The house that Bandaranaike built | Sunday Observer

The house that Bandaranaike built

14 November, 2021

The Horagolla Walawwa in Nittambuwa was the house to a number of people who played a significant role in Sri Lankan politics both before and after the British and colonial era. This ancient house is still popular among the people as it is the place where the late Maha Mudliyar Sir Solomon Dias Bandaranaike, slain Prime Minister Solomon West Ridgeway Dias (S.W.R.D) Bandaranaike, late Premier Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike and late Minister Anura Bandaranaike were residing in.

We usually refer to the Horagolla Walawwa as the Walawwa built by Sir Solomon Dias Bandaranaike around the end of the 19th century. However, the Walawwa built by his ancestors on the same land was formerly known as the Horagolla Walawwa and it was later converted into a stable by Solomon Dias Bandaranaike. Renovated by Geoffrey Bawa, a renowned architect in the 1980s, this is now the home to Sunethra Bandaranaike, the eldest daughter of the Bandaranaike-Sirimavo couple.


The history of the old Horagolla Walawwa, which is located close to the present Horagolla Walawwa, which was built by Solomon Dias Bandaranaike in the late 19th century, dates back to the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Don Solomon Dias Bandaranaike, the grandfather of Solomon Dias Bandaranaike, was the Mudliyar of Siyane Korale at that time and later provided the granite and gravel needed for the construction of the Colombo-Kandy highway by the British. Don Solomon Dias Bandaranaike, who had amassed considerable wealth by providing materials for the construction of the Colombo-Kandy highway in this manner, thought of constructing a new house and accordingly selected a site in the Horagolla area near Nittambuwa for its construction. Sources say that the house he built was the old Horagolla Walawwa and although there is no definite date for its completion, it is believed to have been completed around 1820. Accordingly, this Horagolla palace which is believed to have been completed around 1820 was owned by Don Solomon Dias Bandaranaike, his son Don Christopher Henriques Dias Abeywickrama Jayatilake Seneviratne Bandaranaike and after him his son, Solomon Dias Bandaranaike.


Solomon Dias Bandaranaike had a number of valuable horses and after the construction of the new Horagolla Walawwa around the end of the 19th century, he converted the Walawwa built by his grandfather, Don Solomon Dias Bandaranaike, into a stable.

However, the stable was abandoned in July 1946 after the death of Solomon Dias Bandaranaike.

This Walawwa, which had been in a dilapidated condition due to its long abandonment, became the residence of Sunethra Bandaranaike, the granddaughter of Solomon Dias Bandaranaike, around 1980. At her invitation, the house was remodeled to its present condition by Geoffrey Bawa, who was one of the finest architects in the country.

Sunethra Bandaranaike, a friend of Bawa, saw his creations and decided to get the then dilapidated stables in Horagolla and make it her home. Accordingly, Bawa, who was visiting the place at the invitation of Sunethra Bandaranaike, was a little reluctant at first, but later agreed to renovate the house to its present condition.

It is said that the assistance of an Indian architect was also obtained for this purpose. During this time Sunethra Bandaranaike had grown plants such as Hora and Kohomba around the house and collected antiques for the decoration of the house.


The old Horagolla Walawwa is a single storey house with features of Dutch and British architecture, but inside it one can see an upstairs made of wood. The house has a Sinhala tiled roof with a porch on one side and two protruding rooms on either side. Most doors and windows are made of wood. The house also houses a variety of artefacts such as statues and an old-fashioned kitchen.

Bawa has also added a new part to the old house and it is special that it has been constructed without any damage to the antiquity of the building. The house is designed to be as open to the environment as possible. Very little furniture has been used so as not to damage its natural and spacious look.

Sunethra Bandaranaike, the eldest daughter of the Bandaranaike-Sirimavo couple and the sister of former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and a prominent philanthropist, moved into this house in the late 1980s. She is so interested in maintaining the house as it was designed by Bawa that even today the statues in the house are said to have been kept in the same places where they were originally placed by him.