The Kuttam Pokuna - History and Facts | History Hit

The Kuttam Pokuna

Anuradhapura, North Central Province, Sri Lanka

The Kuttam Pokuna are two well-preserved ancient pools in Anuradhapura.

Antara Bate

24 Nov 2020

About The Kuttam Pokuna

The Kuttam Pokuna are a pair of pools in the ancient city of Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka. Possibly thousands of years old, they are extremely well preserved, with their stone steps still intact.

The Kuttam Pokuna history

The Kuttam Pokuna or Twin Ponds are a unique creation of ancient architecture. They are considered an example of significant achievements in hydrological engineering in ancient Sri Lanka. The Kuttam Pokuna is located in the Sacred City of Anuradhapura in North Central Province, Sri Lanka.

The origins of these ponds are not known but it is thought to have been built during the reign of King Aggabodhi I (575-608).

The two ponds of different sizes are separated by a landscaped garden. There are a number of staircases to get down to the ponds and these staircases are decorated with the “Punkalas” or pots (the symbol of prosperity in ancient buildings).

These swimming-pool-like ponds were likely used by monks from nearby Kaparamula residence hall. Water entered the larger pond through the mouth of a makara (a mythical hybrid beast featuring the body of a fish, the mouth of a crocodile and the trunk of an elephant) and then flowed to the smaller pond through an underground pipe.

This underground water supply can be seen at one end of the second bath. After the ponds emptied, the water was transferred to the Malwatu Oya. Thus there was a water filtration system too.

Snake-like Naga statues, recognised as the guardians of water, can be found everywhere. A metal box was found at the bottom of the pond during excavation that contained small statues of crabs and fishes that deserved to be in the water. It is said that the builder of twin ponds is still unknown.

The site was photographed by British photographer Joseph Lawton in 1866, who was commissioned to capture key sites by an Archaeological committee set up by the Governor of Sri Lanka (Ceylon) in 1868. Lawton created a powerful series of images which are now held by the V&A.

The Kuttam Pokuna is now well conserved by the authorities as a tourist attraction.

The Kuttam Pokuna today

Pioneering archaeologist Dr. Senarath Paranavithana was involved in the restoration of the ponds. Though the underground pipelines are no more, you can see 4 levels of filtering of the water before it enters the ponds.

Getting to the Kuttam Pokuna

There are many routes to drive to the ancient city Anuradhapura. Once there visitors often choose to walk around or hire a tuk-tuk to travel between sites.