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Title: Ceylon; an Account of the Island Physical, Historical, and

Author: Sir James Emerson Tennent

Release date: September 28, 2004 [eBook #13552]
Most recently updated: December 18, 2020

Language: English


E-text prepared by Carnegie Mellon University,
Juliet Sutherland, Leonard Johnson,
and the Project Gutenberg Online Distributed Proofreading Team


Frontispiece for Vol I
NOOSING WILD ELEPHANTS--Vol 2 p 359 368 &c







































































































"Gobbs" on the East Coast By ARROWSMITH 45
"Gobbs" on the West Coast ARROWSMITH 46
Ceylon, according to the Sanskrit and Pali authors SIR J. EMERSON TENNENT 318
Map of Ancient India LASSEN 330
Position of Colombo, according to Ptolemy and Pliny SIR J. EMERSON TENNENT 559
Ceylon, according to Ptolemy and Pliny SIR J. EMERSON TENNENT 560


Geological System By 12
Currents in the N.E. Monsoon   43
Currents in the N.W. Monsoon   44
Diagram of Rain in India and in Ceylon DR. TEMPLETON 66
Diagram of the Anthelia DR. TEMPLETON 73
Plan of a Fish-corral   211
Summit of a Dagoba, with Lightning apparatus   509


Marriage of the Fig-tree and the Palm By MR. A. NICHOLL 96
Fig-tree on the Ruins of Pollanarrua MR. A. NICHOLL 97
The "Snake-tree" MR. A. NICHOLL 98
The Loris M.H. SYLVAT 134
The Uropeltis grandis M.H. SYLVAT 195
A Chironectes M.H. SYLVAT 207
Method of Fishing in Pools From KNOX 210
The Anabas of the dry Tanks By DR. TEMPLETON 220
Eggs of the Leaf Insect M.H. SYLVAT 251
Cermatia DR. TEMPLETON 298
The Calling Crab   300
Eyes and Teeth of the Land Leech DR. TEMPLETON 302
Land Leeches DR. TEMPLETON 304
Upper and under Surfaces of the Hirudo sanguisorba DR. TEMPLETON 305
The Bo-tree at Anarajapoora MR. A. NICHOLL 343
A Dagoba at Kandy From a Photograph 345
Ruins of the Brazen Palace By MR. A. NICHOLL 357
The Alu Wihara MR. A. NICHOLL 375
The fortified Rock of Sigiri MR. A. NICHOLS 392
Coin of Queen Leela-Wattee   412
Coin showing the Trisula   461
Hook-money   463
Ancient and Modern Tom-tom Beaters From the JOINVILLE MSS 471
A Column from Anarajapoora   479
Sacred Goose from the Burmese Standard   485
Hansa, from the old Palace at Kandy   487
Honeysuckle Ornament From FERGUSSON'S Handbook of Architecture 491
Egyptian Yoke and Singhalese Pingo   497
Veddah drawing the Bow with his Foot By MR. R. MACDOWALL 499
Method of Writing with a Style MR. R. MACDOWALL 513
The "Comboy," as worn by both Sexes MR. A. FAIRFIELD 612


The gratifying reception with which the following pages have been honoured by the public and the press, has in no degree lessened my consciousness, that in a work so extended in its scope, and comprehending such a multiplicity of facts, errors are nearly unavoidable both as to conclusions and detail. These, so far as I became aware of them, I have endeavoured to correct in the present, as well as in previous impressions.

But my principal reliance for the suggestion and supply both of amendments and omissions has been on the press and the public of Ceylon; whose familiarity with the topics discussed naturally renders them the most competent judges as to the mode in which they have been treated. My hope when the book was published in October last was, that before going again to press I should be in possession of such friendly communications and criticisms from the island, as would have enabled me to render the second edition much more valuable than the previous one. In this expectation I have been agreeably disappointed, the sale having been so rapid, as to require a fourth impression before it was possible to obtain from Ceylon judicious criticisms on the first. These in due time will doubtless arrive; and meanwhile, I have endeavoured, by careful revision, to render the whole as far as possible correct.



The call for a third edition on the same day that the second was announced for publication, and within less than two months from the appearance of the first, has furnished a gratifying assurance of the interest which the public are disposed to take in the subject of the present work.

Thus encouraged, I have felt it my duty to make several alterations in the present impression, amongst the most important of which is the insertion of a Chapter on the doctrines of Buddhism as it developes itself in Ceylon.[1] In the historical sections I had already given an account of its introduction by Mahindo, and of the establishments founded by successive sovereigns for its preservation and diffusion. To render the narrative complete, it was felt desirable to insert an abstract of the peculiar tenets of the Buddhists; and this want it has been my object to supply. The sketch, it will be borne in mind, is confined to the principal features of what has been denominated "Southern Buddhism" amongst the Singhalese; as distinguished from "Northern Buddhism" in Nepal, Thibet, and China.[2] The latter has been largely illustrated by the labours of Mr. B.H. HODGSON and the toilsome researches of M. CSOMA of Körrös in Transylvania; and the minutest details of the doctrines and ceremonies of the former have been unfolded in the elaborate and comprehensive collections of Mr. SPENCE HARDY.[3] From materials discovered by these and other earnest inquirers, Buddhism in its general aspect has been ably delineated in the dissertations of BURNOUF[4] and SAINT HILAIRE[5], and in the commentaries of REMUSAT[6], STANISLAS JULIEN[7], FOUCAUX[8], LASSEN[9], and WEBER.[10] The portion thus added to the present edition has been to a great extent taken from a former work of mine on the local superstitions of Ceylon, and the "Introduction and Progress of Christianity" there; and as the section relating to Buddhism had the advantage, previous to publication, of being submitted to the Rev. Mr. GOGERLY, the most accomplished Pali scholar, as well as the most erudite student of Buddhistical literature in the island, I submit it with confidence as an accurate summary of the distinctive views of the Singhalese on the leading doctrines of their national faith.

1: See Part IV., c. xi.

2: MAX MÜLLER; History of Sanskrit Literature, p. 202.

3: Eastern Monachism, an account of the origin, laws; discipline, sacred writings, mysterious rites, religious ceremonies, and present circumstances of the Order of Mendicants, founded by Gotoma Budha. 8vo. Lond. 1850; and A Manual of Buddhism in its Modern Development. 8vo. Lond. 1853.

4: BURNOUF, Introduction à l'Histoire du Bouddhieme Indien. 4to. Paris. 1845; and translation of the Lotus de la bonne Loi.

5: J. BARTHELEMY SAINT-HILAIRE Le Bouddha et sa Religion. 8vo. Paris. 1800.

6: Introduction and Notes to the Foĕ Kouĕ Ki of FA HIAN.

7: Life and travels of HIOUEN THSANG.

8: Translation of Lalitavistára by M. PH. ED. FOUCAUX.

9: Author of the Indische Alterthumskunde; &c.

10: Author of the Indische Studien; &c.

A writer in the Saturday Review[1], in alluding to the passage in which I have sought to establish the identity of the ancient Tarshish with the modern Point de Galle[2], admits the force of the coincidence adduced, that the Hebrew terms for "ivory, apes, and peacocks"[3] (the articles imported in the ships of Solomon) are identical with the Tamil names, by which these objects are known in Ceylon to the present day; and, to strengthen my argument on this point, he adds that, "these terms were so entirely foreign and alien from the common Hebrew language as to have driven the Ptolemaist authors of the Septuagint version into a blunder, by which the ivory, apes, and peacocks come out as 'hewn and carven stones.'" The circumstance adverted to had not escaped my notice; but I forebore to avail myself of it; for, although the fact is accurately stated by the reviewer, so far as regards the Vatican MS., in which the translators have slurred over the passage and converted "ibha, kapi, and tukeyim" into [Greek: "lithôn toreutôn kai pelekêtôn"] (literally, "stones hammered and carved in relief"); still, in the other great MS. of the Septuagint, the Codex Alexandrinus, which is of equal antiquity, the passage is correctly rendered by "[Greek: odontôn elephantinôn kai pithêkôn kai taônôn]." The editor of the Aldine edition[4] compromised the matter by inserting "the ivory and apes," and excluding the "peacocks," in order to introduce the Vatican reading of "stones."[5] I have not compared the Complutensian and other later versions.

1: Novemb. 19, 1859, p. 612.

2: See Vol. II. Pt. VII., c. i. p. 102.

3: 1 Kings, x. 22.

4: Venice, 1518.

5: [Greek: Kai odontôn elephantinôn kai pithêkôn kai lithôn]. [Greek: BASIA TRITÊ]. x. 22. It is to be observed, that Josephus appears to have been equally embarrassed by the unfamiliar term tukeyim for peacocks. He alludes to the voyages of Solomon's merchantmen to Tarshish, and says that they brought hack from thence gold and silver, much ivory, apes, and Æthiopians—thus substituting "slaves" for pea-fowl—"[Greek: kai polus elephas, Aithiopes te kai pithêkoi]." Josephus also renders the word Tarshish by "[Greek: en tê Tarsikê legomenê thalattê]," an expression which shows that he thought not of the Indian but the western Tarshish, situated in what Avienus calls the Fretum Tartessium, whence African slaves might have been expected to come.—Antiquit. Judaicæ, l. viii. c. vii sec. 2.

The Rev. Mr. CURETON, of the British Museum, who, at my request, collated the passage in the Chaldee and Syriac versions, assures me that in both, the terms in question bear the closest resemblance to the Tamil words found in the Hebrew; and that in each and all of them these are of foreign importation.


LONDON: November 28th, 1859.


The rapidity with which the first impression has been absorbed by the public, has so shortened the interval between its appearance and that of the present edition, that no sufficient time has been allowed for the discovery of errors or defects; and the work is re-issued almost as a corrected reprint.

In the interim, however, I have ascertained, that Ribeyro's "Historical Account of Ceylon," which it was heretofore supposed had never appeared in any other than the French version of the Abbe Le Grand, and in the English translation of the latter by Mr. Lee[1], was some years since printed for the first time in the original Portuguese, from the identical MS. presented by the author to Pedro II. in 1685. It was published in 1836 by the Academia Real das Sciencias of Lisbon, under the title of "Fatalidade Historica da Ilka de Ceilão;" and forms the Vth volume of the a "Colleção de Noticias para a Historia e Geograjia das Nações Ultramarinas" A fac-simile from a curious map of the island as it was then known to the Portuguese, has been included in the present edition.[2]

1: See Vol. II. Part vi. ch. i. p. 5, note.

2: Ibid. p. 6.

Some difficulty having been expressed to me, in identifying the ancient names of places in India adverted to in the following pages; and mediæval charts of that country being rare, a map has been inserted in the present edition[1], to supply the want complained of.

1: See Vol. I. p. 330.

The only other important change has been a considerable addition to the Index, which was felt to be essential for facilitating reference.

J E.T.


There is no island in the world, Great Britain itself not excepted, that has attracted the attention of authors in so many distant ages and so many different countries as Ceylon. There is no nation in ancient or modern times possessed of a language and a literature, the writers of which have not at some time made it their theme. Its aspect, its religion, its antiquities, and productions, have been described as well by the classic Greeks, as by those of the Lower Empire; by the Romans; by the writers of China, Burmah, India, and Kashmir; by the geographers of Arabia and Persia; by the mediæval voyagers of Italy and France; by the annalists of Portugal and Spain; by the merchant adventurers of Holland, and by the travellers and topographers of Great Britain.

But amidst this wealth of materials as to the island, and its vicissitudes in early times, there is an absolute dearth of information regarding its state and progress during more recent periods, and its actual condition at the present day.

I was made sensible of this want, on the occasion of my nomination, in 1845, to an office in connection with the government of Ceylon. I found abundant details as to the capture of the maritime provinces from the Dutch in 1795, in the narrative of Captain PERCIVAL[1], an officer who had served in the expedition; and the efforts to organise the first system of administration are amply described by CORDINER[2], Chaplain to the Forces; by Lord VALENTIA[3], who was then travelling in the East; and by ANTHONY BERTOLACCI[4], who acted as auditor-general to the first governor, Mr. North, afterwards Earl of Guilford. The story of the capture of Kandy in 1815 has been related by an anonymous eye-witness under the pseudonyme of PHILALETHES[5], and by MARSHALL in his Historical Sketch of the conquest.[6] An admirable description of the interior of the island, as it presented itself some forty years ago, was furnished by Dr. DAVY[7], a brother of the eminent philosopher, who was employed on the medical staff in Ceylon, from 1816 till 1820.

1: An Account of the Island of Ceylon, &c., by Capt. R. PERCIVAL, 4to. London, 1805.

2: A Description of Ceylon, &c., by the Rev. JAMES CORDINER, A.M. 2 vols. 4to. London, 1807.

3: Voyages and Travels to India, Ceylon, and the Red Sea, by Lord Viscount VALENTIA. 3 vols. 4to. London, 1809.

4: A View of the Agricultural, Commercial, and Financial Interests of Ceylon, &c., by A. BERTOLACCI, Esq. London, 1817.

5: A History of Ceylon from the earliest Period to the Year MDCCCXV, by PHILALETHES, A.M. 4to. Lond. 1817. The author is believed to have been the Rev. G. Bisset.

6: HENRY MARSHALL, F.R.S.E., &c. went to Ceylon as assistant surgeon of the 89th regiment, in 1806, and from 1816 till 1821 was the senior medical officer of the Kandyan provinces.

7: An Account of the Interior of Ceylon, &c., by JOHN DAVY, M.D. 4to, London, 1821.

