|Island of Ceylon
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Island of Ceylon
Chapter XLIX from System of Geography by M. Malte-Brun (1775-1826)
This whole island is but thinly inhabited, and this is more the case with the Kandian than with the maritime provinces. In 1814, when a census was taken of the old English possessions, the population amounted to 476,000 souls, and it is believed that the population of the whole island does not exceed 800,000, or about thirty-eight to the square mile. The inhabitants may be divided into the aboriginal race, and naturalized foreigners. Of the former, who are called Sinhala, the inhabitants of the interior exclusively consist. The greater part of the naturalized foreigners are Malabars and Moors.
Containing a Description of all the Empires, Kingdoms, States and Provinces in the known World, with additions and corrections by James G. Percival.
Printed and Published by Samuel Warker, Boston 1834.
@ Electronic OCR copy by Lakdiva Books 2000 December.
[size=117]Leaving now the continent of British India, we shall give a description of some islands which form natural appendages to that country. The most conspicuous is the large and rich island of Ceylon; in which we have been told that the stones are rubies and sapphires, that amomum scents the marshes, and cinnamon the forests, and that the most common plants furnish precious aromatics. Elephants of the handsomest and most valuable kind run here in flocks as the wild boars do in the forests of Europe, while the brilliant peacock and the bird of Paradise occupy the place of our rooks and our swallows.
This island has received different names at different periods with different authors. Cosmas, in the sixth century calls it Sielen Diva, or the island of Sielen, from which we have in European languages Selan and Ceylon. But, as Ammianus Marcellinus calls the inhabitants Serandives, and as the Arabic name Serandib is a corruption of Selan Div, the latter must be traced to a very ancient period, and probably is contained in the Simundu (which should be read Silundu) of Ptolemy. This term indeed has the syllables Palai preceding it; but these are merely the Greek word for "old", and should not be confounded with the name itself. Another Indian name Salabha, or "the rich island", may be recognised in the Salike of the same geographer But the more ancient Sanscrit name, Lanka, and that which is now most used among the natives and their, neighbours, Singala, were unknown to the ancient authors. Singala signifies: the country of "lions". Some think that Sinhal-Dwipa, (or the "lion island",) is the origin of the term Sielendiva of Cosmas. It was called also Taprobrane by the older writers, a name unknown before the time of Alexander, and of uncertain application Tapobon is a name which it receives in Sanscrit
This island is situated between the parallel of 5° 56', and 9° 46' North latitude, and between 79° 36', and 81° 58' East longitude). Part of its length lies due east from the coast of Coromandel, at a distance of thirty miles. Its form is ovate; its northern extremity being the most pointed, with the island of Jaffnapatam, of a very irregular form, appended to it. It is almost two thirds of the size of Ireland, containing a surface of 25,330 square miles. The sea-coast is low, and flat, and encircled with a broad border of coconut trees, surrounded by rocks and shoals. The interior is filled with mountains, which are seen from the ocean rising in successive ranges; many of them beautiful and verdant, others huge, rocky, and peaked. The highest and most conspicuous mountain is that of Adam's peak.
In this country winter is unknown; the perennial summer is only diversified by the difference of a few degrees of temperature.
Over most of the island, and particularly the maritime provinces, the wind blows during a certain period of the year from the south-west, and a certain period from the north-east, the same monsoons which, under local variations, prevail over India; the south-west monsoon blows while the sun is north of the line, the temperature of the continent being then higher than that of the ocean. This continues from the end of April to the beginning of November. The period of the other monsoon is when the sun is to the south of the line, when the ocean, taken along with the southern part of Africa, is of a higher temperature than the Indian continent. The difference of temperature being less than in the first period, the duration of this monsoon is shorter than the other, beginning in November, and ending in March. The south-west wind is felt generally over the island, but the north-east wind does not, during half its duration, reach across the mountains to Colombo on the west coast. The proportion of rain which falls is great, most particularly, among the mountains, and on those parts of the coast which are most subjected to the influence of the monsoon. The rains are periodical and extremely heavy, two or three inches often failing in the course of a day. At the northern extremity, and along the east coast, the rainy season begin in November, lasting about two months with great violence, the rest of the year is dry, and rarely visited by scanty showers. On the west coast, most rain falls about the, setting in of the south-west monsoon, but it is not so heavy nor so constant here as on the opposite side; the dry season, too, is more liable to be interrupted by showers. Hence the west coast is seldom parched, and exhibits at all-times the most inviting aspect to strangers. The seasons among the mountains participate more of those of the opposite coasts in different places, in proportion to their local situation and aspect. Rains are frequent in the interior, hence the country is well watered. The heat varies in different places. The west coast is remarkable for equality of temperature, exceeding in this respect any other part of the world, except a few small islands at a great distance from land, such as St. Helena and Ascension island. The mean temperature is about 78° Fahrenheit, and the atmosphere is exceedingly moist. The east coast, about Trincomalee, is remarkable for intense heats, the mean temperature of the hot months being 82°.8 Fahrenheit. Among the mountains, the temperature is generally cooler than might be expected, and the vicissitudes are greater. The mean annual temperature of Kandy is about 73°.5 Fahrenheit. Ceylon suffers much less from violent storms and hurricanes than islands in general, especially between the tropics; instances of this kind, however, have occurred. In 1819, at the foot of the mountains in the south-eastern part of the island, there was a violent thunder shower, with wind and hail, which unroofed the houses in an instant, tore up many trees, and broke others across which were fourteen feet in circumference. The most healthy parts of the island are the south-west coast, and the loftier grounds of the interior situations, which coincide in being well ventilated, and refreshed with frequent showers. The most unhealthy regions are the wooded parts between the mountains and the sea, in all directions except to the south-west. These parts resemble the Terrain in the north of Indostan. The lower mountainous districts, and the northern and the eastern shores, hold in this particular an intermediate character. Trincomalee is never sickly while subjected to the north-east wind, coming directly from the sea; but it changes for the worse during the south-west winds, which blow over an extent of a low unwholesome territory; The diseases are in general those which prevail in hot climates. Elephantiasis, and various cutaneous affections, are very common among the natives. Dysentery is more frequent than in India, and is formidable from its fatality, and the rapidity of its course. Palsy and insanity are frequent both among the natives and among Europeans.
