A Visit to Ceylon

by Ernst Haeckel, 1883

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Chapter 3



It was on the 121st of November, in the glorious light of a cloudless tropical morning, that I first set foot on that evergreen island of marvels, Ceylon, where I was about to spend the most instructive and delightful months of my life. The Austrian-Lloyd's steamer Helios, which had brought us hither from Bombay in five days, through lovely weather and over a glassy sea, was in sight of the island by midnight. I was on deck by the earliest dawn, to catch sight at the first possible instant of the longed-for goal of my voyage - the promised land of my desires as a naturalist.

There, in the east, a narrow streak was visible on the dark mirror of the Indian Ocean, a little thicker in the middle than at the ends, with a point standing up. The brief tropical gloaming vanished swiftly before the coming day, and the narrow streak lay revealed as an extensive shore covered with cocoa-nut groves fringing the west coast of Ceylon, the thicker middle being the high chain in the centre, above which the cone of Adam's Peak, the famous and legendary mountain-summit of the island, towered conspicuously. The outlines of the dark blue mass stood out sharp and clear against the bright and cloudless morning sky, and when the fiery ball of the rising sun mounted above it, we could distinguish a chain of lower hills in the foreground between it and the coast. The white trunks of the cocoa-nut palms on the shore were distinctly visible, and as we steamed nearer we could see the different quarters of the chief town, Colombo: straight in front of us the Fort and the harbour; to the left. northwards, the native town - Pettah; to the right, southwards, the suburb of Kolpetty. I accepted it as a good omen for the happy issue of my expedition that I first saw the longed-for isle under the happy radiance of an unclouded sky and the perfect clearness of the pure and balmy morning air, and all the more because, even in the early part of the day, clouds more or less remote generally veil the mountains, partially if not entirely.

The first boat which came up to the vessel brought the pilot on board to steer us into the harbour. This boat, like all the others which soon crowded around us, was of that very singular form which is widely used throughout the islands of South-Eastern Asia, and which in Ceylon - its most westerly limit - has reached a peculiarly strange development. It is a tree-trunk about twenty feet long, and hollowed out; the two sides are raised about three feet by perpendicular boards lashed on, but the width between them is scarcely a foot and a half, so that a fully grown man cannot sit in these canoes without arranging his legs one behind the other. On one side of the boat two parallel, curved bars or bamboo-canes stand out at a right angle, and their ends are connected by another and stouter cane parallel to the canoe itself. This outrigger lies on the surface of the water, and gives the frail and narrow bark a considerable degree of security. When, at a later date, I made my various zoological expeditions almost exclusively in these singular boats, I had ample opportunity of judging of their merits and demerits. On my first arrival they excited my interest principally by their picturesque aspect, particularly as their Cinghalese navigators were no less original and peculiar than the boats themselves.

Our ship was soon safe in port and covered with Cinghalese offering fruit, fish, and other eatables for sale, as well as various small products of native industry. Most of them were naked brown figures, their only item of clothing being the comboy or sarong, a strip of red woollen stuff which is tightly wound round the hips under a girdle, and covers the greater part of the legs like a large apron. Others, again - particularly the boatmen - restrict their garments to a short and narrow waist-cloth, like swimming drawers. All, however, wore their black hair long and elaborately dressed, and generally twisted into a thick knot, with a large tortoise shell comb stuck in at the back of the head. This gives them a curiously feminine appearance, which is increased by their slender and fragile proportions. Their hands and feet are particularly small, and their features weakly moulded. The naked black Tamils who row the coal-boats are, on the other hand, far stronger and more manly; and different, again, from either are the Indo-Arabs, or "Moormen"stalwart figures in long white caftans and white drawers, their brown and bearded faces crowned with tall yellow turbans. They bring precious stones, shells, silver filagree, and other ornaments on board to sell; while the Cinghalese deal in cocoa-nuts, bananas, pine-apples, fish, and crabs, or in the characteristic products of their own industry, such as images of elephants, or of Buddha carved in ivory or ebony, basket-work and mats of plaited reed or palm fibre, little boxes and sticks of variegated woods. etc. The price they ask for these things is, as a rule, twice or three times, often indeed ten times, their value; and one of my fellowvoyagers purchased for a rupee a handsome stone for which the owner at first asked eighty rupees! This costly gem, it need hardly be added, like most of the "precious stones" from the "isle of rubies," was neither more nor less than a specimen of European workmanship in the form of a bit of cut glass; they are imported annually in large quantities.

