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 Post subject: War and peace in ancient and medieval Lanka
 Post Posted: Sat Dec 27, 2008 2:47 am 
War and peace in ancient and medieval Lanka

The king also recruited other persons and trained them in methods of warfare suited to them. There was a regiment of Veddahs with clubs. There were "rural bands" composed of peasants. They were given by military commanders. There was a company of moonlight archers trained for night attacks and another unit especially trained and equipped for breaking into fortifications and defended buildings. Burglars were used for tunnelling into fortifications.

by Kamalika Pieris
June - 2007

Sri Lanka experienced several periods of war during the ancient and medieval periods. One was the war of unification. Dutugemunu (161-137 BC) fought his way up from Mahagama to Anuradhapura to unify the island. His army marched up to Mahiyangana from Magama through Gutthala and Yudaganawa. Elara had a major fort at Mahaiyangana. Thereafter Dutugemunu engaged in battles at fifteen other forts, of which only Kasatota can be identified today. Kastota is Mahagamtota on Mahaweli river close to Polonnaruwa. Dutugemunu’s strategy was to destroy all the enemy forts within Ruhuna itself before he crossed into enemy territory.

He then crossed the Mahaweli and entered the fort at Vijitapura. Historians have identified Vijitapura as either Polonaruwa or somewhere close by. The royal elephant battered the gate, and Nadimitta led the troops in. Then on to Anuradhapura where Dutugemunu’s forces finally met the Tamil army. There was a confrontation between Elara’s commander, Dighajantu, and Dutugeniunu’s Suranimila. Suranimila won. The Tamil forces including Elara ran away. Dutugemunu decided he alone must slay Elara. They faced each other at the south gate of Anuradhapura, both mounted on elephants. Elara was defeated.

Dutugemunu then defeated Bhalluka who had arrived from India at Elara’s request. Elara, it is clear, did not intend to give way to Dutugemunu. He had entrenched himself in his territory and set up forts at access points. He fought all the way. The whole campaign took over four months. Dutugemunu ordered that Elara be given an honourable cremation. He had a monument erected where he fell and ordered that all music must cease near this monument. This was honoured even 700 years afterwards.

In giving Elara an honourable cremation, I think that Dutugemunu was not doing anything special. He was merely following a tradition that was intended to maintain the dignity of a deceased ruler. With unification came a second category of wars, organised by rival claimants against the ruler. Silakala (518-531) built up a large army, besieged Anuradhapura, and defeated the son of Upatissa II. Upatissa II died of grief. Silakala became king. Parakramabahu I had a protracted war with first Gajabahu then Manabarana and lastly with Sugala before he could become king.

In addition to these internal wars, there were several foreign invasions. Sri Lanka was invaded by Tamil kings from the ninth century onwards. Unlike north India, which had plenty of land to provide revenue, south Indian kingdoms like the Tamil kingdom relied on maritime trade and needed overseas expansion. The first target for expansion was Sri Lanka. In the ninth century, the Tamil kingdom had two rival Tamil dynasties, the Pandyas and Colas. The Pandyas and Colas never took their eyes off Sri Lanka. Both dynasties repeatedly attempted to bring Sri Lanka under their control. Pandya kings did not succeed in this, but the Colas did.

The early history of the Colas is obscure. There is information only from the time of Vijayalaya (846-880). He and his son Aditya (871-906) were vassals of the Pallavas. The Pallavas were in power in the Tamil kingdom at this time. The Pallavas and Pandyas were on the decline during this period and the Colas were able to take over. The Cola kingdom started to expand under Aditya. It eventually extended into north India, and overseas to Sri Vijaya.