The principal river is the Mahawelli-ganga, which, winding extensively among the highest of the mountains of the interior, and supplied with many tributaries, receives all the water which falls on that region, and empties itself on the east coast, between Trincomalee and Batticaloa. It is only partially navigable. Shallows, rocks, and rapids, interrupt the navigable communication between its higher parts and the sea. The Kalani-ganga, which runs from Adam's Peak in a westerly direction, falling into the sea at Colombo, though of much smaller dimensions, is more important, on account of its being navigable for boats for three fourths of its course. Hence it is much used for inland carriage, and is likely to be more so in future. Perhaps by an artificial communication with the navigable part of the Mahawelli-ganga, the general internal communications may be materially facilitated.
The whole of this island consists of what mineralogists call primitive rock, chiefly granite and gneiss, with some quartz rock in large veins, hornblende, and dolomite rock, which last, is both in veins and embedded. Limestone is confined to the province of Jaffnapatam, and is of the shell kind, and mixed with coral rock Grey and blackish sandstone is of general occurrence along the shore. This island is remarkable for its richness in gems, and for the variety of its minerals. The primitive rock contains ores of iron and manganese, the former of which is worked by the natives, the species being those called red hematite and bog ore, Rock crystal, amethyst, prase, and cat's-eye, the latter particularly fine, topaz, schorl, common garnet, and the variety of corundum called the cinnamon stone, are also found. This last is an interesting mineral. Ceylon is richer in zircon than any other part of the world. It has long been celebrated for rubies of different species. The country contains several nitre caves.
The vegetable productions of Ceylon are valuable. The coconut holds the first rank for utility, from its agreeable fruit, the oil which it yields, the toddy produced from it, and its leaves universally employed for the walls and roofs of the dwellings. The borassus flabelliformis, or palmyra, is also valuable, its leaves being used for writing on all over India, and its wood durable, and not liable to the devastations of the white ants. In the north part of the island the sweet fruit of this tree forms a leading article of food among the poorer inhabitants. The sago tree, the large talipot palm, the leaves of which serve for umbrellas, two species of bread fruit, the Artocarpus integrifolia and incisa, the singular ficus religiosa, or banyan tree, the tamarind, the cashew and areca nut trees, yield their respective fruits. There are two annual crops of oranges and for two months in each season that fruit is to be obtained in a good state for eating. They are of a delicious flavour, but different from those to which we are accustomed, their colour, when ripe, being green instead of yellow. Guavas, papaw, pomegranate, bamboo, sugar cane, pepper, tobacco, and various articles of export, grow here. Very little grain is cultivated besides rice, of which they have four kinds. There is not a sufficiency, however, for the inhabitants, so that a considerable importation of this article is rendered necessary. Of all the vegetable productions of the island, that for which it is most celebrated is its cinnamon, the bark of the Laurus cinnamomum, called by the natives coorundoo. On this the riches of the island in a great measure depend; therefore the cultivation of the trees, and the gathering of the bark, are objects of careful attention. In April, soon after the fruit is ripe, the business of decortication begins. May and June are reckoned the most favourable months, the three following not so good, but November and December arc favourable, and are called the little harvest. The labourer first selects a tree which appears to him ripe, then he ascertains it by striking his hatchet obliquely into a branch; if, on drawing it out, the bark separates from the wood, the cinnamon has attained maturity; if not, it must remain. He cuts down a number of shoots, from three to five feet long, and three fourths of an inch in diameter, carries his load to a hut or shed, and, with the assistance of a companion, strips off and cleans the bark. The cinnamon tree flourishes only in one small district of the island, being confined to the south-west angle, from Negombo to Matara. There is none on the western side beyond Chilaw, nor on the eastern side beyond Tangalla. Within this range the nature of the soil, and tie warmth, moisture, and steadiness of the climate, contribute to cherish it. The largest plantation is near Colombo, and is about twelve miles in circumference. In sonic inland places it grows without cultivation, but of inferior quality. The cultivation of cinnamon was the result of the experimental enterprise of the Dutch governor Falk, who presided in Ceylon for thirty years before its conquest by the English. He met with great opposition from the prejudices and imagined interests of the natives, some of whom silly attempted to thwart his endeavours by sprinkling the plants in the evening with hot water. His exertions were thus a little retarded, but ultimately succeeded. The quantity of cinnamon annually sent to Britain amounts to 368,000 lbs for which the East India Company pays to government (as this island is immediately subject to the king) £60,000 sterling, and they carry it home at their own expense. A great quantity is used by the slaves in the South American mines as a preservative against noxious exhalations, and it is dispersed through the different countries of the east. The wood of the tree has no smell, and is chiefly used as fuel.