While this amusing scene was taking place, in the still early morning, on board our vessel, the Austrian Lloyd's boat bad come out, bringing out their agent for Colombo, Herr Stipperger. I was specially recommended to this gentleman's care, not only by the Company's Board at home, but by personal friends in Trieste and Bombay, and was most kindly welcomed by him. He at once invited me to spend my first weeks in Ceylon at his house, and did everything that the greatest attention and politest care could do to render my stay in the island as pleasant and profitable as possible. I owe him a debt of gratitude, and do no more than my duty in here expressing my warmest thanks for the indefatigable kindness he showed me during the whole four months of my visit to Ceylon. If I was enabled to make the best use - so far as in me lay  of this short time, and to see and enjoy, learn and work more than many travellers accomplish in a year, this was, in first degree, due to my "Ceylon Providence," as I jestingly named my worthy friend Stipperger. He was a Viennese by birth, and a few years younger than myself, and had been an officer in the Austrian navy; subsequently, after many vicissitudes of fortune, he entered the service of the Company. I only hope that his employers adequately appreciate and remunerate his remarkable capacities and his extensive information.

Bidding a hearty farewell to the officers of the Helios and my fellowtravellers proceeding to Singapore and Hong Kong, I quitted the noble ship which had brought me so safely and easily from Trieste, and was conveyed in the Company's boat - for I was treated as under their special protection - with Herr Stipperger to the shore. By this gentleman's good offices, and with the assistance of the official introduction I held from the English Government to the Governor of Ceylon, my vast collection of luggage was passed duty free, and I was spared the odious chaffering attendant on the opening of sixteen cases and trunks. We at once got into a carriage and drove to the office of the Austrian Lloyd's Company, whence we went to breakfast at the club. I then made use of my first few hours to pay some necessary calls and deliver several valuable letters of recommendation most kindly given me by the German consul in Colombo, who at that time was in Europe.

In this way I spent the morning and part of the afternoon, and on this my first day in Ceylon, under the guidance of my kind and remarkably well-informed host, I made acquaintance with a great part of Colombo, the chief town of the island, and with its inhabitants, who to me personally were its most interesting feature. By five o'clock I had paid all my first visits and started in Stipperger's light two-wheeled carriage, behind a swift black Australian horse, for his residence, "Whist Bungalow," at an hour's walk - about three miles - from the Fort, the business quarter of the town.

Colombo, like Bombay and most of the great towns in British India, consists of an European business quarter, known as the Port, and of several suburbs which surround it, and are the head-quarters of the natite population. The Fort of Colombo was erected and strongly fortified by the Portuguese in 1517, as being their most important factory in Ceylon; they were the first European occupants of the island, having landed there in 1505, and retained their footing there for a hundred and fifty years - about as long as the Dutch, who forced them to quit. Under the Dutch, as under the English, who, on the 18th of February, 1796, took Ceylon from the Dutch, Colombo remained the capital, although in many respects other sites, and particularly Punto Galla (now known as Galle), offered superior advantages. During the last few years, the English Government have made every effort to confirm Colombo in its pre-eminence, and so, in spite of many drawbacks, it is still the capital, at any rate for the present.

