Ancient Kottabaddha Amuna on Daduru Oya
The civilization of Sri Lanka was a an irrigation based civilization from the beginning. Reservoirs, which started with small tank systems, became complex irrigation systems by the 1st century AD. King Parakramabahu the Great (1153-1186) during the Polonnaruwa period was able to bring the declining irrigation systems in Sri Lanka back to to the forefront. C .W. Nicholas, referring the Culavamsa in 1954, lists the figures of the newly established or renovated irrigation industry by King Parakramabahu as follows:
- Major reservoirs – 163
- Minor reservoirs – 2376
- Anicuts (Amunu) – 165
- Canals – 3910
- Stone sluice – 341
- Repaired broken places – 1753
The Culavamsa (Chapter 68, chapters 32-38) states that during the reign of Southern Sub Kingdom, Prince Parakramabahu, had built 3 Amunas across Deduru Oya, diverted water to canals and cultivated the fertile fields in the area (Chapter 68, chapters 32-38). These 3 anicuts are;
- Kottabaddha Amuna (කොට්ඨබද්ධ අමුණ)
- Sukara Nijjara Amuna (සූකර නිජ්ජර අමුණ)
- Doradaththika Amuna (දෝරදත්තික අමුණ)
The Culavamsa also states that after the unification of the island under one rule he built another amuna called ‘Jajjara Najjara‘ (ජඡ්ජර නඡ්ජර) was built on the Deduru Oya.
Although some ruins of the Sukara Nijjara Amuna and the Sukara Nijjara Amuna can be seen today, the ruins of the Kottabaddha Amuna are not visible today. Therefore, the location of this anicut cannot be clearly ascertained. Prince Parakramabahu built at Doradattika Amuna on older ruins built by earlier kings. Therefore this is the oldest of the three and the first Amuna he built. Parakramabahu built this anicut despite the opposition of his ministers as they knew this place was unsuitable for maintaining an anicut as previous kings had tried and failed.
Ignoring his minister’s opinion, Prince Parakrama Bahu insisted and built an Amuna at Kottabaddha, a temple with a dagoba on top of it, cut a large canal up to Rattakara Danavwa and cut down the forest on both sides and converted in to lush paddy fields.
The highly renowned gave the order to rebuild on the river Jajjara the great causeway known as Kotthabaddha which ‘had since long been in ruins, so that the name alone remained, and which had caused the kings of former times the greatest difficulties. The officials all described in every way the difficulties of the work and its lack of permanence even if it were carried out. The King Parakramabahu repudiated the word: “What is there in the world that cannot be carried out by people of energy? That even Rama had a great causeway built by the monkey hosts over the ocean -‘ this tale lives among the people to this day. If my extraordinary power should be the cause of the furthering of the laity and the Order by the union of Lanka under one umbrella, then even at the beginning of the enterprise one sees (in anticipation) its fulfilment”. By such words the energetic one fired their energy. From the causeway as starting-point to the district called Rattakaral the discerning ruler before building the causeway, laid down a large canal, in depth many times the length of a man, very broad and exceedingly solid. As in this district there was a lack of stone masons, the far-famed (King) called together in great number coppersmiths, blacksmiths and goldsmiths and made over to them the business of masonry and made them lay down a dam in which the joints of the stones were scarcely to be seen, very firm, quite massive, like to a solid rock and provided with a complete coating of stucco. As a believer he placed on the height of the causeway a bodhi tree, an image house and a relic shrine. And expert as he was, he so arranged matters that the whole quantity of water was borne through the canal to the sea. On both sides of the canal he had the great wildernesses cleared and many thousands of day’s work fields laid out, and because the land was thickly studded with granaries full of untrussed rice he caused it to be called by the fitting name of Kotthabaddha.Cūlavaṃsa being the more recent part of the Mahāvaṃsa – Part I (1929)
Mr. Chandana Withanachchi has conducted a study on the location of the Kottabaddha Amuna. He ha identified the location of the Amuna about 16 1/2 miles from the Kurunegala district in Nikaweratiya Pradeshiya Secretariat area between Polontalawa on the right bank and Wilagama on the left bank of the Deduru Oya.