All the larger animals of Ceylon are common to it with continental India; subject to accidental modifications in the qualities of the respective breeds. Some of the continental species are not found in the island. The elephant stands at the head of the class of its quadrupeds. Of this animal there are two varieties, one with very long teeth, called alleia, and another, which has either very short teeth, or none at all; these are called aeta. Elephants are caught in Ceylon, chiefly by such snares as have been described in Book XLVI. Of these there is one at Kotawy on this island, which requires 300 men to guard it when elephants are caught. On the first day of a hunt, Mr Cordiner mentions that they had caught twenty, which he reckoned a small number; but he thought that the operation might he rendered, much more speedy by additional expedients. On another day sixty were secured. When caught, an elephant is tamed in the course of eight days. They are conveyed to Jaffnapatam, where they are sold by auction before they are transported to the continent. The elephants of Ceylon are generally from ten to eleven feet in height. The feet, and some other parts of the flesh of this animal, are very palatable. The Kandians are in the habit of catching them sometimes by laying nooses for their feet, sometimes by chasing them on tame elephants, throwing ropes round the neck and feet of the wild animal, and then beating him into subjection. The uses to which this noble animal is applied in Ceylon are, as elsewhere, innumerable. Besides carrying all sorts of burdens in peace and war, they are employed in thinning plantations, or clearing away forests, which they do by pulling up the trees with their trunks, with as great facility as a man pulls up stocks of cabbage. The neighbourhood of Matara, in the southern part of the island, is the place where those are chiefly caught that are intended for exportation. The regular hunts take place once in three or four years. The Indian buffalo is also found in a wild state in Ceylon; and when tamed, employed in labour. It is a different animal from the buffalo of the south of Europe and Egypt; being inferior in size and stature even to the English ox, and the horns bending back. They show their community of nature with the large buffaloes, by having the same instinct to roll in mud, and remain immersed in water during the heat of the day. In the wild state they are fierce, and rather dangerous to meet in travelling. Common oxen of various colours, but mostly black, with a hump on the shoulders, are reared in considerable numbers, and employed in labour. Both these and buffaloes are liable to very destructive epidemics. Hogs are plentiful, and much eaten by the Dutch and Portuguese. Sheep and goats are not native here, and few of them are reared, though they thrive very well, especially about Jaffnapatam. The horse is not a native of Ceylon, and the only ones in the island are a few which have been imported for the pleasure of the European inhabitants. Some have been bred at Jaffnapatam, and the small island of Delft. They were first introduced there by the Portuguese, who called the islands Ilhas de Cavales. The woods abound with deer, of which a beautiful small species, not larger than a hare, is very common. It is called the moose deer, and nearly corresponds with the Cervus guineensis of Linmeus. The royal tiger is not found in Ceylon; but a smaller species, called Cheta, spotted like the leopard, is numerous. Monkeys swami as they do in Indostan, and among others the white bearded and the black bearded species. The musk animal, called by naturalists Moschus memana, and the jackal, are among the quadrupeds which people the island. Its birds form a more numerous class. Domestic fowls ducks, and geese, are plentiful at the European settlements. The jungle fowl, which resembles the pheasant, is in great abundance. Green, pigeons of beautiful plumage, and forming a delicacy for the table; snipes, green parroquets in considerable variety, peacocks, flycatchers, tailor-birds, kites, vultures, crows, and numerous others, either peculiar to the tropical regions, or more or less allied to species familiar in Europe, abound. Reptiles of various sizes, from the most minute lizard to the largest alligator, are in great variety, and among others the house-lizard, which is the largest animal that can, like a fly, walk in an inverted situation, a mechanism accomplished by a muscular power in the webs of the feet, by means of which it can cling to any surface by taking advantage of the atmospheric pressure, like a leech fixing on the skin, or a child sucking the mother's nipple. When a lamp is hung on a house wall, it is soon surrounded with lizards in quest of flies. Snakes of different sizes and species abound here, as in Indostan; and in this island Dr. Davy has lately made some interesting experiments on the operation of their respective poisons. Like all warm countries of luxuriant vegetation it swarms with insects in every direction. That valuable product of this class of the animal creation, honey, is abundant in Ceylon, and is commonly used for seasoning. and preserving meat, as salt is used in other countries. There are many kinds of ants; the most remarkable are the destructive white ant, the great red ant, which builds its nest on trees by connecting together a number of leaves with a glutinous cement; the common red ant, which abounds in houses, and several others, red and black. A curious advantage is taken of the combative instincts of the ants, all the species of which are enemies to one another, so that one exclusively occupies any particular haunt. The white ant, being the smallest, is destroyed by the red ant. Therefore it is a common practice to strew sugar on the floors of houses to attract the larger species, and thus procure the extinction of the white ant. The grasshoppers are extremely curious; some resembling pieces of straw awkwardly joined together; others the branches of trees; while the wings of others bear a perfect resemblance to the leaves of trees. There are some very large spiders; one of them, which has legs four inches long, and the body covered with hair, is said to be poisonous in its bite, but fortunately it is rare. One of the most troublesome animals of Ceylon is a small leech, which, if not peculiar to this island, has no where else attracted so much attention, though it is perhaps the same animal which is mentioned by Mr. Marsden as found in Sumatra. It is confined to the moist parts of the island, which are of moderate elevation, and visited by frequent showers. In dry weather it retires into the shade of bushes and jungle, but during rain, it abounds over every part of the surface, and fastens on the legs and feet of travellers in such enormous numbers, and with such perseverance, that it is impossible to keep them off. The only preventive is to have the limbs well covered with boots and trowsers, smearing, them with oil, especially castor oil, or the juice of acrid plants, such as tobacco, answers tolerably well, as long as it is not removed by the friction and moisture in travelling; but in general it is not a permanent defence. This leech is smaller than the medicinal species, and some varieties of it are extremely minute. Its colour is brown, and its texture to a considerable degree transparent. It tapers from a broad flat tail to a fine pointed mouth, and can stretch itself out as fine as a thread, so as to pass through very small openings. The bites, if properly attended to, are easily healed; but if neglected, they occasion a great loss of blood, and degenerate into tedious ulcers; hence some have pronounced this animal to be the cause of more deaths than any other on the island. The lakes and rivers abound with fish, but generally of small size. The common fishes of the Indian Ocean are found on the shores. Many cowries are got here, which pass as a circulating medium of low value in petty traffic through the whole of India.
