Page images
PDF
EPUB

This event happened about the latter end of the eighth century, and from that period we may date the neglect of the buildings and the gradual dilapidation of the former capital. In fact, shortly after, we have the fact stated of a person having been deputed by the king at Pollonaruwa to proceed to Anuradhapura to repair and restore the buildings in the latter town. From this period too we may date the rapid decline of the Island in power, prosperity and population. Inroads from the Coast of India, and the roving Malays became more and more numerous—insurrections multiplied in the remote districts of the Island, and every thing was in a state of turbulence and disorder. In this condition it can be easily imagined that numerous bands of soldiers were scattered over the Island, and that in fact its inhabitants were assuming a military character. Such being the case nothing was wanting but a military leader of eminence to render it a conquering country, and this it found in the twelfth century in the person of one of its most enterprising and talented monarchs, who was certainly the greatest military leader Ceylon has produced. Of the birth and boyhood of this wonderful hero numerous miracles are recorded with the utmost circumstantiality, whilst a particular account is also handed down of his education and youth.

The Buddhist faith, logic, grammar, poetry, and music are all handed down to us as subjects in which he became extraordinarily proficient, whilst horsemanship, archery and the management of elephants were not neglected. When he had gone through the whole circle of the sciences, as then taught by the most learned priests, travelling was considered still necessary to fit him for the duties of his station. On returning to his native land he received the throne by the voluntary resignation of its possessor (Gajabahu)—a resignation which appears to have been made, however, in favor, not of Prakrama, but of his father, Wikrama. A dispute arose in consequence between the two claimants which ended in the accession of the son, and shortly after a reconciliation took place between him and his father which happened but just before the latter's death. On obtaining quiet possession of the throne Prakrama entered upon an enlightened career of improvement which proves him to have been no ordinary character. The establishment of roads, canals, and tanks, which are particularly mentioned in the native annals, and of the remains of which many are now visible, prove the utility of his exertionslibraries (chiefly of Buddhistic works) were collected for the colleges of the priesthood—the poorer classes were aided in reclaiming waste lands, and if native authorities are to be credited, the whole Island was rendered prosperous and happy by his exertions.

This state of peaceful progress, however, was soon disturbed by the notes of warlike preparation. A tributary queen in the most hilly and remote district of the Island-Rohona, resisted the advancing reforms of Prakrama, and Subhala, the queen in question, having once taken the resolution to resist, prepared to oppose her superior with vigour and determination. "The account of the warfare is handed down with sufficient minuteness to enable us to form some judgment of Ceylonese tactics. The fortified places, we are informed, were surrounded by her orders, with large and deep moats. The roads leading into the province were rendered impassible to elephants and cavalry, by being strewed with large trees and stakes fixed firmly in the ground. The uncovered sides of the hills were defended by briars and brambles, plentifully scattered over them. These preparations completed, Subhala posted her army, in the immediate vicinity of a fortress which commanded the only accessible road into her territories and there awaited the attack. Prakrama on his part was not idle--a force greatly superior in numbers to any which the Rohonians could bring into the field, was despatched under Rakha, one of his most experienced generals, whilst the king himself, remained to superintend the improvements progressing by his directions.

Rakha advanced with all the celerity circumstances would admit of, to meet his enemies. Harassed as his troops were by the obstacles in their way, they yet surmounted them all, with great bravery, notwithstanding the opposition of the Rohonians, and at length a general battle was offered and accepted. By a skilful disposition of his forces and a judicious choice of ground, Rakha was enabled completely to overpower the more impetuous, but less cautious mountaineers—a defeat and rout were the consequences. The Rohonians attempted to throw themselves into the fortress formerly mentioned, but Rakha was no sluggard in pursuit. Both parties entered together and the fortress was taken in the melée.

Scarcely was this great advantage gained when Rakha found his communication with his own capital intercepted, and his army actually besieged in the fort which he had taken. Strong reinforcements were sent to his aid by the king, and at length so overpowering a force assembled in Rohona, as to preclude the possibility of further resistance on the part of Subhala. Surrounded in her capital, and unable to resist, she accepted the terms offered, and by an absolute submission saved her life and tributary title.

An imposing ceremony was conducted at the capital by Prakrama in consequence of this victory, during which the native historians one and all inform us, that a miracle was exhibited-a special mark of Buddha's favor. This miracle consisted in the occurrence of a thunder storm and a copious fall of rain, at the very time when the gorgeous procession, with Prakrama at its head, was proceeding to the temple of thanksgiving, and yet, wonderful to relate, not a drop of this copious shower, touched a single thing engaged in the procession, although it fell plentifully around! The confidence with which this miracle is related and the reiteration of it, by the various native historians, is a curious fact in the history of the native character. The court at Pollonaruwa, however, speedily found that their thanksgiving was premature, the submission of Subhala was but a prelude to a vigorous preparation for war on her part, and scarcely were the rejoicings at an end, when the trump of war again sounded in rebellious Rohona. Of the campaign which ensued, we are not supplied with the particulars so minutely, as in the former case.

All that we can gather from the history, before us, is, that it was obstinate and bloody—that the Rohonians lost two battles, both of which were obstinately contested and in the latter of which twelve thousand Rohonians were slain or taken. The siege and capture of Subhala's capital was the last act of the tragedy, and there is reason to believe that her temerity, when led as a captive before her conqueror, caused her death.

