In our previous segment, we discussed how King Manawamma (684 – 718 CE) established law and order in the Sinhala kingdom and crushed rising political conspiracies and chaos. He was also a Sinhala king who strengthened the political ties with the Pallava Kingdom of South India. During his time, the Pallava School of Arts of South India greatly influenced Sinhala arts and it continued for centuries. Pallava arts and architecture of the ancient Sinhalese are exquisitely beautiful, classical, and charming. Prof. Senarath Paranavitana further states that the influence of the Pallava art school was in Sri Lanka until the 8th century CE. 

By this time, the Pallavas in South India were rising into power. Sanskrit and Prakrit were the main languages used by the Pallavas in their inscriptions, though a few records continued to be in Tamil. Pallavas were also considered a Tamil kingdom in South India. The Pallava script had a great influence in shaping the Sinhala script into its modern formation. The Pallava script also known as Grantha is a Brahmi script. The early form of Sinhala script is also known as Brahmi script. 

Also, during these centuries, the Pandyas, Pallavas, Cholas, Cheras, Rashtakutas, and the Chalukyas were engaged in never-ending battles with each other, to expand the territories of their kingdoms. These royal dynasties were in a never-ending battle to impose their authority over the other. During these battles, the neighbouring Sinhala kingdom was also involved in them, from time to time. Some of these kingdoms would even extend their powers over to the Sinhala kingdom and after some years, a Sinhalese royal dynasty would re-establish the Sinhala monarchy. In a decade or so, we shall witness how some Sinhala kings would extend their powers towards South Indian following the path of King Gajabahu I of Anuradhapura. Such kings were King Sena I of Anuradhapura and King Parakramabahu the Great of Polonnaruwa. Kings such as King Vijayabahu the Great of Polonnaruwa defeated the mighty Cholas and ended their power in Sri Lanka. 

For weeks we explained to you how the Pandyas invaded the Sinhala kingdom and how Sinhala kings and princes would bring Tamil armies to the island. Through these invasions and wars, a Tamil-speaking population of South Indian origin grew in the Capital city and its vicinity. 

We also must understand that these battles were to claim the sovereignty of each kingdom and to establish each royal dynasty in the monarchy. They were not battles against Sinhala and Tamil communities. 

Today, we shall continue from the end of the reign of King Manawamma.  

After Manavamma…

King Manavamma spent 20 years in the Pallava Kingdom. He ruled the Sinhala Kingdom as a wise, mature, skilled, and sharp ruler, bringing back peace and stability to the kingdom. He also had to restore the economy of the country, restore the irrigation system, and restore the neglected buildings of the country. 

Prof. Paranavitana states that after King Manavamma ascending to the throne the influence of the Tamils disappeared. Tamil ministers and Tamil Generals temporarily disappeared from the pages of history. Prof. Paranavitana and C.W. Nicholas also suggest that although it is not known for sure, we can assume that King Manawamma must have resettled a portion of the Tamil population who were settled in the island, back in their homeland, that is South India.

King Manawamma also removed the Tamil officials from the high positions they were holding and supervised their work. During these times, these officials were also quiet and did not try to create chaos. 

King Manavamma also marks a benchmark in the history of Sinhalese and South Indian Dravidian connections. No other Sinhala king or prince was honoured and well-known in ancient India other than him.

The golden period he dawned continued for about four centuries on the island.

King Aggabodhi VII (772 – 777 CE) suspected an invasion from South India

During this king’s time, his son Prince Mahinda strengthened the security and the naval powers by settling himself at the Mahathiththa Harbour or the Great Harbour. This could have been due to suspecting an invasion from South India. 

King Mahinda II (777 – 797 CE) won the hearts of the Tamils living in the kingdom

King Mahinda was a very religious king. He constructed many great Buddhist buildings and greatly worked towards the development of Buddhism. Among the many charity and humanitarian work, he did for humans and animals and for Buddhism were; restoring kovils, patronising Brahmins, and gaving generous gifts to Tamil people living in the kingdom. Prof. Paranavitana and Nicholas assume that the king must have done so because previously, twice, uprisings in the Northern parts of the island were ruthlessly crushed and therefore, his intention was to win the hearts of the Tamil people of the island. 

During the time of King Udaya I/Dappula II (797 – 801 CE), Datasiva  fled to South India

Datasiva Adipada was a high official at Ruhuna during the time of this king. His son, Prince Mahinda waged war against Datasiva with the help of the king. Defeated Datasiva fled to India as a refugee. 

The rise of the Pandyas

During the 8th century, South India saw the rise of the Pandya Kingdom. They expanded their power so much that the neighbouring Sinhala Kingdom also began to look as a threat in their rising political and military power. In 765 CE Varaguna I (Jatila Paranthaka) came into power in the Pandya Kingdom. He expanded the Pandya kingdom and ruled a large area of South India. The Pandyans spoke the Tamil language and are considered a Tamil dynasty.