Here the long series of writers is broken, just at the commencement of a period the most important and interesting in the history of the island. The mountain zone, which for centuries had been mysteriously hidden from the Portuguese and Dutch[1] was suddenly opened to British enterprise in 1815. The lofty region, from behind whose barrier of hills the kings of Kandy had looked down and defied the arms of three successive European nations, was at last rendered accessible by the grandest mountain road in India; and in the north of the island, the ruins of ancient cities, and the stupendous monuments of an early civilisation, were discovered in the solitudes of the great central forests. English merchants embarked in the renowned trade in cinnamon, which we had wrested from the Dutch; and British capitalists introduced the cultivation of coffee into the previously inaccessible highlands. Changes of equal magnitude contributed to alter the social position of the natives; domestic slavery was extinguished; compulsory labour, previously exacted from the free races, was abolished; and new laws under a charter of justice superseded the arbitrary rule of the native chiefs. In the course of less than half a century, the aspect of the country became changed, the condition of the people was submitted to new influences; and the time arrived to note the effects of this civil revolution.

1: VALENTYN, In his great work on the Dutch possessions in India, Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indien, alludes more than once with regret to the ignorance in which his countrymen were kept as to the interior of Ceylon, concerning which their only information was obtained through fugitives and spies. (Vol. v. ch. ii. p. 35; ch. xv. p. 205.)

But on searching for books such as I expected to find, recording the phenomena consequent on these domestic and political events, I was disappointed to discover that they were few in number and generally meagre in information. Major FORBES, who in 1826 and for some years afterwards held a civil appointment in the Kandyan country, published an interesting account of his observations[1]; and his work derives value from the attention which the author had paid to the ancient records of the island, whose contents were then undergoing investigation by the erudite and indefatigable TURNOUR.[2]

1: Eleven Years in Ceylon, &c., by Major FORBES. 2 vols. 8vo. London. 1840.

2: See Vol. I. Part III. ch. iii. p. 312.

In 1843 Mr. BENNETT, a retired civil servant of the colony, who had studied some branches of its natural history, and especially its ichthyology, embodied his experiences in a volume entitled "Ceylon and its Capabilities," containing a mass of information, somewhat defective in arrangement. These and a number of minor publications, chiefly descriptive of sporting tours in search of elephants and deer, with incidental notices of the sublime scenery and majestic ruins of the island, were the only modern works that treated of Ceylon; but no one of them sufficed to furnish a connected view of the colony at the present day, contrasting its former state with the condition to which it has attained under the government of Great Britain.

On arriving in Ceylon and entering on my official functions, this absence of local knowledge entailed frequent inconvenience. In my tours throughout the interior, I found ancient monuments, apparently defying decay, of which no one could tell the date or the founder; and temples and cities in ruins, whose destroyers were equally unknown. There were vast structures of public utility, on which the prosperity of the country had at one time been dependent; artificial lakes, with their conduits and canals for irrigation; the condition of which rendered it interesting to ascertain the period of their formation, and the causes of their abandonment; but to every inquiry of this nature, there was the same unvarying reply: that information regarding them might possibly be found in the Mahawanso or in some other of the native chronicles; but that few had ever read them, and none had succeeded in reproducing them for popular instruction.

A still more serious embarrassment arose from the want of authorities to throw light on questions that were sometimes the subject of administrative deliberation: there were native customs which no available materials sufficed to illustrate; and native claims, often serious in their importance, the consideration of which was obstructed by a similar dearth of authentic data. With a view to executive measures, I was frequently desirous of consulting the records of the two European governments, under which the island had been administered for 300 years before the arrival of the British; their experience might have served as a guide, and even their failures would have pointed out errors to be avoided; but here, again, I had to encounter disappointment: in answer to my inquiries, I was assured that the records, both of the Portuguese and Dutch, had long since disappeared from the archives of the colony.

Their loss, whilst in our custody, is the more remarkable, considering the value which was attached to them by our predecessors. The Dutch, on the conquest of Ceylon in the seventeenth century, seized the official accounts and papers of the Portuguese; and a memoir is preserved by VALENTYN, in which the Governor, Van Goens, on handing over the command to his successor in 1663, enjoins on him the study of these important documents, and expresses anxiety for their careful preservation.[1]

1: VALENTYN, Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indien, &c., ch. xiii. p. 174.

The British, on the capture of Colombo in 1796, were equally solicitous to obtain possession of the records of the Dutch Government. By Art. XIV. of the capitulation they were required to be "faithfully delivered over;" and, by Art. XI., all "surveys of the island and its coasts" were required to be surrendered to the captors.[1] But, strange to say, almost the whole of these interesting and important papers appear to have been lost; not a trace of the Portuguese records, so far as I could discover, remains at Colombo; and if any vestige of those of the Dutch be still extant, they have probably become illegible from decay and the ravages of the white ants.[2]

1: Amongst a valuable collection of documents presented to the Royal Asiatic Society of London, by the late Sir Alexander Johnston, formerly Chief Justice of Ceylon, there is a volume of Dutch surveys of the Island, containing important maps of the coast and its harbours, and plans of the great works for irrigation in the northern and eastern provinces.

2: Note to the second edition.—Since the first edition was published, I have been told by a late officer of the Ceylon Government, that many years ago, what remained of the Dutch records were removed from the record-room of the Colonial Office to the cutcherry of the government agent of the western province: where some of them may still be found.

But the loss is not utterly irreparable; duplicates of the Dutch correspondence during their possession of Ceylon are carefully preserved at Amsterdam; and within the last few years the Trustees of the British Museum purchased from the library of the late Lord Stuart de Rothesay the Diplomatic Correspondence and Papers of SEBASTIAÕ JOZÉ CARVALHO E MELLO (Portuguese Ambassador at London and Vienna, and subsequently known as the Marquis de Pombal), from 1738 to 1747, including sixty volumes relating to the history of the Portuguese possessions in India and Brazil during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. Amongst the latter are forty volumes of despatches relative to India entitled Collecçam Authentica de todas as Leys, Regimentos, Alvarás e mais ordens que se expediram para a India, desde o establecimento destas conquístas; Ordenáda por proviram de 28 de Marco de 1754.[1] These contain the despatches to and from the successive Captains-General and Governors of Ceylon, so that, in part at least, the replacement of the records lost in the colony may be effected by transcription.

1: MSS. Brit Mus. No. 20,861 to 20,900.

Meanwhile in their absence I had no other resource than the narratives of the Dutch and Portuguese historians, chiefly VALENTYN, DE BARROS, and DE COUTO, who have preserved in two languages the least familiar in Europe, chronicles of their respective governments, which, so far as I am aware, have never been republished in any translation.

The present volumes contain no detailed notice of the Buddhist faith as it exists in Ceylon, of the Brahmanical rites, or of the other religious superstitions of the island. These I have already described in my history of Christianity in Ceylon.[1] The materials for that work were originally designed to form a portion of the present one; but having expanded to too great dimensions to be made merely subsidiary, I formed them into a separate treatise. Along with them I have incorporated facts illustrative of the national character of the Singhalese under the conjoint influences of their ancestral superstitions and the partial enlightenment of education and gospel truth.

1: Christianity in Ceylon: its Introduction and Progress under the Portuguese, the Dutch, the British and American Missions; with an Historical Sketch of the Brahmanical and Buddhist Superstitons by Sir JAMES EMERSON TENNENT. London, Murray, 1850.

Respecting the Physical Geography and Natural History of the colony, I found an equal want of reliable information; and every work that even touched on the subject was pervaded by the misapprehension which I have collected evidence to correct; that Ceylon is but a fragment of the great Indian continent dissevered by some local convulsion; and that the zoology and botany of the island are identical with those of the mainland.[1]

1: It may seem presumptuous in me to question the accuracy of Dr. DAVY'S opinion on this point (see his Account of the Interior of Ceylon, &c., ch. iii. p. 78), but the grounds on which I venture to do so are stated, Vol. I. pp. 7, 27, 160, 178, 208, &c.

Thus for almost every particular and fact, whether physical or historical, I have been to a great extent thrown on my own researches; and obliged to seek for information in original sources, and in French and English versions of Oriental authorities. The results of my investigations are embodied in the following pages; and it only remains for me to express, in terms however inadequate, my obligations to the literary and scientific friends by whose aid I have been enabled to pursue my inquiries.

Amongst these my first acknowledgments are due to Dr. TEMPLETON, of the Army Medical Staff, for his cordial assistance in numerous departments; but above all in relation to the physical geography and natural history of the island. Here his scientific knowledge, successfully cultivated during a residence of nearly twelve years in Ceylon, and his intimate familiarity with its zoology and productions, rendered his co-operation invaluable;—and these sections abound with evidences of the liberal extent to which his stores of information have been generously imparted. To him and to Dr. CAMERON, of the Army Medical Staff, I am indebted for many valuable facts and observations on tropical health and disease, embodied in the chapter on "Climate." Sir RODERICK I. MURCHISON (without committing himself as to the controversial portions of the chapter on the Geology and Mineralogy of Ceylon) has done me the favour to offer some valuable suggestions, and to express his opinion as to the general accuracy of the whole.

Although a feature so characteristic as that of its Vegetation could not possibly be omitted in a work professing to give an account of Ceylon, I had neither the space nor the qualifications necessary to produce a systematic sketch of the Botany of the island. I could only attempt to describe it as it exhibits itself to an unscientific spectator; and the notices that I have given are confined to such of the more remarkable plants as cannot fail to arrest the attention of a stranger. In illustration of these, I have had the advantage of copious communications from WILLIAM FERGUSON, Esq., a gentleman attached to the Survey Department of the Civil Service in Ceylon, whose opportunities for observation in all parts of the island have enabled him to cultivate with signal success his taste for botanical pursuits. And I have been permitted to submit the portion of my work which refers to this subject to the revision of the highest living authority on Indian botany, Dr. J.D. HOOKER, of Kew.

Regarding the fauna of Ceylon, little has been published in any collective form, with the exception of a volume by Dr. KELAART entitled Prodromus Faunæ Zeilanicæ; several valuable papers by Mr. EDGAR L. LAYARD in the Annals and Magazine of Natural History for 1852 and 1853; and some very imperfect lists appended to PRIDHAM'S compiled account of the island.[1] KNOX, in the charming narrative of his captivity, published in the reign of Charles II., has devoted a chapter to the animals of Ceylon, and Dr. DAVY has described the principal reptiles: but with these exceptions the subject is almost untouched in works relating to the colony. Yet a more than ordinary interest attaches to the inquiry, since Ceylon, instead of presenting, as is generally assumed, an identity between its fauna and that of Southern India, exhibits a remarkable diversity of type, taken in connection with the limited area over which they are distributed. The island, in fact, may be regarded as the centre of a geographical circle, possessing within itself forms, whose allied species radiate far into the temperate regions of the north, as well as into Africa, Australia, and the isles of the Eastern Archipelago.

1: An Historical Political, and Statistical Account of Ceylon and its Dependencies, by C. PRIDHAM, Esq. 2 vols. 8vo. London, 1849. The author was never, I believe, in Ceylon, but his book is a laborious condensation of the principal English works relating to it. Its value would have been greatly increased had Mr. Pridham accompanied his excerpts by references to the respective authorities.

In the chapters that I have devoted to its elucidation, I have endeavoured to interest others in the subject, by describing my own observations and impressions, with fidelity, and with as much accuracy as may be expected from a person possessing, as I do, no greater knowledge of zoology and the other physical sciences than is ordinarily possessed by any educated gentleman. It was my good fortune, however, in my journies to have the companionship of friends familiar with many branches of natural science: the late Dr. GARDNER, Mr. EDGAR L. LAYARD, an accomplished zoologist, Dr. TEMPLETON, and others; and I was thus enabled to collect on the spot many interesting facts relative to the structure and habits of the numerous tribes of animals. These, chastened by the corrections of my fellow-travellers, and established by the examination of collections made in the colony, and by subsequent comparison with specimens contained in museums at home, I have ventured to submit as faithful outlines of the fauna of Ceylon.

The sections descriptive of the several classes are accompanied by lists, prepared with the assistance of scientific friends, showing the extent to which each particular branch had been investigated by naturalists, up to the period of my departure from Ceylon at the close of 1849. These, besides their inherent interest, will, I trust, stimulate others to engage in the same pursuits, by exhibiting the chasms, which it still remains for future industry and research to fill up;—and the study of the zoology of Ceylon may thus serve as a preparative for that of Continental India, embracing, as the former does, much that is common to both, as well as possessing within itself a fauna peculiar to the island, that will amply repay more extended scrutiny.

From these lists have been excluded all species regarding the authenticity of which reasonable doubts could be entertained[1], and of some of them, a very few have been printed in italics, in order to denote the desirability of comparing them more minutely with well determined specimens in the great national depositories before finally incorporating them with the Singhalese catalogues.

1: An exception occurs in the list of shells, prepared by Mr. SYLVANUS HANLEY, in which some whose localities are doubtful have been admitted for reasons adduced. (See Vol. I, p. 234.)

In the labour of collecting and verifying the facts embodied in these sections, I cannot too warmly express my thanks for the aid I have received from gentlemen interested in similar pursuits in Ceylon: from Dr. KELAART and Mr. EDGAR L. LAYARD, as well as from officers of the Ceylon Civil Service; the HON. GERALD C. TALBOT, Mr. C.E. BULLER, Mr. MERCER, Mr. MORRIS, Mr. WHITING, Major SKINNER, and Mr. MITFORD.

Before venturing to commit these chapters of my work to the press, I have had the advantage of having portions of them read by Professor HUXLEY, Mr. MOORE, of the East India House Museum; Mr. R. PATTERSON, F.R.S., author of the Introduction to Zoology, and by Mr. ADAM WHITE, of the British Museum; to each of whom I am exceedingly indebted for the care they have bestowed. In an especial degree I have to acknowledge the kindness of Dr. J.E. GRAY, F.R.S. for valuable additions and corrections in the list of the Ceylon Reptilia; and to Professor FARADAY for some notes on the nature and qualities of the "Serpent Stone,"[1] submitted to him. I have recorded in its proper place my obligations to Admiral FITZROY, for his most ingenious theory in elucidation of the phenomena of the Tides around Ceylon.[2]

1: See Vol. I. Part II. ch. iii. p. 199.

