Agra Walawwa | Mansion of Karunaratna

Agra Walawwa
Agra Mansion or Karunaratna Walawwa (Sinhala: අග්‍රා මන්දිරය, කරුණාරත්න වලව්ව) is an old palatial mansion located in Bendiyamulla in Gampaha District, Sri Lanka. It is presently used as the Kachcheri (or District Secretariat) of the district. However, it has been proposed to convert this building into a museum after the opening of the new Kachcheri building complex constructed nearby.

The mansion was constructed in the 1930s by Don David Karunaratne, a politician and one of the wealthiest men in the Gampaha area. He was elected to Parliament at the 1st parliamentary election in 1947, representing the United National Party (UNP), for the Gampaha electorate. He is also popular for his social work. Rathnavali Balika Vidyalaya and Gampaha Base Hospital are said to have been established/developed with his help. After the death of Karunaratne, his remains were deposited in a small Stone-built Memorial erected on a plot of land he owned. This memorial was designated an archaeological protected monument by the Government in 2015.

Karunaratna had two daughters Chandra and Edith. Of the two, Chandra was married to Percy Chandrasoma Jayakodi, who was also a relative of former Sri Lankan Minister Lakshman Jayakodi (1930-210). Edith was married to A.E.C.D.S. Gunasekara, who was then a Director of the Irrigation Department.  Edith was the first of the two daughters to die and Chandra died in 2006.

After the demise of Karunaratne, the property was inherited by his elder daughter Chandra. However, by the mid-1970s, there were no direct descendants to claim the property. In 1978, the mansion was taken over by the government and converted into the District Secretariat of Gampaha.

The mansion
The Agra mansion is said to have been built by Indian artisans according to Indian and European architecture. The construction works started at the end of the 1920s and were completed in the early 1930s. Magnificently carved wood carvings are found on furniture, ceiling, and staircase leading to the upper floor of the building. Mirrors with finely carved frames are installed on the walls on both sides of the stairs and the towers have been decorated with vegetable designs like bitter gourd, luffa, and winged bean. The carvings on the mirror tables and cupboards depict popular stories among the people such as "the fox and the vine" and "the crow and the piece of cashew nut".

The 1966 film Parasathu Mal, directed by Gamini Fonseka, was filmed on the property.

1) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1919. 12 June 2015. p.395.

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This page was last updated on 21 April 2023

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