Kalinga Magha

Jetavanaramaya, one of the many massive stupas raided during Magha's reign.

Kalinga Magha (Tamil: கலிங்க மாகன் / கலிங்க மாகோன் / காளிங்க மகன், Sinhala: කාලිංග මාඝ, Odia: କଳିଙ୍ଗ ମଘା) also known as Magha the Tyrant and Kulankayan Cinkai Ariyan,[3] is identified as the founder of the Jaffna kingdom and first king of the Aryacakravarti dynasty. According to the Segarāsasekara-Mālai the first Aryacakravarti king of Jaffna belongs to the Eastern Ganga dynasty of Kalinga. His family was connected to the rulers of Ramanathapuram in Tamil Nadu. Kalinga Magha’s relatives of Ramanathapuram administered the famous temple of Rameswaram.[4] He usurped the throne from Parakrama Pandyan II of Polonnaruwa, in 1215.[5] His reign saw the massive migration of Sinhalese to the south and west of Sri Lanka, and into the mountainous interior, in a bid to escape his power.[6] Magha was the last ruler to have his seat in the traditional northern seat of native power on the island, known as Rajarata; so comprehensive was his destruction of Sinhalese power in the north that all of the successor kingdoms to Rajarata existed primarily in the south of the island.

The origin of Kalinga Magha is unknown, but due to his name, he is often referred to be from Kalinga, a historical place which corresponds mainly with present-day Odisha along with some northern parts of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.[7][8] Although his ethnicity has given rise to other various theories.

The most favored theory states that he was a prince from the Chodaganga dynasty who ruled Kalinga.[9][10] They were descended from the Western Ganga dynasty and the Tamil Chola dynasty.[11][12][13]

Kalinga Magha landed in Karainagar in 1215 AD with a large army of 24,000[14] Kerala and Tamil soldiers.[15] He camped his soldiers in Karainagar and Vallipuram and brought the Jaffna principality under his control. Kalinga Magha then marched to Polonnaruwa, defeated Parakrama Pandyan II and ruled it for 21 years. He was expelled from Polonnaruwa in 1236 and withdrew to Jaffna which he ruled till 1255.[16]

The Culavamsa, describes him as 'an unjust king sprung from the Kalinga line'.[17]

It has been speculated that Magha may have had a claim through the Kalingan dynasty established by Nissanka Malla in 1187, who was the uncle of Chodaganga of Polonnaruwa.[18] Whatever his pretext however he swiftly lost any potential support amongst the populace by the sheer violence of his invasion.

Having executed Parakrama Pandya and ransacked the temples of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, Magha was crowned king by his own soldiers and settled in the capital of Pulatthinagara. The army have been described in the Culavamsa to be ruthless, and to have destroyed the Buddhist religion, ransacking and destroying many Stupas.[19]

It was during this time that the centre of native power on Ceylon began to shift to the south. During Magha's reign the chief priests of Pulatthinagara took two of Rajarata's most sacred relics - the Buddha's alms bowl and the sacred Tooth Relic - and 'on Kothmalé in a safe region ... buried both the relics carefully in the earth and so preserved them'.[20] This was not the first time this had happened; it was, however, to be the last, as neither was ever returned to the north.

Resistance to the invaders began to coalesce around a series of inaccessible towns and fortresses constructed in the mountainous interior of Ceylon. The fortress of Yapahuwa was one of the first of these, founded by the Senapathi (General) Subha;[21] another was Gangadoni, founded by the general Sankha, barely 15 miles ('two yojanas') from Magha's capital. From these places the various nobles 'gave as little heed to the infamous army of the Ruler Magha, though ... as to a blade of grass and protected without fear that district and the Order [of Buddhist monks]'.[22]

The man who eventually emerged as the leader of the resistance was Vijayabahu III, who the chronicles identify as a descendant of Sirisamghabodhi (242-244 or 251-253),[23] a king of Rajarata, though it is possible that the relationship was through marriage.[24] He appears to have spent an extended period of time in 'inaccessible forest' avoiding the forces of Magha. Sometime in the 1220s however he drove the Tamil forces from Mayarata (Dhakkinadesa) and established his capital at Jambudhoni (Dambadeniya).[25] Vijayabahu's most emphatic statement of authority however was the recovery of the two sacred relics (around 1222), which he paraded through the lands he controlled and invested in a freshly constructed temple.

Vijayabahu's reign was largely spent reconstructing the shattered Buddhist infrastructure of the Sinhalese in Mayarata, and indeed many of the religious traditions he established were to last into modern times.[26] Occasionally raids into Kalinga-controlled territory were mounted, but it was not until the reign of is son, Parakramabahu II(1234-1267) that a concerted effort was made to drive the invaders out.

Soon after his accession the Culavamsa describes how the King 'set about subjugating by the power of his majesty and by the might of his loving spirit ... the forces of the foe in Lanka'.[27] It would appear however that Magha had by this point either died or been deposed, as the chronicles make no mention of him taking part in the wars between Parakramabahu and the Kalinga. Instead it names two Damila kings, Mahinda and Jayabahu, as having established fortifications in Polonnaruwa;[28] both are, in due course, defeated by the resurgent forces of Dambadeniya. Magha does not re-appear in the historical record; his fate remains a mystery.