There came a series of Cola invasions into Sri Lanka. Cola king Parantaka I invaded Sri Lanka during the time of Udaya IV (946-954) and took Anuradhapura, but could not hold it. The Sinhala king seems to have made a lightening raid into Tamil country in return. Parantaka II also invaded and was defeated by the army of Mahinda IV (956-972). Then his grandson Rajaraja I (985-1014) invaded and chased the Sinhala king Mahinda V down to Ruhuna. Rajaraja’s son, Rajendra I, completed the conquest and occupied Rajarata from 1017-1070 AD. Mahinda V was captured and taken to India, where he died.

The Colas attacked Ruhuna on several occasions, but failed to take over the territory. They also failed in their attempt to capture prince Kassapa, the heir to the throne. Ruhuna and Malayadesa continued under the Sinhala king. The Sinhala princes who ruled in Ruhuna after Mahinda died, tried to dislodge the Colas. The Sinhala population of Rajarata did not like Cola rule either. They became restive and around 1065, they rebelled against the Colas. The Cola king sent reinforcements from India to quell the rebellion.

The Colas were finally expelled by Vijayabahu I (1055-1110) Nijayabahu, then Prince Kitti, started his campaign from Hambantota. He obtained assistance for his campaign from Myanmar and the Sri Vijaya kingdom of Indonesia. He drew together the various strands of Sinhala opposition and patiently prepared for a showdown with the Colas. Vijayabahu’s first attempt against the Colas met with defeat. At one point in the campaign, two of Vijayabahu’s generals deserted to the Colas. They rejoined later. When the Colas advanced to Ruhuna, Vijayabahu entrenched himself in a group of rocky hills and attacked the Colas as they passed through the narrow route. The Cola general was killed somewhere near Buttala. Then Vijayabahu marched on to Polonnaruwa. The Cola king Virarajendra sent reinforcements from India. The Sinhalese suffered a crushing defeat and Vijayabahu retreated. In the meantime, there was a rebellion at Ruhuna and Vijayabahu had to go there to crush it.

Vijayabahu next settled at Ramba Vihara near Ambalantota and prepared for a fresh assault on the Colas. His sent two separate columns of soldiers in a pincer movement. The western column went along Maha Oya and Kala Oya, taking over forts at Batalagoda, Manikdena, and two others near Hettipola, and Polpitigama and took control of Anuradhapura and Mahatiththa. This prevented the Tamil generals from receiving reinforcements from India. Their retreat was also cut off. The eastern column captured Sagama near Tirukkovil, and went on to Polonnaruwa. The University of Ceylon History of Ceylon carries a map of these routes on page 448. Vijayabahu went to Mahiyanagana, established a suitable position for assault, and then ordered the attack on Polonnaruwa. His soldiers took up positions around the city of Polonnaruwa, and carried on a siege for one and a half months. Polonnaruwa fell to Vijayabahu and Cola rule came to an end.

The Cola Empire and its supremacy at sea was shortlived. The Colas had to face difficulties from the beginning. They were challenged throughout by other Indian dynasties such as the Rastrakutas. When Kullotunga I took over in 1970, the Cola kingdom was under attack by the Western Chalukyas, the Keralas, and the Pandyas. Kullotunga was an Eastern Chalukya and not a Cola. He did not attempt to recapture Sri Lanka. However, Cola invasions did not end there. There were three Cola invasions during time of Queen Lilavati (1197-1212). There were also invasions during the time of Queen Kalyanavati (1202-1208), Anikanda (1209), and Lokesvara (1210-1211.) These were repulsed.

Between 1215-1232, there was another occupation of the Rajarata by Magha of Kalinga who came with Tamil and Kerala troops. Magha set up garrisons at Polonnaruwa, Kottiyar, Anuradhapura, Padaviya, Valikagama and Pulacccheri. The exact period of his rule is not certain, but his ruled ended either in 1247 or 1255. His rule was also resisted. Sinhala rulers set up their own centres of power at Minipe, Yapahuwa, Govindamala, and at a place about three miles east of present Maho. Magha was defeated in war by Parakramabahu II (1236-1270).

