Ma Oya Yaka Bendi Ella Amuna (මා ඔය යකා බැඳි ඇල්ල අමුණ)

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The headwaters of Ma Oya, which originates from the Ambuluawa hills near Gampola in the western slopes of the central mountains, mainly belongs to the western edge of the Kandy district. Then, flowing down from Ahupini Falls, Ma Oya passes by the towns of Aranayake, Mawanella, Rambukkana in Kegalle District and through the areas like Alawwa, Giriulla, Kotadeniyawa in Kurunegala District. It travels a distance of 125.5 km and joins the ocean slightly north of Negombo.

Evidence of the ancient amuna (dam) at Yaka Bendi Ella built across Ma Oya can be found in the area around Nalla near Giriulla town in Pitigal Korale in Kurunegala district. After traveling about 24 km from Minuwangoda passing Divulapitiya and Kotadeniyawa towards Giriulla, you can turn south from Nalla village and locate this this place on the Ma Oya river. Currently, the embankment that was built across the Ma Oya has been completely destroyed and the large granite blocks that were used for it can be seen scattered in the lower part of Ma Oya. At present, only parts of the places where the embankment was connected to the banks remain. Among them, the clearest evidence is found on the left bank of Ma Oya.

Brohier, makes a note on the ruins of this massive amuna and states;

In the Pitigal Korale, perhaps the most important ancient scheme of irrigation hinged on at least one giant anicut built across the Maha-oya.

About two miles west of Giriulla, masses of hewn rock may be traced even to this day which at one period were built across the river, trammelled its waters, and raised them to a sufficient height so that they flowed down two channels, the one on the right bank, the other on the left. This work was perhaps formerly the means of rendering cultivation towards the seaboard and in Hapitigam Korale, independent of the uncertainty of seasons.

The simple village mind which found it impossible to contemplate anything so vast being the result of human agency has, again in this instance, stepped in and named these works the ” Yaka-bendi-ela “, meaning the canals cut by demons.

The dam has apparently been broken from time immemorial, and the canals which suggest possibilities for irrigating large tracts on the north of the river and in the Alutkuru Korale in ·the south, now hardly afford the barest trace of their meandering course

On a paper by Chandana Withanachchi states that examining the various marks found on the stones around this amuna, it can be thought that it was built during the Polonnaruwa era. It is mentioned in the chronicles that king Parakramabahu I developed the area after becoming the ruler of the southern land. It can be assumed that this amuna was built during this era.

For the construction of the weir, a hard rock plain spread across Ma Oya was chosen. It is interesting to see a rather wide and deep trenches in these rock formations. This natural position has been very helpful in keeping the base stone layer of the weir strong.

A considerable amount of the bottom layer of the amuna on the bedrock of the Ma Oya remains until today. Among them, the most protected are the block of stones stuck in the natural trenches of the rock face and a part located near the left bank of the stream. A portion of about 10 meters of the foundation stone layer belonging to the upper limit of the left corner of the embankment still remains in its original state.

There are about 18 blocks of stone laid out towards the stream in a well connected manner on the bed of the stream. These stones are laid out as if the longer part of the stone is pointed downstream. As Ma Oya is a river flowing from the wet zone along the western foothills, this amuna must have been subject to constant strong water flows. The way the boulders that have come loose from the anvil and are scattered all over the river are worn away by the water is an example of the fact that they were constantly subjected to the strong currents.

Ancient builders have employed certain strategies to make this weir stronger to withstand strong currents of the river. Accordingly, the welding technique has been mainly adopted for the strong construction of this embankment. The technique of interlocking rocks with each other using cuts and grooves have been used in building this weir. This would have prevented the stones from coming loose and to control the downward push of water. A large number of holes and grooves in various forms are found on the stones used in this Yakabandi Ella Amuna.

There are number of folklores about Yaka Bendi Amuna. One is that this was built by Gotaimbara, one of the ten generals of the king Dutugemunu’s army. After the battle with Tamil king Elara, Gotaimbara has selected the Pitigal koralaya to become a farmer. To divert water from Ma Oya Gothambara started building this dam and but every time some work was comleted, he found it destroyed the next day. So one night the Gothambara kept guard of the dam and found a demon (yaka) destroying the dam. He has caught the demon, killed him and tied to the dam itself. Therefore this weir was known as Yaka Bendi Ella.

Another folklore records the destruction of the dam. During the reign of King Rajasingha, in a dispute between the people of Kandy and Kurunegala, destroyed this dam in order to wanted to weaken the Kurunegala kingdom.


  • Brohier, R., 1980. Ancient irrigation works in Ceylon. 1st ed. Colombo: Ministry of Mahaweli Development.
  • විතානාච්චි චන්දන රෝහණ (2013) මා ඔය ආශ්‍රිත යකාබැඳි ඇල්ල පුරාණ අමුණපිළිබඳ විමර්ශනාත්මක අධ්‍යයනයක්. rep.

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Through : Katunayake
Distance : 70 km
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