1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ceylon
CEYLON, a large island and British colony in the Indian Ocean, separated on the N.W. from India by the Gulf of Manaar and Palk Strait. It lies between 5° 55′ and 9° 51′ N. and between 79° 41′ and 81° 54′ E. Its extreme length from north to south is 271½ m.; its greatest width is 137½ m.; and its area amounts to 25,481 sq. m., or about five-sixths of that of Ireland. In its general outline the island resembles a pear, the apex of which points towards the north.
The coast is beset on the N.W. with numberless sandbanks, rocks and shoals, and may be said to be almost connected with India by the island of Rameswaram and Adam’s Bridge, a succession of bold rocks reaching almost Coast.across the gulf at its narrowest point. Between the island and the opposite coast there exist two open channels of varying depth and width, beset by rocks and shoals. One of these, the Manaar Passage, is only navigable by very small craft. The other, called the Paumben Passage, lying between Rameswaram and the mainland, has been deepened at considerable outlay, and is used by large vessels in passing from the Malabar to the Coromandel coast, which were formerly compelled in doing so to make the circuit of the island. The west and south coasts, which are uniformly low, are fringed their entire length by coco-nut trees, which grow to the water’s edge in great luxuriance, and give the island a most picturesque appearance. Along these shores there are numerous inlets and backwaters of the sea, some of which are available as harbours for small native craft. The east coast from Point de Galle to Trincomalee is of an entirely opposite character, wanting the ample vegetation of the other, and being at the same time of a bold precipitous character. The largest ships may freely approach this side of the island, provided they take care to avoid a few dangerous rocks, whose localities, however, are well known to navigators.
Seen from a distance at sea this “utmost Indian isle” of the old geographers wears a truly beautiful appearance. The remarkable elevation known as “Adam’s Peak,” the most prominent, though not the loftiest, of the hilly ranges of the interior, towers like a mountain monarch amongst an assemblage of picturesque hills, and is a sure landmark for the navigator when as yet the Colombo lighthouse is hidden from sight amid the green groves of palms that seem to be springing from the waters of the ocean. The low coast-line encircles the mountain zone of the interior on the east, south and west, forming a belt which extends inland to a varying distance of from 30 to 80 m.; but on the north the whole breadth of the island from Kalpitiya to Batticaloa is an almost unbroken plain, containing magnificent forests of great extent.
The mountain zone is towards the south of the island, and covers an area of about 4212 sq. m. The uplifting force seems to have been exerted from south-west to north-east, and although there is much confusion in many of the intersectingMountains. ridges, and spurs of great size and extent are sent off in many directions, the lower ranges manifest a remarkable tendency to run in parallel ridges in a direction from south-east to north-west. Towards the north the offsets of the mountain system radiate to short distances and speedily sink to the level of the plain. Detached hills are rare; the most celebrated of these are Mihintale (anc. Missïaka), which overlooks the sacred city of Anuradhapura, and Sigiri. The latter is the only example in Ceylon of those solitary acclivities which form so remarkable a feature in the tableland of the Deccan—which, starting abruptly from the plain, with scarped and perpendicular sides, are frequently converted into strongholds accessible only by precipitous pathways or by steps hewn in the solid rock.
For a long period Adam’s Peak was supposed to be the highest mountain in Ceylon, but actual survey makes it only 7353 ft. above sea-level. This elevation is chiefly remarkable as the resort of pilgrims from all parts of the East. The hollow in the lofty rock that crowns the summit is said by the Brahmans to be the footstep of Siva, by the Buddhists of Buddha, by the Mahommedans of Adam, whilst the Portuguese Christians were divided between the conflicting claims of St Thomas and the eunuch of Candace, queen of Ethiopia. The footstep is covered by a handsome roof, and is guarded by the priests of a rich monastery half-way up the mountain, who maintain a shrine on the summit of the peak. The highest mountains in Ceylon are Pidurutalagala, 8296 ft. in altitude; Kirigalpota, 7836 ft.; and Totapelakanda, 7746 ft.
The summits of the highest ridges are clothed with verdure, and along their base, in the beautiful valleys which intersect them in every direction, the slopes were formerly covered with forests of gigantic and valuable trees, which, however, have disappeared under the axe of the planter, who felled and burnt the timber on all the finest slopes at an elevation of 2000 to 4500 ft., and converted the hillsides into highly cultivated coffee and afterwards tea estates.
The plain of Nuwara Eliya, the sanatorium of the island, is at an elevation of 6200 ft., and possesses many of the attributes of an alpine country. The climate of the Horton plains, at an elevation of 7000 ft., is still finer than that of Nuwara Eliya, but they are difficult of access, and are but little known to Europeans. The town of Kandy, in the Central Province, formerly the capital of the native sovereigns of the interior, is situated 1727 ft. above sea-level.
The island, though completely within the influence of oceanic evaporation, and possessing an elevated tableland of considerable extent, does not boast of any rivers of great volume. The rains which usher in each monsoon or change ofRivers. season are indeed heavy, and during their fall swell the streams to torrents and impetuous rivers. But when these cease the water-courses fall back to their original state, and there are few of the rivers which cannot generally be passed on horseback. The largest river, the Mahaweliganga, has a course of 206 m., draining about one-sixth of the area of the island before it reaches the sea at Trincomalee on the east coast. There are twelve other considerable rivers, running to the west, east and south, but none of these exceeds 90 m. in length. The rivers are not favourable for navigation, except near the sea, where they expand into backwaters, which were used by the Dutch for the construction of their system of canals all round the western and southern coasts. Steamers ply between Colombo and Negombo along this narrow canal and lake. A similar service on the Kaluganga did not prove a success. There are no inland lakes except the remains of magnificent artificial lakes in the north and east of the island, and the backwaters on the coast. The lakes which add to the beauty of Colombo, Kandy, Lake Gregory, Nuwara Eliya and Kurunegala are artificial or partly so. Giant’s Tank is said to have an area of 6380 acres, and Minneri and Kalawewa each exceed 4000 acres.
The magnificent basin of Trincomalee, situated on the east coast of Ceylon, is perhaps unsurpassed in extent, security and beauty by any haven in the world. The admiralty had a dockyard here which was closed in 1905.
Geology.—Ceylon may be said to have been for ages slowly rising from the sea, as appears from the terraces abounding in marine shells, which occur in situations far above high-water mark, and at some miles distance from the sea. A great portion of the north of the island may be regarded as the joint production of the coral polyps and the currents, which for the greater part of the year set impetuously towards the south; coming laden with alluvial matter collected along the coast of Coromandel, and meeting with obstacles south of Point Calimere, they have deposited their burdens on the coral reefs round Point Pedro; and these, raised above the sea-level and covered deeply by sand drifts, have formed the peninsula of Jaffna, and the plains that trend westward till they unite with the narrow causeway of Adam’s Bridge. Tertiary rocks are almost unknown. The great geological feature of the island is the profusion of gneiss, overlaid in many places in the interior by extensive beds of dolomitic limestone. This formation appears to be of great thickness; and when, as is not often the case, the under-surface of the gneiss series is exposed, it is invariably found resting on granite. Veins of pure quartz and felspar of considerable extent have been frequently met with in the gneiss; while in the elevated lands of the interior in the Galle districts may be seen copious deposits of disintegrated felspar, or kaolin, commonly known as porcelain clay. At various elevations the gneiss may be found intersected by veins of trap rock, upheaved whilst in a state of fusion subsequent to the consolidation of the former. In some localities on the seashore these veins assume the character of pitch-stone porphyry highly impregnated with iron. Hornblende and primitive greenstone are found in the vicinity of Adam’s Peak and in the Pussellava district. Laterite, known in Ceylon as kabuk, a product of disintegrated gneiss, exists in vast quantities in many parts, and is quarried for building purposes.
