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Parakramabahu the Great

"Not even a little water that comes from the rain must flow into the ocean without being made useful to man" -Parakramabahu I

King Parakramabahu I was born in 1123 and ruled Sri Lanka from 1153 to 1186.During his reign from his capital Polonnaruwa, he unified the three sub kingdoms of the island, becoming one of the last monarchs in Sri Lankan history to do so.

The stone statue in Polonnaruwa beleived to be of Parakramabahu the Great.

He oversaw the expansion and beautification of his capital, constructed extensive irrigation systems, reorganised the country's army, reformed Buddhist practices, encouraged the arts and undertook military campaigns in southern India and in Myanmar.

The adage "not even a little water that comes from the rain must flow into the ocean without being made useful to man" is one of his most famous utterances.

Parakramabahu spent much of his youth in the courts of his uncles Kitti Sri Megha and Sri Vallabha, the kings of the principalities of Dakkhinadesa and Ruhuna respectively, as well as in the court of the King of Rajarata,Gajabahu II. He succeeded his uncle Kitti as king of Dakkhinadesa around 1140 and over the next decade improved Dakkhinadesa's infrastructure and military.

Civil War

Following a protracted civil war, he secured power over the entire island around 1153 and remained in this position until his death in1186. During Parakramabahu's reign, he launched a punitive campaign against the kings of Myanmar,aided the Pandyans against the Chola Empire in southern India and maintained extensive trade relations with China and countries in the Middle East. Within the island, he consecrated religious monuments, built hospitals, social welfare units, canals and large reservoirs, such as the Sea of Parakrama.

According to the ancient chronicle Culavamsa, Parakramabahu's birth was predicted by a figure akin to a god seen in a dream by his father, King Manabharana of Dakkhinadesa. A son was duly born to Manabharana's wife Ratnavali, and was named Parakramabahu because of his "foe-crushing arms".

Though the year of his birth has not been confirmed, it is generally thought to be around 1123. The location would almost certainly have been the capital of Dakkhinadesa, Punkhagama.

Upon being informed of the child's birth, Vikramabahu I in Polonnaruwa ordered that the boy be brought up as the heir to his throne. This kind of adoption may have been an olive branch of sorts on the part of Vikramabahu who wished to keep the throne until his death, after which it would be passed on to Parakramabahu.

Jewel

Manabharana, however, rejected the offer, stating that "It is not (prudent) .... to send away such a jewel of a son". He also speculated that "...if the boy is taken thither, the party of Vikkamabahu... will gleam with mighty, up-shooting flames, but our misfortune, alas so great, will become still worse!"

The division that existed between the royal clans of Sri Lanka was too deep to allow for this manner of accommodation.

Soon after the child's birth, Manabharana fell ill and died. His younger brother Kitti Sri Megha who was joint king of Ruhuna ascended the throne of Dakkhinadesa, while Sri Vallabha was declared sole king of Ruhuna. Parakramabahu, his mother Ratnavali and his two sisters Mitta and Pabhavati, were sent to live in Mahanagahula, the capital of Ruhuna under the care of Sri Vallabha.

The politics of Sri Lanka inevitably played a significant role in Parakramabahu's upbringing. While he was still young, his eldest sister Mitta was forcibly married to their cousin, Manabharana, the son of Sri Vallabha of Ruhuna against the wishes of Queen Ratnavali.

Ratnavali was herself of the Kalinga clan of the royal family.Though she was the widow of a king of the Arya branch of the royal family, she preferred to see her daughters married to a king from the Kalinga clan. During his time at Sri Vallabha's court, Parakramabahu met his future Queen Lilavati, Sri Vallabha's daughter who following Parakramabahu's death went on to rule the country in her own right.

In 1132, following the death of Vikramabahu, Gajabahu II succeeded to the throne of Rajarata. Taking advantage of the new king's youth, the two monarchs of the Arya branch of the Royal family, Sri Vallabha and Kitti Sri Megha, tried unsuccessfully to seize Rajarata by force. Gajabahu established himself firmly as ruler and therefore nominally senior to the two Arya kings and neither Sri Vallabha nor Kitti Sri Megha would live to see the king of Rajarata dethroned.

Capital

After the end of the Arya-Kalinga civil war, Parakramabahu left Sri Vallabha's palace in Ruhuna and returned to Sankhatthali, the new capital of Dakkhinadesa, where he took up residence with his uncle.The Culavamsa attributes the departure to his impatience and lack of stimulation in Ruhuna. It may also have been caused by Sri Vallabha's plans to place Manabharana of Ruhuna on the throne of Rajarata which made Parakramabahu's position increasingly precarious in court.In Dakkhinadesa, on the other hand, he was well received by Kitti Sri Megha, who had no sons of his own, where he was essentially adopted. The Culavamsa thereafter refers to Kitti as Parakramabahu's father. During his time at Dakkhinadesa, he studied important works of Kautilya and subjects such as grammar, literature,elephant-riding, martial arts, song and dance.

To be continued...

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