Walawwas of Ratnapura | Sunday Observer

Walawwas of Ratnapura

19 June, 2021

Centuries-old Walawwas can be seen in the Sabaragamuwa Province, especially in the Ratnapura District, among them are the Mahawalatenna Walawwa, the Ehelepola Walawwa, the Ekneligoda Walawwa, the Iddamalgoda Walawwa and many others.

All these palaces have a long history and in addition to these, another Walawwa is located in the Balangoda area in the Ratnapura District.

It is the Mahawalatenna Walawwa, where Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike, the world’s first female Prime Minister, grew up.

The Mahawalatenna Walawwa, which was a property of late Sirimavo’s mother, Rosemund Hilda Mahawalatenna is located in the Balangoda area and the original Walawwa is believed to have been built behind the present Walawwa. Also, the previous Walawwa is said to be a building with seven courtyards.


The Mahawalatenna dynasty, which is believed to have descended from an Adikaram named Mahawalatenna, was revered by the people as a distinguished aristocratic lineage in the Sabaragamuwa Province.

This Adikaram originally lived in a Walawwa in the Godakumbura area and there is a wonderful story about how he chose the land on which the Mahawalatenna Walawwa was built.

According to ancient sources, the herdsmen had taken the cattle to the forest near the present Mahawalatenna Walawwa for feeding and in some cases the Adikaram also used to go there to watch the cattle graze.

One such day, the Adikaram had witnessed an incident where a fox was chasing after a rabbit following which he thought that land would bring him fortune.

After some time, the Adikaram had chosen the land for his house to be built and it was called Mahawalatenna Walawwa.

After this Adikaram, one of his sons had built a temple near the Mahawalatenna Walawwa which can even be seen today as the Chandrasekara Mudalindaramaya. He was married to a young woman from a Walawwa in the Southern Province and they had one son and a daughter.

The son, Samuel David Mahawalatenna, was married to a Kumarihami from Ellawala Walawwa, Batugedara, Ratnapura, and the Kumarihami’s brother, Francis Ellawala, was married to Samuel David Mahawalatenna’s sister. The medicinal garden cultivated by Samuel David Mahawalatenna in the grounds of the Mahawalatenna Walawwa is still preserved and he built the new Mahawalatenna Walawwa.

It was built on the same site between 1900 and 1911 and according to English architecture. It has a large living room and four bedrooms, as well as several staff rooms and two kitchens.


Although it was planned to build a soldaraya which was an integral part of the old houses, however this never happened. It is special that it has an open porch that runs around the Walawwa and its arches add a lot of beauty to the house. All the wood is jackfruit and the district courtroom, office room, and public meeting places were also built on the grounds of the Walawwa.

Samuel David Mahawalatenna did not have sons and he, therefore, thought of finding someone for his daughter, Rosemund Hilda Mahawalatenna Kumarihami, and he decided to get them into a Binna marriage where the husband had to stay at the wife’s home and take care of the properties.

Accordingly, Barnes Ratwatte, a member of the Ratwatte dynasty from the Kandyan Kingdom who married her, settled in the Mahawalatenna Walawwa and later became the Rate Mahaththaya and Dissawe following the death of his father-in-law, Samuel David Mahawalatenna. Ratwatte was subsequently elected to the State Council.

Barnes Ratwatte and Rosemund Hilda Kumarihami had four sons, Clifford Ratwatte, Seevali Ratwatte, Barnes Ratwatte (Jr.) and Mackie Ratwatte, and two daughters, Sirima Ratwatte and Wimala Patricia Ratwatte.

Sirima got married to Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike, the son of Solomon Dias Bandaranaike Maha Mudali and Lady Daisy Acelin Obeysekera.

He was later elected as the fourth Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and after his assassination in 1959, Sirima Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike became the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka or Ceylon as it was known then, setting a record as the world’s first female Prime Minister.

Her sister Wimala Patricia Ratwatte was married to Edward James Divithotawala and Clifford Ratwatte was married to Mallika Ellawala of Ratnapura Ellawala Walawwa.


Her sister, Rosini Ellawala was married to Seevali Ratwatte and daughter of the Seevali- Rosini couple, Lakmini Ratwatte was married to Upali Wijewardene, the founder of Upali Group of Companies.

Mahawalatenna Walawwa, which has a history of more than 100 years, is still maintained well and was inhabited by Mallika Ellawala Ratwatte, a former Member of Parliament who was married to Clifford Ratwatte until recent times. However, following her death, the Walawwa is now owned by her children.