Kingdom of Polonnaruwa
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|Historical states in
present-day Sri Lanka
The city is situated on the left bank of River Mahaweli. Archeological evidence and accounts in chronicles suggests that the city is as old as Anuradhapura. The Vijithagama settlement made by Vijitha in 400 BCE is thought to be situated near the town.
After ruling the country for over 1,200 years from the Kingdom of Anuradhapura, in 1017, King Rajaraja I captured Anuradhapura and took King Mahinda V as a captive to India where Mahinda V would die in 1029. Cholas shifted the capital to Polonnaruwa and ruled Sri Lanka for 52 years. Polonnaruwa was named as Jananathamangalam by the Cholas. King Vijayabahu I defeated Cholas and regained the Sinhalese lineage. Polonnaruwa had previously been an important settlement in the country, as it commanded the crossings of the Mahaweli Ganga towards Anuradhapura.
Some of the rulers of Polonnaruwa include Vijayabahu I and Parakramabahu I (Parakramabahu the Great). Most of Polonnaruwa that remains today dates from after the 1150s, as the extensive civil wars that preceded Parakramabahu's accession to the throne devastated the city. Parakrama Pandyan II from Pandyan Kingdom invaded the Kingdom of Polonnaruwa in the thirteenth century and ruled from 1212 to 1215 CE. He was succeeded by Kalinga Magha the founder of the Jaffna kingdom. Kalinga Magha ruled 21 years until he was expelled from Polonnaruwa in 1236.
The Kingdom of Polonnaruwa was abandoned in the 14th century, and the seat of government for the Sinhalese kings was moved to Dambadeniya. Although many factors contributed to this, the leading cause of the abandonment of Polonnaruwa as the kingdom of Sri Lanka was its susceptibility to invasions from south India.
The kings who ruled in Polonnaruwa engaged in foreign trade. During the period of king Parakramabahu I, Sri Lanka was self-sufficient in paddy and also had exported to many Southeast Asian countries as well as to India. The people of Polonnaruwa had many of their requirements fulfilled except salt, which they had to bring from the coastal area.
Buddhism continued to be the main religion in Polonnaruwa era. Before the Sinhala kings' rule, there was a strong influence of Hinduism caused by Cholas. It is evident from the removal of cow shape in Polonnaruwa moonstone and also by the presence of Shiva temples in Polonnaruwa. After Chola rule a lot of vihars were renovated by Vijayabahu I and Parakramabahu I. Various divisions or Nikayas in Buddhism were united by Parakramabahu I.
The kings who ruled during this period built Buddhist schools for monks which were known as the Pirivena. And also the Brahmins were the only group which had the rights to have education. Pali and the Sanskrit were the official languages.
Giritale Tank was the deepest tank in Sri Lanka during Polonnaruwa era.
- Paranavitana, Senarat; Nicholas, Cyril Wace (1961). A Concise History of Ceylon. Colombo: Ceylon University Press. OCLC 465385.
- von Schroeder, Ulrich. (1990). Buddhist Sculptures of Sri Lanka. (752 p.; 1620 illustrations). Hong Kong: Visual Dharma Publications, Ltd. ISBN 962-7049-05-0
- von Schroeder, Ulrich. (1992). The Golden Age of Sculpture in Sri Lanka - Masterpieces of Buddhist and Hindu Bronzes from Museums in Sri Lanka, [catalogue of the exhibition held at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, D. C., 1 November 1992 – 26 September 1993]. Hong Kong: Visual Dharma Publications, Ltd. ISBN 962-7049-06-9