The Tanks of Anuradhapura
Without the presence of its three artificial lakes near the city center, Anuradhapura would never have flourished. Tissa Wewa, Nuwara Wewa and Basawakkulama ensured that the people would always have rice and fresh water, even during the long months between monsoons. At the time of their construction, over two millennia ago, they were among the world’s greatest feats of engineering, and continue to amaze today.
The Kingdom of Anuradhapura was one of the most technologically advanced civilizations of its day, and the creation of three enormous tanks was a singular accomplishment. The reservoirs were designed to capture the rains of the monsoon and then slowly distribute the water among the kingdom’s farms, using a complicated and highly advanced irrigation system.
Today, the city draws its water from larger tanks further afield. But the three city lakes remain an integral part of Anuradhapura’s landscape. Locals swim here and wash their clothes. They provide a perfect place for amorous couples to take evening strolls and smooch under trees. When we were walking along the Tissa Wewa, Sri Lankan kids prodded us to swim with them. Along the raised banks of Nuwara Wewa, we had an incredible view of the city’s stupas, sticking out above the forest. At Basawakkulama, we walked out west, where the lake slowly turns into rice fields, and watched the city change color with the sunset.
Other tanks, smaller and larger, are found throughout the lowlands of Sri Lanka. They’re some of the oldest existing examples of man’s ability to mold the earth to suit his needs.