Ancient Reservoirs and Irrigation Systems of Sri Lanka (ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ පුරාණ වාරි කර්මාන්ත)

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Irrigation systems of ancient Sri Lanka consisted of a large number of village reservoirs to gigantic reservoirs and an intrinsic network of water canals connecting these tanks while supplying water to farming land. There are about 30,000 reservoirs in Sri Lanka of which the majority were built from the 3rd century BC to the 12th century. This compared to the Sri Lankan dry zone land area of about 40,000 sq. kilometres (where almost all the tanks are located), is almost equivalent to one reservoir for each sq. kilometre.

The first large reservoir to be built in recorded history was Abaya Wewa in the 3rd century BC. From that day onward Sri Lankan tank builders developed a remarkable expertise in controlling large bodies of water which allowed them to build massive reservoirs that no other civilization ever could have dreamt of.

The breakthrough that made the Sri Lankan Irrigation Engineers build such massive reservoirs was the invention of the “Biso Kotuwa” of valve pit as early as the 3rd century BC which could easily regulate the outflow of extremely large water bodies. Europeans started using the valve pits in their reservoirs only in the mid-18th century, 2100 years later according to H. Parker, an Irrigation Engineer who was in charge of restoring many ancient irrigation reservoirs in the late 1800s, in his book ‘Ancient Ceylon’

He goes on to say,

……..At first, only the simplest works of the smaller class, with very low embankments, would be undertaken; but when a better knowledge of the art of raising such banks of earth to hold back greater depths of water was acquired, schemes of a more comprehensive character would be attempted, until at last no reservoir was looked upon as too great to be constructed, and the lengths of the embankments extended for any distance up to a maximum of nine miles, while their heights in a few instances rose to more than fifty feet…………..

……… It may appear to be such a simple matter to raise a long bank of earth in order to hold back a certain quantity of rain water for bathing purposes or for watering an adjoining rice field after the rains have ceased, that any people living in hot countries where the rains are only seasonal and are followed by several almost rainless months might be expected to be struck by the idea of making these little reservoirs for themselves, without its transmission from another country ; but as a matter of fact the notion of reservoir-making appears to have been originated in only one country, and never to have been invented independently elsewhere, at any rate in the Old World. …………

Another development of the ancient irrigation systems is the remarkable instrumentation precision. When King Dathusena (459-477 AD) built Yodha Ela, also known as Jayaganga, the ancient irrigation engineers first found out that the Kala Wewa in Polonnaruwa was built on a slightly elevated ground compared to Tissa Wewa in Anuradhapura. Then he built the 54-mile ( 87 Km ) Yoda Ela with a gradient of 6-12 inches per mile (approx 10 to 20 cm per kilometre) to carry excess water in the Kala Wewa to Tissa Wewa. How these engineers could achieve such precision still baffles experts today.


001 | Ancient Reservoirs of Sri Lanka
002 | Ancient Sinhalese Hydraulics
003 | Ecosystem based indigenous water management
004 | Sri Lanka’s Reservoirs and Irrigation Canals

