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Kala Wewa

  Province North Centrel
  District Anuradapura
  Nearest Town Kakirawa
  Area 18.1 km2
  Period 459-477 AD
  Ruler King Dhatusena

Kala Wewa is one of the magnificent reservoirs of the ancient world. This reservoir has a circumference of 64.37 km and has a total area of seven square miles at full capacity. The ancient spill (pitawana) is measured to be 65.83m in width and 51.81m in length. For comparison, the width of the spill is more than three quarters length of a soccer field! The spill was built using hammered Granite, a solid structure one could imagine. Each block of Granite is shaped precisely to fit its neighbor. The whole structure eventually acts like one huge rock.

Maginificent view of Kala Wewa

The embankment of Kalawewa is 18 to 24 m high with a base of more than 61 m and a length of 4.82 km According to the tradition, a tunnel was built to carry water from Amban river to Mirisgoni river to Kalawewa. So far this tunnel has not been found. (It is not clear whether anyone seriously looked for it).

Where Does Kala wewa Get its Water

Immense dam was constructed across Dambulu Oya and Mirisgoni Oyas. (Oya means river in Sinhalese). More water is obtained from Hawnell Oya and drainage coming from the Matale hills also being captured. Kalawewa is main Lake did by King Dhatusena, not only that he did many other constructions, such as 87 km long canal from Kalawewa to the city of Anuradhapura known as Jayaganga. It is not an exaggeration to say that very existence of the city of Anuradhapura was dependant on Kalawewa and Jayaganga. Another canal, not inferior to Jayaganga was built to connect Kalawewa with the Siyambalagamuwa reservoir and thirty other small reservoirs.

Kadawara Deviyo

According to the Sinhalese tradition, King Dhatusena appointed a man named Kadawara to maintain the magnificent Kalawewa. One day there was a breach in the bund. In order to stop the breach, Kadawara placed himself in the breach until workers repair it. During the event, Kadawara died and became a god. Today Kadawara is considered to be guarding the reservoir as a god as he did while he was alive.

When George Turnour (First to translate Mahavamsa to English) visited the site, he was unable to understand why such a huge spill was built. Turnour wrote “One of the most stupendous monuments of misapplied labor in the island”. Same sentiment was expressed by Emmerson Tennent. Later it was found out that such a large spill and an embankment is necessary to withstand flood waters during the heavy monsoon season.

Note by D.S Senanayake on Kalawewa (First Prime Minister of Lanka):

“When we have evidence before our eyes of a bund of over 13 million cubic meters which at ordinary rates of labor in this country must have cost 1,300,000 British Pounds, a sum which would be sufficient to form an English railway of 193 km long, and we remember that bund is one of a number of embankments that held together immense reservoirs in the country. When we have the testimony of a modern Engineering expert that as one whose duties permitted him to gain an intimate acquaintance with the ancient works he could never conceal his admiration of the Engineering knowledge of the designers of the great irrigation schemes of Ceylon and the skill with which they constructed”.

D.S Senanayake, (Ref: R.L Brohier, Ancient Irrigation Works of Ceylon)

Author’s Note: Above note was written in 1933, seventy years ago. Assuming an average inflation rate of 7%, the thirteen mile long bund would need 148 million British pounds (240 million US dollars) to complete it today!.

As mentioned earlier, Jayaganga was built to bring water from Kalawewa to the city of Anuradhapura. There are three major reservoirs in the city of Anuradhapura. They are Abhaya wewa, Tissa wewa and Nuwara wewa. Water from Kalawewa was used to feed these three reservoirs in the city and the Nachchaduwa reservoir just outside the city. Jayaganga is approximately 87 km in length and 12.19 m in width. Many irrigation Engineers are baffled how such a long canal with a width of 12.19 m could have been planned and constructed 1,500 years ago.