The Pandyas invaded Sri Lanka in the Anuradhapura period. Pandya king Srimara Sri Vallabha invaded the island during the reign of Sena I (833-853). The Sinhala army lost badly and the heir apparent killed himself in the field. Srimara ordered a royal cremation for him with all the ceremonies and rites that were usually accorded to Pandya royalty. Sena I retreated to the south, near where the Mahaveli and Amban Ganga met. Srimara who was after loot, plundered Anuradhapura and took the valuables in its viharas. He made Sena part with all his jewellery, then handed over the city and departed. The Pandyas were back in power in South India in the 13th century. They were back in Sri Lanka too. Parakrama Pandya was ruling in Polonnaruwa in 1215. Jatavarman Vira Pandya invaded around 1258 and Jatavarman Sundara Pandya invaded around 1263.

In 1284, the Pandyas led by Ariya chakravarti invaded Sri Lanka. Records indicate that around 1296, the Pandya kings installed Ariya chakravarti in Jaffna. Ariya chakravarti was probably a leader in the Pandyan army. Jaffna became, according to Vernon Mendis, "a Pandyan principality". P. A. T. Gunasinghe pointed out that unlike most kings, Ariya chakravarti left no inscriptions. The tradition of leaving inscriptions was there at the time, and there is one relevant inscription in Kegalle, but none in Jaffna, indicating that this kingdom was not an independent one but was a part of the south Indian Pandya kingdom. This principality grew in size and by 1344 the pearl fisheries around Mannar were in the hands of the Ariya chakravarti. Ibn Batuta had seen Ariya chakravarti counting his pearls at Battala (Puttalam). Gunasinghe says that the Jaffna principality probably extended along the north-western coast

Around 1247, a Malay (Javaka) ruler called Chandrabanu invaded the Dambadeniya kingdom. Parakramabahu II defeated him. He did not return to Malaya but ended up in Jaffna. Thereafter the Pandya king installed Chandrabanu’s son as a vassal ruler in Jaffna. Father and son ruled for a joint period of about 55 years. Place names like Chavakaccheri indicate Javaka rule. This period of Javaka rule could be termed a period of Buddhist rule in Jaffna.

The Pandyans tried to annexe the rest of the island using their Jaffna base. Aryachakravarti invaded from Jaffna, defeated Vikramabahu III (1359-74) who ruled from Gampola and exacted tribute. The territory conquered by Ariyachakravarti included Colombo, Negombo, Wattala and Chilaw. The Rajavaliya states that Tamil agents were stationed at various places including seaports to collect the tribute. Historians have suggested that the Pandyans were interested in gaining control of the rich cinnamon resources in the west of the island.

This situation did not last long. Nissanka Alagakkonara, a powerful minister in Vickramabahu’s court, challenged the Jaffna king. According to the Rajavaliya, he did so by hanging the king’s tax collectors. Ariyachakravarti attacked by land and sea. An army came by sea along the western coast, overshot the mark, landed at Panadura, and then took off again to Colombo where it was defeated. Alagakkonara also ambushed them at Kotte. He then pushed upward taking back all territory except Jaffna, in which he was not interested. After Alagakkonara died, Ariyachakravarti invaded again. His army advanced from Jaffna to Matale. King Buvanekabahu V ran away, but the army took control without and defeated the Tamils. The tribute ended. This period of Tamil control did not exceed 29 years. It was probably much less. Historians are definite that there was no territorial annexation of the Sinhala kingdom by Jaffna, though revenue was obtained.