2: See Vol. II. Part VII. ch. i. p. 116.

The extent to which my observations on the Elephant have been carried, requires some explanation. The existing notices of this noble creature are chiefly devoted to its habits and capabilities in captivity; and very few works, with which I am acquainted, contain illustrations of its instincts and functions when wild in its native woods. Opportunities for observing the latter, and for collecting facts in connection with them, are abundant in Ceylon, and from the moment of my arrival, I profited by every occasion afforded to me for studying the elephant in a state of nature, and obtaining from hunters and natives correct information as to its oeconomy and disposition. Anecdotes in connection with this subject, I received from some of the most experienced residents In the island; amongst others, Major SKINNER, Captain PHILIP PAYNE GALLWEY, Mr. FAIRHOLME, Mr. CRIPPS, and Mr. MORRIS. Nor can I omit to express my acknowledgments to PROFESSOR OWEN, of the British Museum, to whom this portion of my manuscript was submitted previous to its committal to the press.

In the historical sections of the work, I have been reluctantly compelled to devote a considerable space to a narrative deduced from the ancient Singhalese chronicles; into which I found it most difficult to infuse any popular interest. But the toil was not undertaken without a motive. The oeconomics and hierarchical institutions of Buddhism as administered through successive dynasties, exercised so paramount an influence over the habits and occupations of the Singhalese people, that their impress remains indelible to the present day. The tenure of temple lands, the compulsory services of tenants, the extension of agriculture, and the whole system of co-operative cultivation, derived from this source organisation and development; and the origin and objects of these are only to be rendered intelligible by an inquiry into the events and times in which the system took its rise. In connection with this subject, I am indebted to the representatives of the late Mr. TURNOUR, of the Ceylon Civil Service, for access to his unpublished manuscripts; and to those portions of his correspondence with Prinsep, which relate to the researches of these two distinguished scholars regarding the Pali annals of Ceylon. I have also to acknowledge my obligations to M. JULES MOHL, the literary executor of M. E. BURNOUF, for the use of papers left by that eminent orientalist in illustration of the ancient geography of the island, as exhibited in the works of Pali and Sanskrit writers.

I have been signally assisted inn my search for materials illustrative of the social and intellectual condition of the Singhalese nation, during the early ages of their history, by gentlemen in Ceylon, whose familiarity with the native languages and literature impart authority to their communications; by ERNEST DE SARAM WIJEYESEKERE KAROONARATNE, the Maha-Moodliar and First Interpreter to the Governor; and to Mr. DE ALWIS, the erudite translator of the Sidath Sangara. From the Rev. Mr. GOGERLY of the Wesleyan Mission, I have received expositions of Buddhist policy; and the Rev. R SPENCE HARDY, author of the two most important modern works on the archæology of Buddhism[1], has done me the favour to examine the chapter on SINGHALESE Literature, and to enrich it by numerous suggestions and additions.

1: Oriental Monachism, 8vo. London, 1850; and A Manual of Buddhism, 8vo. London, 1853

In like manner I have had the advantage of communicating with MR. COOLEY (author of the History of Maritime and Inland Discovery) in relation to the Mediæval History of Ceylon, and the period embraced by the narrative of the Greek, Arabian, and Italian travellers, between the fifth and fifteenth centuries.

I have elsewhere recorded my obligations to Mr. WYLIE, and to his colleague, Mr. LOCKHART of Shanghæ, for the materials of one of the most curious chapters of my work, that which treats of the knowledge of Ceylon possessed by the Chinese in the Middle Ages. This is a field which, so far as I know, is untouched by any previous writer on Ceylon. In the course of my inquires, finding that Ceylon had been, from the remotest times, the point at which the merchant fleets from the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf met those from China and the Oriental Archipelago; thus effecting an exchange of merchandise from East and West; and discovering that the Arabian and Persian voyagers, on their return, had brought home copious accounts of the island, it occurred to me that the Chinese travellers during the same period had in all probability been equally observant and communicative, and that the results of their experience might be found in Chinese works of the Middle Ages. Acting on this conjecture, I addressed myself to a Chinese gentleman, WANG TAO CHUNG, who was then in England; and he, on his return to Shanghæ, made known my wishes to Mr. WYLIE. My anticipations were more than realised by Mr. WYLIE'S researches. I received in due course, extracts from upwards of twenty works by Chinese writers, between the fifth and fifteenth centuries, and the curious and interesting facts contained in them are embodied in the chapter devoted to that particular subject. In addition to these, the courtesy of M. STANISLAS JULIEN, the eminent French Sinologue, has laid me under a similar obligation for access to unpublished passages relative to Ceylon, in his translation of the great work of HIOUEN THSANG; in his translation of the great work of HIOUEN THSANG; descriptive of the Buddhist country of India in the seventh century.[1]

1: Mémoires sur les Contrées Occidentales, traduites du Sanscrit en Chinois, en l'an 648, par M. STANISLAS JULIEN.

It is with pain that I advert to that portion of the section which treats of the British rule in Ceylon; in the course of which the discovery of the private correspondence of the first Governor, Mr. North, deposited along with the Wellesley Manuscripts, in the British Museum[1], has thrown an unexpected light over the fearful events of 1803, and the massacre of the English troops then in garrison at Kandy. Hitherto the honour of the British Government has been unimpeached in these dark transactions; and the slaughter of the troops has been uniformly denounced as an evidence of the treacherous and "tiger-like" spirit of the Kandyan people.[2] But it is not possible now to read the narrative of these events, as the motives and secret arrangements of the Governor with the treacherous Minister of the king are disclosed in the private letters of Mr. North to the Governor-general of India, without feeling that the sudden destruction of Major Davie's party, however revolting the remorseless butchery by which it was achieved, may have been but the consummation of a revenge provoked by the discovery of the treason concocted by the Adigar in confederacy with the representative of the British Crown. Nor is this construction weakened by the fact, that no immediate vengeance was exacted by the Governor in expiation of that fearful tragedy; and that the private letters of Mr. North to the Marquis of Wellesley contain avowals of ineffectual efforts to hush up the affair, and to obtain a clumsy compromise by inducing the Kandyan king to make an admission of regret.

1: Additional MSS., Brit. Mus., No. 13864, &c.

2: DE QUINCEY, collected Works, vol. xii. p. 14.

I am aware that there are passages in the following pages containing statements that occur more than once in the course of the work. But I found that in dealing with so many distinct subjects the same fact became sometimes an indispensable illustration of more than one topic; and hence repetition was unavoidable even at the risk of tautology.

I have also to apologise for variances in the spelling of proper names, both of places and individuals, occurring in different passages. In extenuation of this, I can only plead the difficulty of preserving uniformity in matters dependent upon mere sound, and unsettled by any recognised standard of orthography.

I have endeavoured in every instance to append references to other authors, in support of statements which I have drawn from previous writers; an arrangement rendered essential by the numerous instances in which errors, that nothing short of the original authorities can suffice to expose, have been reproduced and repeated by successive writers on Ceylon.

To whatever extent the preparation of this work may have fallen short of its conception, and whatever its demerits in execution and style, I am not without hope that it will still exhibit evidence that by perseverance and research I have laboured to render it worthy of the subject.


LONDON: July 13th, 1859.





GENERAL ASPECT.—Ceylon, from whatever direction it is approached, unfolds a scene of loveliness and grandeur unsurpassed, if it be rivalled, by any land in the universe. The traveller from Bengal, leaving behind the melancholy delta of the Ganges and the torrid coast of Coromandel; or the adventurer from Europe, recently inured to the sands of Egypt and the scorched headlands of Arabia, is alike entranced by the vision of beauty which expands before him as the island rises from the sea, its lofty mountains covered by luxuriant forests, and its shores, till they meet the ripple of the waves, bright with the foliage of perpetual spring.

The Brahmans designated it by the epithet of "the resplendent," and in their dreamy rhapsodies extolled it as the region of mystery and sublimity[1]; the Buddhist poets gracefully apostrophised it as "a pearl upon the brow of India;" the Chinese knew it as the "island of jewels;" the Greeks as the "land of the hyacinth and the ruby;" the Mahometans, in the intensity of their delight, assigned it to the exiled parents of mankind as a new elysium to console them for the loss of Paradise; and the early navigators of Europe, as they returned dazzled with its gems, and laden with its costly spices, propagated the fable that far to seaward the very breeze that blew from it was redolent of perfume.[2] In later and less imaginative times, Ceylon has still maintained the renown of its attractions, and exhibits in all its varied charms "the highest conceivable development of Indian nature."[3]

1: "Ils en ont fait une espèce de paradis, et se sont imaginé que des êtres d'une nature angélique les habitaient."—ALBYROUNI, Traité des Ères, &c.; REINAUD, Géographie d'Aboulféda, Introd. sec. iii. p. ccxxiv. The renown of Ceylon as it reached Europe in the seventeenth century is thus summed up by PURCHAS in His Pilgrimage, b.v.c. 18, p. 550:—"The heauens with their dewes, the ayre with a pleasant holesomenesse and fragrant freshnesse, the waters in their many riuers and fountaines, the earth diuersified in aspiring hills, lowly vales, equall and indifferent plaines, filled in her inward chambers with mettalls and jewells, in her outward court and vpper face stored with whole woods of the best cinnamons that the sunne seeth; besides fruits, oranges, lemons, &c. surmounting those of Spaine; fowles and beasts, both tame and wilde (among which is their elephant honoured by a naturall acknowledgement of excellence of all other elephants in the world). These all have conspired and joined in common league to present unto Zeilan the chiefe of worldly treasures and pleasures, with a long and healthfull life in the inhabitants to enjoye them. No marvell, then, if sense and sensualitie have heere stumbled on a paradise."

2: The fable of the "spicy breezes" said to blow from Arabia and India, is as old as Ctesias; and is eagerly repeated by Pliny? lib. xii. c. 42. The Greeks borrowed the tale from the Hindus, who believe that the Chandana or sandal-wood imparts its odours to the winds; and their poete speak of the Malayan as the westerns did of the Sabæan breezes. But the allusion to such perfumed winds was a trope common to all the discoverers of unknown lands: the companions of Columbus ascribed them to the region of the Antilles; and Verrazani and Sir Walter Raleigh scented them off the coast of Carolina. Milton borrowed from Diodorus Siculus, lib. iii. c. 46, the statement that:

"Far off at sea north-east winds blow

Sabæan odours from the spicy shore

Of Araby the Blest."

(P.L. iv. 163.)

Ariosto employs the same imaginative embellishment to describe the charms of Cyprus:

"Serpillo e persa e rose e gigli e croco

Spargon dall'odorifero terreno

Tanta suavita, ch'in mar sentire

La fa ogni vento che da terra spire."

(Oil. Fur. xviii. 138.)

That some aromatic smell is perceptible far to seaward, in the vicinity of certain tropical countries, is unquestionable; and in the instance of Cuba, an odour like that of violets, which is discernible two or three miles from land, when the wind is off the shore, has been traced by Poeppig to a species of Tetracera, a climbing plant which diffuses its odour during the night. But in the case of Ceylon? if the existence of such a perfume be not altogether imaginary, the fact has been falsified by identifying the alleged fragrance with cinnamon; the truth being that the cinnamon laurel, unless it be crushed, exhales no aroma whatever; and the peculiar odour of the spice is only perceptible after the bark has been separated and dried.

3: LASSEN, Indische Alterthumskunde vol. i. p. 198.

Picturesque Outline.—The nucleus of its mountain masses consists of gneissic, granitic, and other crystalline rocks, which in their resistless upheaval have rent the superincumbent strata, raising them into lofty pyramids and crags, or hurling them in gigantic fragments to the plains below. Time and decay are slow in their assaults on these towering precipices and splintered pinnacles; and from the absence of more perishable materials, there are few graceful sweeps along the higher chains or rolling downs in the lower ranges of the hills. Every bold elevation is crowned by battlemented cliffs, and flanked by chasms in which the shattered strata are seen as sharp and as rugged as if they had but recently undergone the grand convulsion that displaced them.

Foliage and Verdure.—The soil in these regions is consequently light and unremunerative, but the plentiful moisture arising from the interception of every passing vapour from the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal, added to the intense warmth of the atmosphere, combine to force a vegetation so rich and luxuriant, that imagination can picture nothing more wondrous and charming; every level spot is enamelled with verdure, forests of never-fading bloom cover mountain and valley; flowers of the brightest hues grow in profusion over the plains, and delicate climbing plants, rooted in the shelving rocks, hang in huge festoons down the edge of every precipice.

Unlike the forests of Europe, in which the excess of some peculiar trees imparts a character of monotony and graveness to the outline and colouring, the forests of Ceylon are singularly attractive from the endless variety of their foliage, and the vivid contrast of its hues. The mountains, especially those looking towards the east and south, rise abruptly to prodigious and almost precipitous heights above the level plains; the rivers wind through woods below like threads of silver through green embroidery, till they are lost in a dim haze which conceals the far horizon; and through this a line of tremulous light marks where the sunbeams are glittering among the waves upon the distant shore.

From age to age a scene so lovely has imparted a colouring of romance to the adventures of the seamen who, in the eagerness of commerce, swept round the shores of India, to bring back the pearls and precious stones, the cinnamon and odours, of Ceylon. The tales of the Arabians are fraught with the wonders of "Serendib;" and the mariners of the Persian Gulf have left a record of their delight in reaching the calm havens of the island, and reposing for months together in valleys where the waters of the sea were overshadowed by woods, and the gardens were blooming in perennial summer.[1]

1: REINAUD, Relation des Voyages Arabes, &c., dans le neuvième siècle. Paris, 1845, tom. ii. p. 129.

