Monday, November 9, 2009

The Kingdom of Polonnaruwa

Polonnaruwa survived as a Sinhalese capital for more than two centuries – a period that provided a further two kings of note. Parakramabahu I (r 1153–86), nephew of Vijayabahu I, was not content simply to expel the South Indian Tamil Chola empire from Sri Lanka, but carried the fight to South India and even made a raid on Myanmar. Domestically he indulged in an orgy of building in the capital, and constructed many new tanks around the country. But his warring and architectural extravagances wore down the country’s resources, and probably shortened Polonnaruwa’s lifespan.

His successor, Nissanka Malla (r 1187–96), was the last king of Polonnaruwa to show interest in the wellbeing of the people and in the construction and maintenance of buildings and irrigation systems.

He was followed by a series of weak rulers who allowed the city to fall into disrepair. With the decay of the irrigation system, disease spread and, like Anuradhapura before it, Polonnaruwa was abandoned. The jungle reclaimed it within a few decades.

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