The marine animal most deserving, of our notice is the oyster which yields the pearl, and which is taken for the purpose of procuring that valuable article. One of the most celebrated and productive pearl fisheries is on the west coast of Ceylon, off the Bay of Condatchy about twelve miles south from the island of Mannar. This bay is the great rendezvous for the boats employed, and all the persons concerned in it. This part of the country is sandy, and scarcely inhabited at all excepting on these occasions. But during the pearl fishery it branches out into a populous town, with many streets a mile long; The most active persons in erecting the huts are the Mahometan natives of the island. None of the Sinhala are divers, which some ascribe to the timidity of their character; but many of them resort to the place as to a fair, particularly fishermen to supply the multitude with fish. About the end of October, in the year preceding a pearl fishery, during a short interval of fine weather, an examination of the banks takes place, a few oysters being taken for a specimen. The banks extend oven space thirty miles long, and twenty-four broad, and are fourteen in number. The largest bed is ten miles long and two in breadth. When the fishery is determined on, advertisements are circulated for all concerned to repair to the place on the 20th of the succeeding February, when the boats come from Jaffna Ramisseram, Nagore, Tutakoreen. Travancore, Kilkerry, and other parts on the coast of Coromandel. The banks are about fifteen miles, (or three hours sailing,) from the shore of Condatchy. The pearl oysters are all of the same species, but vary in their qualities, according to the nature of the ground to which they are attached, and the appearance of the numerous and often large zoophytes which adhere to the outside of their shells. Their number on the banks varies considerably, being sometimes washed away by the current of the tide, and sometimes buried in the sand deposited from the water. The pearls are in the fleshy part of the oyster, near one of the angles, at the hinge. Each generally contains several pearls. The fishery is rented to one individual for a stipulated sum, two thirds of which are paid in advance. In 1804, the renter brought with him a large family, with thirteen palanquins, to each of which thirteen well-dressed bearers were attached. He is allowed 150 boats fishing for thirty days. The boatmen and their attendants, to the number of 6000, are roused a little before midnight with immense bustle, and, after their ablutions and incantations; set sail. About half past six in the morning the diving begins. A kind of open scaffolding is projected from each side of the boat, from which the diving tackle is suspended; consisting of three stones fifty-six pounds in weight on one side, and two on the other. The diving stone hangs by a rope and slip knot, descending a little way, into the water. In the rope just above the stone, there is also a strong loop, to receive, like a stirrup, the foot of the diver. The latter puts one foot in the loop, and the other in a basket formed of a hoop and network. When duly prepared, he grasps his nostrils with one hand, and with the other gives a sudden pull to the running knot, and instantly descends; both the rope of the stone and that of the basket follow him. The moment he reaches the bottom he disengages his foot from the stone, which is immediately drawn up, to be ready for the next diver. The diver at the bottom throws himself on his face, and collects every thing he can lay hold of into his basket. When ready to ascend, he gives a jerk to the basket-rope, and is speedily hauled up by the persons in the boat; using in the mean time his own exertions in working up by the rope, he arrives at the surface a considerable time before the basket. He swims about, or remains at rest, laying hold of an oar or rope, till his turn comes to descend again. Some of the divers perform the dip in one minute; a minute and a half, or two minutes, are assigned as the utmost that any one remains under water. The basket is often so heavy as to require more than one man to haul it up. The shark-charmers form an indispensable part of the establishment. All these impostors belong to one family. The natives will not descend without knowing that one of them is present in the fleet. Two are constantly employed, one in the head pilot's boat, and another performing ceremonies on shore. Sharks are often seen from the boats, and by the divers while in the water, but an accident rarely occurs. This prejudice operates as a protection to the oyster banks from plunder at other times.
Where the bed is rich, a diver often puts upwards of 150 oysters into his basket at one dip; when they are thinly scattered, sometimes no more than five. After diving, a small quantity of blood usually issues from the nose and ears, which is considered as a favourable symptom, and they perform the operation with greater comfort after the bleeding has commenced. They seem to enjoy the labour as a pleasant pastime, and never complain of fatigue unless the banks are poor in oysters. Two divers are attached to each stone, and go down alternately. The period allotted for this operation continues from five to six hours About one or two o'clock, at the setting in of the sea breeze, on a signal given by the head pilot, the fleet sets sail for the shore, and arrives about four or five, amidst an immense concourse of people. They never fish on Sundays, all the pilots, and many divers, being Romish Christians, and the day of rest is also convenient for the Hindoos. Each diver has a fourth part of the oysters which he brings up, from which, however he has various claims to satisfy. He sells his share on the spot to the numerous adventurers who resort to the place. In a successful fishery each man carries home, at the end of the season; forty or fifty pagodas. A boat has been known to land in one day 33,000 oysters, and in another not more than 300. Those belonging to the renter are piled up in enclosures formed by palisades, and the opening of them does not commence till the fishery is considerably advanced; adventurers on a small scale open them when they buy them, or on the following morning. By some, the oysters are now thrown away, by others they are left, to putrefy for the purpose of obtaining with greater certainty the remaining pearls, particularly those of a small size. Two days are generally required for the putrefaction. Many precautions are employed to prevent the secreting of pearls, but not with complete success. When the pearls are separated from the putrid flesh of the oysters, and from the sand along with which the mass has been agitated in boats for that purpose, they are sorted into sizes, by being passed through sieves or saucers full of round holes, those with the largest holes being first used, and the others in succession. The large ones are examined, to see if they contain any blemishes. They are then drilled with great skill, though by very rude and simple tools. Many of the native merchants, who resort hither from Madras and other parts, are extremely wealthy, and make a great display of opulence in their personal appearance, their retinue, and the quantity of specie which accompanies them. Pearls sell at a higher price in the market of Condatchy during the fishing season, than in any other part of India. No fishery took place between the years 1768 and 1796. The fishery of the latter year was rented by some natives of Jaffnapatam at £60,000 sterling, and they cleared three times that sum by the adventure. In 1797, the net proceeds were £144,000, and in 1798, £192,000. That of 1799 only yielded £30,000. There was a fishery off another part of the coast, Chilaw in 1803, which yielded £15,000, anther one at Aripo, in 1806, which yielded £35,000. The fisheries, on the whole, present an amusing scene, from the number of strange characters, deformed persons, jugglers, dancers, tumblers, mechanics, and retailers, who resort to the place from the remotest parts of India.
This whole island is but thinly inhabited, and this is more the case with the Kandian than with the maritime provinces. In 1814, when a census was taken of the old English possessions, the population amounted to 476,000 souls, and it is believed that the population of the whole island does not exceed 800,000, or about thirty-eight to the square mile.
