The story of King Pandukabhaya, the first king of Anuradhapura, is enveloped in myth and legend. One tangible legacy he left the nation began 2400 years ago with the creation of what was to become one of the most advanced irrigation systems of the ancient world.
When early settlers chose the dry zone as their home, they required water to support agriculture for their very survival.
King Pandukabhaya built Basawakkulama, Sri Lanka’s first tank, called a ‘wewa’ – the beginning of this remarkable irrigation system was thousands of years ahead of its time.
Built with impeccable attention to detail, this ancient system continues to fascinate and baffle modern engineers.
The wewa were built in the high ground, so that water would flow smoothly into a complex network of canals and smaller wewa and then cascade in to low-lying agricultural lands.
Not only did the creation of this system meet the people’s needs for their very survival and livelihoods, but it also met a spiritual and religious need.
Stupas were built in close proximity, utilizing the earth which was dug up to construct the wewa, and in so doing, the king reaffirmed his loyalty to Buddhism and the land.
Further the ‘Gamai Pansalai – Wevai Dagebai’ or the twin concept of the village and temple – wewa and stupa, was interwoven into the cultural and spiritual fabric of this island nation, providing people as well as animals with food and water for centuries.
There is no English equivalent for ‘wewa’ as every other civilization was built around rivers while Sri Lanka’s was built around wewa. Over time, this unique technological wonder has gradually fallen into disrepair and disuse, and no longer provides water for life on this island.
The Gammadda ‘Gamen Gamata – Wawen Wewata’ initiative commences at the Malwathu Oya basin, the birth place of Sri Lanka’s documented history.
This is an initiative that aims to preserve the irrigation system for the future generation. The survey will commence in a few moments as phase one with the collaboration of The University of Peradeniya.
News1st and the University of Peradeniya are committed to finding out the full extent of this tragedy, how it came about and how this heritage could be restored.
Jan 16, 2018 0