Funday Times - Our Heritage

Heritage through Stamps - 4

Gaveshaka continues the story of the ancient kingdoms
Civilisation of the Polonnaruva Era

By the 10th century AC (After Christ), the Anuradhapura kingdom began to disintegrate due to
internal conflicts and South Indian invasions. During the reign of King Mahinda V (982 – 1029 AC) the kingdom ended with an invasion by the Cholas. The invading Chola army landed in the north, came down and captured Anuradhapura and set the capital on fire. There was looting everywhere and it was recorded that the Cholas 'took all the treasures of Lanka for themselves'.

The Chola emperor moved to Polonnaruwa and made it his capital. Thus begins what is known as the Polonnaruwa Era in Sri Lanka history. In fact, the Cholas changed the name to 'Jananathapura'. They built Hindu shrines like the Shiva Devale – seen in the Rs. 10 stamp which also features devotional devices used during religious ceremonies. The oldest building in Polonnaruwa, the devale is of stone and dates back to the 11th century. This Hindu temple has been built according to Dravidian architecture. Its original name was 'Vanavan-madavi-isvaram' , named after a queen of Rajarara I, a Chola king.

While the Cholas were ruling from Polonnaruwa, the Sinhalese ruler Vijayabahu I (1055 – 1110 AC) took over the kingdom of Ruhuna making Kataragama his capital. By 1066, he was sufficiently strong to challenge the Cholas and librated the country from Chola domination in 1070. The victory was celebrated in the ancient capital of Anuradhapura but after his ceremonial consecration he moved to Polonnaruwa which was a place of strategic importance.

The grandeur of the architecture can be seen in the Rs. 25 stamp showing the ruins of Parakramabahu's royal palace (left) which is said to have had seven storeys and a thousand rooms. According to the Mahavamsa, it took seven years and seven months to complete the palace which was compared to a heavenly abode.

The building on the right is King Nissankamalla's Royal Audience Hall, which really had been the main palace building which was an imposing structure. A huge, stone lion has served as the throne.
Parakramabahu built a great hall to serve as a hospital (Rs. 30 stamp) for the monks equipped with every necessity and provided with a staff of physicians and male and female nurses and
attendants. The king himself had visited the hospital on Poya days.

It comprised a 'meda midula' and a 'beheth oruwa' – the latter used for medicinal baths. The stamp also features a stone grinder used to grind medicines and a surgical instrument. Parakramabahu's name is very much associated with major irrigation works and agricultural projects.

The Parakrama Samudra (seen in Rs. 5 stamp) has been built by him by damming the Amban Ganga at Angamadilla and conveying the water to the reservoir by the canal called Akasa Ganga, now called Angamadilla-ela. The bund of Parakarama Samudra is over eight miles long and 40 feet high. The area of the tank is 5,940 acres and it irrigates 18,200 acres.

The rock statue near Potgul Vihara (also seen in the Rs. 15 stamp) is believed to be either Parakramabahu or someone belonging to the nobility.

The 'galpotha' – stone book seen in the Rs. 5 stamp belongs to the reign of Nissankamalla and its inscription contains an eulogy on him. Its length is 26 feet 10 inches and width 4 feet 7 inches. On the right is a coin issued by Queen Lilavati (1197 – 1200).

The Rs. 40 stamp features the art of Hindu sculpture. These are examples of some magnificent bronze
images of Siva unearthed at the Siva devales. They represent Siva and Uma (referred to as the Somaskhanda creation), Skhanda seated on a peacock vehicle and a rare image of a distorted female figure.

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