It is almost a truism that history repeats itself. The loss of the North and the East of the island led to the downfall of the Polonnaruwa Kingdom. The shifting of the Sinhala capital to the southwest began with the subjugation of these areas, by the savage forces of Magha in 1215.
He had 15 fortresses spread about in the Gona (Trincomalee) district, Gantalawa (Kantalai), Jaffna Peninsula and Mannar District. Meanwhile a Sinhala prince by the name of Vijaya Bahu (the third) established himself at the mountain stronghold of Dambadeniya in 1232, and attacked Magha. It was his son Parakrama Bahu II (1236-1270), who finally rid the country of these foreign forces.
Chandrabhanu from the Malay Peninsula, another invader who claimed to be a Buddhist, attacked the Sinhala capital at Dambadeniya. But, he was defeated and killed by the Sinhala army. The manner in which gunpowder was used in this battle (long before the arrival of the Portuguese in 1505), is described in the Dambadeni Asna. But, the greater enemy of the land was Kalinga Magha, who had come with forces recruited from Kerala and occupied the North and the East. Therefore, the king of Lanka sought allied help from Chola and Pandya to oust Magha. He also allied himself with the son of Chandrabhanu, who also had landed here and ousted Magha’s forces from his strongholds of Weligama (Valikamam), Uratota (Kayts) and Mahatittha (Mavittapuram) in the Jaffna Peninsula.
Thereafter, Chandrabhanu (II) fortified himself at the southern end of Jaffna Peninsula at a place called Javaka Kotte, to fight Magha’s forces approaching through Ali-mankada (Elephant Pass). At that time the Buddhists of Malaysia were called Javakas because their capital was in the island of Java of Borobudur fame. The Sinhala people designated Chandrabhanu’s capital as a ‘fortress’ (Javaka-Kotte). But the Tamil forces of Magha contemptuously called it the ‘Sanctuary’ (Tamil aachirayam) ‘of the Javaka’. That is the reason for the name ‘Chavakachcheri’ given to it in modern maps. We shall see this Tamil term for ‘sanctuary’ again, when we come to the meaning of Pulachcheri.
The rice-bowl of Mannara-pattana (Mannar) was also in the hands of Magha. He had fortified Yodhawewa (Manamatta or Giants’ Tank), Gonusu (Parappankandal) and Meepatota or Meepakada, (Iluppaikadavai). Here the identification of Manamatta as Giants’ Tank is provisional. But in the case of ‘Gonusu’ it is positive. ‘Gonusu’ the Sinhala word for scorpions, is ‘Parappan’ in Tamil. Parappan-kandal is ‘Gonusu-kadolana’ in Sinhala. Tamil kandal and Sinhala kadolana mean ‘the Mangroves.’
The name Meepaatota for Iluppaikadvai is taken from the account of this period in the Pujavaliya. In the Pali Chronicle, it is called Madhupada-tittha. In both cases, the meaning is the same - "Channel Crossing at the ‘lluppai’ or Mee-tree (Madhuca longifolia)". Until recently, Mannar (Mannara-pattana), Giants’ Tank, Parappan Kandal, and Iluppaikadavai were Tiger strongholds that the Sri Lankan forces had to fight hard to capture. They had already captured what happened to be Magha’s other strongholds in the Eastern Province during the Mavil Aru - Toppigala campaign.
There was another of Magha’s fortifications called Pulachcheri. It was perhaps near his other stronghold of Padi (Padaviya). Here Tamil pul means ‘birds’ and the other part ‘achcheri’ (from Tamil aachchirayam) means ‘sanctuary’ or ‘haven’. No one has been able to locate the place where ‘Pulachcheri’ or "Bird Haven" of Magha stood. But, our interpretation of Kilinochchi as Giraa-Nikey (or Giraa Nochchiya), meaning the Nika (Vitex negundo) trees that formed a ‘sanctuary’ or roost for a large flock of parrots (‘birds’) is helpful here. It is an indication that Pulachcheri was probably Magha’s name for modern Kilinochchi (see ‘Leisure Land’ in The Island of 20-10-2008).
When Magha was finally defeated in 1236, he had to flee from Polonnaruwa, along with his Kerala mercenaries. It is recorded that his escape to India was along the longer route through Mannar, and not the shorter one through Jaffna. Prof. Senarat Paranavitana says that this is because Jaffna was still occupied by Chandrabhanu II, who had acted in collusion with Parakrama Bahu II, to block that northern route from being used by Magha. This turn around of Chandrabhanu is similar to the action of two former lieutenants of Tiger chief Prabhakaran. They have now become the firm allies of the Sri Lankan government in the fight against Terrorism. It is another example of how history can repeat itself.