Funday Times - Mahavamsa

The arrival of Veera Alakeshwara
This article is part of a continuing series on the ‘Mahavamsa,’ the recorded chronicle of Sri Lankan history
By Halaliye Karunathilake Edited and translated by Kamala Silva Illustrated by Saman Kalubowila

1. Veerabahu, who defeated Veera Alakeshwara, became the rightful ruler of the Sinhala people. He belonged to the 'Menavara' clan. His mother was a sister of Alakeshwara (elder). There is no definite mention about his father. Veerabahu learnt the art of warfare under his famous uncle Alakeshwara and served in his army. He became a warrior.

2. Both friend and enemy knew, that he was a clever warrior and as such, no one came to fight him. They were frightened of his power. Veerabahu adopted a consistent policy. As a result, Tamil, Malay or Muslim people who were against the Sinhalese did not come to fight. They lay low, lamenting that they could not achieve their end. So there was no civil war for some time. Peace

3. Veerabahu helped the Buddhist clergy and educational institutions as well. He passed away in 1396 AD. There is no mention of the actual reason of his death. It is controversial. It could be even death due to natural causes. Scholars believe it to be the result of a plot by his brother.

4. Veerabahu had two sons. The elder one was Vijaya Epa and the younger one was Thunayesa. After the demise of the king, they carried on the administration. In the year 1299, Veera Alakeshwara came to Sri Lanka. He succeeded in gaining power and ruled the country for a period of about 12 years. It is said that Veera Alakeshwara got caught to a trap of the Chinese. The book – 'Saddharmalankara,' written during the Kotte period, refers to this trap.

5. However, details of this plot are available in Chinese sources. According to them, the Chinese king of 1403 – Emperor Min III, Cheng-su, who was also referred to as 'Yung-lo,' wanted to find out details about the countries to the south of China. For this purpose, he appointed a person named Cheng-ha. He was given 62 ships and a large army. He started on his voyage and spent about 30 full years sailing.

6. At times he had sailed his ships as far as Arabia. His first voyage was undertaken between 1405 and 1407 AD. On this trip, he had landed in Lanka too. Veera Alakeshwara had not shown any hospitality. In fact, he had ignored them. The Chinese traveller got angry with Alakeshwara and went back.

7. In the Chinese language, the Sinhala ruler is described as 'Ali Kunai.' Back in China, this ruler is described as a cruel ruler who oppressed his subjects and did not respect Buddhism. However, the motive of the Chinese traveller was something else. His plan was to rob the 'Tooth Relic' of the Buddha.

8. Cheng-ha had come to Sri Lanka for the second time too. This time, he had come with gifts from the Chinese emperor, to be presented to Veera Alakeshwara. On this occasion, Alakeshwara adopted a more severe policy, than before. This reaction was a result of his getting to know the Chinese connection, with his enemy. He had been aware of the enemy plans.

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