The first obvious essential for a sea-port town is a good harbour. In this respect, Colombo fails, while at Galle there is a fine one. In these days, to be sure, an artificial harbour can be constructed at almost any point on any shore, by dredging where the sea is shallow, and by building up breakwaters of stone on the sides most exposed to dangerous winds and heavy seas. Nothing is wanted but the money! This is how the artificial harbour of Port Said was made, at the northern outlet of the Suez Canal. In the same way, the English Government has, within the last few years, constructed a stupendous breakwater, at a great cost, on the southern side of the harbour of Colombo, which is naturally small and poor. It runs out a great distance into the sea, in a north-westerly direction, protecting the port against the fury of the south-west monsoon, while it considerably extends the space for shipping. But it is thought very doubtful whether this breakwater can be permanently kept up without constant expense for repairs. It is certain that the fine natural basin of Galle could have been considerably improved, and made superior in every respect at much less cost. The rocks and coral reefs which impede the entrance of vessels, could, with our present command of explosives, be removed at a small outlay in dynamite.

However, the old capital has hitherto triumphed over Galle in the competition between the two ports, though this is the more favoured by nature, and deserves the pre-eminence alike by its climate, geographical position and surroundings. The climate of Colombo is particularly hot, oppressive and debilitating; indeed, one of the hottest in the world, while that of Galle is tempered by refreshing breezes. The pretty hill country in the neighbourhood of Galle, part under the richest cultivation, and part covered with woods, make a residence there both pleasant and healthy; while round Colombo the country is flat, with many swamps and stagnant pools. Galle lies in the direct sea-route between Europe and the Indies, and so, till within a short time, was naturally the central station of all shipping communication with Ceylon. Now, on the contrary, when all the European trade has been absorbed by Colombo, vessels have to go out of their way, into Colombo and out again, as the straits of Manaar are not navigable. In spite of all this, Colombo still triumphs, and the largest and most influential of all the Indian shipping companies - the P. and O. - are transferring their offices and warehouses from Galle to Colombo, most of the other companies having in fact preceded them. The serious disturbance and upset incurred was a constant subject of eager discussion during my stay in Ceylon.

The Fort of Colombo is on the south side of a bay, and on a low rocky promontory of small extent, visible at a great distance as a landmark on the flat western coast. This eminence was marked on a map of Ceylon - Salike - made by the ancient geographer Ptolemy, in the second century, A.D., and really admirable under the circumstances. He named it Jovis extremum - Dios Acron. The walls of the Fort, which was strongly fortified by the Dutch, are armed with cannon and almost entirely surrounded by water; two-thirds of this is sea, and the rest, to the southeast, a wide lagoon crossed by several dykes and bridges which join the fort to the main land. The streets in the Fort, which are few and narrow, crossing at right-angles, chiefly consist of the offices and warehouses belonging to European merchants; there are, however, a number of public and government buildings. Among these the handsome residence of the governor, known as the Queen's House, is the most important. It is surrounded by a perfect garland of tropical vegetation, and has large pillared halls, fine airy reception rooms, and a noble staircase. I visited this palace a few days after my arrival, when the governor received me on the delivery of my letters of recommendation from the English Government. The interior decoration is in excellent taste and worthy of the oriental state of a British despot; for such the governor of the island is to all intents and purposes. Numbers of Indian servants in gay and fanciful liveries perform the service of the house, while English soldiers in scarlet and gold mount guard.

Chatham Street, the street in the Fort in which the Austrian Lloyd's office is situated, and which was the first I became acquainted with on landing, is decorated like many others in Colombo and Galle, with shady avenues of a fine mallow, Hibiscus; the large yellow or red blossoms strew the earth in every direction. Chatham Street also contains those shops which alone possessed any interest for me in all Colombo - windows full of photographs, and stalls with living animals.

Within a few hours of my arrival in Ceylon, I had the very great pleasure of forming an idea, from the photographs in the windows, of the finest points in the wild highlands and the picturesque coast, as well as of the astounding marvels of its magnificent vegetation: palms and Pisang, Pandanus and Lianas, tree-ferns, banyans, etc. Nor did I, naturally, find less attraction in making myself acquainted, before I had been many hours in the island, with some of its most interesting animals; above all, the apes, the dappled Axis deer, the parrots and the gorgeously coloured pigeons.

