Mansion of the Black Prince | Sunday Observer
Maduwanwela Walauwa

Mansion of the Black Prince

17 October, 2021
The front view of the Walauwa
The front view of the Walauwa

My original destination was the Walalgoda Tempita Vihara in Walalgoda, a remote village close to Embilipitiya, where wall paintings belonging to the Kandyan period, preserved in a two-storied small building in a Tempita Vihara.

Having visited the temple, with a glimmer of hope, I made up my mind to visit another archaeologically important site situated 28 kilometres from Walalgoda. It was the grand mansion of the Maduwanwela Walauwa.

My memory goes back to late 70s when I was a schoolboy, when I read a serialised story of Maduwanwela Maha Disawa in our sister newspaper Silumina each week for a couple of months. Since the printing was not so good those days, the story accompanied several black and white pictures which were fascinating for the readers.

Almost five decades later, recalling the past memories, we visited the Maduwanwela Walauwa. The grandeur bears testimony to the man who made it his home, Maduwanwela Maha Disawe. It speaks volumes of the man’s spirit, his heroism and how he used his unique mansion to display his resentment for and protest against colonial administrators. It is his spirit that gives the building its unique character.

Kolonna valley

Turning left at the Panamura junction on the Embilipitiya – Kolonna highway, we took the Suriyakanda – Kolonna Road, which runs via Panamura, famous for the elephant kraal, climbing up and down hills on a meandering road.

After an half an hour on this road, we reached the Maduwanwela Walauwa situated in the sleepy village of Maduwanwela at the foot of the awe-inspiring mountain frontier of the Kolonna valley, in the Sabaragamuwa Province.

The Maduwanwela Walauwa has been home to six generations of the Maduwanwela clan. The architectural structure of the Walauwa goes back to the time of the last generation of Maduwanwelas. Born in September 1844, Wickramasinghe Wijesundera Ekanayake Abayakoon Mudiyanse Ralahamilage Sir James William Maduwanwela Maha Disawe, was educated at S. Thomas College, Colombo.

His real name is Molamure, respected and highly revered clan hailing from Ratnapura. He adopted his maternal family name of Maduwanwela, and was fondly referred to as Kalu Kumaraya (Black Prince) by the people of the area.

The history of the Maduwanwela Walauwa dates back to the reign of King Wimaladharmasuriya II of the Kandyan period. Maduwanwela Disawe’s earliest ancestor who lived at the Walauwa was Maduwanwela Mohottala, who built the mansion in 1700.

The medieval castle-like Walauwa, originally contained two grand rock archways, three defence walls, a courthouse, 121 rooms and 12 courtyards. Today, there are only 40 rooms and seven inner gardens.


The grand mansion was converted to a museum in 1974, under the supervision of the Department of Archaeology. The Department laboured to protect the remainder of the Walauwa, although the exterior of the building had deteriorated badly due to exposure to elements.

Although the grandeur is lost, the Walauwa still stands proudly. One of the unique features of the Walauwa is the permanent Pirith Mandapaya and wood work preserved without any damage, containing rich latticework and the imaginative floor designs which prove that the Walauwa is a beautiful blend of Western and local architecture.

The upper story of the Walauwa is spacious and airy. A narrow wooden stairway leads to this floor, known as the Burutha Maligawa (Satinwood palace).

One of the most remarkable facets within the Walauwa is its paved floors laid out in a mosaic style with chipped tiles and ceramic wares brought from the Netherlands, China, India and England. The colourful detailing in the mosaic leaves an indelible impression on any visitor. The tiles were laid in 1905.

The colourful and hypnotic patterns are occasionally broken by images of Queen Victoria and other such colonial images as the sterling pounds sign appears on the ceramics.

This was just one of the ways in which the Maha Disawe rebelled against the colonial administrators. A staunch anti-colonialist throughout his life, Maha Disawe probably inserted the images of the colonial administrators within the tiles so that visitors would walk over them; the ultimate insult to the colonial administrators. The Maha Disawe had used the British Insignia and sterling pounds to decorate the floor expressing his acute dislike for the British.

The vacant sacks on the floor, in which gold coins and precious gems were once embedded, leaves an unanswerable question in every visitor’s mind, what happened to the enormous wealth of the Disawes?


The faded motto of the then British administration is painted on the main wall of the courthouse. It is where the Disawe tended to matters of the State, as the judge and the jury and is to the right of the main building of the Walauwa.

The Walauwa contains an extensive garden with huge tall trees adding to the picturesque environment of the mansion with three separate boundary walls. Today, a large broken and empty fountain lies in front of the Walauwa. Probably, in the past, this rendered majestic beauty to the Walauwa.

In the visitors’ room of the Walauwa, a portrait of the Maduwanwela Maha Disawe and his wife Kalawane Kumarihamy’s stands within a huge wooden frame adding grandeur to the Walauwa.

Under the supervision of the Archaeological Department in 1974, the Maduwanwela Walauwa was converted into an archaeological reserve, and since then efforts have been taken to restore the mansion to its former glory.