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CEYLON


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