Geographical Position.—Notwithstanding the fact that the Hindus, in their system of the universe, had given prominent importance to Ceylon, their first meridian, "the meridian of Lanka," being supposed to pass over the island, they propounded the most extravagant ideas, both as to its position and extent; expanding it to the proportions of a continent, and at the same time placing it a considerable distance south-east of India.[1]

1: For a condensed account of the dimensions and position attributed to Lanka, in the Mythic Astronomy of the Hindus, see REINAUD's Introduction to Aboulféda, sec. iii. p. ccxvii., and his Mémoire sur l'Inde, p. 342; WILFORD's Essay on the Sacred Isles of the West, Asiat. Researches, vol. x, p. 140.

The native Buddhist historians, unable to confirm the exaggerations of the Brahmans, and yet reluctant to detract from the epic renown of their country by disclaiming its stupendous dimensions, attempted to reconcile its actual extent with the fables of the eastern astronomers by imputing to the agency of earthquakes the submersion of vast regions by the sea.[1] But evidence is wanting to corroborate the assertion of such an occurrence, at least within the historic period; no record of it exists in the earliest writings of the Hindus, the Arabians, or Persians; who, had the tradition survived, would eagerly have chronicled a catastrophe so appalling.[2] Geologic analogy, so far as an inference is derivable from the formation of the adjoining coasts, both of India and Ceylon, is opposed to its probability; and not only plants, but animals, mammalia, birds, reptiles, and insects, exist in Ceylon, which are not to be found in the flora or fauna of the Indian continent.[3]

1: SIR WILLIAM JONES adopted the legendary opinion that Ceylon "formerly perhaps, extended much farther to the west and south, so as to include Lanka or the equinoctial point of the Indian astronomers."—Discourse on the Institution of a Society for inquiring into the History, &c., of the Borderers, Mountaineers, and Islanders of Asia.—Works, vol. i. p. 120.

The Portuguese, on their arrival in Ceylon in the sixteenth century, found the natives fully impressed by the traditions of its former extent and partial submersion; and their belief in connection with it, will be found in the narratives and histories of De Barros and Diogo de Couto, from which they have been transferred, almost without abridgment, to the pages of Valentyn. The substance of the native legends will be found in the Mahawanso, c. xxii. p. 131; and Rajavali, p. 180, 190.

2: The first disturbance of the coast by which Ceylon is alleged to have been severed from the main land is said by the Buddhists to have taken place B.C. 2387; a second commotion is ascribed to the age of Panduwaasa, B.C. 504; and the subsidence of the shore adjacent to Colombo is said to have taken place 200 years later, in the reign of Devenipiatissa, B.C. 306. The event is thus recorded in the Rajavali, one of the sacred books of Ceylon:—"In these days the sea was seven leagues from Kalany; but on account of what had been done to the teeroonansee (a priest who had been tortured by the king of Kalany), the gods who were charged with the conservation of Ceylon, became enraged and caused the sea to deluge the land; and as during the epoch called duwapawrayaga on account of the wickedness of Rawana, 25 palaces and 400,000 streets were all over-run by the sea, so now in this time of Tissa Raja, 100,000 large towns, 910 fishers' villages, and 400 villages inhabited by pearl fishers, making together eleven-twelfths of the territory of Kalany, were swallowed up by the sea."—Rajavali, vol. ii. p. 180, 190.

FORBES observes the coincidence that the legend of the rising of the sea in the age of Panduwaasa, 2378 B.C., very nearly concurs with the date assigned to the Deluge of Noah, 2348,—Eleven Years in Ceylon, vol. ii. p. 258. A tradition is also extant, that a submersion took place at a remote period on the east coast of Ceylon, whereby the island of Giri-dipo, which is mentioned in the first chapter of the Mahawanso, was engulfed, and the dangerous rocks called the Great and Little Basses are believed to be remnants of it.—Mahawanso, c. i.

A résumé of the disquisitions which have appeared at various times as to the submersion of a part of Ceylon, will be found in a Memoir sur la Géographie ancienne de Ceylon, in the Journal Asiatique for January, 1857, 5th ser., vol. ix. p. 12; see also TURNOUR'S Introd. to the Mahawanso, p. xxxiv.

3: Some of the mammalia peculiar to the island are enumerated at p. 160; birds found in Ceylon but not existing in India are alluded to at p. 178, and Dr. A. GÜNTHER, in a paper on the Geographical Distribution of Reptiles, in the Mag. of Nat. Hist. for March, 1859, says, "amongst these larger islands which are connected with the middle palæotropical region, none offers forms so different from the continent and other islands as Ceylon. It might be considered the Madagascar of the Indian region. We not only find there peculiar genera and species, not again to be recognised in other parts; but even many of the common species exhibit such remarkable varieties, as to afford ample means for creating new nominal species," p. 280. The difference exhibited between the insects of Ceylon and those of Hindustan and the Dekkan are noticed by Mr. Walker in the present work, p. ii. ch. vii, vol. i. p. 270. See on this subject RITTER'S Erdkunde, vol. iv. p. 17.

Still in the infancy of geographical knowledge, and before Ceylon had been circumnavigated by Europeans, the mythical delusions of the Hindus were transmitted to the West, and the dimensions of the island were expanded till its southern extremity fell below the equator, and its breadth was prolonged till it touched alike on Africa and China.[1]

1: GIBBON, ch. xxiv.

The Greeks who, after the Indian conquests of Alexander, brought back the earliest accounts of the East, repeated them without material correction, and reported the island to be nearly twenty times its actual extent. Onesicritus, a pilot of the expedition, assigned to it a magnitude of 5000 stadia, equal to 500 geographical miles.[1] Eratosthenes attempted to fix its position, but went so widely astray that his first (that is his most southern) parallel passed through it and the "Cinnamon Land," the Regio Cinnamomifera, on the east coast of Africa.[2] He placed Ceylon at the distance of seven days' sail from the south of India, and he too assigned to its western coast an extent of 5000 stadia.[3] Both those authorities are quoted by Strabo, who says that the size of Taprobane was not less than that of Britain.[4]

1: STRABO, lib. v. Artemidorus (100 B.C.), quoted by Stephanus of Byzantium, gives to Ceylon a length of 7000 stadia and a breadth of 500.

2: STRABO, lib. ii. c. i. s. 14.

3: The text of Strabo showing this measure makes it in some places 8000 (Strabo, lib. v.); and Pliny, quoting Eratosthenes, makes it 7000.

4: STRABO, lib. ii. c. v. s. 32. Aristotle appears to have had more correct information, and says Ceylon was not so large as Britain.—De Mundo ch. iii.

The round numbers employed by those authors, and by the Greek geographers generally, who borrow from them, serve to show that their knowledge was merely collected from rumours; and that in all probability they were indebted for their information to the stories of Arabian or Hindu sailors returning from the Eastern seas.

Pliny learned from the Singhalese Ambassador who visited Rome in the reign of Claudius, that the breadth of Ceylon was 10,000 stadia from west to east; and Ptolemy fully developed the idea of his predecessors, that it lay opposite to the "Cinnamon Land," and assigned to it a length from north to south of nearly fifteen degrees, with a breadth of eleven, an exaggeration of the truth nearly twenty-fold.[1] Agathemerus copies Ptolemy; and the plain and sensible author of the "Periplus" (attributed to Arrian), still labouring with the delusion of the magnitude of Ceylon, makes it stretch almost to the opposite coast of Africa.[2]

1: PTOLEMY, lib. vii. c. 4.

2: ARRIAN, Periplus, p. 35. Marcianus Heracleota (whose Periplus has been reprinted by HUDSON, in the same collection from which I have made the reference to that of Arrian) gives to Ceylon a length of 9500 stadia with a breadth of 7500.—MAR. HER. p. 26.

These extravagant ideas of the magnitude of Ceylon were not entirely removed till many centuries later. The Arabian geographers, Massoudi, Edrisi, and Aboulfeda, had no accurate data by which to correct the errors of their Greek predecessors. The maps of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries repeated their distortions[1]; and Marco Polo, in the fourteenth century, who gives the island the usual exaggerated dimensions, yet informs us that it is now but one half the size it had been at a former period, the rest having been engulfed by the sea.[2]

1: For an account of Ceylon as it is figured in the Mappe-mondes of the Middle Ages, see the Essai of the VICOMTE DE SANTAREM, Sur la Cosmographie et Cartographie, tom. iii. p. 335, &c.

2: MARCO POLO, p. 2, c. 148. A later authority than Marco Polo, PORCACCHI, in his Isolario, or "Description of the most celebrated Islands in the World," which was published at Venice in A.D. 1576, laments his inability even at that time to obtain any authentic information as to the boundaries and dimensions of Ceylon; and, relying on the representations of the Moors, who then carried on an active trade around its coasts, he describes it as lying under the equinoctial line, and possessing a circuit of 2100 miles. "Ella gira di circuito, secondo il calcole fatto da Mori, che modernamente l'hanno nauigato d'ogn'intorno due mila et cento miglia et corre mæstro e sirocco; et per il mezo d'essa passa la linea equinottiale et è el principio del primo clima al terzo paralello."—L'Isole piu Famose del Monde, descritte da THOMASO PORCACCHI, lib. iii. p. 30.

Such was the uncertainty thrown over the geography of the island by erroneous and conflicting accounts, that grave doubts came to be entertained of its identity, and from the fourteenth century, when the attention of Europe was re-directed to the nascent science of geography, down to the close of the seventeenth, it remained a question whether Ceylon or Sumatra was the Taprobane of the Greeks.[1]

1: GIBBON states, that "Salmasius and most of the ancients confound the islands of Ceylon and Sumatra."—Decl. and Fall ch. xl. This is a mistake. Saumaise was one of those who maintained a correct opinion; and, as regards the "ancients," they had very little knowledge of Further India to which Sumatra belongs; but so long as Greek and Roman literature maintained their influence, no question was raised as to the identity of Ceylon and Taprobane. Even in the sixth century Cosmas Indicopleustes declares unhesitatingly that the Sielediva of the Indians was the Taprobane of the Greeks.

It was only on emerging from the general ignorance of the Middle Ages that the doubt was first promulgated. In the Catalan Map of A.D. 1375, entitled Image du Monde, Ceylon is omitted, and Taprobane is represented by Sumatra (MALTE BRUN, Hist. de Geogr. vol. i, p. 318); in that of Fra Mauro, the Venetian monk, A.D. 1458, Seylan is given, but Taprobane is added over Sumatra. A similar error appears in the Mappe-monde, by RUYCH, in the Ptolemy of A.D. 1508, and in the writings of the geographers of the sixteenth century, GEMMA FRISIUS, SEBASTIAN MUNSTER, RAMUSIO, JUL. SCALIGER, ORTELIUS, and MERCATOR. The same view was adopted by the Venetian NICOLA DI CONTI, in the first half of the fifteenth century, by the Florentine ANDREA CORSALI, MAXIMILIANUS TRANSYLVANUS, VARTHEMA, and PIGAFETTA. The chief cause of this perplexity was, no doubt, the difficulty of reconciling the actual position and size of Ceylon with the dimensions and position assigned to it by Strabo and Ptolemy, the latter of whom, by an error which is elsewhere explained, extended the boundary of the island far to the east of its actual site. But there was a large body of men who rejected the claim of Sumatra, and DE BARROS, SALMASIUS, BOCHART CLUVERIUS, CELLARIUS, ISAAC VOSSIUS and others, maintained the title of Ceylon. A Mappe-monde of A.D. 1417, preserved in the Pitti Palace at Florence compromises the dispute by designating Sumatra Taprobane Major. The controversy came to an end at the beginning of the eighteenth century, when the overpowering authority of DELISLE resolved the doubt, and confirmed the modern Ceylon as the Taprobane of antiquity. WILFORD, in the Asiatic Researches (vol. x. p. 140), still clung to the opposite opinion, and KANT undertook to prove that Taprobane was Madagascar.]

Latitude and Longitude
.—There has hitherto been considerable uncertainty as to the position assigned to Ceylon in the various maps and geographical notices of the island: these have been corrected by more recent observations, and its true place has been ascertained to be between 5° 55' and 9° 51' north latitude, and 79° 41' 40" and 81° 54' 50" east longitude. Its extreme length from north to south, from Point Palmyra to Dondera Head, is 271-1/2 miles; its greatest width 137-1/2 miles, from Colombo on the west coast to Sangemankande on the east; and its area, including its dependent islands, 25,742 miles, or about one-sixth smaller than Ireland.[1]

1: Down to a very recent period no British colony was more imperfectly surveyed and mapped than Ceylon; but since the recent publication by Arrowsmith of the great map by General Fraser, the reproach has been withdrawn, and no dependency of the Crown is more richly provided in this particular. In the map of Schneider, the Government engineer in 1813, two-thirds of the Kandyan Kingdom are a blank; and in that of the Society for the Diffusion of Knowledge, re-published so late as 1852, the rich districts of Neuera-kalawa and the Wanny, in which there are innumerable villages (and scarcely a hill), are marked as "unknown mountainous region." General Fraser, after the devotion of a lifetime to the labour, has produced a survey which, in extent and minuteness of detail, stands unrivalled. In this great work he had the co-operation of Major Skinner and of Captain Gallwey, and to these two gentlemen the public are indebted for the greater portion of the field-work and the trigonometrical operations. To judge of the difficulties which beset such an undertaking, it must be borne in mind that till very recently travelling in the interior of Ceylon was all but impracticable, in a country unopened even by bridle roads, across unbridged rivers, over mountains never trod by the foot of a European, and amidst precipices inaccessible to all but the most courageous and prudent. Add to this that the country is densely covered with forest and jungle, with trees a hundred feet high, from which here and there the branches had to be cleared to obtain a sight of the signal stations. The triangulation was carried on amidst privations, discomfort, and pestilence, which frequently prostrated the whole party, and forced their attendants to desert them rather than encounter such hardships and peril. The materials collected by the colleagues of General Fraser under these discouragements have been worked up by him with consummate skill and perseverance. The base line, five and a quarter miles in length, was measured in 1845 in the cinnamon plantation at Kaderani, to the north of Colombo, and its extremities are still marked by two towers, which it was necessary to raise to the height of one hundred feet, to enable them to be discerned above the surrounding forests. These it is to be hoped will be carefully kept from decay, as they may again be called into requisition.

