A historic defeat?

[TamilNet, Saturday, 10 October 1998, 12:14 GMT]
(News Feature) Sri Lanka's opposition MP Mr. Ronnie De Mel, speaking on the extension of the island wide emergency in the parliament yesterday, said that the debacle of the Sri Lankan army in Kilinochchi is the greatest defeat suffered by the Sinhalese in history after the conquest of Anuradhapura by the Cholas.

ronnie_de_mel.jpgHe said that the fall of Kilinochchi is not a defeat for the army but a blow to the war policy of the People's Alliance government.

Mr. De Mel accused the PA regime of using Sinhala youth as cannon fodder to selfishly promote its political interests.

The Cholas were one of the three interconnected dynasties that claimed an exclusive ancient right to rule the Tamil Homeland in south India. The others were the Pandiyas and Cheras.

The Cholas became an imperial power from the mid ninth century AD and flourished until the mid thirteenth century. At its zenith, the Chola empire had under its sway the whole of the south and part of north-eastern India, the Malay peninsula and Sri Lanka.

The Chola armies, according to Tamil classics and epigraphical evidence, marched to the Gangetic plain and sailed to the islands of Java and Sumatra to exact tribute.

Modern scholars have revealed the impact of the imperial Cholas on Thailand and Cambodia.

Historians say that the imperial Cholas have left their mark not only on the coronation rituals of the Royal house of Thailand but that the fear of their military power has been inscribed in the etymology of the word Tamin in the Thai language. (the word 'Tamin' in Thai denotes both violence and the Tamil ethnic group)

Medieval Buddhist chronicles which constitute the core of modern Sinhala nationalism, speak with an admixture of terror, awe and hatred of the imperial Cholas who ruled the island for more than four hundred years.

Sri Lanka was the ninth administrative region ('mandalam') of the Chola empire. The Choolavamsa, the medieval Buddhist chronicle compiled by the monk Dhammakirthi, describes the Sinhala fear of the Cholas in a chapter called 'The Pillage of Lanka'.

According to Dhammakirthi, "a horse dealer who had come hither from the opposite coast told the Chola king on his return about the conditions in Lanka.

On hearing this, the powerful king, with the purpose of taking possession of Lanka, sent off a strong body of troops.

They landed speedily in Lanka. From the spot where they disembarked, oppressing the mass of the inhabitants, the Chola army advanced on Rohana (the southern end of the island)."

"In the 36th year of the King's reign, the Cholas seized the Mahesi (the queen), the jewels, the diadem that he had inherited, the whole of the royal ornaments, the priceless diamond bracelet- a gift of the gods, the unbreakable sword and the relic of the torn strip of cloth (worn by the Buddha).

But the Ruler (of Sri Lanka) himself who had fled in fear to the jungles, they (the Chola armies) captured alive.....

Thereupon they sent the king (of Sri Lanka) and all the treasures which had fallen into their hands at once to the Chola monarch."

"In the fraternities and in all Lanka breaking open the relic chambers, they carried away many costly images of gold etc., And while they destroyed here and there all the monasteries like blood sucking Yakkhas (devils), they took all the treasures of Lanka to themselves."

The ancient Buddhist chronicle Mahavamsa and the 15th century Rajawaliya speak of the Cholas in a similar vein.

The insignia of the imperial Cholas was the leaping Tiger.


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