The inhabitants may be divided into the aboriginal race, and naturalized foreigners. Of the former, who are called Sinhala, the inhabitants of the interior exclusively consist. The greater part of the naturalized foreigners are Malabars and Moors. The Malabars are confined chiefly to the northern and eastern parts, while the Moors are scattered over all the maritime districts. The Kandians or Sinhala of the interior, and those who are mingled with the ether classes in the low country, seem to be of one stock, and probably exhibited, three hundred years ago, one uniform character. But now there is a marked distinction in their language, manners, and customs, varying in degree according to their proximity to the European settlements. The Kandians, therefore, may be considered as the living examples of the ancient national character, and their state of political subjection will now probably operate a gradual alteration of their character. Their features differ very little from those of the Europeans. Their colour varies from light brown to black; they have almost universally hazel eyes. In a very few the eyes are grey, and the hair red. They are inferior in size to the Europeans, but larger than the lowland Sinhala. They are of a stout make, have capacious chests, but are more remarkable for agility and flexibility than for strength of limb; and capable of long continued rather than great exertion. They are divided into castes, but they have not the ridiculous pride of caste which prevails in India. A Sinhala will not refuse to eat in company with any respectable European. The leading divisions of their castes are four. The first two are the royal caste, and the Brahminical, which comprehend a very small proportion; the other two are the Wiessa, and the Kshoodra; the former of whom comprehend the cultivators and the shepherds. The Wiessa cultivators are higher than the shepherds. They so far inter-marry that a man of the higher rank may take a wife from the other, but a man of the shepherd caste is not allowed to take one from the class of cultivators. To this class belongs the savage race called Veddahs, or Bedahs, who inhabit the extensive forests on the south-eastern side of the island. Their appearance is completely wild, and their habits disgusting. Some of them live in villages: another set of them, who have, no intercourse with the village Veddahs, being both feared and hated by them, live in huts made of the bark of trees, and eat the flesh of wild animals, with a little maize and roots. They live in pairs, only occasionally collecting in greater numbers. They seem ignorant of all social institutions. It appears that they do not distinguish one another by proper names; and their arts consist of the making of bows and arrows, rude cords from tough vegetable fibres, scratching the ground, and sowing a few seeds. They do not count beyond five. They believe in demons, and offer them homage, without entertaining any notion of a beneficent Deity. Dr. Davy, who witnessed one of their scenes of amusement, which seemed to be their nearest approach to dancing and singing, says that they began by jumping about with their feet together. As they became warm, their bands were employed in patting their bellies: becoming more animated, they clapped their hands as they jumped, and nodded their heads, throwing their long entangled locks from behind, over, their faces. They generally acknowledged some Sinhala of rank of the adjoining country for their chiefs, and these now and then used to call them together to renew their acquaintance and retain their influence. Dr. Davy mentions as belonging to the Goewanse caste, or that of cultivators, a sort of Sinhala Christians, who have been lately discovered in the interior, viz, at Wayacotte in Matele, and at Galgomua in the seven Korles, about 200 in each village, who worship the Virgin Mary, bow before a crucifix, believe in a purgatory, and baptize, marry, and bury according to the rites of the church of Rome. Their only minister is a man who cannot read, and can only repeat a few prayers. They are said to visit occasionally the temples of Buddha. These must be descendants of the numerous converts made by the Portuguese, while they were masters of the interior. A few years ago, they, for the first time, received from an English clergyman a copy of the New Testament. The fourth, or lowest caste, is called Kshoodra or Sudra, and is subdivided into numerous classes, at the head of whom the Moormen or Mahometans are placed. These are a stout, active, shrewd, enterprising race, and monopolize the trade of the country. In appearance and manners they hardly differ from the Sinhala. Some have land, and were obliged to appear when required, with their bullocks, to carry the king's rice to the store. There is a class of toddy drawers, but their number is small, as the religion of the country proscribes the use of intoxicating liquors. There is a class of artisans in wood, stone, and metals, who were all obliged to work for the king without compensation, except the carpenters and sculptors, who, when employed, were allowed provisions, because the materials in which they wrought afforded no opportunity for purloining. There is a class of potters, who are numerous, and much employed for after any feast, at which people of different castes have been entertained, the earthen vessels are all broken, lest any person should undergo the disgrace of afterwards drinking out of vessels which have touched the lips of an inferior. The caste of barbers is little employed, as each man shaves himself, but they have a ridiculous religious ceremony to perform, the shaving of Buddha; the barber merely makes the appropriate motions with a razor, without coming in contact with the image, which is all the time behind a curtain, while a priest holds up a looking glass before it. This duty they perform as a condition for holding the land on which they live. There is a caste of washer-men for furnishing white cloths to spread on the ground, line rooms, and cover chairs. The others, of whom as many as twenty-one are enumerated by Dr. Davy, are all in like manner distinguished by the duties they had to perform to royalty, in consideration of the lands which they held.
Beneath all these, there used to be two sets of outcasts, one of them called Gattaroo, which consisted of persons degraded, and cast out of society by the king, for infamous conduct; the dreaded sentence being, "Let the offender be exempted from paying taxes, and performing services, and be considered a Gattaroo". The other was called Rhodees, who were descended from persons cast out of society for eating beef after it was prohibited. They are not allowed to live in houses built in the usual way, but only in sheds open on one side. They are obliged to go out of the way, or turn back, when a person of higher caste meets them on the road. Yet the, Rhodees are a robust race, and their women particularly handsome. These are less shunned than the men. They ramble about the country, telling fortunes.
The government of the kingdom of Kandy in the interior, lately abolished, was a regular and somewhat limited monarchy; it was accompanied, in some degree, with that capacity on the part of the sovereign and his ministers, which characterizes the native governments of the Brahminical nations of Indostan, in which a transference even to the harsh rule of the Mahometans brought with it some advantages to the people. The succession was hereditary, but conditions were imposed on the sovereign on his receiving the regal dignity; and when cogent reasons appeared, the succession was liable to be modified without tumult or bloodshed. The atrocious character of the last king was rather a glaring exception, than an exemplification of the usual character of the sovereigns. It was necessary that the queen should be of the Soore Raja-wanse. Queens were therefore procured from the continent of India, generally from the state of Madura. The marriage ceremony was long, complicated, and extensive, but attended with an extraordinary festivity and relaxation of court discipline. The Kandians have four great annual festivals; one at the new year, which is in April; a second in honour of Vishnu and the gods; a third, called the feast of the fortunate hour, celebrated for the prosperity of the kingdom; and the last in honour of the completion of harvest, and called the feast of new rice. The manner in which these festivals are conducted is creditable and decorous, without riot or disturbance, and, as onlookers have testified, without any instances of drunkenness. The public exhibitions are quite free from the indecency and licentiousness which characterize those on the continent, of India, having nothing to shock the feelings of the most modest and refined.
The code of legislation seems to have consisted of a sort of common law very well adapted to the social state of the people. They had not the code of Menu, but only a few of its precepts scattered through their books of religion. When an instance of suicide occurred, or when the perpetrator of a murder could not be discovered, a fine was inflicted on the village, unless the crime had occurred in the jungle or at a distance from the village. No magistrate or judge, except the king, had the power of passing sentence of death. Neither suicide nor murders seem to be common. An elderly man, when questioned on the point, could not recollect of having heard of more than five instances. A sort of ordeal was sometimes employed. When two persons took contrary oaths, calling down the vengeance of heaven on the perjured, the party who afterwards first sustained any personal or domestic calamity was concluded to bathe perjurer. Plunging the hand in boiling oil was also practiced, but disapproved of by the intelligent. The hardest laws were those against insolvency. The debtor was doomed to slavery, along with his family, till his debt was paid, without any regard to distinction of caste. The slaves, however, are kindly used; their whole number in the interior is supposed to amount to 3000. Regular usury was not allowed, but an agreement was sometimes made that the sum borrowed should be returned augmented by one half, at whatever future time it was repaid. The Moors take. twenty per cent of annual interest, the land was the property of the king, but held by the possessor on easy terms, and sometimes, when appropriated to a temple, exempt from rent or civil service.