The peace of the district was subsequently ensured by the vigorous measures of Prakrama, and these were generally so successful, that profound tranquillity reigned throughout the Island. It was not till after the year 1169 of our era, the sixteenth of his reign, that the monarch found it necessary, again to assemble his forces and march against an enemy. Now however they were to be turned against a foreign foe; not to be engaged in civil commotions. The king of Cambodia, and some other provinces, in the Burman empire, had roused the just resentment of Prakrama by plundering certain Singhalese merchants, and slighting his ambassador. To avenge these insults, the king strained every nerve to fit out a naval expedition, capable of grappling with the numerous ships of his enemy and of conveying his army to the Eastern peninsula. By these exertions a fleet of five hundred sail was quickly prepared, an officer of renown was put at the head of the expedition, and the armament was dispatched. They sailed to Cambodia, landed at a part called Kúsuma, whither the enemy advanced with precipitation on the first intelligence of their appearance. A battle was fought in which the Cambodians were totally defeated, and Adikaram, the general of the Singhalese forces, followed up his advantages, by an immediate march to Camboja the capital, which the precipitate march of its king had left utterly defenceless. This was speedily taken, and with it all the treasures and resources of the king. The fortified places were surrendered in consequence, a viceroy and annual tribute appointed, and the whole country was declared subject to “ the great and glorious Prakrama-bahu," king of Ceylon.

Thus successful in his first expedition against a foreign foe, Prakrama next turned his arms against the kings of the districts in Southern India, called in the native annals Pandi and Solli-on the Malabar and Coromandel coast. The motive of this invasion is but faintly exhibited, as some real or fancied grievance. Endeavoring to land at Madura, the general of Prakrama, found a force so considerable, drawn up to oppose him, as to render the disembarkation impracticable. The expedition then proceeded up the coast to Tellicherry, where they again found a force prepared to oppose them—they made the attempt however to land, and after a hard-fought battle, succeeded in driving the Pandians from the shore. One action after another succeeded, but generally so much to the advantage of the Singhalese, as to put the greater part of the country into their possession. In the last and most decisive combat, they were thoroughly successful and the consequence of it was, the submission of the entire country. The reigning prince was dethroned and his son, as a tributary of Prakrama, was placed upon the throne.

Such was the result of the last great enterprize of Prakrama. Ceylon was now in perfect peace. Its king was sovereign of the southern part of the eastern peninsula, as well as of the southern part of India-treasure poured in from the conquered provinces, and every thing promised a restoration of the Island to its former domestic prosperity. Nor were the exertions of its sovereign wanting to secure this result. The construction of canals and tanks, bridges, roads, courts of justice and libraries (all of which are duly chronicled) proved his desire to render his people prosperous, whilst the priestly historians delight to dwell on the numerous religious edifices which arose under his directions.

Such are the principal details handed down to us of the reign of Prakrama the great. He died in the year 1186 of our era, and had his measures been imitated by his successors, Ceylon would have been in a different condition, when first visited by Europeans. A period of anarchy and confusion followed, however in which the foreign conquests were lost, and many of the internal improvements neglected. But one short interval of nine years elapsed, in which a step was made in the right direction. With this exception the entire course of Ceylonese history from 1186 to 1505 was one of rapid retrogression. Civil wars, domestic commotions, and external aggressions combined with the apathy of the natives, to reduce Ceylon from the flourishing state in which Prakrama left it, to the condition of an uninhabited wilderness. The tanks were neglected, the embankments of the canals were allowed to fall in, the bridges were unrepaired. Every foreign invader extorted from the wretched inhabitants and the weak princes, every particle of wealth they could not by subtilty conceal, and Malabars, Moors and Malays all found it their interest to make incursions into Ceylon. The evils of a disputed succession commenced the decline, the aggressions of foreign foes increased it, and the natural apathy of the native character allowed it to continue.

We have thus roughly and rapidly travelled over the history of Ceylon, up to the year in which the Portuguese arrived. It is not our intention to enter now into the jurisprudence of the ancient Ceylonese ; nor, into the knowledge which the ancient Europeans, possessed of the Island. These subjects would involve us in inquiries, too extended for our pages and may

be more properly left to such a work as that before us. But before entering upon the actions of the Portuguese, we shall not omit to notice some of the conclusions we have arrived at, from a perusal of the early history of the Island, as regards the ancient condition and character of its inhabitants.

That the people who inhabited it at the time of Wijaya's invasion, must have been barbarous in the extreme, we should have concluded from the facts of that invasion, had it never been asserted by the native historians. The attainment of supreme power by the chief of a band of but seven hundred followers, and the extension of that power into the remoter provinces, proves at once, that the native princes were at variance with each other, and not in any case capable of effectual resistance. It is true that the means employed by Wijaya, for the establishment of his authority were those of cunning and artifice, not of open force-yet still the civilization of himself and his followers must have been infinitely superior, to that of the natives, or he could not have succeeded in his enterprize and in what the civilization of Bengal, whence Wijaya came, then consisted, we are pretty well aware. From this period then, we may date the introduction of improved habits and

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »