Tamil Nadu was divided into three principal kingdoms, namely, Chera Nadu, Chola Nadu and Pandya Nadu, and ruled by Chera, Chola and Pandya kings. (This arrangement goes back to from the very beginning of written Tamil history.) During the reign of Rajathi Raja Cholan II over Chola Nadu (1163 - 1179), there was a quarrel within the Pandyan royal family for the throne of Pandiya Nadu. Both Parakkirama Pandyan and Kulasekhara Pandyan claimed the throne. Local chieftains within Pandya Nadu (who ruled small principalities subservient to the Pandya throne) took sides and a civil war ensued in Pandya Nadu.
Parakkirama Pandyan held the capital city of Madurai and Kulasekhara Pandyan laid siege to it. Instead of keeping the fight within Pandya Nadu or even seeking help from a fellow Tamil king, Parakkirama Pandyan sought help from the Sinhala king Parakramabahu who was ruling the nearby island of Lanka. (Lanka is today called Sri Lanka. British called it Ceylon when it was part of the British Empire. Tamils used to call it Eelam or Ilankai. In recent years "Tamil Eelam" is used to refer to the historical Tamil homeland in the northern and eastern regions of the island.) Parakramabahu sent an army under the command of a Sinhala general, Lankapura (Lankapuri in Tamil). Before the army reached Pandya Nadu, Kulasekhara Pandyan capture Madurai and killed Parakkirama Pandyan. His son Veera Pandyan fled the capital and went into hiding. By now the Sinhala army landed in Pandya Nadu with orders from King Parakramabahu to defeat Kulasekhara Pandyan and put Veera Pandyan on the throne. The Sinhala army captured the coastal town of Rameshwaram and destroyed much of the famed Hindu temple for Lord Sivan (Lord Siva).
The Sinhala army marched from the coast into the interior of Pandya Nadu. It looted and burned many Tamil villages on the way. In the ensuing battles between the Sinhala army and Kulasekhara Pandyan's army, the latter met with defeat after defeat. Lankapura brought Veera Pandyan from hiding and installed him as the Pandya king in Madurai.
Kulasekhara Pandyan gathered all forces in Padya Nadu loyal to him and waged war again and won a major victory against Lankapura. Veera Pandyan fled Madurai again. Lankan King Parakramabahu sent reinforcements under the command of another Sinhala General, Jagat Vijaya (Jagat Vijayan). The combined forces of Lankapura and Jagat Vijaya defeated Kulasekhara Pandyan. The latter fled to the south (what is now known as Thirunelveli District) and sought help from the Chola King Rajathi Raja Cholan II. Rajathi Rajan sent an army under General Pallavarayan (Pallavarayar) to Pandya Nadu. He fought several battles with the Sinhalese army. Some of the major battles were at Thirukkanapaer, Thondi, Pasipon Amaravathi, Manamerkudi and Manjakudi. In the end Sinhalese army lost and Kulasekhara Pandyan became king of Pandya Nadu.
Furious at reports of the devastation of Pandya Nadu under the Sinhala army (looting and burning of villages, killing of villagers, desecration of the Rameswaram temple), Rajarthiraja Cholan ordered General Pallavarayan to capture and execute General Lankapuri who commanded the Sinhala army in Pandya Nadu. Pallavarayan pursued Lankapuri, captured him and beheaded him. The severed head was hoisted on a spear at the gates of Madurai, the Pandyan capital. Crows and other birds ate the flesh of the head, and the skull remained on display at the gates for months. Thus ended the occupation of Pandya Nadu (about one-third of Tamil Nadu) by the Sinhalese army. [NOTE: The beheading and the public display of the severed head may look uncivilized and barbaric today but it was not an uncommon practice in those days. Today war criminals are executed in private (example: many German and Japanese officers were executed after the Second Word War in the 1940s).]