The Water Gardens

The whole water gardens complex offers a good example of the hydraulic sophistication achieved by the ancient Sinhalese in the dry zone: after almost 1500 years of disuse, all that was needed to restore the fountains to working order was to clear the water channels which feed them.

From the entrance, a wide and straight path arrows directly towards the rock, following the line of an imaginary east—west axis, drawn straight through the rock, around which the whole city was planned. This entire side of the city is protected by a broad moat enclosed within two-tiered walls. Crossing the moat (which once enclosed the entire west-facing side of the complex), you enter the Water Gardens. The appearance of this area varies greatly according to how much rain has recently fallen, and in the dry season lack of water means that the gardens can be a little underwhelming. The first section comprises four pools set in a square; when full, they create a small island at their centre, connected by pathways to the surrounding gardens. The remains of pavilions can been seen in (the rectangular areas) to the north and south of the pools.

Beyond here is the small but elaborate Fountain Garden. Features here include a serpentining miniature “river” and limestone-bottomed channels and ponds, two of which preserve their ancient fountain sprinklers — these work on a simple pressure and gravity principle and still spurt out modest plumes of water after heavy rain.

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