The people profess the religion of Buddha, which, has by some been called atheistical, because it allows of no Creator existing before the universe, and pays worship only to the souls of good men, who have suffered a transmutation resembling deification. In other points of view we find as much fanciful detail on the history of heaven, earth, and distant worlds, and as much imagery of supernatural powers, as in the generality of eastern systems. They believe, in the transmutation of men into gods and demons and of gods into animalcules. Death they consider as a mere change of form. These changes they hold to be infinite, and bounded only by annihilation, which they esteem the acme of happiness. The universe they consider as eternal, though in a constant state of alteration. The learned among them are as familiar with the details of the system as with the events and interests of their own villages or families. They believe in beings called Braehmeas, who are of greater purity than the gods. These vary in rank, and reside in different departments of the heavens. They have infernal regions, of a heat varying in intensity with the guilt of the individuals doomed to dwell in them. The term Buddha is considered by learned etymologists as meaning wisdom, and is applied to persons of extraordinary endowments and destiny, a certain number of whom is fated to appear in each grand period of the world. One of these, the fourth in order, is the present object of adoration. This being had the power of assuming any form, and of multiplying himself to infinity. He now exists in a mysterious abode or state, which they call Niwana. The Buddhists of Ceylon have numerous sacred writings, which are extremely obscure, and are reproached for that quality even by the Brahmins. At Kandy there are two regular colleges; and the religious establishment is as regularly organized as in any country whatever. The priests are dressed in yellow, and live in a, state of celibacy, but they are permitted to resign their office, and may then marry. Their books are greatly venerated. They are not touched without a preliminary obeisance a person will not sit down where a book is present, unless it is in a higher situation than himself. The priests do not worship the gods, being reckoned their superiors. When they preach, they invite the gods to be of their audience. They are, like Buddha, entitled to be worshipped; and no person, not even a king, must sit in their presence. They were the only persons allowed by the Kandian, government to go beyond the bounds of the kingdom, and often wandered over the whole island. The religion of Ceylon, uniting the worship of the gods with that of Buddha, and under the same names, (such as Vishnu,) which are used by the Brahminical Hindoos, shows either an original connexion or an accidental incorporation of, the two systems. They say that the Brahminical system prevailed before Buddha appeared to revive their own religion, then extinct, which was 600 years before the Christian era.
The Sinhala language, like the other Indian dialects, has its origin in the Sanscrit, mixed with what is called the Pali. It is, however, a peculiar language, and not, as some have asserted, the same with the Siamese. It has also a peculiar written character; unknown in any other country. It is always written from left to right. Among this people language is almost the only subject that is carefully studied. There are various dialects appropriated to different castes and to different occasions. Reading and writing are general acquirements among the men, but form no part of female education. Their books are written on talipot leaves, which are duly prepared, cut to a uniform shape, and connected together into books by a string passing through holes in the leaves. They are fond of intricacies and displays of art in language. One poem is considered as an extraordinary effort of genius, because it admits of being read from left to right, up and down, and various other ways, making sense in each. The compositions which approach nearest to poetry are addresses to the chiefs, expressive of respect, or soliciting them for favours. They have seven tunes to which they modulate these compositions in the recital. Their instruments of music are of rude simplicity, and most of them noisy, consisting of different sorts of drums, a wind instrument resembling a clarionet, and a fiddle of two strings. Having no numerical characters of their own, they use the Tamil figures, which follow the decimal series. The currency consists of copper, silver, and gold coin. All the last consists of Indian pagodas. In the arts of drawing and painting they are far behind. They are extremely fond of lacquer painting, which they perform with a good deal of skill and taste, producing a pretty and brilliant effect. In statuary, as applied to the fabricating of representations of Buddha, they have acquired excellence by practice. Such representations are in request in every temple. They have the art of casting small figures very neatly; awl there are good specimens of large ones in the temples. Their architecture is chiefly displayed, in their temples. Their, dwelling houses have a simplicity suited to a climate which requires no houses excepting as shelter from rain, and a shade from a scorching sun. The floors of their houses are of clay, plastered with cow-dung, an article conducive to cleanliness and to the keeping down of insects. The houses of the chiefs are in the form of square courts built of mud, roofed with tile. This last circumstance serves to distinguish them from the dwellings of the people, who are allowed nothing but thatch. They work in gold and silver with considerable ingenuity and taste, although their tools and apparatus are all portable, and characterized by a simplicity unknown in Europe. Their pottery is coarse and unglazed, but perfectly well adapted for its appropriate uses. The only weaving is of the coarse strong cotton cloth which is worn by the common people. Agriculture is very much respected by them. No manure is used, which is a great drawback from the productiveness of their labours. The land, when exhausted, is allowed to overrun with weeds and jungle, which it soon does, and this is afterwards cut down and burned on the soil, to qualify, it for bearing useful crops. The implements of husbandry are remarkably simple.