As regards the sea line of Ceylon, an admirable chart of the West coast, from Adam's Bridge to Dondera Head, has been published by the East India Company from a survey in 1845. But information is sadly wanted as to the East and North, of which no accurate charts exist, except of a few unconnected points, such as the harbour of Trincomalie.

Ceylon is pear shaped

General Form.—In its general outline the island resembles a pear—and suggests to its admiring inhabitants the figure of those pearls which from their elongated form are suspended from the tapering end. When originally upheaved above the ocean its shape was in all probability nearly circular, with a prolongation in the direction of north-east. The mountain zone in the south, covering an area of about 4212 miles[1], may then have formed the largest proportion of its entire area—and the belt of low lands, known as the Maritime Provinces, consists to a great extent of soil from the disintegration of the gneiss, detritus from the hills, alluvium carried down the rivers, and marine deposits gradually collected on the shore. But in addition to these, the land has for ages been slowly rising from the sea, and terraces abounding in marine shells imbedded in agglutinated sand occur in situations far above high-water mark. Immediately inland from Point de Galle, the surface soil rests on a stratum of decomposing coral; and sea shells are found at a considerable distance from the shore. Further north at Madampe, between Chilaw and Negombo, the shells of pearl oysters and other bivalves are turned up by the plough more than ten miles from the sea.

1: This includes not only the lofty mountains suitable for the cultivation of coffee, but the lower ranges and spurs which connect them with the maritime plains.

These recent formations present themselves in a still more striking form in the north of the island, the greater portion of which may be regarded as the conjoint production of the coral polypi, and the currents, which for the greater portion of the year set impetuously towards the south. Coming laden with alluvial matter collected along the coast of Coromandel, and meeting with obstacles south of Point Calimere, they have deposited their burthens on the coral reefs round Point Pedro; and these gradually raised above the sea-level, and covered deeply by sand drifts, have formed the peninsula of Jaffna and the plains that trend westward till they unite with the narrow causeway of Adam's Bridge—itself raised by the same agencies, and annually added to by the influences of the tides and monsoons.[1]

1: The barrier known as Adam's Bridge, which obstructs the navigation of the channel between Ceylon and Ramnad, consists of several parallel ledges of conglomerate and sandstone, hard at the surface, and growing coarse and soft as it descends till it rests on a bank of sand, apparently accumulated by the influence of the currents at the change of the monsoons. See an Essay by Captain STEWART on the Paumbem Passage. Colombo, 1837. See Vol. II. p. 554.

On the north-west side of the island, where the currents are checked by the obstruction of Adam's Bridge, and still water prevails in the Gulf of Manaar, these deposits have been profusely heaped, and the low sandy plains have been proportionally extended; whilst on the south and east, where the current sweeps unimpeded along the coast, the line of the shore is bold and occasionally rocky.

This explanation of the accretion and rising of the land is somewhat opposed to the popular belief that Ceylon was torn from the main land of India[1] by a convulsion, during which the Gulf of Manaar and the narrow channel at Paumbam were formed by the submersion of the adjacent land. The two theories might be reconciled by supposing the sinking to have occurred at an early period, and to have been followed by the uprising still in progress. But on a closer examination of the structure and direction of the mountain system of Ceylon, it exhibits no traces of submersion. It seems erroneous to regard it as a prolongation of the Indian chains; it lies far to the east of the line formed by the Ghauts on either side of the peninsula, and any affinity which it exhibits is rather with the equatorial direction of the intersecting ranges of the Nilgherries and the Vindhya. In their geological elements there is, doubtless, a similarity between the southern extremity of India and the elevated portions of Ceylon; but there are also many important particulars in which their specific differences are irreconcilable with the conjecture of previous continuity. In the north of Ceylon there is a marked preponderance of aqueous strata, which are comparatively rare in the vicinity of Cape Comorin; and whilst the rocks of the former are entirely destitute of organic remains[2]; fossils, both terrestrial and pelagic, have been found in the Eastern Ghauts, and sandstone, in some instances, overlays the primary rocks which compose them. The rich and black soil to the south of the Nilgherries presents a strong contrast to the red and sandy earth of the opposite coast; and both in the flora and fauna of the island there are exceptional peculiarities which suggest a distinction between it and the Indian continent.

1: LASSEN, Indische Alterthumskunde, vol. i. p. 193.

2: At Cutchavelly, north of Trincomalie, there exists a bed of calcareous clay, in which shells and crustaceans are found in a semi-fossilised state; but they are all of recent species, principally Macrophthalmus and Scylla. The breccia at Jaffna contains recent shells, as does also the arenaceous strata on the western coast of Manaar and in the neighbourhood of Galle. The existence of the fossilised crustaceans in the north of Ceylon was known to the early Arabian navigators. Abou-zeyd describes them as, "Un animal de mer qui resemble à l'écrevisse; quand cet animal sort de la mer, il se convertit en pierre." See REINAUD, Voyages faits par les Arabes, vol. i. p. 21. The Arabs then; and the Chinese at the present day, use these petrifactions when powdered as a specific for diseases of the eye.

Mountain System.—At whatever period the mountains of Ceylon may have been raised, the centre of maximum energy must have been in the vicinity of Adam's Peak, the group immediately surrounding which has thus acquired an elevation of from six to eight thousand feet above the sea.[1] The uplifting force seems to have been exerted from south-west to north-east; and although there is much confusion in many of the intersecting ridges, the lower ranges, especially those to the south and west of Adam's Peak, from Saffragam to Ambogammoa, manifest a remarkable tendency to run in parallel ridges in a direction from south-east to north-west.

1: The following are the heights of a few of the most remarkable places:—

Pedrotallagalla 8280 English feet.
Kirrigalpotta 7810 English feet.
Totapella 7720 English feet.
Adam's Peak 7420 English feet.
Nammoone-Koolle 6740 English feet.
Plain of Neuera-ellia 6210 English feet.

Towards the north, on the contrary, the offsets of the mountain system, with the exception of those which stretch towards Trincomalie, radiate to short distances in various directions, and speedily sink down to the level of the plain. Detached hills of great altitude are rare, the most celebrated being that of Mihintala, which overlooks the sacred city of Anarajapoora: and Sigiri is the only example in Ceylon of those solitary acclivities, which form so remarkable a feature in the table-land of the Dekkan, starting abruptly from the plain with scarped and perpendicular sides, and converted by the Indians into strongholds, accessible only by precipitous pathways, or steps hewn in the solid rock.

The crest of the Ceylon mountains is of stratified crystalline rock, especially gneiss, with extensive veins of quartz, and through this the granite has been everywhere intruded, distorting the riven strata, and tilting them at all angles to the horizon. Hence at the abrupt terminations of some of the chains in the district of Saffragam, plutonic rocks are seen mingled with the dislocated gneiss. Basalt makes its appearance both at Galle and Trincomalie. In one place to the east of Pettigalle-Kanda, the rocks have been broken up in such confusion as to resemble the effect of volcanic action—huge masses overhang each other like suddenly-cooled lava; and Dr. Gygax, a Swiss mineralogist, who was employed by the Government in 1847 to examine and report on the mineral resources of the district, stated, on his return, that having seen the volcanoes of the Azores, he found a "strange similarity at this spot to one of the semi-craters round the trachytic ridge of Seticidadas, in the island of St. Michael."[1]

1: Beyond the very slightest symptoms of disturbance, earthquakes are unknown in Ceylon: and although its geology exhibits little evidence of volcanic action (with the exception of the basalt, which occasionally presents an appearance approaching to that of lava), there are some other incidents that seem to suggest the vicinity of fire; more particularly the occurrence of springs of high temperature, one at Badulla, one at Kitool, near Bintenne, another near Yavi Ooto, in the Veddah country, and a fourth at Cannea, near Trincomalie. I have heard of another near the Patipal Aar south of Batticaloa. The water in each is so pure and free from salts that the natives make use of it for all domestic purposes. Dr. Davy adverts to another indication of volcanic agency in the sudden and profound depth of the noble harbour at Trincomalie, which even close by the beach is said to have been hitherto unfathomed.

The Spaniards believed Ceylon to be volcanic; and ARGENSOLA, in his Conquista de las Malucas, Madrid, 1609, says it produced liquid bitumen and sulphur:—"Fuentes de betùn liquido y bolcanes de perpetuas llamas que arrojan entre las asperezas de la montaña losas de açufre."—Lib. v. p. 184. It is needless to say that this is altogether imaginary.

Gneiss.—The great geological feature of the island is, however, the profusion of gneiss, and the various new forms arising from its disintegration. In the mountains, with the exception of occasional beds of dolomite, no more recent formations overlie it; from the period of its first upheaval, the gneiss has undergone no second submersion, and the soil which covers it in these lofty altitudes is formed almost entirely by its decay.

In the lower ranges of the hills, gigantic portions of gneiss rise conspicuously, so detached from the original chain and so rounded by the action of the atmosphere, aided by their concentric lamellation, that but for their prodigious dimensions, they might be regarded as boulders. Close under one of these cylindrical masses, 600 feet in height, and upwards of three miles in length, the town of Kornegalle, one of the ancient capitals of the island, has been built; and the great temple of Dambool, the most remarkable Buddhist edifice in Ceylon, is constructed under the hollow edge of another, its gilded roof being formed by the inverted arch of the natural stone. The tendency of the gneiss to assume these concentric and almost circular forms has been taken advantage of for this purpose by the Singhalese priests, and some of their most venerated temples are to be found under the shadow of the overarching strata, to the imperishable nature of which the priests point as symbolical of the eternal duration of their faith.[1]

1: The concentric lamellar strata of the gneiss sometimes extend with a radius so prolonged that slabs may be cut from them and used in substitution for beams of timber, and as such they are frequently employed in the construction of Buddhist temples. At Piagalla, on the road between Galle and Colombo, within about four miles of Caltura, there is a gneiss hill of this description on which a temple has been so erected. In this particular rock the garnets usually found in gneiss are replaced by rubies, and nothing can exceed the beauty of the hand-specimens procurable from a quarry close to the high road on the landward side; in which, however, the gems are in every case reduced to splinters.

Laterite or "Cabook."—A peculiarity, which is one of the first to strike a stranger who lands at Galle or Colombo, is the bright red colour of the streets and roads, contrasting vividly with the verdure of the trees, and the ubiquity of the fine red dust which penetrates every crevice and imparts its own tint to every neglected article. Natives resident in these localities are easily recognisable elsewhere, by the general hue of their dress. This is occasioned by the prevalence along the western coast of laterite, or, as the Singhalese call it, cabook, a product of disintegrated gneiss, which being subjected to detrition communicates its hue to the soil.[1]

1: According to the Mahawanso "Tamba-panni," one of those names by which Ceylon was anciently called, originated in an incident connected with the invasion of Wijayo, B.C. 543, whose followers, "exhausted by sea-sickness and faint from weakness, sat down at the spot where they had landed out of the vessels, supporting themselves on the palms of their hands pressed to the ground, whence the name of Tamba-pannyo, 'copper-palmed,' from the colour of the soil. From this circumstance that wilderness obtained the name of Tamba-panni; and from the same cause also this renowned land became celebrated under that name."—TURNOUR'S Mahawanso, ch. vi. p. 50. From Tamba-panni came the Greek name for Ceylon, Taprobane. Mr. de Alwis has corrected an error in this passage of Mr. Turnour's translation; the word in the original, which he took for Tamba-panniyo, or "copper-palmed," being in reality tamba-vanna, or "copper-coloured." Colonel Forbes questions the accuracy of this derivation, and attributes the name to the tamana trees; from the abundance of which he says many villages in Ceylon, as well as a district in southern India, have been similarly called. (Eleven Years in Ceylon, vol. i. p. 10.) I have not succeeded in discovering what tree is designated by this name, nor does it occur in MOON'S List of Ceylon Plants. On the southern coast of India a river, which flows from the ghats to the sea, passing Tinnevelly, is called Tambapanni. Tambapanni, as the designation of Ceylon, occurs in the inscription on the rock of Girnar in Guzerat, deciphered by Prinsep, containing an edict by Asoka relative to the medical administration of India for the relief both of man and beast, (Asiat. Soc. Journ. Beng. vol. vii. p. 158.)

The transformation of gneiss into laterite in these localities has been attributed to the circumstance, that those sections of the rock which undergo transition exhibit grains of magnetic iron ore partially disseminated through them; and the phenomenon of the conversion has been explained not by recurrence to the ordinary conception of mere weathering, which is inadequate, but to the theory of catalytic action, regard being had to the peculiarity of magnetic iron when viewed in its chemical formula.[1] The oxide of iron thus produced communicates its colouring to the laterite, and in proportion as felspar and hornblende abound in the gneiss, the cabook assumes respectively a white or yellow hue. So ostensible is the series of mutations, that in ordinary excavations there is no difficulty in tracing a continuous connection without definite lines of demarcation between the soil and the laterite on the one hand, and the laterite and gneiss rock on the other.[2]

1: From a paper read to the Royal Physical Society of Edinburgh by the Rev. J.G. Macvicar, D.D.

