Lanka and Karnataka over the Ages

Sri Lanka also known as Simhala and Ceylon is familiar to Indians as the abode of Ravana who was killed by Sri Rama in the Tretha Yuga. Its nearness to South India had practically made it a part of the Peninsula politically and culturally for the past two thousand years and more. Though now a days we feel as if it is far away, in the ancient period, our kings treated Sri Lanka as a next - door neighbour and waged wars frequently.

Earliest link is Gokarna Mahabaleshwar. Where Ravana on his way to Lanka with the Jyotirlinga given by Shiva himself stopped at this place, where Ganesha took the Jyotirlinga from him on some pretext and kept it on ground. As per Shiva's words the Jyotirlinga once kept on ground cannot be moved and however Ravana tried he could not move it, hence the name "Mahabaleshwar'. The pull exerted by Ravana, is said to have caused the Shivalinga to resemble the shape of a cow's ear and hence the name Gokarn. Interestingly Trincomalee is also called Gokarn and inscription in Koneswaran temple says it was ruled by vaduka's (Karnata's) and will return to vadugar rule after 500 years. " The Konesvaram shrine itself was demolished in 1622 by the Portuguese (who called it the Temple of a Thousand Columns), and who fortified the heights with the materials derived from its destruction. Some of the artefacts from the demolished temple were kept in the Lisbon Museum including the stone inscription by Kulakottan (Kunakottan). It has an emblem including two fish(Alupa Emblem) and is engraved with a prophesy stating that, after the 16th century, westerners with different eye colours will rule the country for 500 years and, at the end of it, rule will revert back to Vadugus"

Karnataka's contact with Sri Lanka is more than two thousand years old. Karnataka had attained great fame in the Buddhist world for its patronage to Buddha's religion as early as the third century B.C, as evidenced by the statement that Ashoka had sent a Buddhist monk Rakkhita to Banavasi in Karnataka for the propagation of Buddhism. Mahavamsha, a great Buddhist work furnishes the other important connection. A huge Buddhist Stupa was built in Ceylon and a grand inaugural function was arranged, for which invitations were sent to all parts of the Buddhist world. One of the invitees was Chandra Gupta from Karnataka (Banavasi). He accepted the invitation and went to Sri Lanka with 80,000 Buddhist monks. The Sri Lankans took care of the monks from Karnataka and showed them great respect. This happened more than two thousand years ago.

Hala Satavahana in Lilavati
Lilavati Parinayam(Prakrit) of Kutuhala a kavya work. It deals with the romance and Marriage between king Satavahana and princess lilavati daughter of king Silamegha of Simhaladvipa(Sri Lanka). Lilavati describes Hala with an expedition in the sapta Godavari region, modern Draksharama, in Godavari district and clears the air about Satavahana origin. Had Andhra been original home of Satvahana, what was the necessity, on the part of satvahana king to take fresh military campaign there, unless temporarily occupied by another power, for which we have no evidence. Lilavati says Vijayananda, the commander-in-Chief of Hala's army led a successful campaign in Ceylon. Acharya Nagarjuna is said to be Minister of Hala Satavahana.

Mahavamsa says that King Elara secured Mysore Army help in capturing Lanka throne.
Kadambas seems to be  a major influence in Lanka in 5 th century AD. The present day Malwatuoya  river was called Kadamba Nadi as per Mahavamsa.

Vanavasi School
There was Buddhist School called Vanavasi, which tutored monks and several monks with high literary knowledge came out of the school. The Scholars from this school were called Vanavasi Sect. Ananda author of Mulatika came from Vanavasi and became head of this sect. Ananda was also called Vanaratna Tissa.

When Pulikesin II was defeated by Pallava king, the Lanka prince sat in the court of Pallava monarch to form strategies. Because the Lankans knows if the Pallava fall to chalukya , Lanka will be next.
Pulakesi II's grandson Vinayaditya invaded Ceylon in 690 AD and defeated King Manavarman who agreed to pay tribute to the Chalukyas.

Rastrakuta Govinda III (793 - 814 AD) who was a great warrior had practically become the master of South India. Agrabodhi, the King of Ceylon feared that Govinda III would invade Sri Lanka and voluntarily surrendered to him through a novel method. He sent his own statue and also that of his Minister to Rastrakuta Govinda as a symbol of submission. The next Rastrakuta King Krishna, suffered an initial defeat, but was able to defeat the Ceylonese King Mahendra IV. The latter met Krishna and bowed down to his feet as a mark of submission. It is said that Mahendra fled from his Capital and Karnataka soldiers occupied parts of Sri Lanka. These victories of Karnataka encouraged many Karnataka soldiers and heroes to make Ceylon as their homeland and they continued to stay there for generations, and became Ceylonese themselves. 

