Nestled within the serene landscapes of Kadadora in the Nuwara Eliya District of Sri Lanka, the Kadadora Viharaya, also known as Kadadora Sri Priyabimbaramaya Vihara, once stood as a testament to the rich Buddhist heritage of the region. This sacred Buddhist temple, however, met its unfortunate fate due to the relentless march of progress in the form of the Kotmale Dam, a vital component of the Mahaweli Development Programme, which led to its abandonment and subsequent ruins. The echoes of its history still ripple through the waters of the Kotmale Reservoir, revealing the relics of a forgotten past.
The Kotmale Dam and Its Impact
In 1979, the construction of the Kotmale Dam heralded a new era of development for Sri Lanka through the Mahaweli Development Programme. The ambitious project aimed to harness the power of the Mahaweli River for irrigation and electricity generation, a step towards modernization. However, progress often exacts a price from the pages of history; in this case, that price was the heritage that lay in the path of the reservoir's expansion.
Submerged Villages and Religious Sites
As the waters of the Kotmale Reservoir rose, an entire landscape transformed. Around 57 villages and 54 religious sites, including the revered Kadadora Viharaya, were submerged beneath the reservoir's surface when its completion was marked in 1985. The echoes of prayers and the footsteps of devotees were replaced by the gentle lapping of water against the newly formed shores.
While the Kadadora Viharaya now lies in ruin beneath the water's surface, the cyclical ebb and flow of water levels occasionally grant us a glimpse into the past. During periods of drought or controlled water release, the ruins of the vihara reemerge, serving as a poignant reminder of the spiritual sanctuary that once graced the landscape.
Lost and Found: Mahaweli Maha Seya
The Mahaweli authorities undertook a significant endeavour to honour the submerged religious shrines and temples. The construction of the bubble-shaped stupa, known as Mahaweli Maha Seya, commenced. This stupa is a towering tribute to the lost heritage and is second in height only to the iconic Ruwanwelisaya of Anuradhapura. Its lofty presence echoes the resilience of faith and the determination to preserve the legacy.
The story of Kadadora Viharaya encapsulates the bittersweet tale of progress and heritage, sacrifice and tribute. As the waters of the Kotmale Reservoir conceal the physical remains of the vihara, they also reveal the enduring spirit of a community that once found solace in its hallowed halls. The Mahaweli Maha Seya, rising proudly against the horizon, speaks volumes about the importance of remembrance and the human desire to keep history alive, even amidst the currents of change.