Climate.—The seasons in Ceylon differ very slightly from those prevailing along the coasts of the Indian peninsula. The two distinctive monsoons of the year are called, from the winds which accompany them, the south-west and the north-east. The former is very regular in its approach, and may be looked for along the south-west coast between the 10th and 20th of May; the latter reaches the north-east coast between the end of October and the middle of November. There is a striking contrast in the influence which the south-west monsoon exerts on the one side of the island and on the other. The clouds are driven against the lofty mountains that overhang the western and southern coasts, and their condensed vapours descend there in copious showers. But the rains do not reach the opposite side of the island: while the south-west is deluged, the east and north are sometimes exhausted with dryness; and it not unfrequently happens that different sides of the same mountain present at the same moment the opposite extreme of droughts and moisture. The influence of the north-east monsoon is more general. The mountains which face the north-east are lower and more remote from the sea than those on the south-west; the clouds are carried farther inland, and it rains simultaneously on both sides of the island.
The length of the day, owing to the proximity of the island to the equator, does not vary more than an hour at any season. The mean time of the rising of the sun’s centre at Colombo on February 1st is 6h 23m a.m., and of its setting 6h 5m p.m. On August 15th its rising is at 5h 45m a.m., and its setting at 6h 7m p.m. It is mid-day in Colombo when it is morning in England. Colombo is situated in 79° 50′ 45″ E., and the day is further advanced there than at Greenwich by 5h 19m 23s.
Flora.—The characteristics of the low-growing plants of Ceylon approach nearly to those of the coasts of southern India. The Rhizophoreae are numerous along the low muddy shores of salt lakes and stagnant pools; and the acacias are equally abundant. The list comprises Aegiceras fragrans, Epithinia malayana, Thespesia populnea, Feronia elephantum, Salvadora persica (the true mustard tree of Scripture), Eugenia bracteata, Elaeodendron Roxburghii, Cassia Fistula, Cassia Roxburghii, &c. The herbaceous plants of the low country belong mostly to the natural orders Compositae, Leguminosae, Rubiaceae, Scrophulariaceae and Euphorbiaceae.
Leaving the plains of the maritime country and ascending a height of 4000 ft. in the central districts, we find both herbage and trees assume an altered character. The foliage of the latter is larger and deeper coloured, and they attain a height unknown in the hot low country. The herbaceous vegetation is there made up of ferns, Cyrtandreae, Compositae, Scitamineae and Urticaceae. The dense masses of lofty forest at that altitude are interspersed with large open tracts of coarse wiry grass, called by the natives patanas, and of value to them as affording pasturage for their cattle.
Between the altitudes of 4000 and 8000 ft., many plants are to be met with partaking of European forms, yet blended with tropical characteristics. The guelder rose, St John’s wort, the Nepenthes distillatoria or pitcher plant, violets, geraniums, buttercups, sundews, ladies’ mantles and campanulas thrive by the side of Magnoliaceae, Ranunculaceae, Elaeocarpeae, &c. The most beautiful flowering shrub of this truly alpine region is the rhododendron, which in many instances grows to the height of 70 ft. It is met with in great abundance in the moist plains of the elevated land above Nuwara Eliya, flowering abundantly in June and July. There are two distinct varieties, one similar to the Nilgiri plant, having its leaves broad and cordate, and of a rusty colour on the under side; the other, peculiar to Ceylon, is found only in forests at the loftiest elevations; it has narrow rounded leaves, silvery on the under side, and grows to enormous heights, frequently measuring 3 ft. round the stem. At these altitudes English flowers, herbs and vegetables have been cultivated with perfect success, as also wheat, oats and barley. English fruit-trees grow, but rarely bear. Grapes are grown successfully in the north of the island. The vines were introduced by the Dutch, who overcame the difficulty of perpetual summer by exposing the roots, and thus giving the plants an artificial winter.
The timber trees indigenous to Ceylon are met with at every altitude from the sea-beach to the loftiest mountain peak. They vary much in their hardiness and durability, from the common cashew-nut tree, which when felled decays in a month, to the ebony and satinwood, which for many years resist the attacks of insects and climate. Many of the woods are valuable for furniture, and house and shipbuilding, and are capable of standing long exposure to weather. The most beautiful woods adapted to furniture work are the calamander, ebony, flowered satinwood, tamarind, nedun, dell, kadomberiya, kitul, coco-nut, &c.; the sack-yielding tree (Antiaris saccidora), for a long time confounded with the far-famed upas tree of Java (Antiaris toxicaria), grows in the Kurunegala district of the island. The Cocos nucifera, or coco-nut palm, is a native of the island, and may justly be considered the most valuable of its trees. It grows in vast abundance alone the entire sea-coast of the west and south sides of the island, and furnishes almost all that a Sinhalese villager requires. Its fruit, when green, supplies food and drink; when ripe, it yields oil. The juice of the unopened flower gives him toddy and arrack. The fibrous casing of the fruit when woven makes him ropes, nets, matting. The nut-shells form drinking-vessels, spoons, &c. The plaited leaves serve as plates and dishes, and as thatch for his cottage. The dried leaves are used as torches, the large leaf-stalks as garden fences. The trunk of the tree sawn up is employed for every possible purpose, from knife-handles to door-posts; hollowed out it forms a canoe or a coffin. There are four kinds of this palm—the common, the king, the dwarf and the Maldive. The Palmyra and Areca palms grow luxuriantly and abundantly, the former in the northern, the latter in the western and central districts. The one is valuable chiefly for its timber, of which large quantities are exported to the Indian coasts; the other supplies the betel-nut in common use amongst natives of the eastern tropics as a masticatory. The export trade in the latter to India and eastern ports is very considerable. Next in importance to the coco-nut palm among the indigenous products of Ceylon is the cinnamon plant, yielding the well-known spice of that name.
