Mahaweli Maha Seya:
A serene tribute to Kotmale
The ceremonial opening of the Kotmale
Mahaweli Maha Seya (Pagoda) will take place tomorrow (June 20) at 2
p.m. in the presence of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime
Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. The Stupa then becomes the second
largest stupa in Sri Lanka, after the Ruwanweliseya in Anuradhapura.
It will also be one of the greatest architectural achievements of
Sri Lankan engineers of the 21st century.
Mahaweli Maha Seya project was first initiated by the late Gamini
Dissanayake, the Mahaweli Minister on the advice of several religious
leaders including Venerable Elle Gunawansa Thera, as a tribute to the
religious shrines in the lands that had to be abandoned and the many
sacrifices made by the people of the Kotmale valley with the building of
the Kotmale dam and the reservoir.
It is believed that more than 50 temples and other places of worship
were submerged with the start of the construction work of the Kotmale
reservoir, the first reservoir to be built under the Accelerated
Mahaweli Development Project (AMDP) in the eighties.
The foundation stone of the Seya project was laid by the late
President J.R. Jayewardene and the late Gamini Dissanayake on March 20,
1983. Coincidentally, it was Minister Dissanayake's birthday. The
construction of the Kotmale Maha Seya was undertaken by the Mahaweli
Ministry and CECB with the support of several other state institutions,
using the latest available technologies and techniques of construction
at the time. They chose a location on an escarpment in a village area
known as 'Kotagapitiya' at Kotmale, overlooking the dam, not too far
from the place where King Dutugemunu is believed to have taken refuge
after being ostracized by his father.
The structure of Mahaweli Maha Seya was designed by the former
chairman of the Mahaweli Cultural Foundation Trust, the late
Vidya-Jyothi Dr. A.N.S. Kulasinghe, an eminent engineer of international
repute. Architect Dharma Siriwardene and Gamunu Silva were also among
the key people involved in the project.
The Mahaweli Maha Seya
project was a concept of the late Minister
The project received the support of state and private institutions
and people of all walks of life throughout the past 33 years. The
Ministry of Mahaweli and CECB - the key engineering partner of the
Mahaweli project - invested funds at the beginning. The Mahaweli Maha
Seya is 289 feet in height, two feet less in height than the highly
venerated Ruwanweli Seya in Anuradhapura.
The significance of this Seya is that visitors can walk straight into
the hollow dome of the concrete stupa, which is similar to the famous
Kalutara Bodhi. However, the area here is much larger and can
accommodate up to 4,000 devotees at any given time.
However, the construction work of the stupa came to a virtual
standstill in 1991. After 1994, the late Minister's wife Srimathi
Dissanayake and his son - current Minister of Plantation Industries,
Navin Dissanayake - through the Mahaweli Cultural Foundation Trust got
it opened for devotees to worship the Seya.
Dr. A.N.S. Kulasinghe
The recommencement of work on the structure began on May 8, 2003
after a colourful ceremony attended by more than 200 Buddhist monks and
several hundreds of devotees. At that time it was the then Minister of
Irrigation and Water Management, Gamini Jayawickrama Perera who took the
challenge and initiative to recommence the work of Mahaweli Maha Seya.
He was keen to complete the construction work of the stupa which was
considered as a symbol of peace. The placing of the sacred Jewel on the
pinnacle of the Mahaweli Maha Seya took place on March 20, 2016.
Minister Navin Dissanayake says he is extremely happy to witness the
completion of the project. "It has taken 33 years for us to finish this
amid a great deal of obstacles. It was my father's idea to start work on
this massive project and for over a decade from 1990 work completely
stopped. I took over as chairman in 2010 and within six years work has
completely finished. I feel this is a great achievement for the whole
nation," he told the Sunday Observer.
Former presidents, former Mahaweli Ministers - P. Dayaratne,
Maithripala Sirisena, Gamini Jayawickrema Perera and Nimal Siripala de
Silva - and former Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne - also gave their
unstinted support to carry out the construction work of the Seya.
|Minister Navin Dissanayake
participated at a painting ceremony at the Seya recently
|Shrine area inside the
Today, the Mahaweli Maha Seya stands majestically on an escarpment
overlooking the Kotmale Reservoir. The reservoir is known as Gamini
Dissanayake Reservoir as it was renamed in honour of the late Minister.
Visitors to the valley can experience the serenity of the environment
where the giant stupa stands still in the midst of breathtakingly
beautiful greenery, the silent mountains and the reservoir at the foot.
The views of the surrounding hill country of Kotmale and Kandy are
Maha Seya will undoubtedly be a regular destination among pilgrims and
foreign visitors to the country on cultural holidays. Its massive
structure containing Buddhist relics and place of meditation is for the
use of Buddhists around the world. The late Minister Dissanayake's
mission was to see this becoming an international Buddhist centre.
Everyone who got involved in this project over the past 33 years,
including engineers, workmen, carpenters, masons, specialist Buddhist
artists and countless numbers of people who made donations and supported
the project in many different ways - working overnight to make this a
reality - should be remembered with gratitude at the time of its
opening. Some of them are no longer with us but we shall remember them
and offer merit from a grateful nation and ourselves, Minister
"They will acquire a great deal of merit for their efforts. The
villagers in the surrounding areas are extremely happy that the second
largest stupa in the land is in their area. It will bring in a great
deal of cultural and economic development to them," he added.
Around the Kotmale valley is woven the epic story of Dutugamunu -
hero king of Sri Lanka. During the reign of Kalinga Magha (1214-1235)
and Vijayabahu III (1235-26) the name of Kotmale is mentioned. According
to Pujavaliya and Rajavaliya, The Buddha's Sacred Tooth Relic was kept
in custody at Kotmale at Pussalpitiya Temple.
With the commencement of Kotmale Reservoir, under the accelerated
Mahaweli Project, 16 Grama - Sevaka Divisions, 66 Villages, four tea
estates and 18 temples and two devalas went under the water of Kotmale
Reservoir. Kadadora Shri Priyabimbaramaya, Morape Bodhi Malakaramaya,
and Morape Subadrarama Viharaya are three temples on Right Bank of
Mahaweli and Kadadora. Wataddara Sri Visuddharamaya, Wataddara Gnanodaya
Pirivena, Hedunuwewa Medagoda Gangaramaya, Otalawe Bodhirukkarama
Viharaya, Nawangama Abinawaramaya and Tispane Shri Sudarshanaramaya are
situated on the left Bank of Tispane Hills. The two devalayes are Morape
Devalaya and Hendunuwewa Medagoda Pattini Devalaya which were among the
main seven temples and the two devalayas that went under Kotmale