The Sinhala of the interior are rarely collected in large villages. The only group of this kind seems to be Kandy, the capital of the country. They live either in very small villages, consisting of a few houses, or in detached habitations. These are usually in low sheltered situations, near the rice fields, as they have a particular aversion to wind. The men are engaged in the more laborious occupations of ploughing and honking, the women in weeding and reaping. Their grain is ground at home in hand mills. The Sinhala rise at dawn, and go to bed about nine or ten at night. They sleep on mats, generally with a fire in their room. Cakes of cow-dung constitute their ordinary fuel. Their principal meal is at noon, and consists of rice and curry. Though not prohibited from the use of beef by their religion, they abstain from it because it was forbidden by one of their kings; another instance in which Brahminical ideas and customs have become intermingled with their original code of faith and practice. Though unacquainted with what we denominate conviviality, they are a social people; fond of conversation and mutual visits. The men and women form separate circles, and are never seen mixed in society. They are courteous and ceremonious, but, like other Asiatics, unacquainted with all the sentiments which constitute gallantry. Matrimonial alliances are fixed by the parents alone. Concubinage and polygamy are contrary to their religion, but are both indulged, particularly polygamy; and here, as in tibet, a plurality of husbands is much more common than of wives. This practice prevails among all castes and ranks, and the joint husbands are always brothers. Matrimonial infidelity is not uncommon, and easily forgiven, unless when aggravated by a low attachment on the part of the female. But the manners of the people are by no means marked by extreme licentiousness. They have their own notions of propriety and decency, which no one's inclinations allow him to violate. In the relation of parents and children they appear particularly amiable. A woman has seldom more than four children, a circumstance which probably arises from the: period of suckling being. so long protracted, which it often is to four or five years. The children are named when they are able to eat rice, the name then given being called the rice name. Their family attachments are strong. During the late rebellion, instances occurred of fathers giving themselves up as soon as they knew that their families were taken. Children are never exposed, except in some of the wildest situations, and under the pressure of necessity. They do not, as some have asserted, turn their sick relations out of doors to die in the fields; though, in order, to save their houses front pollution, they sometimes remove them to an adjoining shade to breathe their last. The care which they take of the bodies of the dead is very great, many ceremonious attentions being bestowed preparatory to the ceremony of burning. Low caste people not being allowed to burn their dead, bury them with little ceremony, with the head to the west. In civilization this people is nearly on a par with the Hindoos. In intellectual acquirements they resemble the state of Europeans in the dark ages. They are attentive to natural objects, and acquainted, with the names and qualities of the minutest plant that grows within their district. In courtesy they are equal to any nation; in character they are low, tame and undecided, with few prominent virtues or vices; their natural affections are strong their passions moderate, and their moral feelings weak.
The Sinhala of the provinces which have been for some generations habitually subject to Europeans, are more remarkable for mildness, bashfulness, timidity, and indolence. In consequence of this last characteristic, they are generally in a state of indigence. They shave their beards, while the Kandians do not. Before undergoing that operation for the first time, a young man must give a sumptuous entertainment to his relations and neighbours. Those who cannot afford it retain their beards till their circumstances are improved. The men of influence, called Modelears, retain the insignia of greatness, but their power has been abridged by their European masters. One of them is now placed at the head of every department of government, under the control of the British agents. The dignity of a Modelear is always conferred by the British governor in person, and is of great importance in the eyes of a Sinhala. Those who enjoy good incomes do not indulge habitually in any luxurious style of living. A Modelear, when retired to his own dwelling, is found stripped to the skin, sitting in an armed chair, with no covering except a piece of muslin on his loins; but in giving entertainments he will expend large sums. They sometimes give a breakfast, or a ball and supper, to their European friends in a splendid style, on particular festive occasions, such as the birth of a child, or the obtaining of any honourable distinction. One of those erections common in the east, called Bungaloos, which are spacious open apartments, covered with roofs which serve for an agreeable and elegant awning is sometimes made for the use of a single evening of pleasure and display, when it is embellished and lighted up in a most magnificent manner. The higher orders of the Sinhala in the maritime part profess Christianity, find perform their marriage ceremonies according to the usages of the Dutch. This is generally done on Sunday, accompanied with music; dancing, and feasting, to which is sometimes added tumbling, performed by expert natives. When a Sinhala pair marries, the thumbs of their right hands are tied together with a slip of cotton cloth, and water is, poured on them by the man's father's brother, and the woman's mother's sister.
A part of the low country has, from time immemorial, been inhabited by Malabars. These wear large bunches of ear-rings, and encourage the artificial apertures in the flap of the ear to grow to an enormous size, so that a man's hand may pass through them; the lower parts being stretched till they reach the shoulder. A considerable number of Malabars are Mahometans, and go under the name of Moors or Lubbies. They follow the occupation of pedlars, tailors, fishermen, and sailors. These, differ from the Sinhala in concealing their women. When a Moorish woman is move from one place to another, if a palanquin cannot be afforded, she is placed cross-legged on an ox, and covered completely with a white sheet, the husband walking by her side. A considerable number of free Malays reside at Ceylon, some of whom are persons of rank who have gone into exile on account of political troubles. The maritime parts contain many Christians, both of the Romish and Protestant church. The Portuguese, when they settled on the island, destroyed every monument of the existing religion along the sea-coast, converted the temples, into Romish churches, and compelled the natives to adopt the forms of their religion. Fifteen priests educated at Goa still exert themselves with daily success in making proselytes. The Dutch, in their turn, disseminated their religion, not by positive persecution, but by enacting that no native could be raised to the rank of a modelear, or enjoy any employment under the government, without conforming to the creed and observances of the reformed church. Hence the higher orders assumed the name of Protestant Christians, which they still retain. Under the British rule some exertions have been made to convey to the, natives farther instruction in the Protestant religion, particularly by disseminating translations of the Scriptures, as the standard of Christianity.
The history of Ceylon, previously to the visits paid to it by distant nations, is, like that of continental India, enveloped in uncertainty. We know that the island was frequented by the Arabians and Persians from very distant times, but these have not recorded any particulars which elucidate its history. The Sinhala traditions are destitute of historical accuracy. Their first king they maintain to have had a lion for his father. Rama makes a great figure in their legends, and probably was a real personage of illustrious eminence, by whose name a kingdom and city were known. They give a narrative of the different invasions of the island by the Malabars; of their battles with the natives; Of their success at one time in subjugating the whole of the island, with the exception of Magama and Ruhuna in the Magampattoo, and of their subsequent expulsion by king Vijayabahu.
