Chola rule in Polonnaruwa period | Daily News

Chola rule in Polonnaruwa period

Several South Indian invasions took place during the late Anuradhapura period. As a result, Hinduism gained ground in Sri Lanka. Opening years of Polonnaruwa period started with Chola regime. The Chola regime lasted at Polonnaruwa for more than five decades. Following this Chola period, 157 years of Buddhist rule existed. After the Buddhist rule two decades of Kalinga, Magha period existed.

During the Chola administration, the Southern part of Sri Lanka called Rohanadesa or Ruhunu was ruled by several Sinhala kings. Rohanadesa, the Southern part of Sri Lanka never accepted Chola administration and was preparing to drive Cholas out of the country and tried for their independence. A prince named Kitthi from Rohanadesa along with his supporters rallied and was able to drive the Cholas out of the country. Later he unified the country and became King under the name of Vijayabahu I.

Traditional way

Cholas administered Sri Lanka as a province of Chola empire, under the name of Mummudi-Chola -Mandalam. Mummudi-Chola was a well-known title of Chola king Rajaraja I. The names of Chola governors are not known. Nilakanta Sastri was of the opinion that subject to the payment of an annual tribute and the meeting of particular demands for supplies and services to the local government of Sri Lanka was allowed to continue much in the old traditional way, for that was the universal practice of Indian empires.

Opening years of Polonnaruwa period in Sri Lankan history started with Chola regime. The recoveries of Chola inscriptions from Mantai have provided some important clues and valuable information about the expansion of the Chola Kingdom from South India to ancient Sri Lanka. It seems that often Cholas sent their officials to the occupied areas in ancient Sri Lanka to coordinate the administration. The Chola areas of ancient Sri Lanka were referred to as “Mummudi Chola Mandalam”.

During that period, Polonnaruwa was the centre of administration. At the end of the Anuradhapura period, many important places like temples, gardens, pools, workshops and other small-scale industries were destroyed. During that time no monuments or any native architectural designs were seen. When Sri Lanka was under the Chola period, native artisans had very limited scope to exhibit their own artistic skills. During the period of the Chola dynasty, Buddhists had lost their importance in that particular area. The Chola invaders had built typical Hindu temples according to the Dravidian architecture. During the Polonnaruwa period, the Chola regime or dynasty was dominating in South India.

Bronze statues

Majority of the Hindu temples were built only during the Polonnaruwa period. Numerous Hindu bronze statues were installed in the Hindu temples in the Polonnaruwa period. The bronze statues of the period were considered as some of the best sculptural creations in the world. During the Chola occupation of ancient Sri Lanka, they influenced the Sri Lankan art, culture and religion. During their occupation, they built numerous Hindu temples at Mathota, Polonnaruwa and several other areas of the island. According to historical evidence, Cholas made a lot of endowments to the Buddhist monasteries. Discoveries of many engraved early historic stone inscriptions were found at various locations of Polonnaruwa. The great extent of South Indian Hindu influence started in Sri Lanka especially during the opening years of the Polonnaruwa period. During the Polonnaruwa period, numerous Hindu temples were built in and around the capital city of Polonnaruwa and its vicinity. The Hindu culture, its dominance and the traces of Hinduism introduced during the Chola period could still be found in numerous existing forms, especially in the form of stone inscriptions, Hindu icons (including bronze and stone sculptures), decorative dance sculptures, general sculptural dance poses and Hindu Dravidian architectural structures. All these provide meaningful evidence to the researchers to gather information about the Hindu cultural influence during the Polonnaruwa period.

The Chola style structure and building decorations of Polonnaruwa resembled the typical South Indian influences. Despite, such architectural styles, structure and building decorations had certain close affinities and links with the earlier Buddhists. Certain design features were quite common with Sinhalese. It reveals the admixture of Buddhist and Hindu architectural structures, style and patterns.

Architecture and tradition

Chola administration in Polonnaruwa was marked with a Hindu revival and construction of several Siva and Visnu Kovils (shrines), with Chola architecture and tradition. To signal the conquest of Sri Lanka, under the instructions of King Rajaraja, officers constructed a stone temple of Siva in Polonnaruwa and another at Mathottam. According to Chola inscriptions, many Hindu temples dedicated to Siva and Visnu were erected in and around Polonnaruwa. From these temples, many forms of images of Siva and Vaisnava have been recovered. It can be said that there was a co-existence of twin worship of Lord Siva and Sri Maha Visnu worship prevailed during the Chola dynasty in Sri Lanka.

The Visnu statues are generally divided into three different categories based on their appearance. They include standing, sitting and sleeping (reposing position) which is popularly known as “Ananda Sayanam” in Sanskrit. The ancient Maha Visnu statues found in Sri Lankan Polonnaruwa archaeological sites are depicted in standing positions only. In contrast to this, Lord Siva’s postures unearthed from the Polonnaruwa area were depicted with a variety of body positions and postures. They reflect various stances practised in ancient dance traditions. Numerous Hindu deities including the sculptures of Nataraja, Parvati, Ganesha, Skanda, Visnu, Poo Devi, Sri Devi, Sabtha Mathas, Laksmi, Balakrisna, Hanuman, Surya Deva, Hindu saints including, Appar and Sundarmoorti Nayanar were found from the ancient archaeological sites of Polonnaruwa.

It is not known whether these sculptures were imported or made by Sri Lankans or artisans brought from South India. With these sculptures, Indian coins of Raja Raja I and Rajendra II period were also found in Sri Lanka.

Various postures

The Hindu bronze sculptures of Polonnaruwa period are popularly categorized as ‘’Pancha Deva Sapai or Saba”. This includes Sivan, Visnu, Parvathi (Ma Sakthi), Suriyan and Ganesh. The Hindu sculptures are based on ethics or norms of “Hindu Agama Sastras (based on traditional Hindu principles). Similarly, sculptures of “Maha Shakti” or Lok Mata Parvati, Lord Nataraja, Lord Ganesh are depicted with various postures.

During Vijayabahu’s regime, the Hindu religion was well preserved in the country. Siva Devale 1 in Polonnaruwa was built with carved stones which were brought from far off places. The beautifications of external architecture were with lotus designs and patterns. It has been found mostly during the latter part of the Anuradhapura period and the early Polonnaruwa period. During the rule of King Nissankamalla, one of the monarchs of Polonnaruwa had matrimonial alliances with South Indian kingdoms but later on, they were superseded by the local royal lineages. In 1214 Polonnaruwa Kingdom was captured by Kalinga King Magha. Later on, it was governed by a Pandya King (Arya Chakravarthi) in 1284.

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