Maduru Oya Reservoir and Archaeological Ruins

Maduru Oya ancient sluice
Maduru Oya ancient sluice (Photo credit: Lakshan Abeynaike, Google Street View)

Maduru Oya Reservoir (Sinhala: මාදුරු ඔය ජලාශය) is a large irrigation tank situated in Ampara, Polonnaruwa and Badulla Districts, Sri Lanka. The dam of it is located in the North Central province and the reservoir extends to the Eastern and Uva provinces. It is the largest reservoir found within the Maduru Oya National Park (Dilrangi et al., 2021). 

Maduru Oya Project
Maduru Oya Reservoir
Maduru Oya reservoir has been constructed by blocking the Maduru Oya stream flowing through the Danigala and Kandegamakanda ridges. The dam was built in 1983 under the Maduru Oya Project of the Accelerated Mahaweli Program (Kasthuriarachchi et al., 2016; Lal et al., 2014). The purpose of the project was to provide irrigation water to system B of the Mahaweli scheme supporting over 130,000 families (Lal et al., 2014). The project was partially funded by USAID and designed and constructed with the assistance of ACRES International of Canada and CH2M Hill of USA (Dissanayake, 2016; Lal et al., 2014). The Mahaweli Ministry commissioned a 41-meter-high Buddha statue at the bank of the dam.

The reservoir has a catchment area of 453 km2 and a storage capacity of 596,000,000 m3 (Dilrangi et al., 2021). The rockfill dam with a centre clay core measures 1,090 m in length and 41 m in height. A link tunnel of about 5.64 km long has been created from this reservoir to the nearby Ulhitiya Rathkinda reservoir.

Maduru Oya ancient sluice
The remains of an old sluice were discovered at the site in September 1982, during the preparatory work for the construction of the dam (Gunawardana, 1987). Located at the southern end of the embankment the sluice is 72 m in length, 9 m in width and 3.45 m high in front (Wikramagamage, 2004). The gates of the sluice are made of stone and other parts are made of burnt bricks (Embuldeniya, 2018; Wikramagamage, 2004). It mainly contains parts belonging to two periods; the Anuradhapura Period and the Polonnaruva Period (Embuldeniya, 2018).

A C14 dating test conducted for some carbonized chunks and flakes of wood found beneath the wing wall of the sluice has revealed that they belong to a period of A.D. 540±62 (Gunawardana, 1987). According to the view of scholars, the reservoir was constructed in two major stages and the wing wall of the sluice belonged to the second stage (Gunawardana, 1987).

Creator of the ancient sluice
The king who was responsible for the construction of this sluice is unknown. However, the chronicle Mahavamsa mentions that a tank named Mahadaragalla was built by King Mahasena (277-304 A.D.) and it was later repaired by King Vijayabahu I (1055-1110 A.D.) and King Parakramabahu I (1153-1186 A.D.). It is believed that the name Mahadara evolved to Madara and later to Maduru.

Several low-reliefs of a male figure of a drummer and four female figures of dancing women are found on the wall of the square shape pit of the sluice located about 34.77 m from the entrance (Embuldeniya, 2018; Wikramagamage, 2004). According to the view of some, the male figure here represents the god named Balarama who is a genius for the agriculture and irrigation sectors (Embuldeniya, 2018). The female figures represent his wives and maidservants (Embuldeniya, 2018).

1) 20200203 175204 lakeview by Nisakya 21 is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

1) Dilrangi, K.H., De Silva, W. and Mahaulpatha, D., 2021. Diversity, habitat utilization and nesting characteristics of waterbirds in and around Maduru Oya Reservoir in Maduru Oya National Park, Sri Lanka. Open Journal of Ecology, 11. pp.664-689.
2) Dissanayake, N.K.M., 2016. Evaluating new towns in the context of mega projects: a case study of the Mahaweli Architectural Unit, Sri Lanka (1983-1989) (Doctoral dissertation). pp.25-26.
3) Embuldeniya, P., 2018. Art in the Ancient Water Management System of Sri Lanka. Journal of the Centre for Heritage Studies, pp.155-162.
4) Gunawardana, R.A.L., 1987. The Ancient sluice at the Maduru Oya Reservoir: Experimentation in Sri Lankan Traditions of Hydraulic Engineering. pp.1-20.
5) Kasthuriarachchi, T.D.W., Wickramaarachchi, W.D.N. and Premaratne, W.A.P.J., 2016. Assessment of Water Quality Status and Pollution Levels in Maduru Oya Reservoir in Sri Lanka. In proceedings of the 17th Conference on Postgraduate Research, International Postgraduate Research Conference 2016, Faculty of Graduate Studies, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka. p 161.
6) Lal, A.W., Panapitiya, M. and Nihal, K., 2014. Optimized Water Delivery to Farmers in Maduru-Oya, Sri Lanka, Using irrigation demands communicated through SMS messaging. In World Environmental and Water Resources Congress. pp. 1754-1763.
7) Wikramagamage, C., 2004. Heritage of Rajarata: Major natural, cultural, and historic sites. Colombo. Central Bank of Sri Lanka. pp.256-257.

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This page was last updated on 30 September 2023

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