The next threat came from the Vijayanagara empire of south India. This empire was founded in 1336. Its capital Vijayanagara was in the Deccan and the language used was Kannada. Vijayanagara defeated the Pandyans and ruled over the whole of south India, including the Tamil kingdom between 1366 and 1646. The Vijayanagara kings attacked the Sinhala king twice. They were defeated in 1390 by Buvanekabahu V and in 1432 by Parakramabahu VI. According to Valentyn, writing in the 18th century, this gave the Sinhalese a formidable name in the east, for "humbling the Kannadi" (Vijayanagara). But Jaffna, which was under the Pandyas, went under Vijayanagara. Jaffna was made to pay tribute and when it tried to rebel, prince Virupaksha of the Vijayangara Empire invaded and brought Jaffna under control. This is shown in Virupaksha’s inscription of 1365. Jaffna stayed under Vijayanagara control until the Portuguese took it over.

Sri Lanka did not simply stay at the receiving end of invasions. It did some invading of its own. It would be remembered that Pandya King Sri Vallabha had invaded Sri Lanka during the time of Sena I (833-853). He attacked parts of it, looted its valuables and went back. Sri Vallabha’s son rebelled against the father, and sought the assistance of Sena II (853-887). Sena II decided to back him. He sent a well equipped large army to south India, under senapati Kuttaka. The campaign involved several arduous battles in which the Sinhala commanders had distinguished themselves with their valour and daring. In 862 AD Kuttaka captured Madhura, the Pandyan capital. He placed Srimara’s son on the Pandya throne as Varaguna II, the nominee of Sena II. Having arranged for the administration of the kingdom, he returns to Sri Lanka. He brought back the valuables taken by Srimara, as well as some Pandya valuables. He and his troops were duly honoured.

A more spectacular invasion of the Tamil kingdom took place during the time of Parakramabahu I. The Pandya throne was in dispute. One of the claimants, Parakrama Pandya, turned to Parakramabahu I for support while his opponent, Kulasekhera, went to the Colas. Parakramabahu sent an army under senapati Lankapura. The crossing from Mahatittha to Taladilla in south India took about 24 hours. Kulasekhara had in the meantime killed Parakrama Pandya, but Parakramabahu issued instructions to depose Kulasekhara and place a Pandya prince on the throne. Lankapura engaged in a protracted campaign, systemallically taking over the important villages in the Vagai region. He took Kundukula and renamed it "Parakramapura".

Lankapura finally took Madhura and placed on the throne, Virapandu, the youngest son of the late king. Since Virapandu was in a "destitute condition" Parakramabahu had sent him the necessary clothes, jewels and ornaments. Parakramabahu celebrated the completion of the conquest of Pandya by founding a new village in Sri Lanka named "Pandyavijayagama" and holding an alms giving. Up to this point, things had gone well for the Sinhala army. Kulasekhera had on one occasion attacked from five directions but was defeated. Several of Kulasekhara’s followers had joined Lankapura. Reinforcements were sent from Sri Lanka under Jagadvijaya. But Kulasekhera was persistent and could not be shaken off. Eventually, Kulasekhara defeated the Sinhala army, beheaded Lankapura and deposed Virapandu. The campaign had lasted for two years. V. L. B. Mendis says this invasion should have been a hit and run operation. Parakramabahu’s operation was the very opposite of this.

Then around 1178, Parakramabahu got ready to invade again. The Colas heard of this and sent an expedition led by Parakramabahu’s nephew Sri Vallabha who had escaped to India. The Cola army captured several places including Kayts, Mantota, and Valikamam, set fire to them, killed some of the Sinhala chiefs and took some others captive. Kulasekhera in the meantime had turned against the Colas, who had supported him. Parakramabahu entered into an alliance with Kulasekhara and provided him with an army. The Colas defeated Kulasekhera and put Virapandya back on the throne. The University Of Ceylon History of Ceylon carries a detailed account of these expeditions, together with map on pages 475-506.