Fauna.—Foremost among the animals of Ceylon is the elephant, which, though far inferior to those of Africa and the Indian continent, is nevertheless of considerable value when tamed, on account of its strength, sagacity and docility. They are to be met with in greater or less numbers throughout most unfrequented parts of the interior. Occasionally they make inroads in herds upon the cultivated grounds and plantations, committing great damage. In order to protect these lands, and at the same time keep up the government stud of draught elephants, “kraals” or traps on a large scale are erected in the forests, into which the wild herds are driven; and once secured they are soon tamed and fit for service. The oxen are of small size, but hardy, and capable of drawing heavy loads. Buffaloes exist in great numbers throughout the interior, where they are employed in a half-tame state for ploughing rice-fields and treading out the corn. They feed upon any coarse grass, and can therefore be maintained on the village pasture-lands where oxen would not find support. Of deer, Ceylon possesses the spotted kind (Axis maculata), the muntjac (Stylocerus muntjac), a red deer (the Sambur of India), popularly called the Ceylon elk (Musa Aristotelis), and the small musk (Moschus minima). There are five species of monkeys, one the small rilawa (Macacus pileatus), and four known in Ceylon by the name of “wandaru” (Presbytes ursinus, P. Thersites, P. cephalopterus, P. Priamus), and the small quadrumanous animal, the loris (Loris gracilis), known as the “Ceylon sloth.” Of the Cheiroptera sixteen species have been identified; amongst them is the rousette or flying fox (Pteropus Edwardsii). Of the Carnivora the only one dangerous to man is the small black bear (Prochilus labiatus). The tiger is not known in Ceylon, but the true panther (Felis pardus) is common, as is the jackal (Canis aureus) and the mongoose or ichneumon (Herpestes vitticollis). Rats are numerous, as are the squirrel and the porcupine, and the pig-rat or bandicoot (Mus bandicota), while the scaly ant-eater (Manis pentedactyla), locally known by the Malay name of pangolin, is occasionally found. The dugong (Halicore dugong), is frequently seen on various points of the coast. A game preservation society and the judicious action of government have done much to prevent the wanton destruction of Ceylon deer, elephants, &c., by establishing a close season. It is estimated that there must be 5000 wild elephants in the Ceylon forests. A licence to shoot or capture and an export royalty are now levied by government.
Captain V. Legge includes 371 species of birds in Ceylon, and many of them have splendid plumage, but in this respect they are surpassed by the birds of South America and Northern India. The eagles are small and rare, but hawks and owls are numerous; among the latter is a remarkable brown species, the cry of which has earned for it the name of the “devil-bird.” The esculent swift, which furnishes in its edible nest the celebrated Chinese dainty, builds in caves in Ceylon. Crows of various species are numerous, and in the wilder parts pea-fowl are abundant. There are also to be mentioned king-fishers, sun-birds, several beautiful fly-catchers and snatchers, the golden oriole, parroquets and numerous pigeons, of which there are at least a dozen species. The Ceylon jungle-fowl (Gallus Lafayetti) is distinct from the Indian species. Ceylon is singularly rich in wading and water birds—ibises, storks, egrets, spoonbills and herons being frequently seen on the wet sands, while flamingoes line the beach in long files, and on the deeper waters inland are found teal and a countless variety of ducks and smaller fowl. Of the birds familiar to European sportsmen there are partridge, quail and snipe in abundance, and the woodcock has been seen.
The poisonous snakes of Ceylon are not numerous. Four species have been enumerated—the ticpolonga (Daboia elegans), the cobra di capello (Naja tripudians), the carawilla (Trigonocephalus hypnale), and the Trigonocephalus nigromarginatus, which is so rare that it has no popular name. The largest snake in Ceylon is the “boa,” or “anaconda” of Eastern story (Python reticulatus); it is from 20 to 30 ft. in length, and preys on hog-deer and other smaller animals. Crocodiles infest the rivers and estuaries, and the large fresh-water reservoirs which supply the rice-fields; there are two species (C. biporcatus and C. palustris). Of lizards the most noteworthy are the iguana, several bloodsuckers, the chameleon and the familiar geckoes, which are furnished with pads to each toe, by which they are enabled to ascend perpendicular walls and adhere to glass and ceilings.
Insects exist in great numbers. The leaf and stick insects are of great variety and beauty. Ceylon has four species of the ant-lion, renowned for the predaceous ingenuity of its larvae; and the white ants or termites, the ravages of which are most destructive, are at once ubiquitous and innumerable in every place where the climate is not too chilly or the soil too sandy for them to construct their domed dwellings. They make their way through walls and floors, and in a few hours destroy every vegetable substance within their reach. Of all the insect pests that beset an unseasoned European the most annoying are the mosquitoes. Ticks are also an intolerable nuisance; they are exceedingly minute, and burrow under the skin. In the lower ranges of the hill country land leeches are found in tormenting profusion. But insects and reptiles do not trouble European residents so much as in early years—at any rate in the towns, while in the higher planting districts there is almost complete exemption from their unwelcome attentions. Bungalows are more carefully built to resist white ants, drainage and cleanliness prevent mosquitoes and ticks from multiplying, while snakes and leeches avoid cultivated, occupied ground.
Of the fish in ordinary use for the table the finest is the seir, a species of scomber (Cybium guttatum). Mackerel, dories, carp, whitings, mullet (red and striped), soles and sardines are abundant. Sharks appear on all parts of the coast, and the huge saw fish (Pristis antiquorum) infests the eastern coast of the island, where it attains a length of 12 to 15 ft. There are also several fishes remarkable for the brilliancy of their colouring; e.g. the Red Sea perch (Holocentrum rubrum), of the deepest scarlet, and the great fire fish (Scorpaena miles), of a brilliant red. Some are purple, others yellow, and numbers with scales of a lustrous green are called “parrots” by the natives; of these one (Sparus Hardwickii) is called the “flower parrot,” from its exquisite colouring—irregular bands of blue, crimson and purple, green, yellow and grey, crossed by perpendicular stripes of black. The pearl fishery, as indicated below, is of great importance.
Population.—The total population of Ceylon in 1901, inclusive of military, shipping and 4914 prisoners of war, was 3,578,333, showing an increase of 18.8% in the decade. The population of Colombo was 158,228.
The population and area of the nine provinces was as follows:—
|North Central Province||79,110||4,002¼|
|Province of Uva||192,072||3,154½|
|Province of Sabaragamuwa||321,755||1,9011⁄8|
The table of nationality gives the principal groups as follows:—
|Burghers and Eurasians||23,539|
Altogether there are representatives of some seventy races in Ceylon. The Veddahs, who run wild in the woods, are the aborigines of the island.
Language.—The language of nearly 70% of the population is Sinhalese, which is nearly allied to Pali (q.v.); of the remaining 30%, with the exception of Europeans, the language is Tamil. A corrupt form of Portuguese is spoken by some natives of European descent. The Veddahs, a small forest tribe, speak a distinct language, and the Rodiyas, an outcast tribe, possess a large vocabulary of their own. The Sinhalese possess several original poems of some merit, and an extensive and most interesting series of native chronicles, but their most valuable literature is written in Pali, though the greater portion of it has been translated into Sinhalese, and is best known to the people through these Sinhalese translations.