South of the Fort are the barracks for the English troops, fine airy buildings and tents extending in some places to the shore of the lagoon. Farther south again is the military hospital, and beyond it a green esplanade called "Galle face," because the long tract of coast lying towards Galle begins here. Between five and six in the evening, the broad green lawn of the esplanade, stretching southwards between the lagoon and the sea, is the rendezvous for all the rank, beauty and fashion, of Colombo. Here, during the season, as in Hyde Park in London, is the spot where everyone meets everyone else; and the world refreshes itself in the cool evening breeze after the burden of the noon-tide heat, while enjoying the gorgeous spectacle of the sunset, often made still more splendid by the most varied and singular cloud-scenery. The gilded youth of Colombo exhibit themselves on horseback - some of them on miserable hacks indeed - the ladies, with bouquets in their hands, recline languidly in their carriages, in the lightest and most elegant toilettes. But no sooner is the sun gone down than all hasten home; partly in order to escape the fever-laden evening air, partly to go through an elaborate process of "dressing for dinner," which is usually at half-past seven, and of course in the indispensable black tail-coat and white neck-tie, as in "Old England."

The first time I happened to cross the esplanade under 8. midday-sun, I understood the whole fierceness of that truly infernal heat which Helios can produce on these unsheltered flats in Ceylon. The outline of objects at a very small distance floated and trembled in the undulating light of the rising current of heated air, and over the red gravel path dividing the green lawn. I saw a Fata Morgana, which is frequently observed here. This mirage showed me a sparkling pool of water in the roadway, which parted before the vehicles and foot-passengers exactly like a ford. The thermometer marked 30o centigrade (86o Fahrenheit) in the cool and reviving atmosphere of the club; outside, in the sun, it must certainly have risen to 45o or 50o.

Adjoining the southern end of the esplanade is a suburb which lies bctween the sandy sea-shore and the highroad to Galle - Kolupitya or Kolpetty. On each side of the road stand a number of beautiful villas, shaded by lovely gardens, and to the west they extend into the Cinnamon Gardens, as they still are called. At the present day, and ever since the English Government found itself compelled to give up its lucrative monopoly of the cinnamon trade, these groves have been for the most part divided into lots, and turned into private grounds for the wealthiest merchants. The elegant houses which nestle among them, are surrounded by the choicest growths of the tropics, trees, shrubs and flowers. These residences are the dearest and most luxurious in the neighbourhood, and Cinnamon Gardens is considered the best and most fashionable quarter. However, its remoteness from the shore and the refreshing sea-breeze, as well as its low situation close to the lagoon, are great drawbacks. The oppressive and enervating heat is here at its worst, and dense clouds of mosquitos in the evenings make a residence there most uncomfortable, while crowds of frogs, and treefrogs of different kinds, disturb the night with their noisy concert.

All this is equally true, and in a worse degree, of the adjoining quarter of the town, Slave Island, so called because in the last century the Dutch imprisoned the state slaves there every night. The natural scenery of this part of Colombo is, however, the prettiest in Ceylon. The little bays of the wide lake are covered with lovely and carefully kept gardens, over which the cocoa-nut palms bend their slender stems and feathered crowns. Villas belonging to Europeans, and huts inhabited by natives, are scattered among them; and in the blue distance the mountain chain of the central ridge forms a magnificent background, where, in the midst, towering above its neighbours, rises the tall cone of Adam's Peak. An evening sail in a canoe on this calm lagoon, with its lovely shores, is one of the delights of Colombo.

To the north of all this lies the crowded native town of Pettah. It runs along the shore for above a mile, as far as the mouth of the river that waters Colombo - Kalany Ganga, or Kalan Ganga. From this, indeed, the town originally took its name, Kalan Totta, or Kalan-bua. So long ago as in 1340, Ibu Batuta*9 mentions it under the name of "Kalambu," as the "finest and largest town in Serendib," the old Arab name for the island. The Portuguese changed this to Colombo.

