Abhaya Wewa (Basawakkulama)

Abhaya Wewa

Abhaya Wewa or Abhayavapi, also known as Basawakkulama Wewa (Sinhala: අභය වැව, බසවක්කුලම වැව, අභයවාපි), is an old tank located in Anuradhapura District, Sri Lanka.


According to historical sources such as Mahawamsa (Chap:10, v.88), King Pandukabhaya (437-367 B.C.), the grandson of Panduwasa Deva (504-474 B.C.), constructed the Abhayavapi tank (named after himself) at Anuradhapura in the 4th century B.C. (Arumugam, 1969; Fernando, 1980; Nicholas, 1963; Ray, 1959; Seneviratna, 1991). Therefore, it is assumed that this is the most ancient irrigation work in the country (Arumugam, 1969). Chronicles record that the core of Thuparama Stupa was made with lumps of clay taken from the bed of the Abhaya Wewa (Nicholas, 1963; Ray, 1959).

The tank was restored in 1874 (Arumugam, 1969).


Basavakkulama pillar inscription of King Sena II (853-887 A.D.)

A pillar inscription belonging to the 9th century A.D. was discovered on the bund of the present tank (Ranawella, 2005). It is now kept at the Inscription Gallery of Colombo National Museum. It records a decree issued by King Sena II, prohibiting illegal fishing in Abaya Wewa (Ranawella, 2005).

Abhaya Wewa pillar inscription of Queen Lilavati (1197-1200 A.D.)

This pillar inscription was also found on the bund of the Abhaya Wewa at Anuradhapura (Muller, 1984; Ranawella, 2005). It is now on display at the Inscription Gallery of Colombo National Museum. The inscription records a land grant made by a gentleman named Lag Vijayasingu Kit, the prime minister of Queen Lilavati, to the monks who were living in the monastery named Ruvan-paya (Ranawella, 2005).

Basavakkulama Rock Inscription of King Mahanama (410-432 A.D.)

This inscription was discovered incised on a rock in a private land located about a quarter of a mile to the north of the spill of Abhaya Wewa (Paranavitana, 1960).

The Tank

Abhaya Wewa

Abhayavapi (after restoration in 1874)

Area of tank: 1235 acres
Capacity: 1580 acre-feet
Depth: 15 1/2 feet
Length of bund: 3/4 mile
Length of feeder channel: 1/4 mile from Tissa Wewa L.L. sluice
No. of sluices: one
No. of spills: one


1) Arumugam, S., 1969. Water resources of Ceylon: its utilisation and development. Water Resources Board. p.321.
2) Fernando, A.D.N., 1980. Major ancient irrigation works of Sri Lanka. Journal of the Sri Lanka Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 22, pp.1-24.
3) Muller, E., 1984. Ancient Inscriptions in Ceylon. Asian Educational Services. New Delhi. pp.69-70.
4) Nicholas, C. W., 1963. Historical topography of ancient and medieval Ceylon. Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, New Series (Vol VI). Special Number: Colombo. Royal Asiatic Society (Ceylon Branch). pp.127-131.
5) Paranavitana, S., 1960. New Light on the Buddhist era in Ceylon and early Sinhalese chronology. University of Ceylon Review, Vol. XVIII, No.3& 4, 1960 pp. 129-155
6) Ranawella, S. (Ed.), 2005. Sinhala inscriptions in the Colombo National Museum: Spolia Zeylanica. Vol 42. (2005). Department of National Museums, Sri Lanka. pp.10-14,97-99.
7) Ray, H.C. (Editor in chief), 1959. History of Ceylon: Vol. I: Part I. Ceylon University Press. Colombo. pp.108,258.
8) Seneviratna, A., 1991. The Ritualization of Space in Buddhist Architecture in Sri Lanka. Concepts of Space: Ancient and Modern. p.372.

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This page was last updated on 14 January 2024
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