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Vikramabahu, Prince of Ruhuna

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Vikramabahu, Prince of Ruhuna

Vikramabahu (1017–1041; known as Kassapa before his coronation) was a medieval king of Sri Lanka. Following the death of his father in 1029, Vikramabahu led the resistance movement against the Chola invaders of the country, ruling from the southern principality of Ruhuna. He spent a number of years building up his forces to drive out the Chola, but died before he could launch his military campaign.


Vikramabahu, Prince of Ruhuna Vikramabahu Prince of Ruhuna Wikipedia


Following the Chola invasion of Sri Lanka under Raja Raja Chola I in 993 CE, they annexed the principality of Rajarata, which encompassed the north of the country, and made it a province of the Chola empire. However they let the Sri Lankan king Mahinda V rule the southern principality of Ruhuna unhindered for twenty four years. In 1017 they launched an invasion into Ruhuna and captured the king, along with his queen and all the royal jewels. Mahinda V remained a prisoner of the Chola empire, and died under their captivity in 1029.

As long as their king was in custody, the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka submitted to the rule of the Chola empire. However resistance to Chola rule began almost immediately following the death of Mahinda V in 1029. As soon as news of his death reached the country, an increasing rebellion began in the south of the island, especially in the Ruhuna principality.

The prince Kassapa, son of Mahinda V, had escaped when his parents were captured by the Chola army, and was brought up in secret in Ruhuna. He was around twelve years old when he inherited the Sinhalse kingdom upon his father’s death. The Chola were eager to capture him, and they dispatched a large force from their capital of Polonnaruwa to seize the prince.

Resistance to the Chola

The Chola force traveled the whole of Ruhuna to find Kassapa, but he was successfully protected by his adherents. As the Chola were looking for the prince, two Sinhalese generals launched attacks against the Chola, and forced them to retreat back to Polonnaruwa after six months of warfare. Thereafter Kassapa assumed sovereignty over Sri Lanka under the name of Vikramabahu, but he only had factual control over the Ruhuna principality.

Vikramabahu proceeded to build loyalty and adherence to himself, and began to acquire military resources for a drawn out defensive conflict with the Chola. Initially the Chola weren’t particularly concerned with stamping out the resistance organized by Vikramabahu, although they did carry out occasional raids into Ruhuna.

Around the same time in south India, resistance to the Chola was increasing in the conquered kingdoms of Pandya and Kerala. It is possible that the 3 conquered kingdoms, Sri Lanka, Pandya and Kerala were in contact with each other. Vikramabahu's preparations for battle were protracted, and it wasn’t until at least eight years later that he was ready for battle. However before he could launch an assault on the Chola, he fell ill and died while he was at Devundara. The year of his death has been placed between 1037 and 1041 by historians.


Vikramabahu had no direct heirs to the throne, and ten years of internal disorganization and disunity followed his death. The Chola empire took advantage of the situation, putting three of the next five princes who assumed the throne to death.

Immediately after Vikramabahu's death, his Senapathi Kitti assumed power. Kitti was deposed after eight days by Mahalanakitti, who bore the title "Chief Secretary" to Vikramabahu, but of whom little is known. He ruled for a further three years but fell in battle with the Chola. He was succeeded by a number of Indian princes as the Sinhalese were willing to follow anyone who would lead them to freedom from the Chola empire. However successive rulers left Ruhuna much worse off than before.

Eventually in 1055, Vijayabahu I was proclaimed king, and following a seventeen-year-long campaign he successfully drove the Chola out of Sri Lanka, reuniting the country for the first time in over a century.


Vikramabahu, Prince of Ruhuna Wikipedia