Ancient Reservoirs and Irrigation Systems of Sri Lanka – ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ පුරාණ වාරිමාර්ග

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Parakrama Samudraya
Parakrama Samudraya

Irrigation systems of ancient Sri Lanka consist of a large number of village reservoirs to gigantic reservoirs and a intrinsic network of water canals connecting these tanks while supplying water to farming land. There about 30,000 reservoirs in Sri Lanka of which the majority was built form 3rd century BC to 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. kilometer.

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

The breakthrough which made the Sri Lankan Irrigation Engineers build such massive reservoirs was invention of the “Biso Kotuwa” of valve pit as early as 3rd century BC which could easily regulate the out flow extremely large water bodies. Europeans stared 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 late 1800’s, 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 Pollonaruwa 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 kilometer) 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
005 | ජලාශ ආරක්‍ෂක බල ඇණිය

Ancient reservoirs and other irrigation marvels in Sri Lanka

001 | Ancient Doradaththika Amuna on Daduru Oya - දැදුරු ඔය පුරාණ දෝරදත්තික අමුණ
002 | Ancient Ilukwewa Amuna on Yan Oya
003 | Ancient Kokebe Amuna across Yan Oya
004 | Ancient Kottabaddha Amuna on Daduru Oya - දැදුරු ඔය පුරාණ කොට්‌ඨබද්ධ අමුණ
005 | Ancient Mamaduwa Wewa - වව්නියාවේ මාමඩුව වැව
006 | Ancient Thekkama Amuna (Anicut) : En Route to Mannar - යෝධ වැවට ජලය සපයන තේක්කම අමුණ
007 | Ancient Wahalkada Amuna on Yan Oya
008 | Ancient Wilewewa Amuna Across Yan Oya
009 | Angammedilla Gal Amuna (Rajabemma) at Polonnaruwa - පරාක්‍රම සමුද්‍රයට ජලය සපයන අංගම්මැඩිල්ල ගල් අමුණ
010 | Angamuwa Wewa Reservoir - අංගමුව වැව
011 | Bandagiriya Wewa Reservoir - බඳගිරිය වැව
012 | Basawakkulama Wewa (Abaya Wewa) - First Reservoir to be in the recorded history of Sri Lanka - බසවක්කුලම වැව
013 | Bathalagoda Wewa Reservoir in Kurunegala - කුරුනෑගල බතලගොඩ වැව
014 | Buit by the Demons : Ancient Yakabamma Amuna on Kala Oya of King Mahasen
015 | Debara Wewa in Tissamaharama - දෙබර වැව
016 | Elahera Gal Amuna and Prakarama Inscription - ඇලහැර ගල් අමුන සහ පරාක්‍රම සෙල්ලිපිය
017 | Erupothana Wewa at Mahakachchakodiya - එරුපොතාන වැව
018 | Giritale Wewa Reservoir - ගිරිතලේ වැව
019 | Iratperiyakulama Reservoir - ඊරට්ටපෙරියකුලම (ඉරට්පෙරියකුලම) වැව
020 | Kala Wewa and Yodha Ela (Jaya Ganga) - An irrigation wonder of Ancient Sinhalese - කලා වැව හා ජය ගඟ
021 | Kalinga Yodha Ela - Mapping of Sri Lanka's Ancient Navigation Channel - කාලිංග යෝධ ඇල