2: From a paper on the Geology of Ceylon, by Dr. Gardner, in the Appendix to Lee's translation of RIBEYRO'S History of Ceylon, p, 206. The earliest and one of the ablest essays on the geological system and mineralogy of Ceylon will be found in DAVY'S Account of the Interior of Ceylon, London, 1821. It has, however, been corrected and enlarged by recent investigators.

The tertiary rocks which form such remarkable features in the geology of other countries are almost unknown in Ceylon; and the "clay-slate, Silurian, old red sandstone, carboniferous, new red sandstone, oolitic, and cretaceous systems" have not as yet been recognised in any part of the island.[1] Crystalline limestone in some places overlies the gneiss, and is worked for oeconomical purposes in the mountain districts where it occurs.[2]

1: Dr. Gardner.

2: In the maritime provinces lime for building is obtained by burning the coral and madrepore, which for this purpose is industriously collected by the fishermen during the intervals when the wind is off shore.

Along the western coast, from Point-de-Galle to Chilaw, breccia is found near the shores, from the agglutination of corallines and shells mixed with sand, and the disintegrated particles of gneiss. These beds present an appearance very closely resembling a similar rock, in which human remains have been found imbedded, at the north-east of Guadaloupe, now in the British Museum.[1] Incorporated with them there are minute fragments of sapphires, rubies, and tourmaline, showing that the sand of which the breccia is composed has been washed down by the rivers from the mountain zone.

1: Dr. Gardner.

NORTHERN PROVINCES.—Coral Formation.—But the principal scene of the most recent formations is the extreme north of the island, with the adjoining peninsula of Jaffna. Here the coral rocks abound far above high-water mark, and extend across the island where the land has been gradually upraised, from the eastern to the western shore. The fortifications of Jaffna were built by the Dutch, from blocks of breccia quarried far from the sea, and still exhibit, in their worn surface, the outline of the shells and corallines of which they mainly consist. The roads, in the absence of more solid substances, are metalled with the same material; as the only other rock which occurs is a loose description of conglomerate, similar to that at Adam's Bridge and Manaar.

The phenomenon of the gradual upheaval of these strata is sufficiently attested by the position in which they appear, and their altitude above high-water mark; but, in close contiguity with them, an equally striking evidence presents itself in the fact that, at various points of the western coast, between the island of Manaar and Karativoe, the natives, in addition to fishing for chank shells[1] in the sea, dig them up in large quantities from beneath the soil on the adjacent shores, in which they are deeply imbedded[2], the land having since been upraised.

1: Turbinella rapa, formerly known as Voluta gravis used by the people of India to be sawn into bangles and anklets.

2: In 1845 an antique iron anchor was found under the soil at the northwestern point of Jaffna, of such size and weight as to show that it must have belonged to a ship of much greater tonnage than any which the depth of water would permit to navigate the channel at the present day.

The sand, which covers a vast extent of the peninsula of Jaffna, and in which the coco-nut and Palmyra-palm grow freely, has been carried by the currents from the coast of India, and either flung upon the northern beach in the winter months, or driven into the lake during the south-west monsoon, and thence washed on shore by the ripple, and distributed by the wind.

The arable soil of Jaffna is generally of a deep red colour, from the admixture of iron, and, being largely composed of lime from the comminuted coral, it is susceptible of the highest cultivation, and produces crops of great luxuriance. This tillage is carried on exclusively by irrigation from innumerable wells, into which the water rises fresh through the madrepore and sand; there being no streams in the district, unless those percolations can be so called which make their way underground, and rise through the sands on the margin of the sea at low water.

Wells in the Coral Rock.—These phenomena occur at Jaffna, in consequence of the rocks being magnesian limestone and coral, overlying a bed of sand, and in some places, where the soil is light, the surface of the ground is a hollow arch, so that it resounds as if a horse's weight were sufficient to crush it inwards. This is strikingly perceptible in the vicinity of the remarkable well at Potoor[1], on the west side of the road leading from Jaffna to Point Pedro, where the surface of the surrounding country is only about fifteen feet above the sea-level. The well, however, is upwards of 140 feet in depth; the water fresh at the surface, brackish lower down, and intensely salt below. According to the universal belief of the inhabitants, it is an underground pool, which communicates with the sea by a subterranean channel bubbling out on the shore near Kangesentorre, about seven miles to the north-west.

1: For the particulars of this singular well, see Vol. II. Pt. IX. ch. vi. p. 536.

A similar subterranean stream is said to conduct to the sea from another singular well near Tillipalli, in sinking which the workmen, at the depth of fourteen feet, came to the ubiquitous coral, the crust of which gave way, and showed a cavern below containing the water they were in search of, with a depth of more than thirty-three feet. It is remarkable that the well at Tillipalli preserves its depth at all seasons alike, uninfluenced by rains or drought; and a steam-engine erected at Potoor, with the intention of irrigating the surrounding lands, failed to lower it in any perceptible degree.

Other wells, especially some near the coast, maintain their level with such uniformity as to be inexhaustible at any season, even after a succession of years of drought—a fact from which it may fairly be inferred that their supply is chiefly derived by percolation from the sea.[1]

1: DARWIN, in his admirable account of the coral formations of the Pacific and Indian oceans, has propounded a theory as to the abundance of fresh water in the atolls and islands on coral reefs, furnished by wells which ebb and flow with the tides. Assuming it to be impossible to separate salt from sea water by filtration, he suggests that the porous coral rock being permeated by salt water, the rain which falls on the surface must sink to the level of the surrounding sea, "and must accumulate there, displacing an equal bulk of sea water—and as the portion of the latter in the lower part of the great sponge-like mass rises and falls with the tides, so will the fresh water near the surface."—Naturalist's Journal, ch. xx. But subsequent experiments have demonstrated that the idea of separating the salt by filtration is not altogether imaginary; as Darwin seems to have then supposed; and Mr. WITT, in a remarkable paper On a peculiar power possessed by Porous Media of removing matters from solution in water, has since succeeded in showing that "water containing considerable quantities of saline matter in solution may, by merely percolating through great masses of porous strata during long periods, be gradually deprived of its salts to such an extent as probably to render even sea-water fresh."—Philos. Mag., 1856. Divesting the subject therefore of this difficulty, other doubts would appear to suggest themselves as to the applicability of Darwin's theory to coral formations in general. For instance, it might be supposed that rain falling on a substance already saturated with moisture, would flow off instead of sinking into it; and that being of less specific gravity than salt water, it would fail to "displace an equal bulk" of the latter. There are some extraordinary but well attested statements of a thin layer of fresh water being found on the surface of the sea, after heavy rains in the Bay of Bengal. (Journ. Asiat. Soc. Beng. vol. v. p. 239.) Besides, I fancy that in the majority of atolls and coral islands the quantity of rain which so small an area is calculated to intercept would be insufficient of itself to account for the extraordinary abundance of fresh water daily drawn from the wells. For instance, the superficial extent of each of the Laccadives is but two or three square miles, the surface soil resting on a crust of coral, beneath which is a stratum of sand; and yet on reaching the latter, fresh water flows in such profusion, that wells and large tanks for soaking coco-nut fibre are formed in any place by merely "breaking through the crust and taking out the sand."—Madras Journal, vol. xiv. It is curious that the abundant supply of water in these wells should have attracted the attention of the early navigators, and Cosmas Indicoplenstes, writing in the sixth century, speaks of the numerous small islands off the coast of Taprobane, with abundance of fresh water and coco-nut palms, although these islands rest on a bed of sand. (Cosmas Ind. ed. Thevenot, vol. i. p. 3, 20). It is remarkable that in the little island of Ramisseram, one of the chain which connects Adam's Bridge with the Indian continent, fresh water is found freely on sinking for it in the sand. But this is not the case in the adjacent island of Manaar, which participates in the geologic character of the interior of Ceylon. The fresh water in the Laccadive wells always fluctuates with the rise and fall of the tides. In some rare instances, as on the little island of Bitra, which is the smallest inhabited spot in the group, the water, though abundant, is brackish, but this is susceptible of an explanation quite consistent with the experiments of Mr. Witt, which require that the process of percolation shall be continued "during long periods and through great masses of porous strata;" Darwin equally concedes that to keep the rain fresh when banked in, as he assumes, by the sea, the mass of madrepore must be "sufficiently thick to prevent mechanical admixture; and where the land consists of loose blocks of coral with open interstices, the water, if a well be dug, is brackish." Conditions analogous to all these particularised, present themselves at Jaffna, and seem to indicate that the extent to which fresh water is found there, is directly connected with percolation from the sea. The quantity of rain which annually falls is less than in England, being but thirty inches; whilst the average heat is highest in Ceylon, and the evaporation great in proportion. Throughout the peninsula, I am informed by Mr. Byrne, the Government surveyor of the district, that as a general rule "all the wells are below the sea level." It would be useless to sink them in the higher ground, where they could only catch surface water. The November rains fill them at once to the brim, but the water quickly subsides as the season becomes dry, and "sinks to the uniform level, at which it remains fixed for the next nine or ten months, unless when slightly affected by showers." "No well below the sea level becomes dry of itself," even in seasons of extreme and continued drought. But the contents do not vary with the tides, the rise of which is so trifling that the distance from the ocean, and the slowness of filtration, renders its fluctuations imperceptible.

On the other hand, the well of Potoor, the phenomena of which indicate its direct connection with the sea, by means of a fissure or a channel beneath the arch of magnesian limestone, rises and falls a few inches in the course of every twelve hours. Another well at Navokeiry, a short distance from it, does the same, whilst the well at Tillipalli is entirely unaffected as to its level by any rains, and exhibits no alteration of its depths on either monsoon. ADMIRAL FITZROY, in his Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of the Adventure and Beagle, the expedition to which Mr. Darwin was attached, adverts to the phenomenon in connection with the fresh water found in the Coral Islands, and the rise and fall of the wells, and the flow and ebb of the tide. He advances the theory propounded by Darwin of the retention of the river-water, which he says, "does not mix with the salt water which surrounds it except at the edges of the land. The flowing tide pushes on every side, the mixed soil being very porous, and causes the water to rise: when the tide falls, the fresh water sinks also. A sponge full of fresh water placed gently in a basin of salt water, will not part with its contents for a length of time if left untouched, and the water in the middle of the sponge will be found untainted by salt for many days: perhaps much longer if tried."—Vol. i. p. 365. In a perfectly motionless medium the experiment of the sponge may no doubt be successful to the extent mentioned by Admiral Fitzroy; and so the rain-water imbibed by a coral rock might for a length of time remain fresh where it came into no contact with the salt. But the disturbance caused by the tides, and the partial intermixture admitted by Admiral Fitzroy, must by reiterated occurrence tend in time to taint the fresh water which is affected by the movement: and this is demonstrable even by the test of the sponge; for I find that on charging one with coloured fluid, and immersing it in a vessel containing water perfectly pure, no intermixture takes place so long as the pure water is undisturbed; but on causing an artificial tide, by gradually withdrawing and as gradually replacing a portion of the surrounding contents of the basin, the tinted water in the sponge becomes displaced and disturbed, and in the course of a few ebbs and flows its escape is made manifest by the quantity of colour which it imparts to the surrounding fluid.

An idea of the general aspect of Ceylon will be formed from what has here been described. Nearly four parts of the island are undulating plains, slightly diversified by offsets from the mountain system which entirely covers the remaining fifth. Every district, from the depths of the valleys to the summits of the highest hills, is clothed with perennial foliage; and even the sand-drifts, to the ripple on the sea line, are carpeted with verdure, and sheltered from the sunbeams by the cool shadows of the palm groves.

SOIL.—But the soil, notwithstanding this wonderful display of spontaneous vegetation, is not responsive to systematic cultivation, and is but imperfectly adapted for maturing a constant succession of seeds and cereal productions.[1] Hence arose the disappointment which beset the earliest adventurers who opened plantations of coffee in the hills, on discovering that after the first rapid development of the plants, delicacy and languor ensued, which were only to be corrected by returning to the earth, in the form of manures, those elements with which it had originally been but sparingly supplied, and which were soon exhausted by the first experiments in cultivation.

1: See a paper in the Journal of Agriculture, for March, 1857, Edin.: on Tropical Cultivation and its Limits, by Dr. MACVICAR.

Patenas.—The only spots hitherto found suitable for planting coffee, are those covered by the ancient forests of the mountain zone; and one of the most remarkable phenomena in the oeconomic history of the island, is the fact that the grass lands on the same hills, closely adjoining the forests and separated from them by no visible line save the growth of the trees, although they seem to be identical in the nature of the soil, have hitherto proved to be utterly insusceptible of reclamation or culture by the coffee planter.[1] These verdant openings, to which the natives have given the name of patenas, generally occur about the middle elevation of the hills, the summits and the hollows being covered with the customary growth of timber trees, which also fringe the edges of the mountain streams that trickle down these park-like openings. The forest approaches boldly to the very edge of a "patena," not disappearing gradually or sinking into a growth of underwood, but stopping abruptly and at once, the tallest trees forming a fence around the avoided spot, as if they enclosed an area of solid stone. These sunny expanses vary in width from a few yards to many thousands of acres; in the lower ranges of the hills they are covered with tall lemon-grass (Andropogon schoenanthus) of which the oppressive perfume and coarse texture, when full grown, render it distasteful to cattle, which will only crop the delicate braird that springs after the surface has been annually burnt by the Kandyans. Two stunted trees, alone, are seen to thrive in these extraordinary prairies, Careya arborea and Emblica officinalis, and these only below an altitude of 4000 feet; above this, the lemon-grass is superseded by harder and more wiry species; but the earth is still the same, a mixture of decomposed quartz largely impregnated with oxide of iron, but wanting the phosphates and other salts which are essential to highly organised vegetation.[2] The extent of the patena land is enormous in Ceylon, amounting to millions of acres; and it is to be hoped that the complaints which have hitherto been made by the experimental cultivators of coffee in the Kandyan provinces may hereafter prove exaggerated, and that much that has been attributed to the poverty of the soil may eventually be traced to deficiency of skill on the part of the early planters.

