Uyanwatta Wewa of Raigama Kingdom

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By Ms. Badra Kamaladasa (Former Director General of Department of Irrigation)
By Ms. Badra Kamaladasa (Former Director General of Department of Irrigation)

In Sri Lankan history, we could witness instances where a group of people, who migrated from the dry zone to the wet zone after the twelfth century, played a crucial role in preserving irrigation technology in Ceylon, wherever they go. Noteworthy examples include Mulleriya Wewa, Talangama Wewa, Boralasgamuwa Wewa in the Colombo District, and Uyanwatta Wewa in the Kalutara District. This post aims to provide a brief introduction to Uyanwatta Wewa and its significance in the preservation of irrigation technology.

In 1521, a series of conspiracies in Kotte led to the division of the Kotte Kingdom into three sub-kingdoms: Raigam, Kotte, and Sithawaka. Raigam Bandara assumed control of the Raigam Kingdom, with the state treasury situated in Bhandhara gama, known today as Bandaragama. The royal palace of Raigam Bandara is presently Pathahawatta temple located near Bandaragama, (close to Galanigama, a name familiar to those travelling on the Colombo to Matara highway), adjacent to the Kotalawala area.

Uyanwatta Wewa, constructed in the Bolgoda river basin, stands as a testament to the transfer of irrigation technology from the dry zone to the wet zone by our ancestors. It serves as a mirror reflecting the historical journey of this technology’s adaptation and implementation.

Local villagers and some scholars believe that the reservoirs in the Raigam Bandara region were constructed under the leadership of the local ruler himself. In Raigam Korala, there were several tanks associated with Kambaka Pattu and Munwatta Pattu. Over time, the tanks of Kumbuka Patthu have unfortunately become dry and unproductive.

The reservoirs in the Raigam area include Uyanwatta, Vavita, Walgama, Medagama, Aluthgama, Gammanpila, and others. Uyanwatta wewa covering 68 acres in the shape of a kettle, is also known as Kothala wewa. The surrounding area, known as Ulukumbara Deniya, Anun Pana Pokuna, Wehera Katiya Hela, Meneri Hena Landa, Delkanda Dendreya, and Rerukhana, is steeped in historical significance. Following an ancient tradition, the area around Kothala Lake, named after the lake itself, later evolved into Kothalawala.

Following the establishment of a royal garden in close proximity to Kothala, it is believed that the name of Kothala Wewa was changed to Uyanwatta, attributing the shift to the royal emphasis on the garden. The existing retaining wall surrounding the Pathahawatta Raja Maha Vihara is said to have been constructed as a protective enclosure for the palace during that era, utilizing Kabok stones bought from the vicinity of the wewa.

Due to its well-preserved features of considerable historical significance, the temple and its surrounding grounds have been officially recognized as an archaeological heritage site. This designation underscores the cultural and historical value associated with the temple and its connection to the past.

In 1871, during the British colonial period, the rulers undertook the restoration of the 900 foot long dam of Uyanwatta wewa. They also restored the wewa, ensuring it could retain a water body with a height of 14 feet. Subsequent to this, maintenance and improvements were carried out on the spill in 1935, 1955, and 1977.

The Uyanwatta wewa, as it stands today, has a capacity of 475 acre-feet, and its embankment is of 1000 feet long. These enhancements and updates over the years have contributed to the wewa’s functionality and resilience, reflecting a historical timeline of development and conservation efforts.

While it may appear modest compared to the extensive irrigation systems in dry regions, this model offers compelling evidence that skilled irrigators in the 16th century adeptly applied fundamental theories of irrigation technology. It serves as a testament to their knowledge and proficiency in establishing functional and well-designed irrigation links, showcasing the enduring legacy of their expertise in water management.

In 1977, the Irrigation Department took the initiative to build the Right Bank High-level Sluice, facilitating the irrigation of around 100 acres of land in Galanigama.

Presently, 385 acres of land receive irrigation benefits from the left bank, right bank, and right bank high sluices. This development has positively impacted approximately 300 families in the area. Additionally, the reservoir has been utilized for successful inland fishing in recent years.

Unfortunately, despite its significance, the urban location of the area has led to pollution concerns. Unauthorized construction around the lake and the negligence of visitors have contributed to the environmental challenges facing this valuable water resource. Efforts to address and rectify these issues are crucial to ensuring the continued sustainability and well-being of the area.

Also See

Map of Uyanwatta Wewa

Please click on the button below to load the Dynamic Google Map (ගූගල් සිතියම් පහලින්)
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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

Zoom out the map to see more surrounding locations using the mouse scroll wheel or map controls.

Travelling Directions to Uyanwatta Wewa

From Colombo to Uyanwatta Wewa
Via : Southern Expressway
Distance : 60 km
Travel Time : 1 hour
Time to Spend : 30-60 min
Driving Directions : See Google Maps here

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