Mihintale Ponds: Amongst its serene, tranquil, beautiful forest and boulder-clad environs we find some of the earliest examples of Sinhalese hydraulic civilization in Mihintale. The monastic establishment in fact brought about an ideal motive for the development of an impressive network of irrigation channels with the use of both natural and artificial ponds and waterways.
Mihintale is a mountain peak near Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka. It is believed by Sri Lankans to be the site of a meeting between the Buddhist monk Mahinda and King Devanampiyatissa which inaugurated the presence of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. It is now a pilgrimage site, and the site of several religious monuments and abandoned structures.
Out of the many Mihintale ponds and waterways that have graced this area, three ponds and bathing places can be identified even today; Naga pokuna, Sinha pokuna and Kaludiya pokuna.
Naga Pokuna (Cobra Pond)
Naga pokuna boasts of one of the main sources of natural water at Mihintale. It is situated on an elevated plateau on the side of a hill just below the Mahathupa and Mihindusaya.
Naga pokuna literally translated as Cobra pond takes its name from the five hooded cobra cut in low relief on the rock surface above the pond. The tail of this cobra sculpture is said to reach the bottom of the pond.
It was connected in one hand with the Sinha pokuna or the Pond of the lion and on the other with the Bat-ge or Refectory by means of channels and spouts made of stone. The spouts on pillars at the Bat-ge site can still be seen. As such the water required for bathing at the Sinha pokuna and the water required for the alms hall was supplied by the Naga pokuna.
The Naga pokuna has been identified by scholars as the Nagasondi of the ancient inscriptions. The great chronicle Mahawamsa referring to this pond says that Elder Mahinda when he re visited the Cetiyapabbata mountain to spend the retreat first entered the place after having a bath at this pond.
Kaludiya Pokuna (Black Water Pool)
Situated at the foot of the western slopes of it is the largest among Mihintale ponds Most experts believe that Kaludiya pokuna may probably be the ancient Porodini Pokuna mentioned in the tablets of Mahinda IV.
Kalu-diya pokuna, literally translated means the black water pool. It is said that the name evolved out of respect to the sombre reflections of trees and boulders of the neighboring forests and mountains, and is true to its description at most times of the day.
The complex of well planned buildings around the pond is witness to an advanced hydraulic civilization with artificial moats running through some of the buildings; the bath houses, the toilets within the buildings.
Around the pond are the remains of an arama consisting of a stupa, uposathaghara or poya ge, the building where monks met at regular intervals to perform certain rituals pertaining to their conduct or behavior, cankamana patha, promenade for walking, parivena and pasada, residential cells janta ghara, bath house and vacca kutti lavatory.
A cave dwelling found in a slight depression in the vicinity is noteworthy. Tucked so cozily under a massive overhanging of a boulder, smooth granite slabs and brick are blended together to form the enclosing walls instead of the usual brick and mortar. Some scholars believe that this would have been a the bathing house attached to a bathing pokuna in front, now silted up.
Sinha Pokuna (Lion Pond)
Though it is called a pond, it is more a water rail. It is an open air bath which was probably used by the monks who were living in the caves of the neighborhood.
It is called a pond because of the water tank above the figure of the standing lion from whose mouth the water comes out. Half of it is cut out of the natural rock and the other half is constructed of monolithic blocks to form a square pond.
The two meter high raging lion has been classed as one of the best animal carvings of ancient Sri Lanka.
The rampant lion as it has been described stands as part of an ornamental bathing spout. The pond, appropriately named Sinha pokuna, is situated under shady trees on one of the middle terraces of Mihintale. And let’s not forget the sculptures in the form of a paneling on the tank. Here lively scenes of dancers, musicians, elephants and some adorable looking lions can be seen.
The water to this open air bath is from a channel from the Naga Pokuna (Cobra Pond which is situated above it on a much higher elevation. The hydraulics of this system characterized the technological advances of ancient Sri Lanka.