Wasabha was a king of the Anuradhapua Kingdom. He is considered to be
the pioneer of the construction of large-scale irrigation works in Sri
Lanka to support paddy cultivation. He constructed 11 reservoirs and 12
canals during his reign.
He also constructed several Buddhist temples in addition to
renovating existing ones. Wasabha started a new dynasty in the history
of Sri Lankan kings having seized the throne after killing Subharaja,
the then ruler of Anuradhapura. Wasabha was born to a family of a clan
named Lambakanna. He spent his childhood in a village in the North of
the country working for his uncle who was a general in the king's army.
The ruler of the country at the time was Subharaja, who was informed
by soothsayers that one day Wasabha would defeat him and become king.
To avoid this, Subharaja ordered everyone in the country bearing that
name to be killed. Wasabha's uncle tried to take Wasabha to the king
under the pretext of taking him to join the king's service. However, he
was saved by Pottha, the wife of his uncle, who told him about the
king's decision. He went into hiding and raised an army secretly.
Having eventually raised an army, Wasabha led a rebellion against the
king and subsequently seized the throne in 67 AD after killing Subharaja
and his uncle. He ruled for 44 years, until his death in 111 AD.
His ascension to the throne marked the beginning of a new dynasty of
rulers, known as the First Lambakanna Dynasty after the name of his
The ancient chronicle Mahavamsa states that he constructed 11
reservoirs and 12 canals to distribute water. His most notable
construction is the Elahera canal which originally had a length of about
30 miles (48 km). It was created by damming the Amban river. It was used
to divert water in a westerly direction for agricultural use.
The reservoirs at Mahavilachchiya and Nochchipotana have been
identified as constructions of Wasabha. It has a circumference of about
two miles (3.2km). Wasabha pioneered the construction of large
irrigation works in the country. Manaketiya and Hiriwadunna tanks were
also initiated by King Wasabha.
Having been told by a soothsayer that he would live only for 12 more
years, Vasabha became a devout Buddhist and performed many meritorious
acts in an effort to prolong his life. He constructed several Buddhist
temples and renovated others. Among his constructions are the Vatadage
at Thuparama and some additions to the Mahavihara.