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Anuradhapura ancient places –the twin ponds
Twin point: a unique well that addresses the water shortage
This unique well is among the least popular tourist attractions in Anuradhapura, which is an architectural invention of ancient engineers of Sri Lanka. The twin pond or “Kuttam pokuna” in the native language is two ponds next to each other, dates back to the Anuradhapura period (3rd Century BC to 11th century AD), and the exact dates of its construction of the ancient ponds are unknown. This twin pond is considered to be an ingenious solution for the water shortage during the dry season in the region.
Concealed from the plain sight, a few minutes away from the newly emerged bustling city of Anuradhapura, the commercial hub of North-central province is the Anuradhapura ancient city, popular far and wide in the world for its crumbling historical monuments. However, I have great doubt about the popularity of twin ponds in the ancient city of Anuradhapura, because it seems like just another ordinary well with steps and rarely gets the attention of visitors.
This ancient landmark is overlooked by many travellers due to the other major attractions such as Jetawanarama, Ruwanweliseya, which are much much larger than the twin ponds and has more religious significance.
The weather pattern in Anuradhapura
According to the weather pattern, there is an acute shortage of water in the dry-zone of Sri Lanka from November to April due to the lack of rain. The archaeologist believes that weather pattern we have today shows a lot of similarities to the weather pattern existed during the Anuradhapura period, ancient people also had to find a solution for the water shortage during the dry season.
Advanced water management installed by the Sri Lanka kings in the past
On account of this phenomenon, the ancient Kings has installed thousands of lakes across the northern dry-zone of Sri Lanka, in order to collect water during the rainy season (monsoon season). The collected water was subsequently served the people under the stringent control of officials. Labyrinthine of canals built by ancient kings dating back to 3rd century BC is still serving the people of dry-zone, and they are the lifeblood of farmers in the dry zone of Sri Lanka.
The unique architecture of twin pond
Twin ponds have a unique architectural design that was an ingenious answer for the water shortage in the area during the dry season. Anuradhapura kingdom is in the heart of Sri Lanka’s dry zone, where the perennial water resources dry out during the dry season. To make it worst the rain is also seldom during this period. As the perennial, water resources deplete and the rain does not contribute considerably to the water level of water storages (tanks, lakes and rivers) in the regions sinks.
By creating enormous twin ponds deep below ground, helped the monks, who used this ponds to access the groundwater level even during the prolonged drought. The depth of the ponds is 18 feet (6 meters), making it possible to tap into the groundwater table, therefore this step-well has year-round water supply, even after many centuries of its inception.
As you stand on top of the flight of steps going deep down into the earth at Anuradhapura, you can see the thick forest and the crumbling historical monument in the backdrop, remembering that you are in the most historical archaeological site in Sri Lanka.
The Number of Anuradhapura historical places exceeds many thousands and the old city expands over a large area. Anuradhapura is an archaeological zoo with hundreds of thousands of historical monuments and twin pond is one of them.
The step-wells are to be found very commonly in north India, and some other part of western Indian states. However, they are originated during the medieval period and twin ponds of Anuradhapura are much older than the Indian step-wells. The twin pond is primarily served the temple monks and it was not for the purpose to serve the general public, therefore it was a temple tank.
There are few differences between the step-wells of India and the twin pond of Sri Lanka such as decorations, twin pond is lavishly decorated but most Indian ponds are basic and not decorated. The flight of steps of the twin pond is lavishly decorated with niches, stone sculptures and arches, floral designs, and animal figures.
Even though the concept behind the step-wells seems to be similar in both countries, but in the Sri Lankan case, it is much more complicated and more advanced. The Indian step wells solely depend on the groundwater level in order to fill the pond but at twin ponds, the ancient engineers installed an underground terracotta pipe to direct water to the pond from the nearby tank.
The water which was coming in the direction of the pond directed to a tank before it fills the step-well, thereby all the residue that mix with the water settled in the tank before recedes to the well and only the clean water flows into the pond.
Twin pond of Anuradhapura is the oldest and most well-known stepwell on the island. The twin pond is still in very good shape even after about 1500 years. The twin pond was built for the use of monks of Mahavihara and it was a part of to the temple complex and was abandoned when the capital of Sri Lanka was moved to Polonnaruwa from Anuradhapura in 11th century AD.
After many centuries of disuse, it was discovered during the excavation in the old city, in the 18s. Today the twin pond is one of the very valuable artefacts that show the architectural and engineering skills of ancient people and it is clever and sophisticated engineering, could be relevant again today, because Sri Lanka dry zone facing the spectra of drought over the past few decades