We must understand that the various people who migrated or settled in the Sinhala Kingdom as invaders or travellers or artisans from South India were referred to as Tamils. We also understand that the term Tamil, Dravida, or Damila was used as an umbrella term used to identify those who spoke Dravidian languages, including the Tamil languages. These ancient Tamils who were in Sri Lanka were Buddhists as well as Hindus. 

Sri Mara Sri Vallabha attacks Sri Lanka

For 400 years the Sinhala Kingdom was safe from South India. Ending this long-term peace, this time, the threat was from the land of the Pandya Kingdom. The powerful Pandya king Sri Mara Sri Vallabha (815 – 862 CE) attacked Sri Lanka. This could have happened during the time of King Sena I (833 – 853 CE). 

The Pandya king arrived at the island with his mighty army. Although the Sinhala army fought the Pandya army, they were not powerful enough to defeat the invaders. Prof. Paranavitana explains that the Tamil population who lived in the Northern parts of the island supported the invading Pandya army and that greatly helped the invaders to easily capture the Sinhala monarchy. After entering the glorious capital city, Anuradhapura, the Pandya army destroyed everything that came their way. They destroyed glamorous buildings and looted rich temples, the royal palace, houses of the elites, and houses of the commoners. They destroyed irrigation systems and agricultural lands. 

Meanwhile, the Sinhala king Sena I attempted to flee to the Sri Vijaya Kingdom of the Malay Peninsula. However, at this point, the Pandya king agreed upon a treaty with the Sinhala king and asked for a large ransom. The Sinhala king agreed. The Pandya king returned the kingdom to the Sinhalese and returned to the Pandya land. 

Sena II; a mighty king who returned the looted pride of the Sinhalese

King Sena II (853 – 887 CE) was a powerful and great warrior king. He was able to return the looted pride and honour of the Sinhala Kingdom during the time of King Sri Mara Sri Vallabha of the Pandya Kingdom. This story is in fact a wonderful story of how fate can be very twisted. King Sri Mara Sri Vallabha’s son, Prince Varaguna comes to Sri Lanka in 862 CE as a refugee and a rebel. He wanted the help of the Sinhala king to usurp the throne from his own father (Sri Mara Sri Vallabha who attacked Sri Lanka). 

It is clear that by this time King Sena had restored the Sinhala kingdom back to a great position including its military powers; hence the Pandya prince requested military and naval support from the Sinhala king to invade the powerful Pandya Kingdom. 

Also, during this time, the Pandya Kingdom was attacked by the Pallavas. Thus, Prof. Paranavitana and Nicholas assume that the Pallavas and the Sinhalese organised and attacked the Pandya Kingdom at the same time. This greatly weakened the power of the Pandya king. 

Victorious Sinhalese troops loot Madurai

During a battle, the Pandya king was defeated by the Pallavas. Meanwhile, the Sinhala troops led by the heroic Kuttaka Senapati entered the glorious capital of the Pandyas, the City of Madura or Madurai. The Pandaya king arrived at Madurai to save his beloved capital. Alas! He was too late as the brave Sinhala troops had already captured Madurai. Then there was a battle between the Pandyans and the Sinhalese which the Sinhalese won. Soon, the Pandya king died due to the fatal wounds.

The victorious Sinhalese troops destroyed the once glorious and rich Madurai and took back the riches that were looted 20 years ago from the Sinhala capital, Anuradhapura. The Sinhalese Senapti Kuttaka was coroneted Prince Varaguna as the new Pandya king. 

The valorous Kuttaka returned to Maha Thiththa harbour where the King welcomed him with great pride. As an honour and to commemorate his great act, the king bestowed Kuttaka Senapati with honorary names, Madhura Pahala (Slayer of Madhura) and Madhura-Dunu (He who won over Madhura).

Explaining this situation further, prof. Paranavitana and Nicholas write that this great defeat of the Pandyans in their own county and the anointing of a Sinhalese – friendly Pandya king, must have been a defeat and surrender of the Sri Lankan Tamil community who lived in the island during this time.

(We emphasize to our readers that we must not look at history from a racist point of view and not be felt hurt or offended by the events that occurred in history. Defeat or victory of each kingdom and ethnic group are historical events that cannot be changed.)

Further, King Sena II strengthened the military powers of the Sinhala kingdom and its security as he must have expected a revenge attack from the Pandya Kingdom or any other South Indian kingdoms. 

To be continued…

(Information courtesy; The Mahavamsa, A Concise History of Ceylon by Prof. Senarath Paranavitana and C.W. Nicholas, Buddhist Remains of South India by Dr. D. Dayalan, and The Great Tamil Buddhists; The History of Buddhism in the Tamil Kingdoms of South India By T. N.Ramachandran)

By Ama H. Vanniarachchy