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Ratnapura National Museum

The National Museum of Ratnapura is one of the museums in Sri Lanka. It was established in an old Kandyan-era mansion known as Ehelepola Walawwa.
National Museum of Ratnapura

The National Museum of Ratnapura (Sinhala: රත්නපුර ජාතික කෞතුකාගාරය, පැරණි ඇහැලේපොළ වලව්ව), Sri Lanka is one of the Museums Administered by the Department of National Museums. It was established in an old mansion building known as Ehelepola Walawwa. Archaeological discoveries of the pre-historic period, specimens of natural heritage, artefacts, and models of geological, anthropological, and zoological related to Sabaragamuwa Province are mainly exhibited in this museum (Abeyawardana, 2002; Embuldeniya & Karunarathna, 2019).


The building which houses the present museum was built during the period 1811-1814, by Ehelepola Wijesundara Wikramasinghe Chandrasekara Senevirathna Amarakoon Wasala Panditha Mudiyanse (Ehelepola Maha Nilame), the then Maha Adikaram and District Agent (Disawe) of King Sri Vikrama Rajasinghe (1798-1815 A.D.).

Ehelepola Maha Nilame (1773 - 1829) is considered a powerful leader who emerged during the final phase of the Kandyan Kingdom. He was born to a Sinhalese Buddhist family lived in Ehelepola village in Matale District. During this period, the country was ruled by a Nayakkar ruler, King Sri Vikrama Rajasingha. Therefore, Ehelepola wanted to establish the Sinhalese Buddhist Kingdom in the country again instead of Nayakkars by capturing Sri Vikrama Rajasingha with the help of British rulers. That attempt failed but, under British rule, he was said to be living as an unofficial king in the country until the year 1818. In 1818, the great rebellion of Uva was started by Sinhalese against the British rulers as a violation of conditions in the Udarata Givisuma/Kandyan Convention (an agreement signed on 10 March 1815 between the British and the Chiefs of the Kandyan Kingdom). Ehelepola was majorly suspected of making this rebellion and therefore he was house arrested by the British rulers for 7 years and finally exiled (in 1825) to Pamplemousses in Mauritius island. Ehelepola died on 5 April 1829, and his final rituals were done according to the Buddhist tradition.

The building was later used as the official residence of the British government agents of the Sabaragamuwa Province (Abeyawardana, 2002).

In 1942, the National Museums Ordinance was passed. As a result of that, in 1946, the Ehelepola Walawwa building became one of the national museums in the country (Rambukwella, 2014). The public gained access to the museum on 13 May 1988.

The Building

The building has been constructed following Dutch architecture. In front of the building is a big veranda designed with brick pillars and wooden carvings. The main hall of the inner house has been divided into two rows and each side contains three rooms. However, some alterations have been added to the building later. Totally four storerooms are found in the house. The roof is constructed using the Sinhala Ulu. There are indications that the entire land was surrounded by a big canal.

A Protected Building

The Ehelepola Walawwa located in the Divisional Secretary’s Division of Ratnapura is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government Gazette notification published on 3 September 1993.


1) Abeyawardana, H.A.P., 2002. Heritage of Sabaragamuwa: Major natural, cultural and historic sites. Sabaragamuwa Development Bank and The Central Bank of Sri Lanka. ISBN: 955-575-077-7. pp.14-15.
2) Embuldeniya, P., Karunarathna, K.G.M., 2019. Significance of developing museums in Sri Lanka as tourist attractions: with special reference to national museums. EPRA International Journal of Research and Development. Vol. IV. Issue 2. pp.14-21.
3) Rambukwella, M.W.C.N.K., 2014. Heritage representation in culturally diverse societies: a case study of the Colombo National Museum in Sri Lanka (Doctoral dissertation, School of Museum Studies). p.131.
4) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1096. 3 September 1993.

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This page was last updated on 17 February 2024

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