Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 26 October 2014





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King Wasabha

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 clan.

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.

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