Religion.—The principal religions may be distributed as follows:—Christians, 349,239; Buddhists, 2,141,404; Hindus, 826,826; Mahommedans, 246,118. Of the Christians, 287,419 are Roman Catholics, and 61,820 are Protestants of various denominations; and of these Christians 319,001 are natives, and 30,238 Europeans. The Mahommedans are the descendants of Arabs (locally termed Moormen) and the Malays. The Tamils, both the inhabitants of the island and the immigrants from India, are Hindus, with the exception of 93,000 Christians. The Sinhalese, numbering 70% of the whole population, are, with the exception of 180,000 Christians, Buddhists. Ceylon may properly be called a Buddhist country, and it is here that Buddhism is found almost in its pristine purity. Ceylon was converted to Buddhism in the 3rd century B.C. by the great Augustine of Buddhism, Mahinda, son of the Indian king Asoka; and the extensive ruins throughout Ceylon, especially in the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, bear witness to the sacrifices which kings and people joined in making to create lasting monuments of their faith. The Buddhist temples in the Kandyan country possess valuable lands, the greater portion of which is held by hereditary tenants on the tenure of service. These lands were given out with much care to provide for all that was necessary to maintain the temple and its connected monastery. Some tenants had to do the blacksmiths’ work, others the carpenters', while another set of tenants had to cultivate the land reserved for supplying the monastery; others again had to attend at the festivals, and prepare decorations, and carry lamps and banners. In course of time difficulties arose; the English courts were averse to a system under which the rent of lands was paid by hereditary service, and a commission was issued by Sir Hercules Robinson (afterwards Lord Rosmead) when governor, to deal with the whole question, to define the services and to enable the tenants to commute these for a money payment. The result of the inquiry was to show that the services, except in a few instances, were not onerous, and that almost without an exception the tenants were willing to continue the system. The anomaly of an ecclesiastical establishment of Anglican and Presbyterian chaplains with a bishop of Colombo paid out of the general revenues has now been abolished in Ceylon, and only the bishop and two or three incumbents remain on the list for life, or till they retire on pension.
Education.—There has been a great advance in public instruction since 1875, through the multiplication of vernacular, Anglo-vernacular and English schools by government, by the different Christian missions and by the Buddhists and Hindus who have come forward to claim the government grant. The government has also started a technical college, and an agricultural school has been reorganized. An agricultural department, recommended by a commission, should profit by the services of the entomologist, mycologist and chemical analyst added by the governor to the staff of the royal botanic gardens at Peradeniya. There are industrial and reformatory schools, which are partially supported by government. In spite of the great advance that has been made, however, at the census of 1901 no fewer than 2,790,235 of the total population were entered as unable to read or write their own tongue. Of this number 1,553,078 were females, showing a very unsatisfactory state of things.
Agriculture.—The natural soils of Ceylon are composed of quartzose gravel, felspathic clay and sand often of a pure white, blended with or overlaid by brown and red loams, resulting; from the decay of vegetable matter, or the disintegration of theSoil. gneiss and hornblende formations. The whole of the great northern extremity of the island consists of a sandy and calcareous admixture, made to yield productive crops of grain, tobacco, cotton and vegetables by the careful industry of the Tamil population, who spare no pains in irrigating and manuring their lands. Between the northern districts and the elevated mountain ranges which overlook the Bintenne and Uva countries are extensive plains of alluvial soil washed down from the table-lands above, where once a teeming population produced large quantities of grain. The remains of ancient works of irrigation bear testimony to the bygone agriculture of these extensive regions now covered by swamps or dense jungle.
The general character of the soil in the maritime provinces to the east, south and west is sandy. Large tracts of quartzose sand spread along the whole line of sea-coast, some of which, of a pure white, and very deficient in vegetable matter, is admirably adapted to the growth of the cinnamon plant. In the light sandy districts where the soil is perfectly free, and contains a portion of vegetable and mineral loam, the coco-nut palm flourishes in great luxuriance. This is the case along the entire coast line from Kalpitiya to Point de Galle, and farther eastward and northward to Matara, stretching to a distance inland varying from 100 yds. to 3 m. From this light sandy belt as far as the mountain-zone of the Kandyan country the land is mainly composed of low hilly undulations of sandstone and ferruginous clay, incapable of almost any cultivation, but intersected in every direction with extensive valleys and wide plains of a more generous soil, not highly fertile, but still capable, with a little industry, of yielding ample crops of rice.
The soil of the central province, although frequently containing great quantities of quartzose sand and ferruginous clay, is in many of the more elevated districts of a fine loamy character. Sand sufficiently vegetable and light for rice culture may be seen at all elevations in the hill districts; but the fine chocolate and brown loams overlying gneiss or limestone formations, so admirably adapted for coffee cultivation, are only to be found on the steep sides or along the base of mountain ranges at an elevation varying from 2000 to 4000 ft. Such land, well-timbered, contains in its elements the decomposed particles of the rocks above, blended with the decayed vegetable matter of forests that have for centuries scattered beneath them the germs of fertility. The quantity of really rich coffee land in these districts is but small as compared with the extent of country—vast tracts of open valleys consisting of an indifferent yellow tenacious soil interspersed with many low ranges of quartz rock, but tea is a much hardier plant than coffee, and grows on poorer soil.
Irrigation.—The native rulers covered the whole face of the country with a network of irrigation reservoirs, by which Ceylon was enabled in ancient times to be the great granary of southern Asia. Wars, and the want of a strong hand to guide the agriculture of the country, led to the decay of these ancient works, and large tracts of land, which were formerly highly productive, became swampy wastes or dense forests. The remains of some of the larger irrigation works are amongst the most interesting of the memorials of Ceylon’s former greatness. Some of the artificial lakes were of great size. Minneri, formed by damming across the valleys between the low hills which surround it with an embankment 60 ft. wide at the top, is at this day 20 m. in circumference. It has recently been restored by government, and is capable of irrigating 15,000 acres; while the Giant’s Tank, which has also been restored, irrigates 20,000 acres. Another lake, with an embankment several miles in length, the Kalawewa, was formed by damming back the waters of the Kalaoya, but they have forced their way through the embankment, and in the ancient bed of the lake, or tank, are now many small villages. In connexion with these large tanks were numerous canals and channels for supplying smaller tanks, or for irrigating large tracts of fields. Throughout the district of Nuwarakalawiya every village has its tank. The embankments have been formed with great skill, and advantage has been taken to the utmost of the slightest fall in the land; but they in common with the larger works had been allowed to fall into decay, and were being brought to destruction by the evil practice of cutting them every year to irrigate the fields. The work of restoring these embankments was undertaken by the government, and 100 village tanks were repaired every year, besides eighteen larger works. In 1900 a sum of five million rupees was set apart for these larger undertakings.