Then in 1186 Virapandya also turned against the Colas. Parkramabahu sent an army to support Virapandya but this army was defeated by the Colas. Parakramabahu’s policy was to help any Tamil prince who opposed the Colas. He had no hesitation in supporting princes whom he had previously fought against. It is possible that his interventions helped to reduce the strength of the Colas and hasten their downfall. Sinhala invasions into the Tamil kingdom did not end with Parakramabahu I. Nissankamalla had also sent a naval force as far as Ramesvaram. There is some doubt as to whether he actually fought a war in Tamil country. Parakramabahu VI (1412-1467) sent a force to Adriampet, in Tamilnadu, because the Sinhala traders had been treated badly at Adriampet.

Parakramabahu I also attacked Burma (now Myanmar). He invaded Pegu in 1164 or 1165. This was a naval strike of considerable magnitude. He took five months to build the fleet. The ships were adequately equipped. Troops were given special arrows with sharp points for use against war elephants. There were precautions against the infected water in the swamps of Burma. There were physicians and nurses carrying medicines of every kind and special surgical instruments for extracting arrowheads. The expedition set sail from Palvakki, north of Kuccaveli. They met rough seas and ships got separated. Some ships sank. Others drifted to foreign shores. One landed at the Andaman Islands. However, five entered the Burmese waters at Bassein, carrying enough soldiers to defeat the Burmese. The strike was successful. The Devanagari inscription records a grant of land to commander Kit Nuvaragal for his services in the Burma expedition. The Pegu expedition showed that Sri Lanka knew how to conduct a successful strike against a country some distance away.

Sri Lanka also had a fight with China. In the 15th century, the Chinese led by Cheng Ho were exploring the Indian Ocean. Cheng Ho made seven expeditions in thirty years. He visited Sri Lanka on at least six of these visits. Cheng Ho arrived in Sri Lanka on his first expedition of 1405 to 1407. His fleet came into Galle. The Sinhala king’s leading minister, Vira Alakesvara treated Cheng Ho with open contempt and hostility. According to one Chinese document Cheng Ho, a Muslim had advised Vira Aleksvara to allow Buddhist principles. In my view, this is improbable. Another Chinese document says that Cheng Ho came to take away the Tooth Relic to China. In which case, in my view, Alakesvara’s hostility was understandable. I think that the visits by Cheng Ho were seen in Sri Lanka as an attempt by China to exert authority over other kingdoms. The Chinese emperor had wanted the countries Cheng Ho visited to pay tribute to China.

Cheng Ho visited again in 1411. He came with presents to the Sinhala king from the Chinese emperor. His fleet had 62 vessels carrying 28,000 men. Vira Alakesvara got soldiers to block the route between the royal capital and Galle. Another group were sent to plunder the ships. Cheng Ho received information regarding this. He tried to retreat but found his way blocked. He sent a secret message and got down his soldiers. With 3000 soldiers Cheng Ho took a circuitous route to the capital and took possession of the city. The battle went on for six days. Cheng Ho won, and took Vira Alakesvara and his family captive to China. The Chinese emperor, instead of cutting off their heads, treated them well and sent them back to Sri Lanka. I take the view that this indicates that China held the Sinhala kingdom in high regard.

The Sinhala kings were not prepared to submit to foreign rule or foreign coercion. Attempts to obstruct Sri Lanka’s foreign trade were settled by strikes. Invasions and occupations were deeply resented and the invader was defeated. Mendis says that military techniques of the Sinhala kings were sound and the army had good military leaders. He comments that the Sinhala army was best suited for quick strikes and command operations such as the one in Myanmar.

The Sinhala king was ever ready for war. Military skills such as weaponry, archery, and warfare were taught. The capital was usually fortified with walls, battlements and moats. The moats at Sigiriya were lined with blocks of granite and extended over two miles on either side of the rock. There were permanent fortifications in other important cities. Kurunegala and Vatagiri had ramparts, watch towers, gates and gatehouses in the medieval period.