It is here, where the noble Kalany rolls into the Indian ocean, forming a large delta, that the house stands, near the picturesque outlet, and close to the sea, in which my friend Stipperger lives, and in which I spent my two first and delightful weeks in Ceylon. Here I took my fill of the enjoyment of those new, stupendous, and astounding sensations, which in Ceylon crowd upon the newly-come European, or Griffin.

And this most northern outskirt of Colombo, which is known as Mutwal - at the farthest end being called Modera - is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful and interesting spots in the neighbourhood of the capital.

Never shall I forget the many-hued splendour of the strange Indian scenes which passed before my astonished eyes like the changing pictures in a magic lantern, when, in the evening, I drove out from the fort to "Whist Bungalow." As I passed through Pettah, all the mixed and motley population of every type characteristic of Colombo were out of doors, collected in knots at the open doors of the little houses, or mingled in busy confusion under the shade of the cocoa-nut trees that tower up wherever you turn. Here, as everywhere else between the tropics, the life and labours of the natives are for the most part carried on in public; and while the fires of a tropical sun reduce men's requirements in the article of clothing to a minimum, the heat makes them leave their houses and stalls wide open, neither doors nor shutters interfering with a free view of the interior. In the place of a door there is simply an opening closed at night or in stormy weather, with screens of matting, or latteen shutters pushed across. All the handicraftsmen may thus be seen at work in, or in front of their stalls, or simply in the open streets; nor are the most intimate scenes of domestic and family life veiled from the curious eye.

The particular charm which these native homes certainly possess for the European, consists partly in this naive publicity of their domestic life, partly in the primitive simplicity of their wants, as shown by the limited number of barely necessary chattels, partly in their harmony with the nature among which they live. The little garden-plots which always enclose these hovels are so unpretentiously laid out, and the few useful plants they contain - which yield the chief income and sustenance of their owners - are so quaintly grouped round them, that the whole settlement looks as if it had sprung from the earth together.

The most important of these natural products are those princes among plants, the palms, and of these, on the southern and western shores, the cocoa-nut palm, every part of which, as is well-known, has its use, often constituting the whole fortune of a Cinghalese. It is in consequence the all-pervading tree which, in every town and village, as well as in the country, first and most constantly strikes the eye, giving the landscape a character of its own. The number of cocoa-nut palms in the island is nearly forty millions, each producing from eighty to a hundred nuts, yielding eight to ten quarts of oil. In the northern half of the island, the cocoa-nut is absent, and in many parts of the eastern coast. Here the not less valuable Palmyra palm (Borassus flabelliformis) takes its place. It is the same species that grows on the hottest and dryest tracts of the main peninsula, and which I saw in such numbers on the coast of Konkan, near Bombay. These palms are conspicuously dissimilar, even from a distance. The Palmyra is a fan-palm, and has a stout and perfectly straight black trunk, crowned by a thick sheaf of stiff, deeply cut pinnate leaves. The Cocos, on the contrary, is a feathery palm: its slender white trunk, sixty to eighty feet high, is always gracefully bent, and bears a dense crown of immense pinnate leaves. The elegant Areca-palm (Areca catechu) has similar leaves, only smaller and stiffer, but its reed-like stem grows perfectly upright; it also is to be found near the huts of the Cinghalese, and yields him the indispensable nut which all the natives chew with the leaves of the betel-pepper, and which dyes the saliva and teeth red. Another palm, the Kitool (Caryota urens), is largely cultivated for the sake of its abundant sugary sap, from which palm sugar, or jaggery, and palm wine, or toddy, are prepared. Its straight, strong stem has a crown of bipinnate leaves, somewhat resembling those of the maiden-hair (Adiantum capillus Veneris) on a large scale.