Cultivation and Products.—The area of uncultivated land is little over 3½ million acres, whereas fully four times that amount is capable of cultivation. A great deal is waste, besides lagoons, tanks, backwaters, &c. Thick forest land does not cover more than 5000 sq. m. Scrub, or chena, and patana grass cover a very great area. Tea, cacao, cardamoms, cinchona, coffee and indiarubber are the products cultivated by European and an increasing number of native planters in the hill country and part of the low country of Ceylon. A great change has been effected in the appearance of the country by the introduction of the tea plant in place of the coffee plant, after the total failure of the latter owing to disease. For some time coffee had been the most important crop. In the old days it grew wild like cinnamon, and was exported so far back as the time of the Portuguese, but was lightly esteemed as an article of European commerce, as the berry was gathered unripe, was imperfectly cured and had little flavour. In 1824 the governor, Sir E. Barnes, introduced coffee cultivation on the West Indian plan; in 1834 the falling off of other sources of supply drew general attention to Ceylon, and by 1841 the Ceylon output had become considerable, and grew steadily (with an interval in 1847 due to a commercial crisis) till 1877 when 272,000 acres were under coffee cultivation, the total export amounting to 103,000,000 ℔ Then owing to disease came a crisis, and a rapid decline, and now only a few thousand acres are left. On the failure of the coffee crops planters began extensively to grow the tea plant, which had already been known in the island for several years. By 1882 over 20,000 acres had been planted with tea, but the export that year was under 700,000 ℔ Five years later the area planted was 170,000 acres, while the export had risen to nearly 14,000,000 ℔ By 1892 there were 262,000 acres covered with tea, and 71,000,000 ℔ were that year exported. In 1897, 350,000 acres were planted, and the export was 116,000,000 ℔ By the beginning of the 20th century, the total area cultivated with tea was not under 390,000 acres, while the estimate of shipments was put at 146,000,000 ℔ annually. Nearly every plantation has its factory, with the machinery necessary to prepare the leaf as brought in from the bushes until it becomes the tea of commerce. The total amount of capital now invested in the tea industry in Ceylon cannot be less than £10,000,000. The tea-planting industry more than anything else has raised Ceylon from the depressed state to which it fell in 1882.
Before tea was proved a success, however, cinchona cultivation was found a useful bridge from coffee to the Ceylon planter, who, however, grew it so freely that in one year 15,000,000 ℔ bark was shipped, bringing the price of quinine down from 16s. to 1s. 6d. an ounce.
In a few places, where the rainfall is abundant, rice cultivation is allowed to depend on the natural supply of water, but in most parts the cultivation is not attempted unless there is secured beforehand a certain and sufficient supply, by means of canals or reservoirs. In the hill country every valley and open plain capable of tillage is made to yield its crops of grain, and the steep sides of the hills are cut into terraces, on which are seen waving patches of green rice watered by mountain streams, which are conducted by means of channels ingeniously carried round the spurs of the hills and along the face of acclivities, by earthen water-courses and bamboo aqueducts, so as to fertilize the fields below. These works bear witness to the patience, industry and skill of the Kandyan villagers. In the low country to the north and east and north-west of the hills, irrigation works of a more expensive kind are necessary. In January 1892, the immemorial rent or tax on fields of paddy (rice in the husk) was removed, but not the customs duty on imported rice. But even with the advantage of protection to the extent of 10% in the local markets, there has been no extension of paddy cultivation; on the contrary, the import of grain from India has grown larger year by year. Through the multiplication of irrigation works and the northern railway, rice culture may be sufficiently extended to save some of the large imports (8,000,000 to 9,000,000 bushels annually) now required from India.
Tobacco is extensively cultivated in various parts of the island, and the growth of particular places, such as Dumbara and Uva, is much prized for local consumption. The tobacco of export is grown in the peninsula of Jaffna. The exports of this article in 1850 were 22,176 cwts., valued at £20,698. The cultivation of the plant has not greatly increased of recent years, and is almost entirely in the hands of natives in the northern and parts of the central Province.
Ceylon has been celebrated since the middle of the 14th century for its cinnamon, and during the period of the Dutch occupation this spice was the principal article of commerce; under their rule and up to 1832 its cultivation was a government monopoly. With the abolition of the monopoly the quantity exported increased, but the value declined.
Unlike the coffee plant, the hardy tea plant grows from sea-level to 7000 ft. altitude; but crown forest-lands above 5000 ft. are no longer sold, so that a very large area on the highest mountain ranges and plateaus is still under forest. Moreover, on the tea plantations arboriculture is attended to in a way unknown in 1875; the Australian eucalypts, acacias and grevilleas, Indian and Japanese conifers, and other trees of different lands, are now freely planted for ornament, for protection from wind, for firewood or for timber. A great advance has been made at Hakgalla and Nuwara Eliya, in Upper Uva, and other high districts, in naturalizing English fruits and vegetables. The calamander tree is nearly extinct, and ebony and other fine cabinet woods are getting scarce; but the conservation of forests after the Indian system has been taken in hand under a director and trained officers, and much good has been done. The cinnamon tree (wild in the jungles, cultivated as a shrub in plantations) is almost the only one yielding a trade product which is indigenous to the island. The coco-nut and nearly all other palms have been introduced.
Among other agricultural products mention must be made of cacao, the growth and export of which have steadily extended since coffee failed. Important also is the spice or aromatic product of cardamoms.
The culture of indiarubber was begun on low-country plantations, and Ceylon rubber is of the best quality in the market. The area of cultivation of the coco-nut palm has been greatly extended since 1875 by natives as well as by Europeans. The products of this palm that are exported, apart from those so extensively used in the island itself, exceed in a good year £1,000,000 sterling in value. Viticulture and cotton cultivation, as well as tobacco growing, are being developed along the course of the new northern railway.
Taking the trade in the products mentioned as a whole, no country can compete with the United Kingdom as a customer of Ceylon. But there is a considerable trade in nearly all products with Germany and America; in cardamoms with India; in cinnamon with Spain, Italy, Belgium, Australia, Austria and France; and in one or other of the products of the coco-nut palm (coco-nuts, coco-nut oil, copra, desiccated coco-nut, poonac, coir) with Belgium, Russia, France, Austria, Australia and Holland.
Pearl Fishery.—Pearl oysters are found in the Tambalagam bay, near Trincomalee, but the great banks on which these oysters are usually found lie near Arippu, off the northern part of the west coast of Ceylon, at a distance of from 16 to 20 m. from the shore. They extend for many miles north and south, varying considerably in their size and productiveness. It is generally believed that the oyster arrives at maturity in its seventh year, that the pearl is then of full size and perfect lustre, and that if the oyster be not then secured it will shortly die, and the pearl be lost. It is certain that from some unexplained cause the oysters disappear from their known beds for years together. The Dutch had no fishery from 1732 to 1746, and it failed them again for twenty-seven years from 1768 to 1796. The fishery was again interrupted between 1820 and 1828, also from 1833 to 1854, from 1864 to 1873, and again from 1892 to 1900. The fishery of 1903 was the first since 1891, and produced a revenue of Rs. 829,348, being the third largest on record. In 1797 and 1798 the government sold the privilege of fishing the oyster-beds for £123,982 and £142,780 respectively. From that time the fishery was conducted by the government itself until 1906, when it was leased to the Ceylon Pearl Fisheries Company for twenty years at a rent of £20,000 a year. Professor Herdman, F.R.S., was appointed to inquire and report on the conservation and cultivation of the Ceylon pearl-oyster, and visited Ceylon in January 1902. In consequence of his report, a marine laboratory for the culture of the pearl oysters was established in Galle harbour under the care of Mr Hornell.
