Ceylon; an Account of the Island Physical, Historical, and eBook

James Emerson Tennent
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 712 pages of information about Ceylon; an Account of the Island Physical, Historical, and.

[Footnote 2:  Mahawanso, ch. xxxv. p. 215.  The king Upatissa, A.D. 368, in the midst of a solemn ceremonial, “observing ants, and other insects drowning in an inundation, halted, and having swept them towards the with the feathers of a peacock’s tail, and enabled them to save a themselves, he continued the procession.”—­Mahawanso, ch. xxxvii p. 249; Rajaratnacari, p. 49, 52; Rajavali, p. 228.]

CHAP.  VII

FATE OF THE ABORIGINES.

[Sidenote:  B.C. 104.]

It has already been shown, that devotion and policy combined to accelerate the progress of social improvement in Ceylon, and that before the close of the third century of the Christian era, the island to the north of the Kandyan mountains contained numerous cities and villages, adorned with temples and dagobas, and seated in the midst of highly cultivated fields.  The face of the country exhibited broad expanses of rice land, irrigated by artificial lakes, and canals of proportionate magnitude, by which the waters from the rivers, which would otherwise have flowed idly to the sea, were diverted inland in all directions to fertilise the rice fields of the interior.[1]

[Footnote 1:  Mahawanso, ch. xxxv. xxxvii.]

[Sidenote:  B.C. 104.]

In the formation of these prodigious tanks, the labour chiefly employed was that of the aboriginal inhabitants, the Yakkhos and Nagas, directed by the science and skill of the conquerors.  Their contributions of this kind, though in the instance of the Buddhist converts they may have been to some extent voluntary, were, in general, the result of compulsion.[1] Like the Israelites under the Egyptians, the aborigines were compelled to make bricks[2] for the stupendous dagobas erected by their masters[3]; and eight hundred years after the subjugation of the island, the Rajavali describes vast reservoirs and appliances for irrigation, as being constructed by the forced labour of the Yakkhos[4] under the superintendence of Brahman engineers.[5] This, to some extent, accounts for the prodigious amount of labour bestowed on these structures; labour which the whole revenue of the kingdom would not have sufficed to purchase, had it not been otherwise procurable.

[Footnote 1:  In some instances the soldiers of the king were employed in forming works of irrigation.]

[Footnote 2:  Mahawanso, ch. xxxviii.]

[Footnote 3:  Ibid., ch. xxvii.]

[Footnote 4:  Rajavali, p. 237, 238.  Exceptions to the extortion of forced labour for public works took place under the more pious kings, who made a merit of paying the workmen employed in the erection of dagobas and other religious monuments.—­Mahawanso, ch, xxxv.]

[Footnote 5:  Maharwanso, ch. x.]

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