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

James Emerson Tennent
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 892 pages of information about Ceylon; an Account of the Island Physical, Historical, and.

[Footnote 2:  Mahawanso, ch. xxv. p. 149.]

The only mention of the system which attracts particular attention, is the honour awarded to the most pious of the kings, who, whilst maintaining Raja-kariya as an institution, nevertheless stigmatised it as “oppression” when applied to non-productive objects; and on the occasion of erecting one of the most stupendous of the monuments dedicated to the national faith, felt that the merit of the act would be neutralised, were it to be accomplished by “unrequited” labour.[1]

[Footnote 1:  Ibid., ch. xxvii. pp. 163, 165.  King Tissa, A. D. 201, in imitation of Dutugaimunu. caused the restorations of monuments at the capital “to be made with paid labour.”—­Ibid., ch. xxxvi. p. 226.  See ante Vol.  I. Pt.  III. ch. v. p. 357.]



AGRICULTURE.—­Prior to the arrival of the Bengalis, and even for some centuries after the conquest of Wijayo, before the knowledge of agriculture had extended throughout the island, the inhabitants appear to have subsisted to a great extent by the chase.[1] Hunting the elk and the boar was one of the amusements of the early princes; the “Royal Huntsmen” had a range of buildings erected for their residence at Anarajapoora, B.C. 504[2], and the laws of the chase generously forbade to shoot the deer except in flight.[3] Dogs were trained to assist in the sport[4] and the oppressed aborigines, driven by their conquerors to the forests of Rohuna and Maya, are the subjects of frequent commendation in the pages of the Mahawanso, from their singular ability in the use of the bow.[5]

[Footnote 1:  Mahawanso, ch. x. p. 59; ch, xiv. p. 78; ch. xxiii. p. 142.  The hunting of the hare is mentioned 161 B.C. Mahawanso, ch. xxiii. p. 141.]

[Footnote 2:  Ibid., ch. x. p. 66.]

[Footnote 3:  Ibid., ch. xiv. p. 78.  King Devenipiatissa, when descrying the elk which led him to the mountain where Mahindo was seated, exclaimed, “It is not fair to shoot him standing!” he twanged his bowstring and followed him as he fled, See ante, p. 341, n.]

[Footnote 4:  Ibid., ch. xxviii p. 166.]

[Footnote 5:  Ibid., ch. xxxiii. pp. 202, 204, &c.]

Before the arrival of Wijayo, B.C. 543, agriculture was unknown in Ceylon, and grain, if grown at all, was not systematically cultivated.  The Yakkhos, the aborigines, subsisted, as the Veddahs, their lineal descendants, live at the present day, on fruits, honey, and the products of the chase.  Rice was distributed by Kuweni to the followers of Wijayo, but it was “rice procured from the wrecked ships of mariners."[l] And two centuries later, so scanty was the production of native grain, that Asoca, amongst the presents which he sent to his ally Devenipiatissa, included “one hundred and sixty loads of hill paddi from Bengal."[2]

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