Mineral Industries.—Commercially there are two established mineral industries:—(1) that of digging for precious stones; and (2) the much more important industry of digging for plumbago or graphite, the one mineral of commercial importance found. Further developments may result in the shipment of the exceptionally pure iron ore found in different parts of Ceylon, though still no coal has been found to be utilized with it. Several places, too—Ruanwella, Rangalla, Rangbodde, &c.—indicate where gold was found in the time of the Kandyan kings; and geologists might possibly indicate a paying quartz reef, as in Mysore. Owing to the greatly increased demand in Europe and America, plumbago in 1899 more than doubled in price, rising from £40 to £80, and even £100 a ton for the finest. Latterly there has been a considerable fall, but the permanent demand is likely to continue keen in consequence mainly of the Ceylon kind being the best for making crucibles. The trade with Great Britain and the United States has slightly decreased, but there has been a rapid expansion in the exports to Belgium and Holland, Russia, Japan and Victoria; and the industry seems to be established on a sound basis. One consequence of its development has been to bring European and American capitalists and Cornish and Italian miners into a field hitherto almost entirely worked by Sinhalese. Though some of the mines were carried to a depth of 1000 ft., the work was generally very primitive in character, and Western methods of working are sure to lead to greater safety and economy. Besides a royalty or customs duty of 5 rupees (about 6s. 8d.) per ton on all plumbago exported, the government issue licenses at moderate rates for the digging of plumbago on crown lands, a certain share of the resulting mineral also going to government. The plumbago industry, in all its departments of mining, carting, preparing, packing and shipping, gives employment to fully 100,000 men and women, still almost entirely Sinhalese. The wealthiest mine-owners, too, are Sinhalese land-owners or merchants.
As regards gems, there are perhaps 500 gem pits or quarries worked in the island during the dry season from November to June in the Ratnapura, Rakwane and Matara districts. Some of these are on a small scale; but altogether several thousands of Sinhalese find a precarious existence in digging for gems. Rich finds of a valuable ruby, sapphire, cat's-eye, amethyst, alexandrite or star stone, are comparatively rare; it is only of the commoner gems, such as moonstone, garnet, spinels, that a steady supply is obtained. The cat's-eye in its finer qualities is peculiar to Ceylon, and is occasionally in great demand, according to the fashion. The obstacle to the investment of European capital in “gemming” has always been the difficulty of preventing the native labourers in the pits—-even if practically naked—from concealing and stealing gems. A Chamber of Mines, with a suitable library, was established in Colombo during 1899.
Manufactures.—Little is done save in the preparation in factories and stores, in Colombo or on the plantations, of the several products exported. The manufacture of jewellery and preparation of precious stones, and, among native women and children, of pillow lace, give employment to several thousands. Iron and engineering works are numerous in Colombo and in the planting districts. The Sinhalese are skilful cabinetmakers and carpenters. The Moormen and Tamils furnish good masons and builders.
Commerce.—There has been rapid development since 1882, and the returns for 1903 showed a total value of 22½ millions sterling. The principal imports were articles of food and drink (chiefly rice from India) manufactured metals (with specie), coal, cotton yarns and piece goods from Manchester, machinery and millwork and apparel. The Ceylon customs tariff for imports is one of 6½% ad valorem, save in the case of intoxicating drinks, arms, ammunition, opium, &c. The chief export is tea.
Roads.—The policy of the Sinhalese rulers of the interior was to exclude strangers from the hill country. Prior to the British occupation of the Kandyan territory in 1815, the only means of access from one district to another was by footpaths through the forests. The Portuguese do not appear to have attempted to open up the country below the hills, and the Dutch confined themselves to the improvement of the inland water-communications. The British government saw from the first the necessity of making roads into the interior for military purposes, and, more recently, for developing the resources of the country. The credit of opening up the country is due mainly to the governor, Sir Edward Barnes, by whose direction the great military road from Colombo to Kandy was made. Gradually all the military stations were connected by broad tracks, which by degrees were bridged and converted into good carriage roads. The governors Sir Henry Ward and Sir Hercules Robinson recognized the importance of giving the coffee planters every assistance in opening up the country, and the result of their policy is that the whole of the hill country is now intersected by a vast number of splendid roads, made at a cost of upwards of £2000 per mile. In 1848 an ordinance was passed to levy from every adult male in the colony (except Buddhist priests and British soldiers) six days’ labour on the roads, or an equivalent in money. The labour and money obtained by this wise measure have enabled the local authorities to connect the government highways by minor roads, which bring every village of importance into communication with the principal towns.
Railways.—After repeated vain attempts by successive governors to connect Colombo with the interior by railways, Sir Charles MacCarthy successfully set on foot a railway of 75 m. in length from Colombo to Kandy. The railway mileage had developed to 563 m. in 1908, including one of the finest mountain lines in the world—over 160 m. long, rising to 6200 ft. above sea-level, and falling at the terminus to 4000 ft. The towns of Kandy, Matale, Gampola, Nawalapitiya, Hatton and Haputale (and practically Nuwara Eliya) in the hills, are thus connected by rail, and in the low country the towns of Kurunegala, Galle, Matara, Kalutara, &c. Most of the debt on the railways (all government lines) is paid off, and the traffic receipts now make up nearly one-third of the general revenue. An Indo-Ceylon railway to connect the Indian and Ceylon systems has been the subject of separate reports and estimates by engineers serving the Ceylon and Indian governments, who have pronounced the work across the coral reef between Manaar and Rameswaram quite feasible. A commission sat in 1903 to consider the gauge of an Indo-Ceylon railway. Such a line promised to serve strategic as well as commercial purposes, and to make Colombo more than ever the port for southern India. The headquarters of the mail steamers have been removed from Galle to Colombo, where the colonial government have constructed a magnificent breakwater, and undertaken other harbour works which have greatly augmented both the external trade and the coasting trade of the island.
Government.—Ceylon is a crown colony, that is, a possession of the British crown acquired by conquest or cession, the affairs of which are administered by a governor, who receives his appointment from the crown, generally for a term of six years. He is assisted by an executive and a legislative council. The executive council acts as the cabinet of the governor, and consists of the attorney-general, the three principal officers of the colony (namely, the colonial secretary, the treasurer and the auditor-general), and the general in command of the forces. The legislative council includes, besides the governor as president and nine official members, eight unofficial members—one for the Kandyan Sinhalese (or Highlanders) and one for the “Moormen” having been added in 1890. The term of office for the unofficial members is limited to five years, though the governor may reappoint if he choose. The king’s advocate, the deputy-advocate, and the surveyor-general are now respectively styled attorney-general, solicitor-general, and director of public works. The civil service has been reconstituted into five classes, not including the colonial secretary as a staff appointment, nor ten cadets; these five classes number seventy officers. The district judges can punish up to two years’ imprisonment, and impose fines up to Rs.1000. The police magistrates can pass sentences up to six months’ imprisonment, and impose fines of Rs.150. The criminal law has since 1890 been codified on the model of the Indian penal code; criminal and civil procedure have also been the subject of codification. There are twenty-three prisons in the island, mostly small; but convict establishments in and near the capital take all long-sentence prisoners.
Banks and Currency.—Ceylon has agencies of the National Bank of India, Bank of Madras, Mercantile Bank of India, Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China, and of the Hong-kong and Shanghai Bank, besides mercantile agencies of other banks, also a government savings bank at Colombo, and post-office savings banks all over the island. In 1884, on the failure of the Oriental Bank, the notes in currency were guaranteed by government, and a government note currency was started in supersession of bank notes. The coin currency of Ceylon is in rupees and decimals of a rupee, the value of the standard following that fixed for the Indian rupee, about 1s. 4d. per rupee.
