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.

As to the incidents and observations recorded by the Phoenician travellers during their journey to the interior of Ceylon,—­the kings by which it was governed, the natural productions of the various regions, the footprint on Adam’s Peak, the incursions of the Malabars, the ascendency of their religion, the absence of camels, the abundance of elephants, and the cultivation of cinnamon,—­all these are so palpably imitated from the accounts of Cosmas Indico-pleustes, and the voyages of Arabian mariners, that it is almost unnecessary to point to the parallel passages from which they are taken.



On closing the volume of Cosmas, we part with the last of the Greek writers whose pages guide us through the mist that obscures the early history of Ceylon.  The religion of the Hindus is based on a system of physical error, so incompatible with the extension of scientific truth, that in their language the term “geography” is unknown.[1] But still it is remarkable as an illustration of the uninquiring character of the people, that the allusions of Indian authors to Ceylon, an island of such magnitude, and so close to their own country, are pre-eminent for absurdity and ignorance.  Their “Lanka” and its inhabitants are but the distortion of a reality into a myth.  ALBYROUNI, the Arabian geographer, writing in the eleventh century, says that the Hindus at that day thought the island haunted; their ships sailing past it, kept at a distance from its shores; and even within the present century, it was the popular belief on the continent of India that the interior of Ceylon was peopled by demons and monkeys.[2]

[Footnote 1:  The Arabians began the study so late, that they, too, had to borrow a word from the Greeks, whence their term “djagrafiya.”]

[Footnote 2:  MOOR’S Hindu Pantheon, p. 318.  MOOR speaks of an educated Indian gentleman who was attached as Munshi to the staff of Mr. North, Governor of Ceylon, in 1804, and who, on his return to the continent, wrote a history of the island, in which he repeats the belief current among his countryment, that “the interior was not inhabited by human beings of the ordinary shapes.”—­P. 320.]

But the century in which Cosmos wrote witnessed the rise of a power whose ascendant energy diffused a new character over the policy and literature of the East.  Scarcely twenty years elapsed between his death and the birth, of Mahomet—­and during the two centuries that ensued, so electric was the influence of Islam, that its supremacy was established with a rapidity beyond parallel, from the sierras of Spain to the borders of China.  The dominions of the Khalifs exceeded in extent the utmost empire of the Romans; and so undisputed was the sway of the new religion, that a follower of the Prophet could travel amidst believers of his own faith, from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, and from the chain of the Atlas to the mountains of Tartary.

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Ceylon; an Account of the Island Physical, Historical, and from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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