Kotmale in the Development in Sri Lanka

Kotmale oya river with its origin in the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka at an elevation of 2134 m (7000 ft.) running between the two hills of Tispane and Kadadora resulted in the valley having a fertile soil, the ideal good earth for cultivation. During the glorious days of ancient kings of Lanka too, the valley had been of immense vibrancy: paddy cultivation took root in clusters of villages amidst the industries of pottery and carpentry. It was home to goldsmiths as well as blacksmiths. Pidurutalagala Oya stream, Nanu oya river, Greogory’s tank rush in their waters to the Kotmale Oya river. So are Devon falls, St Clair’s falls, Puna falls and Cat Snake Garadi falls. Since the glorious days of ancient Sri Lanka to the years of modern accelerated Mahaweli multi-purpose irrigation project, an enormous volume of water rushed in resulting in floods sinking clusters of hamlets and villages of the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka. The high watermark of floods are noted even today in the railway station of Gampola close to Kandy, the gateway to Central Highlands of Sri Lanka.

Although the necessity of a dam was observed in 1950, a couple of years following the independence from the colonial British rulers, it was only in 1961 the preliminary studies of the Kotmale project were carried out by the Government of Sri Lanka in partnership with US Agency for International Development (USAID) and then again by UNDP-FAO from 1964 to 1968. During the period between 1973 and 1976, a feasibility study was carried out by the water and Power Development Consultancy Services (India) Limited (WAPCOS). In 1979, Sir William Halcrow and Partners in association with Messrs Kennedy & Donkin and the Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau (CECB)of Sri Lanka were appointed to provide consultancy services: construction work commenced in February 1979; reservoir was impounded in November 1984; commercial power generation commenced in June 1985; ceremonially commissioned in August 1985.

Kotmale Dam, reservoir and power station

The dam with a Crest Length of 520 m and Height of 122 m created Kotmale reservoir, which at its full capacity regulates 174 million cubic meters of waters of the Kotamale Oya River. The water thus impounded is utilized first for the hydro electric power generation. The contribution to the national power grid of Sri Lanka by hydro electricity at Kotmale amounts to no less than 206 megawatts. Then the water is discharged to join the confluence of Mahaweli ganga river and the Atabaghe Oya river.

But then all the good things come at a price. Sri Lanka paid a heavy price for Kotmale dam, reservoir, tunnel and underground hydro electricity power station. Kotmale project is one of the five head works projects of the mega project of Mahaweli River Diversification, the largest (modern or ancient) irrigation scheme ever in the island.
57 villages were lost. 54 ancient and medieval Buddhist temples were sunk together with 57 villages on both banks of Kotmale Oya river hugging Tispane hill and Kadadola hill. It was thousands of times worse than floods. I was ironic. Everything in the valley was lost for the rest of the time, even the floods. There won’t be floods any more, but then there aren’t any more villages either. It was analogous to throwing the baby with the bath water. But then Sri Lanka wanted the accelerated Mahaweli multi-purpose irrigation project. How do you make an omelet without breaking the egg?

The destiny of Kotmale was foretold

Today Kotmale dam and Kotmale reservoir aren’t merely monuments of modern engineering nor are they merely modern edifices of an ancient island rooted in agriculture: they are testimony to the inevitable course of destiny too. During the medieval times a Nostrdamusque astrologer mathematician by the name Kotmale Ganitaya (the mathematician of Kotmale) had predicted that one day in the future Kadadora hill and Thispane hill would meet. Kotmale dam and the Kotmale reservoir made it that the two hills aren’t apart from each other any longer: today they are conjoined with the concrete of the dam and waters of the reservoir.

Mahaweli Maha Seya Modern Stupa

In an attempt to compensate the 54 temples inundated, in the ancient tradition of Sri Lanka, the Stupa Land of the Buddhist World, a towering stupa rising to a height of 274 ft with a diameter of 200 ft (61 meters) was built by the state at the right bank above the Kotmale dam at an elevation of 950 m (4150 ft.) above sea level.

Kotmale in History of Sri Lanka

Kotmale of Sri Lanka Holidays has been a much adored village among the Sinhalese: the name of the legendary village of the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka itself brings about smiling faces and a loving hearts. The history has set Kotamale an unparalleled significance: it was the village where Prince Dutugamunu who hailed from the ancient Southern kingdom Ruhuna found sanctuary. The prince had sent a couple of bangles to his father, who wouldn’t grant permission to wage war against the Tamil Invader Elara at Anuradapura. If you are a man, you have to fight your battles to the death; since you aren’t ready for the battle, you may as well wear these bangles, the beloved ornaments of ladies.

The prince lived in disguise known by a befitting name: Gupta. It meant mystery in Sinhalese in the ancient times as it does today. The mystery was revealed by Kandula, the Royal elephant who was combing the land in search of crown prince following the death of the king. The caparisoned royal elephant escorted by the royal body guards carrying the standard Sri Lanka knelt in front of Gupta farming in the paddy field, sinking the farmers in mortal fear: the farm hand they loved yet taunted was the crown prince. By destiny, the one who treated the farm boy with selfless kindness happened to be Ran Ethana, the prettiest damsel of the village, the younger daughter of the man of the house which gave him shelter. The prince extended his hand. The hand of god made her the queen of the island.

The lion-hearted prince from Ruhuna went to battle with a great army of warriors and elephants lead by ten samsonesque commanders named Nandimithra, Suranimala, Velusumana, Gotabhaya, Pussadeva, Mahasona, Theraputtabhaya,Kanchadeva, Lahhiyawasaba and Bharana laid siege, battled and ran over Dravidian bastion by bastion all the way from Ruhuna to Anuradhapura, defeated the formidable army of the Dravidian invader and rescued the Sinhalese nation and Buddhism.

King Dutugamunu (161-137 BC) is historically and traditionally honored with the supreme title of “The Hero of Sri Lanka”. On 19th of May 2009, with the complete elimination of terrorism which wreaked havoc in the northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka for 30 years, the elected popular President Don Percy Mahendra Rajapakse also from Ruhuna was tilted “The Hero of Modern Sri Lanka.” Today Sri Lanka’s development is on high gear; the tourism business with Sri Lanka Holidays is in overdrive.

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