Finance.—With the disease of the coffee plant the general revenue fell from Rs.1,70,00,000 in 1877 to Rs.1,20,00,000 in 1882, when trade was in a very depressed state, and the general prosperity of the island was seriously affected. Since then, however, the revenue has steadily risen with the growing export of tea, cocoa-nut produce, plumbago, &c., and in 1902 it reached a total of 28 millions of rupees. (J. F. D.; C. L.)
History.—The island of Ceylon was known to the Greeks and Romans under the name of Taprobane, and in later times Serendib, Sirinduil and Zeylan have been employed to designate it by writers of the Western and Eastern worlds. Serendib is a corruption of the Sanskrit Sinhaladvïpa. Like most oriental countries, Ceylon possesses a great mass of ancient records, in which fact is so confused with fable that they are difficult to distinguish. The labours of George Turnour (1799–1843), however, helped to dissipate much of this obscurity, and his admirable edition (1836) of the Mahavamsa first made it possible to trace the main lines of Sinhalese history.
The Sinhalese inscriptional records, to which George Turnour first called attention, and which, through the activity of Sir William Gregory in 1874, began to be accurately transcribed and translated, extend from the 2nd century B.C. onwards. Among the oldest inscriptions discovered are those on the rock cells of the Vessagiri Vihara of Anuradhapura, cut in the old Brahma-lipi character. The inscriptions show how powerful was the Buddhist hierarchy which dominated the government and national life. The royal decrees of successive rulers are mainly concerned with the safeguarding of the rights of the hierarchy, but a few contain references to executive acts of the kings, as in a slab inscription of Kassapa V. (c. A.D. 929–939). In an edict ascribed to Mahinda IV. (c. A.D. 975–991) reference is made to the Sinhalese palladium, the famous tooth-relic of Buddha, now enshrined at Kandy, and the decree confirms tradition as to the identity of the fine stone temple, east of the Thuparama at Anuradhapura, with the shrine in which the tooth was first deposited when brought from Kalinga in the reign of Kirti Sri Meghavarna (A.D. 304–324).
The earliest inhabitants of Ceylon were probably the ancestors of the modern Veddahs, a small tribe of primitive hunters who inhabit the eastern jungles; and the discovery of palaeolithic stone implements buried in some of their caves points to the fact that they represent a race which has been in the island for untold ages. As to subsequent immigrations, the great Hindu epic, the Ramayana, tells the story of the conquest of part of the island by the hero Rama and his followers, who took the capital of its king Rawana. Whatever element of truth there may be in this fable, it certainly represents no permanent occupation. The authentic history of Ceylon, so far as it can be traced, begins with the landing in 543 B.C. of Vijaya, the founder of the Sinhalese dynasty, with a small band of Aryan-speaking followers from the mainland of India. Vijaya married the daughter of a native chief, with whose aid he proceeded to master the whole island, which he parcelled out among his followers, some of whom formed petty kingdoms. The Sinhalese introduced from the mainland a comparatively high type of civilization, notably agriculture. The earliest of the great irrigation tanks, near Anuradhapura, was opened about 504 B.C. by the successor of Vijaya; and about this time was established that system of village communities which still obtains over a large part of Ceylon.
The island was converted to Buddhism at the beginning of the 3rd century B.C. by the preaching of Mahinda, a son of the great Buddhist emperor Asoka; a conversion that was followed by an immense multiplication of daghobas, curious bell-shaped reliquaries of solid stone, and of Buddhist monasteries. For the rest, the history of ancient Ceylon is largely a monotonous record of Malabar or Tamil invasions, conquests and usurpations. Of these latter the first was in 237 B.C. when two officers in the cavalry and fleet revolted, overthrew the Sinhalese ruler with the aid of his own Tamil mercenaries, and reigned jointly, as Sena I. and Guptika, until 215. The Sinhalese Asela then ruled till 205, when he was overthrown by a Tamil from Tanjore, Elala, who held the reins of power for 44 years. In 161 B.C. Elala was defeated and slain by Dutegemunu, still remembered as one of the great Sinhalese heroes of Ceylon. The ruins of the great monastery, known as the Brazen Palace, at Anuradhapura, remain a memorial of King Dutegemunu’s splendour and religious zeal. He died in 137 B.C., and thenceforth the history of Ceylon is mainly that of further Tamil invasions, of the construction of irrigation tanks, and of the immense development of the Buddhist monastic system. A tragic episode in the royal family in the 5th century A.D. is, however, worthy of notice as connected with one of Ceylon’s most interesting remains, the Sīgiri rock and tank (see Sīgiri). In A.D. 477 King Datu Sen was murdered by his son, who mounted the throne as Kasyapa I., and when he was driven from the capital by the inhabitants, infuriated by his crime, built himself a stronghold on the inaccessible Sīgiri rock, whence he ruled the country until in 495 he was overthrown and slain by his brother Mugallana (495–513), who at the time of his father’s murder had escaped to India.
Towards the close of the 10th century Ceylon was invaded by Rajaraja the Great, the Chola king, and after a series of protracted campaigns was annexed to his empire in 1005. The island, did not, however, remain long under Tamil domination. In 1071 Vijaya Bahu succeeded in re-establishing the Sinhalese dynasty, and for a while Ceylon was freed from foreign intervention. The most notable of the successors of Vijaya Bahu, and indeed of all the long line of Sinhalese rulers, was Parakrama Bahu I. (1155–1180), whose colossal statue still stands near Polonnaruwa. He not only took advantage of the unaccustomed tranquillity of the country to restore the irrigation tanks and the monasteries, but he availed himself of a disputed succession to the Pandya throne of Madura to turn the tables on his Tamil enemies by invading India. According to the Mahavamsa his generals met with immediate and unbroken success; according to the more probable account preserved in a long Chola inscription at Arpakkam near Kanchi, they were, though at first successful, ultimately driven out by a coalition of the southern princes (V. A. Smith, Early History of India, ed. 1908, p. 411). In any case, within thirty years of Parakrama Bahu’s death his work was undone; the Malabar invaders were once more able to effect a settlement in the island, and the Sinhalese capital was moved farther and farther south, till in 1410 it had become established at Kotta, now a suburb of Colombo. In 1408 a new misfortune had befallen the Sinhalese dynasty; in revenge for an insult offered to a Chinese envoy, a Chinese army invaded the island and carried away King Vijaya Bahu IV. into captivity. For thirty years from this date the Sinhalese kings of Ceylon were tributary to China.
When, in 1505, the Portuguese Francisco de Almeida landed in Ceylon, he found the island divided into seven kingdoms. Twelve years later the viceroy of Goa ordered the erection of a fort at Colombo, for which permission was obtained from the king of Kotta; and from this time until the advent of the Dutch in the 17th century the Portuguese endeavoured, amid perpetual wars with the native kings, who were assisted by Arab and other traders jealous of European rivalry, to establish their control over the island. They ultimately succeeded so far as the coast was concerned, though their dominion scarcely penetrated inland. Materially their gain was but small, for the trade of Ceylon was quite insignificant; but they had the spiritual satisfaction of prosecuting a vigorous propaganda of Catholicism, St Francis Xavier being the most notable of the missionaries who at this time laboured in the island.