Next to the palms the most valuable trees in the native plots are the bread-fruit and the mango. Of the first there are two distinct species: the true bread-fruit (Artocarpus incisa) and the Jack-fruit (Artocarpus integrifolia). Splendid specimens of both are everywhere to be seen, and between them not unfrequently the curious silk-cotton tree (Bombax). Among and under these trees, the huts of the Cinghalese are always surrounded by their constant companion, the beautiful banana, or pisang trees (Musa sapientum), which have worthily earned the name of "figs of paradise." The handsome yellow fruit, whether raw or fried, is a wholesome and nourishing food, and many varieties are to be seen. The elegant sheaf of huge, drooping, pale-green leaves crowning a slender stem often twenty to thirty feet high, is one of the greatest ornaments of the native gardens. Hardly less necessary to the Cinghalese are the Aroids, with great arrow-shaped leaves, particularly the Caladium, which is very generally cultivated for the sake of the farina procured from the roots, for which, too, the graceful manihot is grown, one of the Euphorbiaceae with digitate leaves of a beautiful green, which is equally conspicuous as a contrast with the brown earth huts, and with the bright red colour of the soil, which is strongly impregnated with oxide of iron. In perfect harmony, too, are the cinnamon-hued Cinghalese themselves, and the blackish-brown Tamils.

In Colombo itself, and throughout the southern and western coasts of the island (excepting part of the north-west), by far the greater portion of the population consists of true Cinghalese. By this name arc distinguished the descendants of the Hindoos from the mainland, who  according to the Pali chronicle the "Mahawanso," the principal authority on Cinghalese history - wandered hither from the northern part of Hindostan under King Wijayo, and expelled the primitive inhabitants. The Veddahs, or Vellahs, are commonly regarded as being the dispersed remnants of this race; a few wild hordes still linger in the remotest parts of the interior and in the most primitive state. But, according to others, the Veddahs are, on the contrary, debased and degenerate descendants of the Cinghalese, outcasts that have reverted to savagery, like the Rodiyas.

In the northern part of the island, on the eastern coast and throughout a large extent of the central highlands, the genuine Cinghalese were in their turn driven out by the Malabars, or Tamils, who crossed over from the south of the peninsula, chiefly from the Malabar coast. They differ from the Cinghalese in every respect - in stature, features, colour, language, religion, manners, and customs - and belong to a totally different branch of the human tree, the Dravida race. The Cinghalese are assigned by most anthropologists, and no doubt correctly, to an ancient offshoot of the Aryan race. They speak a dialect which seems to have sprung from a branch of the Pali, and the Malabars have a perfectly distinct language, the Tamil. The Cinghalese again are generally Buddhists; the Malabars are Hindoos, that is, Brahmins. The brown hue of the smaller and slighter Cinghalese is generally perceptibly lighter, verging on cinnamon colour, or a dark tan; that of the tall and brawny Malabars is very dark, coffee-coloured or blackish. The Cinghalese occupy themselves principally with agriculture, growing rice, planting palms, bananas and other trees needing culture, and shunning all hard or severe labour. This is undertaken by preference by the Malabars, who find employment as road-makers, masons, porters, coachmen, etc., in the low country, and as labourers in the coffee plantations in the higher districts. At the present time, the Tamils, or Malabars, compose about one-third of the whole population, and their numbers are reinforced every year by fresh immigrants from the peninsula. The Cinghalese constitute about three-fifths, and number at the present time about two millions and a half.

After the Cinghalese and the Tamils. the most important item of the population of Ceylon, both as to numbers and industrial worth, are the Indo-Arabs, here known as Moors or Moormen. They number about 15O.OOO, a tenth of the Cinghalese. They are descended from the Arabs who, as much as two thousand years ago. set a firm foot in Ceylon as well as in other parts of Southern and South-Eastern Asia. and who, from the eighth to the tenth centuries - until the incursion of the Portuguese - had almost all the commerce of the island in their hands. Indeed, to this day all the petty trade, and a considerable part of the wholesale trade of Ceylon, is almost exclusively carried on by these energetic and thrifty foreigners. They here play a part analagous to that filled by the Jews in Europe, being enterprising, calculating, and even crafty, with a special aptitude for money matters. In other respects, too, they take the place of the Jews, whose congeners they are, and who are entirely absent from Ceylon. Their language and writing is to this day half Arabic and half a hybrid of Arabic and Tamil; their religion is Mohammedan and Sunni. They are of a brownish yellow colour, and their features are unmistakably Semitic; their hair and beard black and generally long. Their powerful figures, robed in the long white bournous and full white trousers, tower above the Cinghalese and Tamils all the more conspicuously as they generally wear a high yellow turban, something like a bishop's mitre.

