Kaudulla Wewa Reservoir (කවුඩුල්ල වැව)

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Sri Lanka’s reservoir-building technology was at its peak during the mid-Anuradhapura Kingdom era to  Polonnaruwa Kingdom Era ( 1017-1236) and most of the largest reservoirs in the country were built during this period. The Parakrama Samudraya is the largest,  constructed with a 14-kilometre dam encompassing 5 reservoirs within it. It was built by King Parakramabahu the Great during the 12th century. But some other gigantic reservoirs such as Minnerya Wewa and Kaudulla Wewa are some of the earlier works belonging to the 3rd Century.

The greatest reservoir builder King Mahasen  (276-303)  who ruled in Anuradhapura is credited with building the Kaudulla Wewa along with 15 other reservoirs and 2 canals. This reservoir dam (bund) is 15 meters tall with a width of 120 meters at the base and runs for a distance of 9.2 km with a capacity of 64 million cubic meters covering an area of 24.5 sq. km.

According to the chronicles, both King Vijayabahu (1055-1110) and King Parakramabahu the Great, (1153-1186) respectively had carried out rehabilitation work on the reservoir which was formed by building a bund across Kaudulu Oya. The reservoir receives water along the Elahera-Kantale Giant Canal which begins at Elahera Anicut on Amban Ganga, built by King Vasabha (65-109).

The Kaudulla Wewa lies off the main roads of Sri Lanka and attracts very little attention except for the Kaudulla National Park, which surrounds this reservoir, very little is spoken of this gigantic irrigation wonder of the 3rd century which in fact is a much larger construction that the popular Minneriya Wewa.

Kaudulla Wewa and the Minneriya Wewa are also set deep in the folklore and legends. One of the traditional tales suggests that after King Mahasens’s death when a prolonged drought took its toll on the country and unfavourable seasons for cultivation produced famine and disease, the people of Minneriya turned to their great leader who was said to have supernatural powers to carry out such mammoth tasks and made offerings to Mahasen Deviyo begging for his protection.

King Mahasen was a controversial figure in the history of Sri Lanka. Misguided by his teacher, he destroyed the Maha Viharaya of Anuradhapura, the centre of Theravada Buddhism. He used the material from this temple to build a competing temple Jethavanaramaya where Mahayana Buddhism was practiced.

As told by a villager in Polonnaruwa, according to legend, Mahasen had a sister called Princess Bisobandara. She fell in love with a common man and Mahasen, enraged by this affair chased away princess Bisobandara from the palace to live in exile with her husband.

Seven years after Mahasen started work on the Minneriya Wewa which was to be his greatest achievement of all,  he was still unable to complete it with the massive bund breaching at the same place every time the work was nearing completion. Then one of the sooth Sayers in the palace informed him that this breach was due to an evil spirit who was angered for not offering him a sacrifice. This could only be avoided by making a human sacrifice. This was no normal sacrifice which had to be done, but he had to sacrifice a prince.

Mahasen was horrified at the thought of sacrificing one of his sons, but then he remembered that Princess Bisobandara now had a son who was living in exile with his mother.  The king ordered his chief minister to bring the prince and carry out the sacrifice. The minister who was fond of this child, instead killed a wild boar, wrapped it in a cloth and dropped it to the pit where the bund was breached. The workers soon covered this body with the earth and started building the dam with the body buried inside.

Finally, the dam was completed without a further incident and when the day of the ceremonial opening approached, the king was grieved by the act he had done to satisfy the daemon. When the chief minister realised this he disclosed his secret and informed that the son of Princess Bisobandara was well and alive. Thrilled by this news, he decided to forgive his sister and invited her to the grand opening ceremony of the most proud achievement in his life.

It is said that Bisobandara attended this ceremony and Mahasen showed her his achievement with great pride, she told him, My King, I too have not been idling while in exile. I have built a greater reservoir than this with the help of people and took him to show her achievement, the Great Kaudulla Wewa.

Although history gives credit for building the Kaudulla Wewa to King Mahasen, even today one of the roads leading the Kaudulla Bund from Habarana – Minneriya Road carries the name of this forgotten princess, Bisobandara.

Also See

Map of  the Kaudulla Wewa

Please click on the button below to load the Dynamic Google Map (ගූගල් සිතියම් පහලින්)
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The map above also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites

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Travelling to Kaudulla Wewa

Route from Habarana to Kaudulla Wewa
Through : Hataras Kotuwa
Distance : 24 km
Travel time : 35 minutes
Driving directions : see on google map

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