Ancient Reservoirs and Other Irrigation Marvels in Sri Lanka

001 | Ancient Doradaththika Amuna on Daduru Oya
002 | Ancient Ellagala Naka Amuna across Kirindi Oya (ඇල්ලේගල නකා අමුණ)
003 | Ancient Ellegala Amuna across Kirindi Oya (පුරාණ ඇල්ලේගල අමුණ)
004 | Ancient Ilukwewa Amuna Across Yan Oya
005 | Ancient Iratperiyakulam Wewa and Buddhist Ruins (ඊරට්පෙරියකුලම වැව සහ බෞද්ධ නටබුන්)
006 | Ancient Kokebe Amuna across Yan Oya
007 | Ancient Kottabaddha Amuna on Daduru Oya
008 | Ancient Mamaduwa Wewa (වව්නියාවේ මාමඩුව වැව)
009 | Ancient Minipe Amuna (Manimekhala Amuna) over Mahaweli (පැරණි මිණිපේ අමුණ)
010 | Ancient Peraru Amuna Hidden off the Jungles of Mulathivu
011 | Ancient Reservoirs of Ethimale, Kotiyagala and Panama
012 | Ancient Thekkama Amuna (Anicut) : En Route to Mannar (යෝධ වැවට ජලය සපයන තේක්කම අමුණ)
013 | Ancient Vannadi Paalama and Amuna (Anicut) in Mulathivu
014 | Ancient Wahalkada Amuna on Yan Oya
015 | Ancient Wahalkada Wewa Reservoir
016 | Ancient Weerawila Gal Amuna across Kirindi Oya (වීරවිල ගල් අමුණ)
017 | Ancient Wilewewa Amuna Across Yan Oya
018 | Angammedilla Gal Amuna / Rajabemma at Polonnaruwa (පරාක්‍රම සමුද්‍රයට ජලය සපයන අංගම්මැඩිල්ල ගල් අමුණ)
019 | Angamuwa Wewa Reservoir (අංගමුව වැව)
020 | Bandagiriya Wewa Reservoir (බඳගිරිය වැව)
021 | Basawakkulama Wewa (Abaya Wewa) - First Reservoir to be in the recorded history of Sri Lanka (බසවක්කුලම වැව)
022 | Bathalagoda Wewa Reservoir in Kurunegala (කුරුනෑගල බතලගොඩ වැව)
023 | Buit by the Demons : Ancient Yakabamma Amuna on Kala Oya of King Mahasen
024 | Debara Wewa in Tissamaharama (දෙබර වැව)
025 | Elahera Gal Amuna and Parakrama Inscription (ඇලහැර ගල් අමුන සහ පරාක්‍රම සෙල්ලිපිය)
026 | Erupothana Wewa at Mahakachchakodiya (එරුපොතාන වැව)
027 | Giritale Wewa Reservoir (ගිරිතලේ වැව)
028 | Hulannuge Heda Oya Stone Anicut Archaeological Site (හුලංනුගේ හැඩඔය ගල්අමුණ පුරාවිද්‍යා භූමිය)
029 | Kala Wewa and Yodha Ela (Jaya Ganga) - An irrigation wonder of Ancient Sinhalese (කලා වැව හා ජය ගඟ)
030 | Kalinga Yodha Ela - Mapping of Sri Lanka's Ancient Navigation Channel (කාලිංග යෝධ ඇල)
031 | Kandy Lake : Nuwara Wewa (නුවර වැව)
032 | Kaudulla Ancient Amuna (කවුඩුල්ල පැරණි අමුණ)
033 | Kaudulla Wewa Reservoir (කවුඩුල්ල වැව)
034 | King Agbo's Kantale Wewa Reservoir
035 | Kondawattuwana Wewa and Monastic Ruins (කොණ්ඩවට්ටවාන වැව සහ බෞද්ධ නටබුණ්)
036 | Korasagalla Wewa Biso Kotuwa Ruins (කොරසගල්ල වැව බිසෝ කොටුව)
037 | Kuda Vilachchiya Wewa and its Ruins Inside Wilpattu
038 | Lahugala Yalpotha Reservoir Archaeological Site (ලාහුගල යාල්පොත වැව පුරාවිද්‍යා භූමිය)
039 | Liyangastota Amuna of Walawe Ganga Scheme (ලියන්ගස්තොට අමුණ)
040 | Ma Oya Yaka Bendi Ella Amuna (මා ඔය යකා බැඳි ඇල්ල අමුණ)
041 | Maduru Oya Ancient Sluice (මාදුරු ඔය ඉපැරණි සොරොව්ව)
042 | Magalla Wewa Reservoir and Ridi Bandi Ela
043 | Mahagala Wewa Reservoir (මහගල වැව)
044 | Mahakanadarawa Wewa (මහකනදරා වැව)
045 | Mahavilachchiya Wewa Reservoir of Anuradhapura Kingdom(මහවිලච්චිය වැව)
046 | Mahiyanganaya Kelewala Udaththuwa Wewa / Uda Wewa (මහියංගණය කැලෑවල උඩත්තුව වැව / උඩ වැව)