In comparison with these main elements of the population of Ceylon - Cinghalese sixty, Tamils thirty-three, and Indo-Arabs six per cent, - the remainder, scarcely one-hundredth of the whole, are, as to numbers, quite insignificant. Of these twenty-five thousand souls the wild primitive race of the Veddahs are not more than two thousand; eight thousand - or according to some authorities about half that number - are immigrants from all parts of Asia and Africa - Malays and Javanese, who enlist as soldiers; Parsis and Afghans. most of them moneylenders and usurers; Negroes and Kaffirs, who are soldiers, servants. etc. The mixed breeds of all these native races and the European settlers, about ten thousand, include every possible combination, and offer very interesting problems to the anthropologist who should try to classify them. Then there are the burghers, as they are called - the descendants of the Portuguese and the Dutch - generally with some infusion of Cinghalese or Tamil blood. Most of the clerks and accountants in the offices and counting-houses, and the inferior government officials, are of this mixed race, and they are thought highly of in these capacities. The number of Europeans, the non-native lords of the island, is altogether not more than from three to four thousand, English and Scotch of course preponderating. All the higher government offices, and the great merchant houses, are in their hands. In the mountains they compose the large and influential class of "planters," whose curious existence I subsequently learnt something of in my journey through the hilldistricts.

According to the census of 1857, twenty-five years since, the whole population of Ceylon amounted only to 1,760,000. By 1871 it had increased to 2,405,000; and at the present day it must be considerably more than 2,500,000. If we take it at two millions and a half in round numbers, at the present day the different elements may be estimated somewhat as follows:

Cinghalese - chiefly Buddhists


Tamils, or Malabars - chiefly Hindoos


Indo-Arabs, or Moormen - chiefly Mohammedans


Mixed races of all kinds


Asiatics and Africans - Malays, Chinese, Kaffirs,



Burghers - Portuguese and Dutch half-caste


Europeans - mostly English


Veddahs - the primitive inhabitants



The extent of the island is not less than 1250 square miles (geographical), so that it is scarcely one-sixth less than Ireland, and with its wonderfully favourable conditions of climate and soil it could easily support six or eight times as many inhabitants; indeed, according to ancient chronicles, the population would seem to have been much larger two thousand years ago - perhaps more than double. The depopulated and in many places utterly deserted northern half of the island was at that time thickly peopled; where enormous jungles now afford a shelter to bears and apes, parrots and pigeons, wide stretches of cultivated ground were fertilized by an admirable system of irrigation. The remains of the hill-tanks and the ruins of their abandoned towns  Anarajapoora, Sigiri, Pollanarrua and others - testify to this day to their former greatness, and show what this "island of jewels," the "rarest pearl in India's crown," the "ruby isle," may again become in the future.

The various races which compose the medley population of Ceylon differ as widely in faith and religion as in origin, build, colour, language, writing, character and occupation; and their creed for the most part is an inheritance of their race. The Cinghalese, sixty per cent., are almost all Buddhists; the Tamils, thirty-three per cent., chiefly Brahmins; the Indo-Arabs, six per cent., almost all Mohammedans. A considerable number of all these races have, however, become converts to Christianity, and the remainder of the population is for the most part Christian. In round numbers the adherents of the different creeds may be estimated as follows:

Buddhists - mostly Cinghalese


Brahmins - Hindoos, mostly Tamils


Mohammedans - Sunnites, chiefly Arabs


Roman Catholics - many Tamils and Cinghalese


Protestants - chiefly Europeans


Of no denomination, and of various classes



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