Kalyana Chalukyas
Vikramaditya VI (1076 - 1126 AD), the great Chalukya King of the Kalyana branch, invaded Sri Lanka during the reign of Jayabahu. He sent choice gifts to Vikramaditya VI as a mark of friendship and kept many heroes of Karnataka as mercenaries. There developed a rivalry between the two Ceylonese kings, and Gajabahu, who was his cousin, requested the soldiers from Karnataka to help him against his rival Parakramabahu and paid them rich remuneration. Thus the brave soldiers of Karnataka began to play an important role in Sri Lankan politics. During this period, Karnataka imported large quantities of precious stones, pearls and emeralds from that island. The Sri Lanka kings became closer to Karnataka and began to use names and titles like Trailokyamalla and Tribhuvanamalla, which were quite popular in Karnataka. The Goa Kadamba ruler Shasthadeva (1005 – 1050 AD) was a great hero of many naval battles. In one such battle, he went to Ceylon and extracted tribute from the Ceylonese king.

The Hoysalas also tried their luck against Ceylon and obtained success. A Hoysala naval commander by name Gopayya went to Ceylon by a sea route and in a naval battle killed a Chief Parakramabahu of Ceylon. Because of this victory, he became famous as “Samudra Gopayya” in the land of the Hoysalas. Later the Hoysalas suffered a defeat. The Ceylonese soldiers cut off the trunk of the Hoysala elephant when it tried to destroy the Sri Lankan soldiers. A matrimonial alliance was made. A Sri Lankan prince by name Manabharana married a Hoysala princess.

Later Kadambas and Silharas
The inscription of Narendra describes that Kadamba King Jayakesi (1104–1148 AD) built a bridge with a line of ships reaching as far as Lanka and conquered Lanka and Kavadidvipa, probably Kavaratti Island of Lakshadweep. The inscription reads: Chattayyadevam devaraja prakatita vibhavam Svikritaschayya saurayyam Kavadi dvipamum adiage palavum dvipamgalam kondu (He was Chattayadeva, the exalted Lord of the Western Ocean, who displayed the majesty of the King of Gods and possessed miraculous heroism. As he took Kavadi-dvipa and many other regions, built a bridge with lines of ships reaching as far as Lanka (and) claimed tribute among grim barbarians, exceedingly exalted was the dominion of the Kadamba sovereign, which many called a religious estate for the establishment of the worship). This shows that rulers of the Kadamba dynasty maintained an efficient navy. Besides inscriptions, the literary sources also mention the construction of ships meant for naval warfare.

Vijayanagar Empire
With the establishment of the Vijayanagara Empire, contacts between Karnataka and Sri Lanka became more prolific. King Harihara II's brother Yuvaraja Virupanna invaded Sri Lanka, defeated its king and established a pillar of victory there. Actually, he killed the Sri Lankan King Vijayabahu ruling at Jaffna. With this, many Karnataka soldiers, their families and merchants settled down in the Jaffna area. Hence some contemporary visitors refer to Jaffna as a city of Karnataka. Thus by 1385 AD, Jaffna area was well known as a Karnata land.

Marital connections:
Vijayanagara King Devaraya II invaded Ceylon again in 1460 AD and won a victory. The Sri Lankan King gave his daughter Simhaladevi in marriage to Devaraya II. Actually, Lakkanna Dandanayaka was the real hero of this battle. After Lakkanna's return to Hampi, the Sri Lankan King became independent and they were again defeated. The Sri Lankan kings continued to accept the suzerainty of Krishnadevaraya, Achyutaraya and Sadashivaraya. A Vijayanagara prince by name Vithala was appointed as the Viceroy of Sri Lanka.

More than political relations, the Vijayanagara kings had a commercial interest in Sri Lanka. This is confirmed by the discovery of a large number of Vijayanagara gold coins in different parts of Sri Lanka. Vijayanagara art made some impact on Sri Lankan architecture and sculpture. Goods which reached Sri Lanka from Europe and other countries were purchased by Vijayanagara merchants. With the decline of the Vijayanagara Empire, contacts between Sri Lanka and Karnataka began to decline because of the development of the Portuguese power in Ceylon. Thus Karnataka from very early times had political, religious and commercial contacts with Sri Lanka. Now it is limited to tourism only.


Prof. A.V. Narasimha Murthy,

1 comment:

  1. Vijayanagara kingdom was spread till Philippines, There are islands still named as Visaya islands after the Vijayanagara rulers.


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