Kuttam Pokuna (Twin Ponds) of Anuradhapura (අනුරාධපුර කූට්ටම් පොකුණ)

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Kuttam Pokuna or the twin ponds is another hydrologic engineering marvel of ancient Sri Lanka. These two ponds belong to the Abayagiri aramic complex and have probably been used by the monks for bathing. The origins of these ponds are not known but it is thought to have been built during the reign of King Aggabodhi I (575-608).

It can be seen that the smaller pond (the northern) was constructed first and the larger one at a later stage from the fine architectural differences between the two. They are connected through a pipeline at the bottom. The northern pond is 91 feet (28 meters) long and the other is 132 feet (40 meters). Both are 51 feet (15.5 meters) wide and there is a gap of 9 feet (2.7 feet) between the 2 ponds. In the northern pond, there are 2 flights of stone steps each with 20 steps with a simple balustrade. The southern pond has 3 flights of steps each with 18 stone steps broken into 3 stages with an equal number of balustrades. The pots of plenty (Punkalasa’s) at each pond differ from each other.

Water to these ponds has been supplied through underground pipelines and the water is sent through several filtering chambers which acted as slit traps (which you can still see) before it falls on the northern pond through a mouth of a dragon. The water from both ponds is drained from a small outlet in the smaller northern pond. The southern pond is supplied water through a duct below ground level. Water from both ponds drains out from a duct at the bottom of the smaller pond. A finely carved five-hooded cobra under a Makara Thorana (Dragon Arch) is also a unique sculpture. Another carving of a cobra is found at the water supply to the northern pond.

Restoration of Kuttam Pokuna has been taken up several times during the last century but the full restoration was carried out in the 1950s under the direction of then Commissioner of Archaeology Prof. Senarath Paranavithana. He reports in his 1952 report that restoration was been carried out on the northern pond. Large stones, some measuring as much as 22’x2’x1′, had been used in building this pond. Two purnaghatas were missing and they were replaced by two concrete ones.

The main effort at Anuradhapura, as in the past three years, has been at the Kuttam Pokuna. The dismantling of the stonework of the larger bath was continued throughout the year, and was completed towards the end of the period. The necessity of pumping out the water during the rainy weather slowed down operations. A large number of stone slabs which had fallen down and sunk in the mud at the bottom of the pond were recovered. It appears that, at a later period, when the inlet channels which fed the bath were no longer functioning, the necessity was felt to store a sufficient quantity of water during the rains so that the bath would retain some water during the dry season. This was achieved by deepening the bed of the pond, leaving as much of earth at the base of the retaining walls as was necessary to prevent their collapse. But this procedure must have inevitably weakened the stability of the stone-work which, due to this cause, as well as the action of the roots of trees which grew luxuriantly during the seven centuries or so after these baths, in common with the other monuments of ancient Anuradhapura, were given over to the jungle, were dislodged from their position, some falling into the pit in the centre. The rain water which flowed into the abandoned pond during seven hundred years brought with it silt mixed with decayed vegetable matter and about six feet of black earth thus accumulated had to be removed before natural ground was encountered.’

In addition to the disjecta membra of the side retaining walls of the bath, one of the six ‘purnaghatas’ which originally adorned its three entrances was also recovered from this silt, This purnaghatas, of which the top is damaged, is of a more ornate type than the similar features which adorned the adjoining bath-a circumstance in keeping with the more complicated architectural design of this bath when compared with the adjoining one. This discovery is of great help in the work of restoration ; otherwise, there would have been no alternative but to conclude that the purnaghatas of this bath were replicas of those of the other. Thus a deviation might have been made from the original design of the bath, even though it be with regard to a detail of ornamentation. The discovery of the purnaghata has enabled the restoration of the bath to its pristine condition without deviating even in this particular from its original design.