There was a standing army. One feature of this army was that it had a separate division of foreign mercenaries known as the agampodi corps. In the Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa periods, these mercenaries were mainly Tamils, Keralas and Andhras. Vijayabahu IV (1270-1272) who ruled at Dambadeniya had Rajput mercenaries from north India in his army. The Kavyasekhera says that during the reign of Parakramabahu III(1287-1293) when the capital was at Yapahuwa, there were Chinese soldiers in the king’s army. However, Gunasinghe says that from the Dambadeniya period to the Kotte period, the Sinhala king only had the militia. He lacked the resources for a regular army.

The Sinhala army consisted of four sections, infantry, cavalry, elephants, and chariots. The largest section of the army was the infantry. These were foot soldiers aimed with bows, arrows and spears. There is no mention of cavalry or even of elephants in accounts of actual fighting. However, there is other evidence. Records indicate that horses were imported into Sri Lanka. Ships brought in horses as king’s cargo. Princes and youths of good family were trained to ride and manage elephants and horses in a war.’ Brahmi inscriptions refer to horsemen and to a guild of elephant trainers. The forces sent under Jagadvijaya in the Pandyan campaign of Parakramabahu I included cavalry and the Mahavamsa refers to Ilanaga taking part in a battle from a chariot.

The principal weapons used by the Sinhala army were bows and arrows, swords and spears. The missile weapon was bow and arrow. The Dambadeni asna refers to a large variety of bows, such as pellet bows, level bows, Arabian bows and circular bows with three bends. For the Myanmar expedition, soldiers had carried special arrows for defence against the elephant division of the Burmese army. Those who were especially proficient in archery are said to have been able to perform such feats as shooting an arrow at a strand of hair, shooting by sound, and shooting to pierce through a number of sand carts. The Saddharmaratnavali gives 13 different forms of archery. They include shooting with the help of lightening, shooting through mammoties and metal dishes and shooting in water.

Military men of higher rank carried swords and shields. Swords were used in hand to hand combat. The Dambadeni asna lists several kinds of swords such as curved swords, long swords and short swords as well as swords from Gujarat, China, Malaya, Madura, Telegu, Java, Bangla, and Ayodaya. Swords made in Sri Lanka are said to have been of superior quality. The other weapons used were javelins, lances, knifes, daggers, battle-axes, maces, clubs and discs. To these were added catapults and battering rams, iron rods tied to fire darts, burning sharp pointed bamboo rods, and stones fired from a machine.

Armour was important. There is a reference to defensive armour worn by the fighters. The Dambadeni asna refers to soldiers wearing jewelled armour and a Brahmi inscription mentions the name of an armourer. There were martial drums. When battles were won conches of victory (jaya sak) were blown. Other essentials were not forgotten. Both Dutugetnunu and Parakramabahu I ensured that there were abundant quantities of food for the army. Medical units, fully staffed and equipped accompanied the army. There were craftsmen to manufacture weapons and armour. Wagons were used for transporting provisions and military stores when the army was on the march. There would have been an engineer corp, for army commanders in the course of their campaigns threw bridges across rivers.

There is considerable information on the army of Parakramabahu I. He had a standing army, where soldiers were given an intensive training in various methods of warfare. There were sham fights and manoeuvres. There was also a militia. Officials were obliged to provide a stipulated number of armed men for the militia. This resulted in divisions called attha sahassa (eight thousand) and another called Dvadasa sahassa (twelve thousand). These men were trained by military commanders and assigned lands instead of pay. In addition, military training was made part of the education of able-bodied youths. Then in time of war, a large body of men would be readily available for service in the field. Groups of youth bearing names such as "dagger bearers" and "little soldiers" were organised and trained to bear arms.

The king also recruited other persons and trained them in methods of warfare suited to them. There was a regiment of Veddahs with clubs. There were "rural bands" composed of peasants. They were given by military commanders. There was a company of moonlight archers trained for night attacks and another unit especially trained and equipped for breaking into fortifications and defended buildings. Burglars were used for tunnelling into fortifications.

