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Updated by Joanna James on Jun 23, 2019
Headline for Great Lakes in Sri Lanka – The Best of Ancient Architecture
Joanna James Joanna James
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Great Lakes in Sri Lanka – The Best of Ancient Architecture

The great ancient man-made lakes in Sri Lanka have long been a proud reminder of the incredible engineering skills of the ancient kings. Here are some lakes that you must visit.


Parakrama Samudraya

Parakrama Samudraya, or the Sea of Parakrama, was built by King Parakramabahu I. This is one of the largest reservoirs in the island and is so vast that it truly resembles the ocean. It was built by combining the reservoirs, Eramudu Weva, Topa Wewa and Dumbutula Wewa. The Sea of Parakrama takes up around 75 kilometres and is a remarkable feat of ancient engineering. The water level in the reservoir is controlled via flood gates which are opened to release water during periods of heavy rainfall. If you visit during the right time, you may be able to see the fascinating flood gates in action. During the rainy season, the lake is a quite active destination. You may see canoes drifting across the lake and plenty of birds on the hunt for fish. People can reach the water easily by climbing down the cement steps located at certain points. It is not an uncommon sight to sea locals bathing in the water, swimming and even doing their laundry. The view over the water, with the dark and mysterious forest reserve bordering the lake, creates a beautiful picture, especially at dusk. If you have chosen to stay at an accommodation option such as the Anantara Kalutara Resort or one of the many Kalutara hotels in Sri Lanka, you can easily arrange tours to view the Parakrama Samudraya as well as the many other amazing lakes scattered across the island.


Minneriya Wewa

Minneriya Wewa, created by constructing a dam across the Minneriya River is the source of many local legends. It is believed that the King Mahasena built the great lake with the aid of the Yaksha tribes in the area. Upon the king's death, he became venerated as the God of Minneriya or Minneriya Deviyo. This is a sign of the remarkable importance of the lake for the villagers. Located near the bund of the lake is a shrine dedicated to the God of Minneriya. The lake is fed by the Mahaweli River. The catchment area of the tank is around 237 square kilometres. The lake is bordered on one side by the famed Minneriya National Park and during the dry season, one can spot elephant herds drinking water at the bank. During the rainy season, the flood gates located under the Maradankadawala-Habrana Highway are opened up.


Kaudulla Wewa

Located in the Kaudulla National Park, Kaudulla wewa spans across 89 square kilometres. The origins of the lake is unclear as some locals believe that it was built by Princess Bisobandara, the sister of King Mahasena while others believe that it was built by King Mahasena himself. Historical records show that the lake was renovated by King Vijaabahu and King Parakramabahu I. As usual with most ancient Sri Lankan irrigation systems, Kaudulla Wewa also manages its water level with the aid of flood gates.

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