After the dismantling of the stone-work which had not shifted much from its original position, it was necessary to ascertain, with the help of the clues afforded by their outlines, the places which the scattered stones occupied in the original architectural scheme. This work was rendered more difficult by the reason that, in the side which was restored before the Archaeological Department came into being, no attempt had been made to put back the stones into their original positions. Arranging the various courses according to the original scheme was thus a wry slow and laborious process. A stone had to be shifted about many times before it could finally he ascertained that it had been brought in contact with what had been its neighbour when the bath left the hands of the builders. Many of the problems have, nevertheless, been solved and we arc now in a position to begin the work of reconstruction.

Before this is undertaken, however, another matter has to be settled beyond a possibility of doubt. That is the correct level of the foundation of the retaining walls, so that, when this pond is restored, its relationship with its neighbour is exactly the same as it was of old. As the edges of the stones are wasted, it is not quite. feasible to calculate this by measuring the thickness of the stones of the various courses. Nor is there any evidence to conclude that the foundations of the retaining walls of this bath were at the identical level of those of the adjoining one. The cornices of the parapet formed by the continuation of the retaining walls have been on the same level. Thus, in order to eliminate the possibility of being confronted with an error after the stones had been fixed in their positions, it was decided to temporarily lay the stones of the various courses of a section of the northern side, which is separated by the southern side of the adjoining bath by a distance of only 9ft., the two being locked together by two slabs of stone at ground level, each one stretching from the base of the parapet of one bath to that of the other.

Kuttam Pokuna, or the twin ponds of Abhayagiri Vihara Complex lies just 600 meters east of the Abhayagri Stupa and 400 meters east of the famous Samadhi Statue.


  • Paranavitana, S., 1953. Report of the Archeological Survey of Ceylon for 1952. Colombo, Sri Lanka: Government Publication Bureau, pp.G24-G25.
  • Paranavitana, S., 1954. Report of the Archeological Survey of Ceylon for 1953. Colombo, Sri Lanka: Government Publication Bureau, pp.G12-G13.
  • Seneviratna, A., 1994. Ancient Anuradhapura. 1st ed. Colombo: Archaeological Survey Department, Sri Lanka.

Also See

Map of Kuttam Pokuna (Twin Ponds)

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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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Traveling Directions to Kuttam Pokuna (Anuradhapura)

Colombo to Anuradhapura By Bus

Anuradhapura is easily reached by bus, train or private transport. Air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned buses start at the Colombo Fort Main Bus Station. There are luxury busses which start from various places in Colomb travelling past Anuradhapura, to Vavuniya and Jaffna. However, you need to search the web and book a seat. These luxury buses mostly travel at night reaching their final destination early in the morning.

Colombo to Anuradhapura By Train

5 daily trains are starting from Fort Railway Station to Anuradhapura. Generally, the first train leaves at 9.40 am and the last train at 8.30 pm. Travel time is 4-5 hours depending on the number of stops of the particular train.

Colombo to Anuradhapura By Car or Van

Anuradhapura can be reached through many routes from Colombo. The two main routes are through Puttalam (Puttalama) and through Kurunegala. Travelling from Puttalam, you will pass the scenic Wilpattu area. There are two main routes to Anuradhapura from Kurunegala. The most common route is through Dambulla. The other route is through Galgamuwa. Out of all the routes, the most commonly used is the Kurunegala-Dambulla route (Route 2).

Route 01 from Colombo to AnuradhapuraRoute 02 from Colombo to Anuradhapura
Through : Negombo – Chilaw – Puttalam
Distance from Colombo : 210 km
Travel time : 4.30- 5.00 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map
Through : Katunayake Expressway – Central Expressway – Kurunegala – Dambulla
Distance from Colombo : 223 km
Travel Time : 4.30- 5.00 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google maps
Route 03 from Colombo to AnuradhapuraRoute from Kandy to Anuradhapura
Through : Katunayake Expressway – Narammala – Wariyapola – Padeniya – Thambuthegama
Distance from Colombo :203 km
Travel Time : 4.30- 5.00 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map
Through : Katugastota – Matale – Dambulla
Distance from Colombo :136 km
Travel Time : 3.5 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map

Photos before restoration from www.imagesofceylon.com

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