Hindu influence during the Polonnaruwa period | Daily News

Hindu influence during the Polonnaruwa period

According to history, Sri Lanka was conquered by the Cholas during the early part of the 10th century. The major part of the island was under their rule for more than five decades. During the period, Polonnaruwa was the centre of administration. Opening years of Polonnaruwa period in Sri Lankan history started with the Chola regime. The recoveries of Chola inscriptions from Mantai have provided some important clues and valuable information about the expansion of the Chola Kingdom from South India to ancient Sri Lanka. It seems that often Cholas sent their officials to the occupied areas in ancient Sri Lanka to coordinate the administration. The Chola areas of ancient Sri Lanka were referred to as Mummudi Chola Mandalam.

When Sri Lanka was under the Chola period, the native artisans including painters had very limited scope to exhibit their own art and culture. During that time no monuments or any native architectural designs were seen. Chola invaders had built typical Hindu temples according to the Dravidian architecture.

Buddhist architecture

During the Polonnaruwa period, the Chola regime or dynasty was dominating South India. Yet it could be noticeable that the ancient architectural style which was based on certain exclusive patterns was found. They had links with Buddhist architecture. Hindu temples of Polonnaruwa were built only during this period. Numerous Saiva bronze statues with excellent images were installed in the Saiva temples in the Polonnaruwa period.

Chola kings dominated during the Polonnaruwa period after conquering and consolidating their presence in 993 A.D. As soon as they captured Polonnaruwa, it was renamed Janatha Mangalam. After the expiry of the Chola period, one of the Kalinga (Odisha) kings ruled Polonnaruwa for around three decades. The Great Chola Chakaravarthies (Majestic or Great Kings) who built the great Thanchai Bragatheeswarar temple in Tamil Nadu also built numerous temples in Polonnaruwa with excellent architecture. They not only built the magnificent temples in Polonnaruwa, but they also built some excellent temples in North West of Sri Lanka.

In memory of Rajaraja’s queen, the 2nd Devale was built by the Cholas, and the presiding deity of the temple was Vanavan Madevi - Iswaram Udaiyar. The inner sanctum of the Devale is devoted to Siva Lingam. According to Annada K.Coomaraswamy, it was one of the excellent creations in stone. According to the ancient historical records, another Siva temple known as Kailasm was built by Vijaya Bahu in Kantale. During the period of Vijaya Bahu, the Hindu religion was well preserved in the country.

Construction plaster

Siva Devale 1 at Polonnaruwa was built with carved stones brought from far off places. The binding agent of construction plaster was not used for the building. The beautification of the external architecture had the lotus design. It has been found that during the periods of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, there was an admixture of Buddhist and Hindu architectures.

Kalinga princes who came after the Cholas ruled the island with Polonnaruwa as the capital. The Chola period was considered the golden period in the history of Tamils of Tamil Nadu. During the period, the Cholas built excellent and huge Hindu temples that reflect Dravidian architecture. The bronze statues of the period were considered as one of the best in the world.

During the Chola occupation of ancient Sri Lanka, art, culture and religion were influenced by the Chola dynasty. During their occupation, they built numerous Hindu temples at Mathota, Polonnaruwa and several other areas of the island. We have enough evidence that they made a lot of endowments to the Buddhist monastery. A temple devoted to Lord Shiva and Lok Mata Sri Parvati was built in Mathota. It was built by one of the Chola kings named Tali Kumaran. Later the temple was renamed Rajaraja Iswarattu Mahadevan temple. Besides this, another temple named “Tiruverameswaran Udaiyar Mahadevan Kovil” was built at Mathota (Rajarajapura).

Royal families

It is interesting to note that Mahindra IV (956 - 972) picked up his bride from South India. Most of the Sinhalese kings had chosen their brides from royal families of South India. For example, Vijayabahu 1 was married to one of the Kalinga princes. In return, he offered his sister Mitta to Pandu prince. According to ancient historical evidence, Parakrama Bahu 1 performed a series of Hindu rituals, including the foremost Hindu ritual known as “Homa yaga.”

Based on the texture of the material, the statues of the Polonnaruwa period could be divided into two categories. They are made of bronze as well as with various kinds of stones including granite and sandstones. All the Sri Lankan Hindu statues were more or less found in and around the ancient archaeological sites at Polonnaruwa. Generally, the Hindu sculptures of the Polonnaruwa period are popularly categorized as Pancha Deva Sapai or Saba. They include Sivan, Vishnu, Parvathi, (Ma Sakthi), Suriyan and Ganesh.

Besides them, the carved sculptures, exhibiting various postures of traditional dances including Thandava Karnas, beautifully decorated Sabta Mathas, Guards or Duwara Balaks, Nandi, a variety of Parvathi, Ardanatheswar, Joesta, Varahi Avtar of Sri Sarawati Devi, stone slab sculptures, ancient Yapahuva palace ruin structures belong to the same Polonnaruwa period.

It is believed that there was the coexistence of twin worships of Lord Siva and Sri Maha Vishnu during the Chola dynasty in Sri Lanka. The Vishnu statues are divided into three different categories based on their appearances. They include standing, sitting and sleeping or popularly known as “Ananda Sayanam” in Sanskrit. The ancient Maha Vishnu statues found in Sri Lankan archaeological sites exhibit the “standing positions” only. In contrary to this, a variety of Lord Siva’s postures were unearthed from the Polonnaruwa period. These postures include various stances of ancient traditional dances. The sculptures are based on ethics or norms of “Saiva Ahama Sastras’’ (Traditional Hindu principles). Similarly, the “Ma Shakti” or Lok Mata Parvati sculptures at various postures can be observed.