Once upon a time, in the vast expanse of history, there existed a kingdom known as the Maldives. This proud nation, with its rich heritage and ancient customs, stood as a testament to the greatness of its people. Stories of their triumphs and adventures were whispered through the ages, and among them, one tale stood out—a tale of valour, conquest, and the occupation of a distant land.

In the annals of Sri Lankan history, etched upon weathered stones and preserved in the pages of the ancient book, Chulavamsa, lies the epic account of King Viradeva’s audacious invasion. It was a time long ago, almost nine centuries past when the world was still in the throes of tumultuous change.

News reached the ears of Sri Lanka’s ruler, the mighty Vikkamabahu, that a warrior king from the Maldives had set his sights upon their land. Viradeva, the brave lord of the Ariya country, believed he could bring the entire island nation under his dominion. Vikkamabahu, unyielding in his defence of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty, resolved to root out this audacious invader.

Illustration: King Viradeva’s warriors arrive at the shores of Ceylon/Sri Lanka

The clash of kingdoms was imminent. Vikkamabahu and his forces, marching from Kalyani, arrived near Mahatittha, where Viradeva had made landfall. The Maldivian king, sensing the impending confrontation, offered battle. A fateful encounter unfolded, and the forces of Viradeva unleashed their might upon the Sinhalese army.

In this fierce conflict, two noble princes, brothers named Anikanga and another, along with the esteemed Commander-in-chief Kitti, met their tragic end at the hands of Viradeva’s warriors. Many valiant warriors fell that day, but the Senapati Rakkhaka, the General of the Sinhalese army, was captured alive.

Vikkamabahu, facing a crushing defeat, fled in terror to his capital, gathering what valuables he could before seeking refuge in the fortress of Kotthasara. Undeterred, Viradeva pursued relentlessly, eventually reaching the capital and establishing his presence there. For a time, he reigned supreme, until he resolved to capture the elusive Vikkamabahu once and for all.

Yet, Vikkamabahu, cunning in his survival instincts, marshalled his forces, sending a formidable army to engage Viradeva’s troops near the village of Antaravittika—a vast and treacherous swampy wilderness. In this unfamiliar terrain, the tides turned, favouring Vikkamabahu’s side. The Sinhalese army seized the advantage, and amidst the chaos of battle, Viradeva met his tragic end, succumbing to the forces aligned against him.

Thus, the once indomitable Viradeva, who had dared to conquer Sri Lanka, perished in that fateful clash. Vikkamabahu, now victorious, held sway over his realm once more, firmly seated in the capital of Pulatthinagara, though lacking the royal consecration that would truly legitimise his rule.

Illustration: Battleships from the Maldives navigate towards Ceylon/Sri Lanka

The saga of Viradeva’s expedition into Sri Lanka unfolded between the years 1114 and 1117 AD, a time of great turmoil within the island nation. It was an era when the Chola Empire held sway in the region, with their mighty army traversing both land and sea. The Cholas had successfully conquered Sri Lanka, but the Sinhalese, under the resolute leadership of Prince Vijayabahu, reclaimed their homeland after a hard-fought struggle.

However, internal strife marred the unity of the Sinhalese kingdom. Upon the death of Vijayabahu, his half-brother Jayabahu ascended to the throne, bypassing the rightful heir, Vikkamabahu. This controversial decision sparked a bitter feud between the brothers, leading to seven fierce conflicts that divided the royal family and exacerbated the chaos among the nobles.

Amidst this turmoil, Viradeva saw an opportune moment to extend his influence beyond the shores of the Maldives. Sensing the fractured state of Sri Lanka, he set his sights on seizing the moment. And so, it was during the seventh clash between Vikkamabahu and Jayabahu that Viradeva, the valiant king of the Maldives, made his bold entrance into Sri Lanka’s history.

Little is known about the enigmatic Viradeva, but what remains clear is that he arrived in Sri Lanka at a time of political upheaval and discord. Palandipa, the land of the Aryans, which ancient inscriptions and foreign accounts refer to as an ancient name for the Maldives, was the starting point of Viradeva’s audacious campaign.

As the story unfolds, the intrigue deepens. The Chulavamsa, the historical scripture of Sri Lankan kings, reveals hints of this extraordinary episode. The ancient inscriptions found in the Maldives including the Kudahuvadhoo Loamaafaanu allude to the connection between Palandipa and the illustrious Maldivian kingdom. These remnants of history provide compelling evidence for the extraordinary tale of the Maldives’ occupation of Sri Lanka.

In retracing this forgotten chapter, one cannot help but marvel at the audacity of Viradeva’s ambition. It was a time when empires clashed, and the destiny of nations hung in the balance. The resolute Sinhalese, in their defiance, refused to bow to the invader. With valour and unwavering determination, they rallied under Vikkamabahu’s leadership, ultimately prevailing in a battle that consigned Viradeva to the pages of history.

The echoes of this ancient saga resonate through time, a testament to the intertwined tapestry of the Maldives and Sri Lanka. It serves as a reminder of the ebb and flow of power, the unyielding spirit of those who defend their homelands, and the captivating tales that emerge from the depths of history.

So, let us reminisce about this extraordinary account, passed down through generations. The tale of King Viradeva’s audacious invasion and the valiant resistance of the Sinhalese continue to captivate our imaginations and serve as a testament to the indomitable spirit of the people who shaped our shared past.

Note: This article has been translated into English and edited for accuracy by Maldives Republic.