry characterised by abundant usage of metaphors and other figures of speech. Sandesha poems usually despatch the message through the agency of a an animal, most often a bird. One famous Sandesha poems is the "Hansa Sandeshaya", “message of the goose”, which purports to be despatched from Kotte to the Sangharaja in Keragala asking him to invoke the gods to protect the king.
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