Deduru Oya at the place where Kottabaddha Amuna is assumed to have been is about 100 meters wide. This is due to the sand mining in the area. Legend has it that there was an ancient Amuna at this place and 15,000 acres were cultivated from this Amuna during the reign of Parakramabahu. There is no evidence of a Amuna at this location, but there is prima facie evidence that an Amuna had existed.
Above the identified location of the Amuna, there are ruins of two man made canals sorunding Polonthalawa and Wilagama villages. These canals are designed to allow water to flow naturally from the stream. These canals can be supplied with water from the Deduru Oya only by crossing the stream below the canals.
There is a natural rock plateau near the left bank of the place where the anicut was supposed to be. It is called Meemagala and does not extend completely to the south bank. Therefore, this rock plateau is not suitable for holding an Amuna. The spread of the rock cannot be used to strengthen the base of the Amuna. That is why even the kings before Parakramabahu could not build a permanent dam here. It is probably this weakness that the ministers explained to Prince Parakramabahu. You can also see the banks of the river being heighted by filling earth to retain maximum amount of water. Based on the location, the amuna may be at least 3 meters high.
One of the special features of this amuna is that canals have been cut on both sides of the river to carry water away from Deduru Oya . The main canal appears to have been on the south bank. It starts about 800 meters above the anicut. This the canal is known as the Yodha Ela today and is now disused. The canal is about 14 meters wide and 4 meters deep. About five miles below, it joins the Deduru Oya again at Pankuliya. It seems that this is due to a change in the course of the Deduru Oya over time and moving towards the canal. The canal does not stop here and continues for another two miles, it will rejoin the Deduru Oya in the same manner in the area known as Thorawatana due to the same reason and then gradually flows to Pallama area.
The water from this canal first flows into Kollandaluwa Reservoir and from there to Pallama Reservoir. This canal up to Pallama is known as Yoda Ela and from there its called Sengal Oya.
It is said in Culawamsa that Prince Parakramabahu fed the fields up to the sea through a canal diverted from the Kottabadda anicut. Sengal Oya may be the canal that carried the water to the sea. The banks of the Sengal Oya have been destroyed over time. Its original form has completely changed and presently taken on the form of a natural Oya.
The canal is cut on the left bank lies about 1000 meters (about 200 meters from the Yodha Ela) above the ancient Kottabaddha Amuna. The mouth of the canal is now covered with jungle, but you can clearly trace its path heading towards Wilagama. This canal is called Thammenna Ela. The canal is 6.5 m wide at the top and 3.5 m wide at the bottom. There is evidence that the water of this canal was allowed to flow into the Wilagama Ela and then fed to the Ujekele Wewa , Geekiyanagedara Wewa, Thalanpola Maha Wewa and Gotulawa Wewa.
- Chandana R. Withanachchi, 2013. An analysis of Polonthalawa Ancient Kottabaddha dam. Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities, III(2), pp.43-54..
- PARANAVITHANA, S and NICHOLAS, C.W., 1961, A CONCISE HISTORY OF CEYLON. Colombo : CEYLON UNIVERSITY PRESS.
- Geiger, Wilhelm., 1998. Cūlavaṃsa being the more recent part of the Mahāvaṃsa – Part I (1929). 1st ed. New Delhi: J. Jetley.
- මහාවංශය (සිංහල), 2010. , 1. Buddhist Cultural Center.
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Map of Ancient Kottabaddha Amuna
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Driving Directions Ancient Kottabaddha Amuna
|From Chilaw to Ancient Kottabaddha Amuna|
|Via: Bingiriya – Bowatta – Kiniyagama|
Distance : 36 km
Travel Time : 1 hour
Time to Spend : 30 mins
Driving Directions : See Google Maps here