1: Since the above was written, attempts have been made, chiefly by natives to plant coffee on patena land. The result is a conviction that the cultivation is practicable, by the use of manures from the beginning; whereas forest land is capable, for three or four years at least, of yielding coffee without any artificial enrichment of the soil.

2: HUMBOLDT is disposed to ascribe the absence of trees in the vast grassy plains of South America, to "the destructive custom of setting fire to the woods, when the natives want to convert the soil into pasture: when during the lapse of centuries grasses and plants have covered the surface with a carpet, the seeds of trees can no longer germinate and fix themselves in the earth, although birds and winds carry them continually from the distant forests into the Savannahs."—Narrative, vol. i. ch. vi. p. 242.

The natives in the same lofty localities find no deficient returns in the crops of rice, which they raise in the ravines and hollows, into which the earth from above has been washed by the periodical rains; but the cultivation of rice is so entirely dependent on the presence of water, that no inference can be fairly drawn as to the quality of the soil from the abundance of its harvest.

The fields on which rice is grown in these mountains form one of the most picturesque and beautiful objects in the country of the Kandyans. Selecting an angular recess where two hills converge, they construct a series of terraces, raised stage above stage, and retiring as they ascend along the slope of the acclivity, up which they are carried as high as the soil extends.[1] Each terrace is furnished with a low ledge in front, behind which the requisite depth of water is retained during the germination of the seed, and what is superfluous is permitted to trickle down to the one below it. In order to carry on this peculiar cultivation the streams are led along the level of the hills, often from a distance of many miles, with a skill and perseverance for which the natives of these mountains have attained a great renown.

1: The conversion of the land into these hanging farms is known in Ceylon as "assuedamizing," a term borrowed from the Kandyan vernacular, in which the word "assuedamé" implies the process above described.

In the lowlands to the south, the soil partakes of the character of the hills from whose detritus it is to a great extent formed. In it rice is the chief article produced, and for its cultivation the disintegrated laterite (cabook), when thoroughly irrigated, is sufficiently adapted. The seed time in the southern section of the island is dependent on the arrival of the rains in November and May, and hence the mountains and the maritime districts at their base enjoy two harvests in each year—the Maha, which is sown about July and August, and reaped in December and January, the Yalla which is sown in spring, and reaped from the 15th of July to the 20th September. But owing to the different description of seed sown in particular localites, and the extent to which they are respectively affected by the rains, the times of sowing and harvest vary considerably on different sides of the island.[1]

1: The reaping of other descriptions of grain besides rice occurs at various periods of the year according to the locality.

In the north, where the influence of the monsoons is felt with less force and regularity, and where, to counteract their uncertainty, the rain is collected in reservoirs, a wider discretion is left to the husbandman in the choice of season for his operations.[1] Two crops of grain, however, are the utmost that is taken from the land, and in many instances only one. The soil near the coast is light and sandy, but in the great central districts of Neuera-kalawa and the Wanny, there is found in the midst of the forests a dark vegetable mould, in which in former times rice was abundantly grown by the aid of those prodigious artificial works for irrigation which still form one of the wonders of the island. Many of the tanks, though partially in ruins, cover an area from ten to fifteen miles in circumference. They are now generally broken and decayed; the waters which would fertilise a province are allowed to waste themselves in the sands, and hundreds of square miles capable of furnishing food for all the inhabitants of Ceylon are abandoned to solitude and malaria, whilst rice for the support of the non-agricultural population is annually imported from the opposite coast of India.

1: This peculiarity of the north of Ceylon was noticed by the Chinese traveller FA HIAN, who visited the island in the fourth century, and says of the country around Anarajapoora: "L'ensemencement des champs est suivant la volonté des gens; il n'y a point de temps pour cela."—Foĕ Kouĕ Ki; p. 332.

Talawas.—In these districts of the lowlands, especially on the eastern coast of the island, and in the country watered by the Mahawelli-ganga and the other great rivers which flow towards the Bay of Bengal and the magnificent estuary of Trincomalie, there are open glades which diversify the forest scenery somewhat resembling the grassy patenas in the hills, but differing from them in the character of their soil and vegetation. These park-like meadows, or, as the natives call them, "talawas," vary in extent from one to a thousand acres. They are belted by the surrounding woods, and studded with groups of timber and sometimes with single trees of majestic dimensions. Through these pastures the deer troop in herds within gunshot, bounding into the nearest cover when disturbed.

Lower still and immediately adjoining the sea-coast, the broken forest gives place to brushwood, with here and there an assemblage of dwarf shrubs; but as far as the eye can reach, there is one vast level of impenetrable jungle, broken only by the long sweep of salt marshes which form lakes in the rainy season, but are dry between the monsoons, and crusted with crystals that glitter like snow in the sunshine.

On the western side of the island the rivers have formed broad alluvial plains, in which the Dutch attempted to grow sugar. The experiment has been often resumed since; but even here the soil is so defective, that the cost of artificially enriching it has hitherto been a serious obstruction to success commercially, although in one or two instances, plantations on a small scale have succeeded to a certain extent.

METALS.—The plutonic rocks of Ceylon are but slightly metalliferous, and hitherto their veins and deposits have been but imperfectly examined. The first successful survey attempted by the Government was undertaken during the administration of Viscount Torrington, who, in 1847, commissioned Dr. Gygax to proceed to the hill district south of Adam's Peak, and furnish a report on its products. His investigations extended from Ratnapoora, in a south-eastward direction, to the mountains which overhang Bintenne, but the results obtained did not greatly enlarge the knowledge previously possessed. He established the existence of tin in the alluvium along the base of the mountains to the eastward towards Edelgashena; but so circumstanced, owing to the flow of the Walleway river, that, without lowering its level, the metal could not be extracted with advantage. The position in which it occurs is similar to that in which tin ore presents itself in Saxony; and along with it, the natives, when searching for gems, discover garnets, corundum, white topazes, zircon, and tourmaline.

Gold is found in minute particles at Gettyhedra, and in the beds of the Maha Oya and other rivers flowing towards the west.[1] But the quantity hitherto discovered has been too trivial to reward the search. The early inhabitants of the island were not ignorant of its presence; but its occurrence on a memorable occasion, as well as that of silver and copper, is recorded in the Mahawanso as a miraculous manifestation, which signalised the founding of one of the most renowned shrines at the ancient capital.[2]

1: Ruanwellé, a fort about forty miles distant from Colombo, derives its name from the sands of the river which flows below it,—rang-welle, "golden sand." "Rang-galla," in the central province, is referable to the same root—the rock of gold.

2: Mahawanso, ch. xxiii. p. 166, 167.

Nickel and cobalt appear in small quantities in Saffragam, and the latter, together with rutile (an oxide of titanium) and wolfram, might find a market in China for the colouring of porcelain.[1] Tellurium, another rare and valuable metal, hitherto found only in Transylvania and the Ural, has likewise been discovered in these mountains, Manganese is abundant, and Iron occurs in the form of magnetic iron ore, titanite, chromate, yellow hydrated, per-oxide and iron pyrites. In most of these, however, the metal is scanty, and the ores of little comparative value, except for the extraction of manganese and chrome. "But there is another description of iron ore," says Dr. Gygax, in his official report to the Ceylon Government, "which is found in vast abundance, brown and compact, generally in the state of carbonate, though still blended with a little chrome, and often molybdena. It occurs in large masses and veins, one of which extends for a distance of fifteen miles; from it millions of tons might be smelted, and when found adjacent to fuel and water-carriage, it might be worked to a profit. The quality of the iron ore found in Ceylon is singularly fine; it is easily smelted, and so pure when reduced as to resemble silver. The rough ore produces from thirty to seventy-five per cent., and on an average fully fifty. The iron wrought from it requires no puddling, and, converted into steel, it cuts like a diamond. The metal could be laid down in Colombo at £6 per ton, even supposing the ore to be brought thither for smelting, and prepared with English coal; but anthracite being found upon the spot, it could be used in the proportion of three to one of the British coal; and the cost correspondingly reduced."

1: The Asiatic Annual Register for 1799 contains the following:—

"Extract from a letter from Colombo, dated 26th Oct. 1798.

"A discovery has been lately made here of a very rich mine of quicksilver, about six miles from this place. The appearances are very promising, for a handful of the earth on the surface will, by being washed, produce the value of a rupee. A guard is set over it, and accounts sent express to the Madras Government."—P. 53. See also PERCIVAL'S Ceylon, p. 539.

JOINVILLE, in a MS, essay on The Geology of Ceylon, now in the library of the East India Company, says that near Trincomalie there is "un sable noir, composé de détriments de trappe et de cristaux de fer, dans lequel on trouve par le lavage beaucoup de mercure."

Remains of ancient furnaces are met with in all directions precisely similar to those still in use amongst the natives. The Singhalese obtain the ore they require without the trouble of mining; seeking a spot where the soil has been loosened by the latest rains, they break off a sufficient quantity, which, in less than three hours, they convert into iron by the simplest possible means. None of their furnaces are capable of smelting more than twenty pounds of ore, and yet this quantity yields from seven to ten pounds of good metal.

The anthracite alluded to by Dr. Gygax is found in the southern range of hills near Nambepane, in close proximity to rich veins of plumbago, which are largely worked in the same district, and the quantity of the latter annually exported from Ceylon exceeds a thousand tons. Molybdena is found in profusion dispersed through many rocks in Saffragam, and it occurs in the alluvium in grey scales, so nearly resembling plumbago as to be commonly mistaken for it. Kaolin, called by the natives Kirimattie, appears at Neuera-ellia at Hewahette, Kaduganawa, and in many of the higher ranges as well as in the low country near Colombo; its colour is so clear as to suit for the manufacture of porcelain[1]; but the difficulty and cost of carriage render it as yet unavailing for commerce, and the only use to which it has hitherto been applied is to serve for whitewash instead of lime.

1: The kaolin of Ceylon, according to an analysis in 1847, consists of—

Pure kaolin 70.0
Silica 26.0
Molybdena and iron oxide   4.0

In the Ming-she, or history of the Ming dynasty, A.D. 1368-1643, by Chan-ting-yuh, "pottery-stone" is; enumerated among the imports into China from Ceylon.—B. cccxxvi. p. 5.

Nitre has long been known to exist in Ceylon, where the localities in which it occurs are similar to those in Brazil. In Saffragam alone there are upwards of sixty caverns known to the natives, from which it may be extracted, and others exist in various parts of the island, where the abundance of wood to assist in its lixiviation would render that process easy and profitable. Yet so sparingly has this been hitherto attempted, that even for purposes of refrigeration, crude saltpetre is still imported from India.[1]

1: The mineralogy of Ceylon has hitherto undergone no scientific scrutiny, nor have its mineral productions been arranged in any systematic and comprehensive catalogue. Specimens are to be found in abundance in the hands of native dealers; but from indifference or caution they express their inability to afford adequate information as to their locality, their geological position, or even to show with sufficient certainty that they belong to the island. Dr. Gygax, as the results of some years spent in exploring different districts previous to 1847, was enabled to furnish a list of but thirty-seven species, the site of which he had determined by personal inspection. These were:—

1. Rock crystal Abundant.
2. Iron quartz Saffragam.
3. Common quartz Abundant.
4. Amethyst Galle Back, Caltura.
5. Garnet Abundant.
6. Cinnamon stone Belligam.
7. Harmotome St. Lucia, Colombo.
8. Hornblende Abundant.
9. Hypersthene Ditto.
10. Common corundum Badulla.
11. Ruby Ditto and Saffragam.
12. Chrysoberyl Ratganga, North Saffragam.
13. Pleonaste Badulla.
14. Zircon Wallawey-ganga, Saffragam.
15. Mica Abundant.
16. Adular Patna Hills, North-east.
17. Common felspar Abundant.
18. Green felspar Kandy.
19. Albite Melly Matté.
20. Chlorite Kandy.
21. Pinite Patna Hills.
22. Black tourmaline Neuera-ellia.
23. Calespar Abundant.
24. Bitterspar Ditto.
25. Apatite Galle Back.
26. Fluorspar Ditto.
27. Chiastolite Mount Lavinia.
28. Iron pyrites Peradenia.
29.   Magnetic iron pyrites   Ditto, Rajawelle.
30. Brown iron ore Abundant.
31. Spathose iron ore Galle Back.
32. Manganese Saffragam.
33. Molybden glance Abundant.
34. Tin ore Saffragam.
35. Arseniate of nickel Ditto.
36. Plumbago Morowa Corle.
37. Epistilbite St. Lucia.

GEMS.—But the chief interest which attaches to the mountains and rocks of this region, arises from the fact that they contain those mines of precious stones which from time immemorial have conferred renown on Ceylon. The ancients celebrated the gems as well as the pearls of "Taprobane;" the tales of mariners returning from their eastern expeditions supplied to the story-tellers of the Arabian Nights their fables of the jewels of "Serendib;" and the travellers of the Middle Ages, on returning to Europe, told of the "sapphires, topazes, amethysts, garnets, and other costly stones" of Ceylon, and of the ruby which belonged to the king of the island, "a span in length, without a flaw, and brilliant beyond description."[1]

1: Travels of MARCO POLO, a Venetian, in the Thirteenth Century, Lond. 1818.

The extent to which gems are still found is sufficient to account for the early traditions of their splendour and profusion; and fabulous as this story of the ruby of the Kandyan kings may be, the abundance of gems in Saffragam has given to the capital of the district the name of Ratnapoora, which means literally "the city of rubies."[1] They are not, however, confined to this quarter alone, but quantities are still found on the western plains between Adam's Peak and the sea, at Neuera-ellia, in Oovah, at Kandy, at Mattelle in the central province, and at Ruanwelli near Colombo, at Matura, and in the beds of the rivers eastwards towards the ancient Mahagam.

