Panda Wewa – The First man made Reservoir in the World – ලොව මුල්ම අංග සම්පුර්ණ වැව වන පඬාවැව සහ එහි නටබුණ්
Panda wewa is an ancient reservoir lying close to the ancient kingdom of Panduwasnuwara. The area can be reached though Negombo – Chillaw side or from Kurunegala. Although no direct mention has been found in the ancient texts which could be used to find the origins of the reservoir, this is believed to be the tank built by King Panduwasdeva (504-474 BC) in 450 BC for irrigation as well as for daily use by the citizens of Panduwasnuwara. This has been built damming the Kolamunu Oya (කොළමුණ ඔය) which has been called Kolabinna Nadee (කොළඹින්න නදී) in the ancient past. This reservoir has been also called Panda Wapi (පාණ්ඩවාපි) and Paanda Wewa (පාණ්ඩ වැව) during various times in the past.
The 14th century manuscript “Pradhana Nuwarawal” provides a detail description of the city built by King Panduwasdeva along with the tank which he built. H. Parker, in his publication “Ancient Ceylon” in 1909, believes that may be the first great reservoir ever constructed, if we omit from consideration the great lakes of Egypt, since they were merely immense natural hollows into which water was turned.
Also he shows his amazement of ancient irrigation engineers ability to control such a large volume of water the ability to build such a large dam as early as 5th Century BC.
In the North-western province near Hettipola a small village at the junction of two roads and sixteen miles east of Chilaw the large deserted tank called Panda-waewa is found. On its southern side and close to the end of its embankment there is a fortified site which apparently was once that of a town of considerable size, but is now overgrown with forest and jungle. It is known as Panduwas Nuwara, and is locally believed to have been a city founded by Panduwasa Deva in the first half of the fourth century BC. ……
…… we must be prepared to admit that either brick-making or stone-cutting, or both, as well as the art of building with those materials, were sufficiently understood in Ceylon at that early period for the designer to venture to construct a masonry outlet or, sluice for the purpose of regulating the flow of the water and passing it out for the use of the rice fields that would be cultivated lower down the valley by its aid. Such a great body of water would never be retained for the mere use of the inhabitants of the city; and the tank must have been originally intended for irrigating rice lands in addition to providing the people with a supply of water for drinking and bathing purposes. For fulfilling such an object some kind of substantially built outlet at a low level would be a necessity.
On the other hand, there can be no doubt that the arts of stone-cutting and brick-burning were well advanced long before the erection of the first dagabas, and the cutting of the earliest inscriptions and the fronts of the cave shelters of the Buddhist monks, in the third century B.C. No mere learners could have done the works in brick-burning and building, and in stone-cutting, which are still preserved. King Pandukabhaya, who probably became king at about the end of the fourth century B.C. (that is, less than seventy years after Panduwasa Deva), certainly formed a reservoir which had an embankment higher than that of Panda-waewa …………..
. . . . . In the North-western province near Hettipola a small village at the junction of two roads and sixteen miles east of Chilaw the large deserted tank called Panda-waewa is found. On its southern side and close to the end of uts embankment there is a fortified site which apparently was once that of a town of considerable size, but is now overgrown with forest and jungle. It is known as Panduwas Nuwara, and is locally believed to have been a city founded by Panduwasa Deva in the first half of the fourth century BC. . . . . .
. . . . . The histories contain almost no information regarding this reservoir They state that King Dappula II (807-812, AD) built a hospital there, ‘with a fruitful village attached thereto’ for its support. (Mah,. ii p. 57); and it also appears to be mentioned in the same work under the name Setthivapi, the Hetti(pola) tank,’ as one of the reservoirs repaired by Parakarama-Bahu I (1164-1197 AD). King Nissanka-Malla (1198-1207) left a record of this restoration in an inscription of four lines cut on a stone at the outlet of the low level sluice. Perhaps the work was only completed in his reign.
Chulawamsa describes Parakramabahu I expanding the Pandu Wewa by daming the Kolamunu Oya and renaming it as Parakrama Samudraya. This was done before he was consecrated as the king and after he built the massive Parakrama Samudraya in Polonnaruwa, Panda wewa was called Bena Samudraya (බෑන සමුද්රය). However the name Panda Wewa was the name used by the common man throughout the period.
According to Brohier, the tank was being used use until 19th century ( for over 2300 years) until the bunt was breached after a heavy rainy season in 1805.
The embankment of the initial reservoir is thought to be have been smaller but this has been extended and enlarged by later kings. Finally this embankment has been over 40 feet high and has extended to over 2.6 kilometers connecting two hills. The Relapanawa has been built with rock slabs with a 2 – 2½ feet in size.
Unfortunately, this reservoir has been completely destroyed and has been used for human habitation. However luckily some parts of this ancient reservoir can be still be seen at few locations.
Traveling on the Bingiriya – Wariyapola road, passing the Panduwasnuwara Musium, you will reach the bridge over the Kolamunu Oya. Take the by road to left just passing the bridge. Traveling 2.3 km on this road, you will reach a 4 way junction with the road to the left leading to the Detiyamulla Sri Jettathissa Rajamaha Viharaya. 200 meters down this road you will come across a lane to the left paved with concrete blocks, commonly known as Gota Keta. Partial remains of the ancient embankment. You can drive about half a kilometer on the embankment on a vehicle. Rest of the embankment is overgrown with jungle. A footpath to the right will take you to the place where it was breached 200 years ago. Current remains of the embankment is about 2.5 meters long and about 8 meters high. Therefore its is assumed that this reservoir would have covered at least 1000 acres in the past.
A Bisokotuwa of the reservoir has been restored by the archaeology department and can be seen on the embankment. This is believed to be added by the Parakramabahu the great during his expansion of the reservoir. The Bisokotuwa has been built by placing four large slabs of rock as walls. Parts of the canal which was connected to the Bisokotuwa can also be seen among these ruins.
- Ancient Ceylon by By Henry Parker published in 1909
- පුරාණ පඬාවැවෙන් හෙළිවන ශ්රී ලාංකේය වාරි තාක්ෂණය by M.R.T Dharmasiri, published in 2016
- පඬුවස්නුවර සහ වයඹ රාජධානි by Piyathilaka Halpe, published in 2011
- Ancient Reservoirs of Sri Lanka
- Ancient Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka
- Other Places of Interest Within Close Proximity
Map of the Panda Wewa
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Traveling to Panda Wewa
Route from Colombo Town to Panda Wewa
Distance : 107 km
Travel time : 2.15 hours
Driving directions : see on google map