ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday February 3, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 36
Funday Times - Mahawamsa

King Nissankamalla

By Halaliye Karunathilake
Edited and translated by Niluka De Silva
Illustrated by Saman Kalubowila

~This article is part of a continuing series on the ‘Mahavamsa,’ the recorded chronicle of Sri Lankan history~

'Rajavaliya', gives a different version of the story of King Nissankamalla. According to 'Rajavaliya,' there had been disputes after the death of King Parakramabahu, due to forwarding different claims to the throne. Both Pandya and Kalinga dynasties claimed a right to the throne and serious disputes arose. King Nissankamalla had taken trouble to point out that his dynasty – the Kalinga dynasty – had the right to kingship. He even installed inscriptions to prove this fact. His belief was that the rightful owners of kingship in Sri Lanka, were the kings belonging to the Kalinga dynasty.

According to historians, King Parakramabahu I had got down King Nissankamalla, from Sinhapura in Kalinga. This he did because there was a relationship between Parakramabahu and Nissankamalla. When Nissankamalla was brought to the country, he was first appointed a leader and then promoted to the post of 'Yuvaraja.' Nonetheless, King Nissankamalla was a ruler who got tributes from foreign countries. He invaded the Pandya country, won certain areas and made them pay tribute to him.

There is also a reference to the fact that he levied taxes on the Chola country and declared war against them. The commander of Nissankamalla, who won the Pandya country is named 'Tavuruge.' It does not sound a Sinhala name. According to scholars, it is a Malay name. King Nissankamalla had maintained friendly relations with Karnata, Bengal, Orissa, Andhra, Gujarat and Burma. Envoys and gifts had been exchanged with these countries.

He got down princesses from Gujrat, Chalukya and Sri Vijaya and got married to them. The strength and power of this king is described in his battle with the Pandyas. An inscription found in Rameshwaram, makes a reference to King Nissankamalla. There, it says that this king landed in their country and had even got a Devale that was there, repaired. He had stayed in that country for a long spell of time.

Meanwhile, Sri Lankan armies had penetrated into the Pandya kingdom. They had captured a number of villages. But Chola records give a different version. According to them, King Nissankamalla had helped the ruler of the Pandya country, Veera-Pandya, when he was thrown out of power. This had been somewhere around 1189 A.D. The Cholas had ousted Veera-Pandya and made Vickrama-Pandya, the ruler there. It is then, that Veera-Pandya had to flee to Sri Lanka.

He came and met King Nissankamalla, who promised him help. He gave an army to assist him in his battles. It has been the custom of the earlier Sinhala rulers to help the Pandya country to fight the Cholas. However, according to the inscription of Nissankamalla, this battle was not won, but the king had surrendered without fighting.

Though Sri Lankan records do not refer much to these battles, there is reference to them in Chola inscriptions. They also refer to an invasion of Sri Lanka by Kulottunga III. This reference is found in a Chola inscription written in 1194 A. D. Cholas have conquered Sri Lanka and ruled important places. The then Chola ruler's order had been to “conquer Sri Lanka, which is situated to the south of their kingdom. When they come begging for mercy, their heads should be cut off."

King Nissankamalla's inscriptions refer the right ascendancy to the throne. It refers to a period 17 centuries before, when the 'Sinhala-Rajya' began. That is a reference to King Vijaya. According to this reference - "I who claim heredity to the line of King Vijaya of Sinhapura in Kalinga, am the only one, who is fit to be the king of Sri Lanka.”

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