« PreviousContinue »
structed by Vissakamma, the divine builder, acting under orders issued by Indra.
The fortifications consist of an enclosing wall forty feet thick, faced with brickwork on both sides, and having immediately outside it a ditch which is still some seven feet deep, and more than ten feet wide in the bottom. This wall is well defined and still several feet high; in plan it is a regular rhombus, 1000 feet long on two opposed sides, and 950 feet long on the other two.
Without doubt this fortification is of much later date than the time of the second king of Ceylon, but that is not proof that a settlement did not exist there long prior to its construction. In reality, it shows that some pre-existing station of sufficient importance to be worth strong fortifications was already established there when the wall was built. I possess no measurements of the bricks used in the work. No remains of buildings are known inside this fortified space ; this indicates the lapse of several centuries since the place was abandoned.
The connection of the position of the city with the date of the construction of the reservoir lies in the fact that the town was built not only close behind the end of the embankment, but so near the edge of the reservoir that when the latter was quite full the water extended into the ditch which surrounds its wall. This shows that the reservoir was already formed before the exact site of the town was decided upon, so that if the name of the city and the tradition respecting it be regarded as sufficient evidence that it was founded by Paṇḍuwasa Dēva at this spot, the construction of the reservoir must also be attributed to this monarch, although neither the one nor the other is mentioned in the histories. The chief difficulty in accepting the identification lies in the area of the reservoir, the water of which would cover no less than 1050 acres when it was full. It was not until at least a century later than the time of Panduwāsa Dēva that any other reservoir of this size appears to have been made in Ceylon; and on a review of the probabilities of the case I should be inclined to think that a town built there by that
king would be nearer the stream across which the embankment of the tank was raised. If the tank was made at a subsequent date, the town, such as it was-probably a mere congeries of wattle-and-daub huts-would be re-constructed in a new position at the edge of the water. If this opinion be not adopted we are driven to the conclusion that this great reservoir was formed in the time when the second king ruled over the country. As evidence in favour of its early date we have the fact that Anuradhapura was established at the distance of nearly a mile from the adjoining river, the Malwatta-oya.
Another difficulty which also throws doubt on such an identification is found in the fact that if the reservoir was made by Paṇḍuwāsa Dēva, 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 Paṇḍukābhaya, who probably became king at about the end of the fourth century B.C. (that is, less than seventy years after Paṇḍuwāsa Dēva), certainly formed a reservoir which had an embankment higher than that of Paṇḍā-waewa. Thus
there must always remain a possibility that the tradition regarding the origin of this latter work is correct. I shall therefore give a short account of the works at Paṇḍā-waewa, which 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.
The histories contain almost no information regarding this reservoir. They state that King Dappula II (807-812, A.D.) 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 Seṭṭhivāpi,' the Heṭṭi(pola) Tank,' as one of the reservoirs repaired by Parakrama-Bāhu I (1164-1197 A.D.). King Niśśanka-Malla (11981207 A.D.) 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.
The final breach in the embankment was made in the early years of last century, and its history is instructive as showing how many other great reservoirs in Ceylon may have burst. According to the information which I received thirty years ago from persons who had heard the story of the catastrophe related by those who remembered it, a track made by cattle that crossed the embankment had become worn down into a deep hollow which was left unfilled. The natural consequence of such neglect followed. A sudden and extremely high rise of the water (which flooded some of the nearest houses at the side of the reservoir), following a very heavy rainfall, caused its level to mount up during the darkness of a rainy night until it overtopped the low place; and when daylight broke the embankment was found to be completely breached at the spot, and the reservoir was empty. The last Sinhalese king subsequently entrusted its repair
1 It begins, Śrimat Parakrama Bhussā, Mahā Bhussā, Kälinga Sinha dapa nerana patetwanu, and the last part is disa mewara gaḍa wasyam. The Prosperous King Parakrama, the Great King, the Kälinga Lion, putting aside and subduing pride . . . the overcoming of the impediment to the work of the country.'
to one of his chiefs, but he was recalled in 1815, before the work was begun, owing to the rebellion which ended in our occupation of the Kandian kingdom at the request of the chiefs; and the reservoir has been left in the same useless state down to the present day, although plans for its restoration were prepared thirty years ago.
The embankment was carried in a north-and-south line nearly straight across the valley of the Kolamunu-oya-a stream that rises about fifteen miles away-until it passed across this river; it was then turned round to the southwest so as to abut against a large and nearly flat rock, near the southern side of the valley. From the southern side of the rock it then resumed its southward direction for a short distance, after which it was turned up-stream at a right angle for 2100 feet until it ended at high ground not far from the site of the old city, Panduwas Nuwara. Owing to the configuration of the ground, a considerable amount of earthwork was saved by this sudden alteration in the line of the bank.
The rock, which is about 250 feet across, was utilised as a waste-weir or flood-escape; and it is evident that the valley had been carefully examined, and the site of the embankment chosen with the special view of making use of this rock as a safe place for the escape of floods. It is quite certain that the bank was raised to its full height at the first construction of the reservoir. I made a search in vain for any channel such as the floods must have excavated had they been discharged out of the tank at a lower level; there can be no doubt that from the first they were passed over the rock. That the reservoir remained in working order until perhaps the twelfth century is a proof that the height to which floods would rise over the rock had been correctly estimated.
The embankment is 8400 feet long, or 1 miles; and is 22 feet high above the sill of the low-level sluice, above which the crest of the rock rose 13 feet. In later years an additional depth of 2 feet of water was retained by means of a temporary dam raised along the front of the rock after the main floods had ceased, by the aid of short rough stone pillars,
over which a foot-bridge may have been fixed. The top of the bank was 8 feet wide, and the sides sloped at the rate of 2 feet horizontal to I foot vertical. This section is weaker than that of any other large pre-Christian bank that I have seen. It is almost the only respect in which the bank differs from those of other very early works of a similar size, and it may indicate its greater age; later experience evidently showed the old engineers the advisability of adopting a broader section and flatter slopes. Along the slope facing the water a layer of small boulders is laid as a protection against erosion caused by waves. This may be of later date than the original work; such a protection is found at all the larger embankments in Ceylon, with one or two exceptions.
One sluice, with a rectangular stone culvert for discharging water, was built in the low ground on the northern side of the stream, and another at a high level near the northern end of the embankment. They appeared to differ in no respect from similar structures in other reservoirs in Ceylon; they may have been reconstructed long after the original work was done, as the position of the inscription of Niśśanka-Malla indicates. I shall refer to the question of the type of the Sinhalese sluice in describing one at a somewhat later reservoir where I was able to examine the original work.
When the reservoir retained a depth of 13 feet of water at the low-level sluice the area covered by it was 1050 acres, and its capacity was 311 million cubic feet; the extra depth of two feet increased the area to 1360 acres, and the capacity to 416 million cubic feet.
Although the size of this reservoir was surpassed by other pre-Christian ones, and left far behind by many post-Christian works, we cannot fail to be astonished at the boldness and originality of the early engineer who ventured to construct such an earthen bank across a valley down which floods of considerable volume passed in the rainy seasons. Owing to the heavy rainfall of the gathering ground, which averages about 85 inches per annum, the maximum flood may amount to 12,000 or 14,000 cubic feet per second. Every engineer will recognise that to get rid of this volume of water