047 | Malagomuwa Wewa Bisokotu in the Jungles of Wasgamuwa (වස්ගමුව වන තුල සැඟවුණු මාලගොමුව වැව බිසෝකොටු)
048 | Matale Haththota Amuna (මාතලේ හත්තොට අමුණ)
049 | Mavil Aru Amuna and the Reservoir : A Landmark for Resiliency of the People of Sri Lanka
050 | Medirigiriya Kattakulama Ancient Amuna (මැදිරිගිරිය කට්ටකුලම පැරණි අමුණ)
051 | Minneriya Wewa Reservoir (මින්නේරිය වැව)
052 | Mulativu Tannimuruppukulama Wewa Archaeological Ruins
053 | Mulativu Wediwettukallu Amuna Archaeological Ruins
054 | Mutukelina Wewa and the Observation Point in Kandy (මහනුවර මුතුකෙලින වැව)
055 | Nachchaduwa Wewa Reservoir
056 | Nawagiriyawa Wewa Archaeological Ruins in Ampara (අම්පාර නවගිරියාව පුරාවිද්‍යා භූමිය)
057 | Nuwara Wewa of the Ancient Anuradhapura Kingdom (අනුරාධපුර රාජධානියේ නුවර වැව)
058 | Padaviya Wewa and ancient Pillar Inscription
059 | Panda Wewa - The First man made Reservoir in the World (ලොව මුල්ම අංග සම්පුර්ණ වැව වන පඬාවැව සහ එහි නටබුණ්)
060 | Parakrama Samudraya : The Sea of Parakrama (පරාක්‍රම සමුද්‍රය)
061 | Pavatkulama (Pavakkulama) Reservoir in Vavuniya (වව්නියාවේ පාවක්කුලම වැව)
062 | Radella Reservoir Archaeological Site in Panama (පානම රදැල්ල වැව පුරාවිද්‍යා භූමිය)
063 | Rajagalathenna Divulana Wewa and Archaeological Ruins (රජගලතැන්න දිවුලාන වැව සහ පුරාවිද්‍යා භූමිය)
064 | Rambakan Oya Ruins of Ancient Granite Canal (අම්පාර රඹකැන් ඔය ගල් ඇල)
065 | Ruins of Alubedda Gal Palama (Stone Bridge) and Gal Amuna over Kala Oya (අලුබැද්ද පුරාණ ගල් පාලම හා ගල් අමුණ නටබුණ්)
066 | Ruins of Ancient Diga Wewa (Mahakandiya Wewa) Reservoir in Ampara
067 | Ruins of Habagama Gal Palama and Amuna
068 | Ruins of Sukara Nijjara Gal Amuna over Deduru Oya (දැදුරු ඔයේ සූකර නිජ්ජර ගල් අමුණ නටබුණ්)
069 | Ruins of Thimbiripokuna Palamgala Gal Palama (Stone Bridge) and Gal Amuna (තිඹිරිපොකුණ පාලම්ගල පුරාණ ගල් පාලම හා ගල් අමුණ නටබුණ්)
070 | Ruins of Weliela Mankada Gal Palama (Stone Bridge) and Amuna at Ipalogama (වැලිඇල මංකඩ පුරාණ ගල් පාලම හා අමුණ නටබුණ්)
071 | Ruins of Yanoya Gal Palama (Stone Bridge) and Amuna (යාන් ඔය පුරාණ ගල් පාලම සහ අමුණ නටබුණ්)
072 | Sangilikanadara Wewa Reservoir in Medawachchiya (මැදවච්චිය සංගිලිකනදරාව වැව)
073 | Sorabora Wewa and the Unique Natural Stone Sluice (සොරබොර වැව)
074 | Tabbowa Wewa Reservoir (තබ්බෝව වැව)
075 | Tampitiya Reservoir Ancient Bisokotuwa and Sluice in Mahaoya (මහඔය ටැම්පිටිය වැව පුරාණ බිසෝකොටුව සහ සොරොව්ව)
076 | The Forgotten Ancient Sluice Gate of Parakrama Samudraya (පරාක්‍රම සමුද්‍රය පැරණි සොරොව්ව)
077 | Thuruwila Wewa in Anuradhapura (තුරුවිල වැව)
078 | Tissa Wewa at Tissamaharama (තිස්සමහාරාම තිස්ස වැව)
079 | Tissa Wewa Reservoir in Anuradhapura (අනුරාධපුර තිසා වැව)
080 | Uggal Kalthota Amuna (උග්ගල් කල්තොට අමුණ)
081 | Urusita Wewa and the Seven Hooded Cobra Guard Stone (ඌරුසිටා වැව)
082 | Usgala Siyambalangamuwa Wewa (සියඹලන්ගමුව වැව)
083 | Uyanwatta Wewa of Raigama Kingdom
084 | Vavunikulama Reservoir (වවුනිකුලම වැව)
085 | Weerawila Reservoir (වීරවිල වැව)
086 | Yoda Wewa at Mannar - Supporting the Rice Bowl of Sri Lanka (මන්නාරම අස්වැද්දූ යෝධ වැව)
087 | Yoda Wewa at Tissamaharama (තිස්සමහාරාම යෝධ වැව)


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