ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 23, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 43
Funday Times - Mahawamsa

A period of cruel rule

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~

The reign of King Parakrama Pandya lasted for three years from 1212 – 1215 A.D. He was the last accepted ruler of the Polonnaruwa period. Although he came to power after an invasion, he never crushed his subjects. But by this time, there were signs of the decline of the kingdom. The ministers and the officials were divided and they were in different camps. No law and order prevailed. Signs of decline of the social order, were visible. It is at a time like this, that Kalinga Magha invaded. The situation in the country, made his task easy.

In certain books on history, Kalinga Magha's army is described as a Malay army. But our chroniclers differ here. According to them, they were a Kerala army. As soon as they came to Polonnaruwa, they arrested King Parakrama Pandya. They brutally pulled out the king's eye and plundered all the treasures in the palace. Thereafter, Kalinga Magha was consecrated king, by his own warriors.

Great is the damage caused by Kaling Magha. Never before, did the country undergo so much suffering. This was the most destructive period. In short, Magha's soldiers were able to turn the affairs of the dry zone upside down. For 1700 years, there existed a civilization based on agriculture and irrigation. The invaders were instrumental in destroying it completely. The power struggle that prevailed in the country just before they came, would have contributed towards this, at least to a certain extent. That was due to the lack of proper maintenance.

It's not only the economic pattern that was disturbed. All spheres – including administrative, social, economic and religious affairs, were also completely ruined after 1215 A.D. All this came about as a result of Magha's rule. All chroniclers have described this period, with a lot of disgust and disapproval. Magha's soldiers were boasting saying, "We are the warriors from Kerala."

They were a crowd of heartless men. They had no feelings. They even robbed the jewellery worn by the people. Customs and morals practiced by the people for ages, were disregarded. Limbs of men were cut off. They derived pleasure by harassing and torturing innocent people. Animals that were reared were forcibly taken. Many a palatial building was pulled down. The wealthy people were harassed.

All their wealth was plundered and they were made paupers. These warriors of Magha were completely bent on toppling the social order that existed in the country, at this time. The four main castes that remained without being mixed were made to mix. They destroyed many religious buildings. These soldiers used all the land, fields, animals and even the servants of the far off villages – as if they were their own. The class that felt the cruelty of Magha's men were the nobility.

They belonged to the class that led a luxurious life, coming next to the kings and ministers. Most of them were the chiefs of the villages. They owned land and lived in prosperity. They even had armies to see to their security. They belonged to the high class in society, for generations. They never accepted the leaders who were ruling lately. Even before the invasion of Magha, they had to undergo difficulties and injustices. This harassment began with the reign of King Nissankamalla. The reason that could be attributed for this decline of their power is the pride of these leaders. They did not accept and respect King Nissankamalla, as he was a Kalinga ruler.

Though not in public, but whenever he could, the king attacked them secretly. It was not only towards Nissankamalla, that they were disrespectful. They did not like any ruler who belonged to the Kalinga dynasty. They somehow saw to it, that they respected the rules of administration. They neither had close connections with the rulers nor did they respect them. They led their lives with pride.


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