The fanatical zeal and the masterful attitude of the Portuguese were a constant source of dissension with the native rulers, and when the Dutch, under Admiral Spilberg, landed on the east coast in 1602 and sought the alliance of the king of Kandy in the interior of the island, every inducement was held out to them to aid in expelling the Portuguese. Nothing seems to have come of this until 1638–1639, when a Dutch expedition attacked and razed the Portuguese forts on the east coast. In the following year they landed at Negombo, without however establishing themselves in any strong post. In 1644 Negombo was captured and fortified by the Dutch, while in 1656 they took Colombo, and in 1658 they drove the Portuguese from Jaffna, their last stronghold in Ceylon.
Pursuing a wiser policy than their predecessors, the Dutch lost no opportunity of improving that portion of the country which owned their supremacy, and of opening a trade with the interior. More tolerant and less disposed to stand upon their dignity than the Portuguese, they subordinated political to commercial ends, flattered the native rulers by a show of deference, and so far succeeded in their object as to render their trade between the island and Holland a source of great profit. Many new branches of industry were developed. Public works were undertaken on a large scale, and education, if not universally placed within the reach of the inhabitants of the maritime provinces, was at least well cared for on a broad plan of government supervision. That which they had so much improved by policy, they were, however, unable to defend by force when the British turned their arms against them. A century and a half had wrought great changes in the physical and mental status of the Dutch colonists. The territory which in 1658 they had slowly gained by undaunted and obstinate bravery, they as rapidly lost in 1796 by imbecility and cowardice.
The first intercourse of the English with Ceylon was as far back as 1763, when an embassy was despatched from Madras to the king of Kandy, without, however, leading to any result. On the rupture between Great Britain and Holland in 1795, a force was sent against the Dutch possessions in Ceylon, where the opposition offered was so slight that by the following year the whole of their forts were in the hands of the English commander.
The abiding results of the occupation of Ceylon by the Portuguese and Dutch is described by Sir Emerson Tennent (Ceylon) as follows:
“The dominion of the Netherlands in Ceylon was nearly equal in duration with that of Portugal, about 140 years; but the policies of the two countries have left a very different impress on the character and institutions of the people amongst whom they lived. The most important bequest left by the utilitarian genius of Holland is the code of Roman Dutch law, which still prevails in the supreme courts of justice, whilst the fanatical propagandism of the Portuguese has reared for itself a monument in the abiding and expanding influence of the Roman Catholic faith. This flourishes in every hamlet and province where it was implanted by the Franciscans, whilst the doctrines of the reformed church of Holland, never preached beyond the walls of the fortresses, are already almost forgotten throughout the island, with the exception of an expiring community at Colombo. Already the language of the Dutch, which they sought to extend by penal enactments, has ceased to be spoken even by their direct descendants, whilst a corrupted Portuguese is to the present day the vernacular of the lower classes in every town of importance. As the practical and sordid government of the Netherlands only recognized the interest of the native population in so far as they were essential to uphold their trading monopolies, their memory was recalled by no agreeable associations: whilst the Portuguese, who, in spite of their cruelties, were identified with the people by the bond of a common faith, excited a feeling of admiration by the boldness of their conflicts with the Kandyans, and the chivalrous though ineffectual defence of their beleaguered fortresses. The Dutch and their proceedings have almost ceased to be remembered by the lowland Sinhalese; but the chiefs of the south and west perpetuate with pride the honorific title Don, accorded to them by their first European conquerors, and still prefix to their ancient patronymics the sonorous Christian names of the Portuguese.”
The British forces by which the island had been conquered were those of the East India Company, and Ceylon was therefore at first placed under its jurisdiction and administered from Madras. The introduction of the Madras revenue system, however, together with a host of Malabar collectors, led to much discontent, which culminated in rebellion; and in 1798 the colony was placed directly under the crown. By the treaty of Amiens, in 1803, this situation was regularized, from the international point of view, by the formal cession to Great Britain of the former Dutch possessions in the island. For a while the British dominion was confined to the coast. The central tract of hilly country, hedged in by impenetrable forests and precipitous mountain ranges, remained in possession of Sri Vikrama Raja Sinha, the last of the Sinhalese dynasty, who showed no signs of encouraging communication with his European neighbours.
Minor differences led in 1803 to an invasion of the Kandyan territory; but sickness, desertion and fatigue proved more formidable adversaries to the British forces than the troops of the Sinhalese monarch, and peace was eventually concluded upon terms by no means favourable to the English. The cruelty and oppression of the king now became so intolerable to his subjects that disaffection spread rapidly amongst them. Punishments of the most horrible kinds were inflicted, but failed to repress the popular indignation; and in 1815 the British, at the urgent request of many of the Adigars and other native chiefs, proceeded against the tyrant, who was captured near Kandy, and subsequently ended his days in exile. With him ended a long line of sovereigns, whose pedigree may be traced through upwards of two thousand years.
By a convention entered into with the Kandyan chiefs on the 2nd of March 1815, the entire sovereignty of the island passed into the hands of the British, who in return guaranteed to the inhabitants civil and religious liberty. The religion of Buddha was declared inviolable, and its rights, ministers and places of worship were to be maintained and protected; the laws of the country were to be preserved and administered according to established forms; and the royal dues and revenues were to be levied as before for the support of government.
With the exception of a serious outbreak in some parts of the interior in 1817, which lasted for upwards of a year, and of two minor attempts at rebellion easily put down, in 1843 and 1848, the political atmosphere of Ceylon has remained undisturbed since the deportation of the last king of Kandy.
Authorities.—Major Thomas Skinner, Fifty Years in Ceylon, edited by his son, A. Skinner (London, 1891); Constance F. Gordon Gumming, Two Happy Years in Ceylon (2 vols., Edinburgh, 1892); H. W. Cave, The Ruined Cities of Ceylon (London, 1897), and The Book of Ceylon (London, 1908); Sir Emerson Tennent, Ceylon (2 vols. 4th ed., 1860); J. Ferguson, Ceylon in 1903 (Colombo); J. C. Willis, Ceylon (Colombo, 1907). See also E. Müller, Ancient Inscriptions in Ceylon, published for the government (1883–1884), and the important archaeological survey in Epigraphia Zeylonica, part i., 1904, ii., 1907, iii., 1907, by Don Martino de Silva Wickremasinghe, who in 1899 was appointed epigraphist to the Ceylon government. Among other works on special subjects may be mentioned H. Trimen, F.R.S., director of Ceylon Botanic Gardens, Ceylon Flora, in 5 vols., completed by Sir Joseph Hooker; Captain V. Legge, F.Z.S., History of the Birds of Ceylon (London, 1870); Dr Copleston, bishop of Colombo, Buddhism, Primitive and Present, in Magadha and in Ceylon (London, 1892); review by Sir West Ridgeway, Administration of Ceylon, 1896–1903; Professor W. A. Herdman, Report on the Pearl Oyster Fisheries, 1903–1904.