022 | Kande Ela Reservoir in Nuwara Eliya - නුවර එලියේ කන්දේ ඇල ජලාශය
023 | Kandy Lake (Nuwara Weva) - නුවර වැව
024 | Kantale Wewa Reservoir - කන්තලේ වැව
025 | Kaudulla Wewa Reservoir - කවුඩුල්ල වැව
026 | Kondawattuwana Wewa and Monastic Ruins - කොණ්ඩවට්ටවාන වැව සහ බෞද්ධ නටබුණ්
027 | Kotmale Reservoir - කොත්මලේ ජලාශය
028 | Mahagala Wewa Reservoir - මහගල වැව
029 | Mahakanadarawa Wewa - මහකනදරා වැව
030 | Mahavilachchiya Wewa Reservoir of Anuradhapura Kingdom - මහවිලච්චිය වැව
031 | Matale Haththota Amuna - මාතලේ හත්තොට අමුණ
032 | Minneriya Wewa Reservoir - මින්නේරිය වැව
033 | Mutukelina Wewa and the Observation Point in Kandy - මහනුවර මුතුකෙලින වැව
034 | Nachchaduwa Wewa Reservoir - නාච්චාදූව වැව
035 | Nuwara Wewa of the Ancient Anuradhapura Kingdom - අනුරාධපුර රාජධානියේ නුවර වැව
036 | Padaviya Wewa and ancient Inscription
037 | Panda Wewa - The First man made Reservoir in the World - ලොව මුල්ම අංග සම්පුර්ණ වැව වන පඬාවැව සහ එහි නටබුණ්
038 | Parakrama Samudraya (The Sea of Parakrama) - පරාක්‍රම සමුද්‍රය
039 | Pavakkulama (Pavatkulama) Reservoir in Vavuniya - වව්නියාවේ පාවක්කුලම වැව
040 | Rambakan Oya Reservoir - රඹකැන් ඔය ජලාශය
041 | Rambakan Oya Ruins of Ancient Granite Canal - අම්පාර රඹකැන් ඔය ගල් ඇල
042 | Ruins of Alubedda Gal Palama (Stone Bridge) and Gal Amuna over Kala Oya - අලුබැද්ද පුරාණ ගල් පාලම හා ගල් අමුණ නටබුණ්
043 | Ruins of Habagama Gal Palama and Amuna - හබගම පුරාණ ගල් පාලම ගල් අමුණ නටබුණ්
044 | Ruins of Sukara Nijjara Gal Amuna over Deduru Oya - දැදුරු ඔයේ සූකර නිජ්ජර ගල් අමුණ නටබුණ්
045 | Ruins of Thimbiripokuna Palamgala Gal Palama (Stone Bridge) and Gal Amuna - තිඹිරිපොකුණ පාලම්ගල පුරාණ ගල් පාලම හා ගල් අමුණ නටබුණ්
046 | Ruins of Yanoya Gal Palama (Stone Bridge) and Amuna - යාන් ඔය පුරාණ ගල් පාලම සහ අමුණ නටබුණ්
047 | Senananayake Samudraya - සේනානායක සමුද්‍රය
048 | Sorabora Wewa with a Unique Natural Stone Sluice - සොරබොර වැව
049 | Tabbowa Wewa Reservoir - තබ්බෝව වැව
050 | Tampitiya Reservoir Ancient Bisokotuwa and Sluice in Mahaoya - මහඔය ටැම්පිටිය වැව පුරාණ බිසෝකොටුව සහ සොරොව්ව
051 | Thuruwila Wewa in Anuradhapura - තුරුවිල වැව
052 | Tissa Wewa at Tissamaharama - තිස්සමහාරාම තිස්ස වැව
053 | Tissa Wewa in Anuradhapura - අනුරාධපුර තිසා වැව
054 | Uggal kalthota Amuna - උග්ගල් කල්තොට අමුණ
055 | Urusita Wewa and the Seven Hooded Cobra Guard Stone - ඌරුසිටා වැව
056 | Usgala Siyambalangamuwa Wewa - සියඹලන්ගමුව වැව
057 | Vavunikulama Reservoir - වවුනිකුලම වැව
058 | Weerawila Reservoir - වීරවිල වැව
059 | Wilpita Wewa / Lenabatuwa Wewa - විල්පිට / ලේනබටුව වැව
060 | Yoda Wewa at Mannar - supporting the rice bowl of Sri Lanka - මන්නාරම අස්වැද්දූ යෝධ වැව
061 | Yoda Wewa at Tissamaharama - තිස්සමහාරාම යෝධ වැව
062 | විල්පත්තුව තුල කුඩාවිලච්චිය වැව හා නටබුන් - Kuda Vilachchiya Wewa and its Ruins inside Wilpattu