The Portuguese discovered Ceylon in 1505. They formed a settlement about 1520, and became firmly established here in 1536. It was in their hands that the natives first saw fire arms employed. By taking a part in the dissentions, of the royal families, they sometimes had possession of Kandy. The natives, after having long suffered oppression and insult, formed an alliance with the Dutch for the expulsion of the Portuguese For this service they agreed that the Dutch should receive all the maritime provinces, except Batticaloa and Puttalam. The Portuguese were expelled, and the Dutch established, in 1658. The Kandians had now a succession of kings who have left behind them different characters, some having reigned in wisdom and peace, others tyrannized with cruelty over a reluctant and a rebellious people. The, religion of the country having been neglected, and in a great measure effaced by wars and intestine troubles, Rajah Singah (during whose reign the interesting traveller Knox was detained for, many years a prisoner) sent to Siam, with the assistance of the Dutch, for priests in order to operate a reformation. The king, Rajadi Rajah Singha, who cooperated with the British in 1796, to expel the Dutch ,from the maritime provinces, had the character of a voluptuous and indolent man. By this foreign alliance he obtained no sea port, as he had expected, and the only alteration in his condition was, that he got a more powerful neighbour in the maritime provinces. The English afterwards attempted to take possession of Kandy, and were for some time in possession of the metropolis, when, in 1803, the English garrison was attacked, overpowered, and treacherously massacred. A desultory warfare, was afterwards carried on for two, years. Between the years 1805 and 1815, no active hostilities took place, but the court and kingdom of Kandy were now a scene of the most sanguinary proceedings on the part of the tyrannical sovereign, scarcely equaled in history for their atrocity, and giving rise to a desperate resistance on the part of his subjects. The king evinced a jealousy towards his minister Pilime Talawe, and inflicted on him some indignities. A rebellion was in consequence raised, and followed by the beheading and impaling, of some chiefs, and the execution of the minister in 1812. His successor in office fell under the displeasure of his master in his turn, and was obliged to fly. An execution, of seventy respectable persons followed. The wife, children; and near relations of the minister were executed. The mother, after being forced publicly to bray the head of her sons, one after another, in a mortar, immediately after they were separated from the body, was then, along with her sister-in-law, drowned in the adjacent tank. No person was safe. The most innocent, and even the highest of the sacerdotal order, who were supposed almost inaccessible to just punishment for crimes, were sacrificed to the whimsical suspicions of this barbarian. Some native merchants belonging to the British provinces having gone into the Kandian kingdom, were sent back cruelly mutilated. The governor, Lieut. General Brownrigg, declared war, prosecuted the contest with vigour, and the king was secured in a house to which he had gone to take shelter, in January, 1815, was sent to Colombo, and from thence to Vellore, where he is retained in confinement. His name is Sree Wikrime Rajah Singha The country submitted to the British power, under the condition of the old laws and administration of the kingdom being maintained. Only 1000 men were kept in the interior, and confined to a few military posts A dissatisfaction, however, with their new masters, soon sprung up. The chiefs conceived that they were treated with no respect, except on official occasions, the English soldiers having, from ignorance, continually offended them by neglect. The English were somewhat disrespectful in their made of entering the temples and of addressing the priests A rebellion broke out under a native pretender to the Kandian throne, in October, 1817. The war was carried on by the operation of small bodies, and was irregular and severe, and the retaliations made by the English military were often exceedingly inhuman, as in such a situation it was not practicable to maintain a strict obedience to general orders. In a few months the revolt was suppressed Kandy was taken, and with it the sacred tooth of Buddha, a relic, the possessor of which is considered by the people as rightful sovereign of their country. Simpler and less oppressive arrangements were now formed for conducting the government and apportioning the revenue, which are likely to prove more conducive to the happiness and the satisfaction of the natives. It is an island which, throughput the interior as well as along the sea shore, possesses admirable natural advantages, and, under an enlightened and generous management, might be rendered one of the most flourishing spots in the world.
We shall now take a rapid view of some of its chief localities, particularly the towns, beginning with those along the sea-coast which have been longest known. At the northern extremity of the island are the fort and town of Jaffnapatam, in 9° 47' of North latitude and 80° 9' of East longitude. The fort is the most modern, the best constructed and handsomest in Ceylon. It is situated on a piece of land called Jaffna, which is sometimes denominated an island, sometimes a peninsula. It seems to be connected with the main island by a fordable strait, which is perhaps a dry isthmus, at low water. Within the fort is a Dutch church, containing a tolerable organ, and one of the most respectable places of Christian worship now in the island. There are also a house for the commandant, buildings for the public offices, and houses belonging to the Dutch proprietors, which are rented to the British officers; a street of barracks, and one occupied by the mechanics and the lower orders of the people. The pettah, or outer town, half a mile from, the fort, contains several thousand inhabitants, mostly Europeans; its streets are regularly built and kept clean, and the chief street finely shaded by rows of large treed on each side. Almost all the Dutch families which formerly resided at Trincomalee have removed to this place, which is recommended by cheapness and agreeableness. The country is fruitful; an air of business prevails, and some regular trade is kept up with the opposite coast of India. Mr. Cordiner remarked, that this country yielded vegetable produce in great variety; but that the culture of the common English potato had not succeeded either here or in any other part of Ceylon The surface is flat, but rich in every spot, and in high cultivation as far as Point Pedro, the northern extremity, at a distance of twenty-two miles from the town. Here the supreme court of judicature is frequently held, and the governor of the island sometimes comes from Colombo to preside. Many thefts and murders occur in the province. A common form of robbery is to cut open the flaps of men's ears during sleep, and carry off their ear-rings. Yet the people habitually sleep in their houses without locking their doors, or in the open air in their verandas. The native inhabitants are Malabars, one half of whom are of the Brahminical religion, the other consists of Christians, with a very few Mahometans. Agriculture being in a flourishing, state, and a small military force being sufficient to keep possession, this is the only province of Ceylon the revenue of which exceeds its, expenses. Tobacco is cultivated in large quantities, and is a standing article of commerce, and a fruitful source of revenue. The timber of the Palmyra tree, which is used for rafters in the building of houses, and chanque shells, which are much used as ornaments in dress among the Hindoos, are the other principal articles of commerce. In this province are to be seen the remains of thirty-two Portuguese churches; and there arc a few chapels in which the Romish worship is still celebrated. In the neighbourhood of the town there are some humble Hindoo temples of recent construction, built since universal toleration in religion has been re-established.
Proceeding round the western coast we traverse a country which is completely laid under water: in the rainy season, though not to such a depth as to prevent travelling. Here we have on the right two small islands, called "the Two Brothers", then another large one called Mannar, containing a fort. A little farther south is Aripo, the place where the governor fixes his head quarters during the pearl fishery Here and at Condatchy the country is bare, and at other times almost deserted.
Proceeding farther south, we come to the long peninsula of Calpenteen, lying parallel to the line of the coast for about sixty miles, and connected with it by an isthmus at its south end. It has a fort, (without guns,) an excellent wharf, and a small village adjoining, containing a Portuguese priest. The inhabitants are pretty numerous, and export salted fish to Colombo, for which they bring back rice. The peninsula is low, and fiat, sandy, and covered with coconut trees. The co
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