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.

The Rajaratnacari states that the arrows of the Malabars were sometimes “drenched with the poison of serpents,” to render recovery impossible.[1] Against such weapons the Singhalese carried shields, some of them covered with plates of the chank shell[2]; this shell was also sounded in lieu of a trumpet[3], and the disgrace of retreat is implied by the expression that it ill becomes a soldier to “allow his hair to fly behind."[4]

[Footnote 1:  Rajaratnacari, p. 101.]

[Footnote 2:  Rajavali, p. 217.]

[Footnote 3:  Mahawanso, ch. xxv. p. 154.]

[Footnote 4:  Rajavali, p. 213.]

Civil Justice.—­Civil justice was entrusted to provincial judges[1]; but the King Kirti Nissanga, in the great tablet inscribed with his exploits, which still exists at Pollanarrua, has recorded that under the belief that “robbers commit their crimes through hunger for wealth, he gave them whatever riches they required, thus relieving the country from the alarm of their depredations."[2] Torture was originally recognised as a stage in the administration of the law, and in the original organisation of the capital in the fourth century before Christ, a place for its infliction was established adjoining the place of execution and the cemetery.[3] It was abolished in the third century by King Wairatissa; but the frightful punishments of impaling and crushing by elephants continued to the latest period of the Ceylon monarchy.

[Footnote 1:  Inscriptions on the Great Tablet at Pollanarrua.]

[Footnote 2:  Ibid.]

[Footnote 3:  Mahawanso, ch. x. p.]



EDUCATION.—­The Brahmans, as they were the first to introduce the practice of the mechanical arts, were also the earliest instructors of youth in the rudiments of general knowledge.  Pandukabhaya, who was afterwards king, was “educated in every accomplishment by Pandulo, a Brahman, who taught him along with his own son."[1] The Buddhist priests became afterwards the national instructors, and a passage in the Rajavali seems to imply that writing was regarded as one of the distinctive accomplishments of the priesthood, not often possessed by the laity, as it mentions that the brother of the king of Kalany, in the second century before Christ, had been taught to write by a tirunansi, “and made such progress that he could write as well as the tirunansi himself."[2] The story in the Rajavali of an intrigue which was discovered by “the sound of the fall of a letter,” shows that the material then in use in the second century before Christ, was the same as at the present day, the prepared leaf of a palm tree.[3]

[Footnote 1:  Mahawanso, ch. x. p. 60.]

[Footnote 2:  Rajavali, p. 189.]

[Footnote 3:  Ibid.]

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