The Unsung Heroes
In the this article I will continue to pay tribute to the intelligentsia of a civilisation which ranks on par with that of ancient Greece and Rome. An intelligentsia which gave the world some of the most spectacular monuments ever conceived by the human mind.these questions will forever remain answered. The 'Unsung Heroes' I refer to are not the great kings which ruled this resplendent island, but the engineers, architects, master craftsmen, artists, builders, and the rest of the intelligentsia, whose masterpieces evoke the worlds admiration today.
The chronicles credit various kings with many public works, specially the mighty irrigation schemes which bear ample testimony to the level of ancient Sri Lanka's hydraulic engineering skills. The very design of these tanks as confirmed by engineers today, show that these ancient geniuses had an in-depth knowledge of hydraulic principles, and in the construction of these works, showed a deep knowledge of trigonometry. Sadly, there is no record anywhere of a single name of the engineers responsible for planning and executing these colossal projects.
The Kalavewa tank built during the reign of King Dhatusena has an embankment 3.25 miles long, rising to a height of 40ft. By means of a canal, the waters of the Kalavewa augmented the water supply in the reservoirs at Anuradhapura. This canal known as the 'Jayaganga' is 50 miles long and is an amazing feat of hydraulic engineering because the gradient in the first 17 miles in its length was a mere 6 inches to a mile ! Who was the engineering genius responsible ? His name was never recorded for posterity and he remains one of the many unsung heroes.
There is another example - The Parakrama Samudra (Sea of Parakrama) in Polonnaruwa. Constructed during the reign of the great King Parakramabahu the 1st, the 40 ft. embankment of this tank is 8 1/2 (eight and a half) miles long, and the stonemasonry involved contains stone blocks weighing 10 1/2 tons ! (ten and a half). Again I pose the question, who was the master engineer who initiated this gigantic project ? This genius whose skill amazes modern engineers today is another unsung hero because his name has never been recorded.
I have asked myself the same question whenever I gazed across the waters of the Minneriya tank which was constructed during the reign of King Mahasena. Work on a total of 16 tanks commenced during his reign from 274 - 301 AD although many were completed long after his reign. And again the haunting question - Where did the ancient engineers get their knowledge of complex irrigation and hydraulic technology ? Who were these geniuses ? We shall never know. Nor were their talents confined to Lanka's shores. In Kashmir there is an ancient historical record called "The Rajatharangani". It is recorded in this document that in the 8 th century, the rulers of Kashmir sought the help of Sinhalese engineers to design and and build reservoirs in their kingdom. Another tribute to the technical expertise of the ancient Sinhalese !
Written by : Bernard Vancuylenberg
DISCOVER - SRI LANKA
IN PRAISE OF MY BEAUTIFUL ISLAND,
INFORMATION, PHOTOGRAPHS AND VIDEO.
THE 13th CENTURY VENETIAN TRAVELER MARCO POLO DESCRIBED THE ISLAND AS 'THE JADE PENDANT IN THE INDIAN OCEAN'. THE ABUNDANCE OF GEMSTONES, SPICES, RAIN FORESTS AND WILDLIFE; THE MAGNIFICENT BEACHES, ANCIENT RUINS AND A WRITTEN HISTORY OF OVER 2500 YEARS MAKE THIS ISLAND A TOURISTS' PARADISE.
THE RUINED CITIES OF ANURADHAPURA AND POLONNARUWA ILLUSTRATE THE GLORY OF THE ANCIENT KINGDOMS. THE GIGANTIC STUPAS AND BUDDHA STATUES ARE AMONG THE BIGGEST MAN MADE STRUCTURES OF THE WORLD. THE MASSIVE RESERVOIRS, BUILT BY ANCIENT KINGS TO IRRIGATE THOUSANDS OF ACRES OF LAND, ARE MARVELS OF HYDRO ENGINEERING. THERE ARE EIGHT UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES IN SRI LANKA
THE ISLAND WAS KNOWN TO THE GREEKS AS 'TAPROBANE' AND TO THE ARABS AS 'SERENDIB'. EARLY MERCHANTS VISITED THE ISLAND IN SEARCH OF GEMSTONES AND SPICES, MAINLY CINNAMON AND PEPPER. COFFEE AND TEA PLANTATIONS WERE STARTED BY THE BRITISH COLONIAL RULERS. CEYLON TEA IS FAMOUS THE WORLD OVER.
TOURISM INDUSTRY IS A MAJOR MONEY SPINNER FOR THIS BEAUTIFUL ISLAND. THE VAST EXPANSE OF BEACHES, RAIN FORESTS AND NATIONAL PARKS WITH HERDS OF WILD ELEPHANTS, THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS WITH LITHE WATER FALLS, BRING IN THE TOURISTS. THE ISLAND IS DOTTED WITH HUNDREDS OF HOTELS TO ACCOMMODATE THE TRAVELER. AN ISLAND OF 25,000 SQ; MILES HAS 103 RIVERS AND 25000 RESERVOIRS, MOSTLY MAN MADE. WITH VARYING CLIMATIC CONDITIONS THIS IS TRULY A 'SMALL MIRACLE'.
" THE ISLAND OF SRI LANKA IS A SMALL UNIVERSE, IT CONTAINS AS MANY VARIATIONS OF CULTURE, SCENERY AND CLIMATE AS SOME COUNTRIES A DOZEN TIMES ITS SIZE........I FIND IT HARD TO BELIEVE THAT THERE IS ANY COUNTRY WHICH SCORES SO HIGHLY IN ALL DEPARTMENTS - WHICH HAVE SO MANY ADVANTAGES AND SO FEW DISADVANTAGES. LOVELY BEACHES, BEAUTIFUL LANDSCAPES, IMPRESSIVE RUINS, A VIBRANT CULTURE AND CHARMING PEOPLE- NO WONDER SRI LANKA IS A SMALL MIRACLE "
***** Arthur C. Clark ***** .