There was a navy. The battles with south India and Burma would not have been possible without one. In Parakramabahu’s expeditions, the navy had many things to do. They had to ensure the safe transport of the troops and their equipment, provide support for the troops on land, including provisions, protect them in enemy waters, maintain uninterrupted sea communications, and above all prevent the enemy navy from interfering with the operation. Parakramabahu’s navy did all this successfully.

C. W. Nicholas says that the king did not have a separate fleet of ships. He usually commandeered merchant ships, which were privately owned. I think that he would have built some when needed as well. It would not have been possible for Parakramabahu I to engage in successful strikes against south India and Burma in ships that had been built for commercial purposes. There is no mention of naval commanders in the historical records. Nicholas says that the commander of the troops was also the commander of the ships in which the troops travelled. There is no information on naval strategy either. However, there is one description of a naval action. Parakramabahu I fought a naval battle around Puttalam and Kalpitiya, to wrest control of the pearl banks from King Gajabahu.

War operations were carefully planned and military strategy was used. Parakramabahu I drew up battle plans and gave them to his field commanders. Temporary fortresses were constructed. The Mahavamsa describes a stockade with a central tower of four storeys with archers inside. This was surrounded by two concentric stockades, between which lay a ditch 20 to 30 cubits wide, and 700 feet round, strewn with thorns and spikes. Beyond this was a similar ditch and beyond this a row of spikes and a thorn fence with a deeper ditch outside. The approach was blocked by trees with sharpshooters on them. Sharpened stakes were put into pits, then covered with sand and leaves so that the area resembled a passable road. Many centuries later, Queyroz remarked upon the skill of the Sinhalese in constructing their stockades.

The armies used a variety of strategies. They laid siege and attacked from behind. Natural advantages of terrain were exploited. In his wars with Gajabahu and Manabarana, Parakramabahu I attacked and harried from several sides at once. He also tried a sort of guerrilla warfare. Pincer movements were used by both Vijayabahu and Parakramabahu I. Espionage was not forgotten. The Dambadeni asna refers to spies. Parakramabahu I had employed Tamils who could sing and dance as spies. There was subterfuge, such as pretending to be routed. The Mahavamsa tells of a battle where a dummy figure of Dutugemunu was placed as a decoy.

The aim in war was to capture alive or kill the leader of the enemy. Capture by the enemy was considered very degrading and therefore to be avoided. Kassapa I and Jettatissa III are said to have committed suicide on the battlefield to avoid this fate. A general in retreat took his army to the safety of a walled city or fortified camp. Single combat was not encouraged. However, when kings or princes led armies on both sides, the commander challenged his opponent to single combat. The single combat between Elara and Dutugemunu is one such example. Followers of the defeated combatant transferred their allegiance to the victor.

Some kings like Dutugemunu and Vattagamini commanded the army themselves. But usually, the army was led by the commander-in-chief, known as Senevi, Senevirad, or Senapati. The term Senanayake replaced senapati and senevi in the Dambadeniya period. This officer holds a powerful and important position in the central administration. He was second only to the king. He was very often a member of the royal family. There are comparatively few instances of the senapati betraying the king. Therefore, the post served the purpose intended. There were subordinate commanders such as bamba senevi and sak senevi, in charge of various divisions of the army. Andha senevi was the officer commanding the soldiers recruited from Andhra Pradesh. On the warfront the commander was borne about on palanquins. The kings showed appreciation when a war was won. Warriors who showed great valour in battle were presented to the king and given honours and gifts. In the Kottange inscription (13th century), land was granted for valour shown in disposing of Colas.

The writings of M. B. Ariyapala, L. Dewaraja, PAT Gunasingbe, T. Hettiarachchy, A Liyanagmage, V. L. B. Mendis, S Natesan, C. W. Nicholas, K .A. Nilakanta Sastri, S. Paranavibma, L. S. Perera, W. M. Sirisena, M. Werake and W. M. K. Wijetunga were used in this essay.

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