Iddamalgoda Walawwa | Sunday Observer

Iddamalgoda Walawwa

12 December, 2021

There are several Walawwas in the Ratnapura District that belonged to aristocratic families for centuries. Among them are the Ehelepola and Elapatha Walawwas in Ratnapura, Maduwanwela Walawwa in Kolonna, and Mahawalatenna Walawwa in Balangoda. In addition to all that, the Iddamalgoda Walawwa in the Kalu Ganga Valley is another Walawwa in the Ratnapura District.

Iddamalgoda Basnayake Nilame who was the Basnayake Nilame of the Sabaragamuwa Maha Saman Devalaya and Iddamalgoda Kumarihami who lived in the Iddamalgoda Walawwa were prominent figures in the past. Even today the Iddamalgoda Walawwa can be seen in its original form.


Iddamalgoda Kumarihami and Iddamalgoda Basnayake Nilame are the most famous members of the Iddamalgoda dynasty, an ancient and glorious dynasty of Sabaragamuwa. It is said that this Iddamalgoda family had relations with a number of aristocratic families such as the Elapatha family of Elapatha Walawwa, Ekneligoda family of Ekneligoda Walawwa, Mahawalatenna family of Mahawalatenna Walawwa and Maduwanwela Family of Maduwanwela Walawwa.

Sir William Gregory, a former British Governor of Sri Lanka, mentions one Iddamalgoda Rate Mahattaya in his personal notes. The Governor has said that he was a prominent figure among the Sinhalese community and was a very wealthy landowner. Iddamalgoda Rate Mahattaya was also instrumental in organising the Labugama Elephant Festival in honour of the then Duke of Edinburgh, who visited Ceylon in the 1870s.

Iddamalgoda Rate Mahattaya, who served as the Rate Mahattaya of the Sabaragamuwa District and the Basnayake Nilame of the historic Sabaragamuwa Maha Saman Devalaya, is said to have been revered not only by the Sinhalese community, but also by the British rulers. He has repeatedly told then British officials that the administration of temples and shrines should be left to their institutions, and has also had a great desire to print books.

Iddamalgoda Kumarihami

Iddamalgoda Kumarihami, an aristocratic lady who lived in this Walawwa, was a devout and beautiful woman and there are many legends associated with her. At one point, a special observation deck has been built on a tree for the Duke of Edinburgh to view the Labugama Elephant Festival.

Apart from the dignitaries who accompanied the royal guest to the deck, the family members of Iddamalgoda Rate Mahattaya were also allowed to enter it. It is said that Iddamalgoda Kumarihami and her mother were brought with their accomplices to climb the observation deck built on the tree at that time. Everyone’s attention was drawn to Iddamalgoda Kumarihami who came with her mother.

Walawwa and its architecture

This ancient Walawwa belongs to the Iddamalgoda dynasty and is built of Kabok stone and clay.

It features both Sinhala and Dutch architecture. A narrow wall made of granite can be seen around the Walawwa. Several large towers built at the same distance along the wall can still be seen today.

Iddamalgoda Walawwa, which has the same features as a traditional Walawwa, has a long open porch in front of it with more than 15 large towers.

Behind it one can see another open porch with several towers that are taller than the other towers. Part of the floor is granite while another part of the floor is made of something similar to clay tiles.

The main door at the entrance to the house and all the other door and window frames are very large and high.

Today, the roof of the palace is covered with old Sinhala tiles on one side and roofing sheets on the other. There are a number of large rooms in the Walawwa, with a door at the entrance and an exit at the back of the house facing each other.

A library with a collection of old books can still be seen in the Walawwa today.

There is also a long corridor at the back of the Walawwa. Wooden poles were used for the pillars in that section and are now somewhat dilapidated.

The well that provided water to the Walawwa can also be seen behind it. At present, the Walawwa is owned by relatives of the Iddamalgoda generation.

One of Iddamalgoda Kumarihami’s granddaughters and her husband, who hails from Elapatha Walawwa in Ratnapura, now live in the Walawwa.

‘They make a great effort to maintain it so as not to damage the ancient appearance.