1: In the vicinity of Ratnapoora there are to be obtained masses of quartz of the most delicate rose colour. Some pieces, which were brought to me in Colombo, were of extraordinary beauty; and I have reason to believe that it can be obtained in pieces large enough to be used as slabs for tables, or formed into vases and columns, I may observe that similar pieces are to be found in the south of Ireland, near Cork.

But the localities which chiefly supply the Ceylon gems are the alluvial plains at the foot of the stupendous hills of Saffragam, in which the detritus of the rocks has been carried down and intercepted by the slight elevations that rise at some distance from the base of the mountains. The most remarkable of these gem-bearing deposits is in the flat country around Ballangodde, south-east of Ratnapoora; but almost every valley in communication with the rocks of the higher ranges contains stones of more or less value, and the beds of the rivers flowing southward from the mountain chain are so rich in comminuted fragments of rubies, sapphires, and garnets[1], that their sands in some places are used by lapidaries in polishing the softer stones, and in sawing the elephants' grinders into plates. The cook of a government officer at Galle recently brought to him a ruby about the size of a small pea, which he had taken from the crop of a fowl.

1: Mr. BAKER, in a work entitled The Rifle and the Hound in Ceylon, thus describes the sands of the Manic Ganga, near the ruins of Mahagam, in the south-eastern extremity of the island:—"The sand was composed of mica, quartz, sapphire, ruby, and jacinth; but the large proportion of ruby sand was so extraordinary that it seemed to rival Sinbad's story of the vale of gems. The whole of this was valueless, but the appearance of the sand was very inviting, as the shallow stream in rippling over it magnified the tiny gems into stones of some magnitude. I passed an hour in vainly searching for a ruby worth collecting, but the largest did not exceed the size of a mustard seed."—BAKER'S Rifle and Hound in Ceylon, p. 181.

Of late years considerable energy has been shown by those engaged in the search for gems; neglected districts have been explored, and new fields have been opened up at such places as Karangodde and Weraloopa, whence stones have been taken of unusual size and value.

It is not, however, in the recent strata of gravel, nor in those now in process of formation, that the natives search for gems. They penetrate these to the depth of from ten to twenty feet, in order to reach a lower deposit distinguished by the name of Nellan, in which the objects of their search are found. This is of so early a formation that it underlies the present beds of rivers, and is generally separated from them or from the superincumbent gravel by a hard crust (called Kadua), a few inches in thickness, and so consolidated as to have somewhat the appearance of laterite, or of sun-burnt brick. The nellan is for the most part horizontal, but occasionally it is raised into an incline as it approaches the base of the hills. It appears to have been deposited previous to the eruption of the basalt, on which in some places it reclines, and to have undergone some alteration from the contact. It consists of water-worn pebbles firmly imbedded in clay, and occasionally there occur large lumps of granite and gneiss, in the hollows under which, as well as in "pockets" in the clay (which from their shape the natives denominate "elephants' footsteps") gems are frequently found in groups as if washed in by the current.

The persons who devote themselves to this uncertain pursuit are chiefly Singhalese, and the season selected by them for "gemming" is between December and March, when the waters are low.[1] The poorer and least enterprising adventurers betake themselves to the beds of streams, but the most certain though the most costly course is to sink pits in the adjacent plains, which are consequently indented with such traces of recent explorers. The upper gravel is pierced, the covering crust is reached and broken through, and the nellan being shovelled into conical baskets and washed to free it from the sand, the residue is carefully searched for whatever rounded crystals and minute gems it may contain.

1: A very interesting account of Gems and Gem Searching, by Mr. WM. STEWART, appeared in the Colombo Observer for June, 1855.

It is strongly characteristic of the want of energy in the Singhalese, that although for centuries those alluvial plains and watercourses have been searched without ceasing, no attempt appears to have been made to explore the rocks themselves, in the debris of which the gems have been brought down by the rivers. Dr. Gygax says: "I found at Hima Pohura, on the south-eastern decline of the Pettigalle-Kanda, about the middle of the descent, a stratum of grey granite containing, with iron pyrites and molybdena, innumerable rubies from one-tenth to a fourth of an inch in diameter, and of a fine rose colour, but split and falling to powder. It is not an isolated bed of minerals, but a regular stratum extending probably to the same depth and distance as the other granite formations. I followed it as far as was practicable for close examination, but everywhere in the lower part of the valley I found it so decomposed that the hammer sunk in the rock, and even bamboos were growing on it. On the higher ground near some small round hills which intercept it, I found the rubies changed into brown corundum. Upon the hills themselves the trace was lost, and instead of a stratum there was merely a wild chaos of blocks of yellow granite. I carefully examined all the minerals which this stratum contains,—felspar, mica, and quartz molybdena, and iron pyrites,—and I found all similar to those I had previously got adhering to rough rubies offered for sale at Colombo. I firmly believe that in such strata the rubies of Ceylon are originally found, and that those in the white and blue clay at Ballangodde and Ratnapoora are but secondary deposits. I am further inclined to believe that these extend over the whole island, although often intercepted and changed in their direction by the rising of the yellow granite." It is highly probable that the finest rubies are to be found in them, perfect and unchanged by decomposition; and that they are to be obtained by opening a regular mine in the rock like the ruby mine of Badakshan in Bactria described by Sir Alexander Burnes. Dr. Gygax adds that having often received the minerals of this stratum with the crystals perfect, he has reason to believe that places are known to the natives where such mines might be opened with confidence of success.

Rubies both crystalline and amorphous are also found in a particular stratum of dolomite at Bullatotte and Badulla, in which there is a peculiar copper-coloured mica with metallic lustre. Star rubies, the "asteria" of Pliny (so called from their containing a movable six-rayed star), are to be had at Ratnapoora and for very trifling sums. The blue tinge which detracts from the value of the pure ruby, whose colour should resemble "pigeon's blood," is removed by the Singhalese, by enveloping the stone in the lime of a calcined shell and exposing it to a high heat. Spinel of extremely beautiful colours is found in the bed of the Mahawelli-ganga at Kandy, and from the locality it has obtained the name of Candite.

It is strange that although the sapphire is found in all this region in greater quantity than the ruby, it has never yet been discovered in the original matrix, and the small fragments which sometimes occur in dolomite show that there it is but a deposit. From its exquisite colour and the size in which it is commonly found, it forms by far the most valuable gem of the island. A piece which was dug out of the alluvium within a few miles of Ratnapoora in 1853, was purchased by a Moor at Colombo, in whose hands it was valued at upwards of four thousand pounds.

The original site of the oriental topaz is equally unknown with that of the sapphire. The Singhalese rightly believe them to be the same stone only differing in colour, and crystals are said to be obtained with one portion yellow and the other blue.

Garnets of inferior quality are common in the gneiss, but finer ones are found in the hornblende rocks.

Cinnamon-stone (which is properly a variety of garnet) is so extremely abundant, that vast rocks containing it in profusion exist in many places, especially in the alluvium around Matura; and at Belligam, a few miles east from Point-de-Galle, a vast detached rock is so largely composed of cinnamon-stones that it is carried off in lumps for the purpose of extracting and polishing them.

The Cat's-eye is one of the jewels of which the Singhalese are especially proud, from a belief that it is only found in their island; but in this I apprehend they are misinformed, as specimens of equal merit have been brought from Quilon and Cochin on the southern coast of Hindostan. The cat's-eye is a greenish translucent quartz, and when cut en cabochon it presents a moving internal reflection which is ascribed to the presence of filaments of asbestos. Its perfection is estimated by the natives in proportion to the narrowness and sharpness of the ray and the pure olive-tint of the ground over which it plays.

Amethysts are found in the gneiss, and some discoloured though beautiful specimens in syenite; they are too common to be highly esteemed. The "Matura Diamonds," which are largely used by the native jewellers, consist of zircon, found in the syenite not only uncoloured, but also of pink and yellow tints, the former passing for rubies.

But one of the prettiest though commonest gems in the island is the "Moon-stone," a variety of pearly adularia presenting chatoyant rays when simply polished. They are so abundant that the finest specimens may be bought for a few shillings. These, with aqua marina, a bad description of opal rock crystal in extremely large pieces, tourmaline, and a number of others of no great value, compose the list of native gems procurable in Ceylon.[1] Diamonds, emeralds, agates, carnelians, opal and turquoise, when they are exhibited by the natives, have all been imported from India.

1: Caswini and some of the Arabian geographers assert that the diamond is found at Adam's Peak; but this is improbable, as there is no formation resembling the cascalhao of Brazil or the diamond conglomerate of Golconda. If diamonds were offered for sale in Ceylon, in the time of the Arab navigators, they must have been brought thither from India, (Journ. As. Soc. Beng. xiii. 633.)

During the dynasty of the Kandyan sovereigns, the right of digging for gems was a royalty reserved jealously for the King; and the inhabitants of particular villages were employed in their search under the superintendence of hereditary officers, with the rank of "Mudianse." By the British Government the monopoly was early abolished as a source of revenue, and no license is now required by the jewel-hunters.

Great numbers of persons of the worst-regulated habits are constantly engaged in this exciting and precarious trade; and serious demoralisation is engendered amongst the villagers by the idle and dissolute adventurers who resort to Saffragam. Systematic industry suffers, and the cultivation of the land is frequently neglected whilst its owners are absorbed in these speculative and tantalising occupations.

The products of their searches are disposed of to the Moors, who resort to Saffragam from the low country, carrying up cloth and salt, to be exchanged for gems and coffee. At the annual Buddhist festival of the Pera-hara, a jewel-fair is held at Ratnapoora, to which the purchasers resort from all parts of Ceylon. Of late years, however, the condition of the people in Saffragam has so much improved that it has become difficult to obtain the finest jewels, the wealthier natives preferring to retain them as investments: they part with them reluctantly, and only for gold, which they find equally convenient for concealment.[1]

1: So eager is the appetite for hoarding in these hills, that eleven rupees (equal to twenty-two shillings) have frequently been given for a sovereign.

The lapidaries who cut and polish the stones are chiefly Moors, but their tools are so primitive, and their skill so deficient, that a gem generally loses in value by having passed through their hands. The inferior kinds, such as cinnamon-stones, garnets, and tourmaline, are polished by ordinary artists at Kandy, Matura, and Galle; but the more expert lapidaries, who cut rubies and sapphires, reside chiefly at Caltura and Colombo.

As a general rule, the rarer gems are less costly in Europe than in Colombo. In London and Paris the quantities brought from all parts of the world are sufficient to establish something like a market value; but, in Ceylon, the supply is so uncertain that the price is always regulated at the moment by the rank and wealth of the purchaser. Strange to say, too, there is often an unwillingness even amongst the Moorish dealers to sell the rarest and finest specimens; those who are wealthy being anxious to retain them, and few but stones of secondary value are offered for sale. Besides, the Rajahs and native Princes of India, amongst whom the passion for jewels is universal, are known to give such extravagant prices that the best are always sent to them from Ceylon.

From the Custom House returns it is impossible to form any calculation as to the value of the precious stones exported from the island. A portion only appears, even of those sent to England, the remainder being carried away by private parties. Of the total number found, one-fourth is probably purchased by the natives themselves, more than one-half is sent to the Continent of India, and the remainder represents the export to Europe. Computed in this way, the quantity of precious stones found in the island may be estimated at 10,000l. per annum.

RIVERS.—From the mountainous configuration of the country and the abundance of the rains, the rivers are large and numerous in the south of the island—ten of considerable magnitude flowing into the sea on the west coast, between Point-de-Galle and Manaar, and a still greater number, though inferior in volume, on the east. In the low country, where the heat is intense and evaporation proportionate, they derive little of their supply from springs; and the passing showers which fall scarcely more than replace the moisture drawn by the sun from the parched and thirsty soil.

Hence in the plains there are comparatively few rivulets or running streams; the rivers there flow in almost solitary lines to the sea; and the beds of their minor affluents serve only to conduct to them the torrents which descend at the change of each monsoon, their channels at other times being exhausted and dry. But in their course through the hills, and the broken ground at their base, they are supplied by numerous feeders, which convey to them the frequent showers that fall in high altitudes. Hence their tracks are through some of the noblest scenery in the world; rushing through ravines and glens, and falling over precipitous rocks in the depths of wooded valleys, they exhibit a succession of rapids, cataracts, and torrents, unsurpassed in magnificence and beauty. On reaching the plains, the boldness of their march and the graceful outline of their sweep are indicative of the little obstruction opposed by the sandy and porous soil through which they flow. Throughout their entire course dense forests shade their banks, and, as they approach the sea, tamarisks and over-arching mangroves mark where their waters mingle with the tide.

Of all the Ceylon rivers, the most important by far is the Mahawelli-ganga—the Ganges of Ptolemy—which, rising in the south near Adam's Peak, traverses more than one-third of the mountain zone[1], drains upwards of four thousand square miles, and flows into the sea by a number of branches, near the noble harbour of Trincomalie. The following table gives a comparative view of the magnitude of the rivers that rise in the hills, and of the extent of the low country traversed by each of them:—

Embouchure. Square Miles drained in Mountain Zone. Square Miles drained in the low Country, about Length of Course of the main Stream.
Mahawelii-ganga near Trincomalie 1782 2300 134
Kirinde at Mahagan 34 300 62
Wellawey near Hambangtotte 263 500 69
Neivalle at Matura 64 200 42
(Three Rivers) near Tangalle 56 200
Gindura near Galle 180 200 59
Kalu-oya at Caltura 841 300 72
Kalany Colombo 692 200 84
The Kaymel or Mahaoya near Negombo 253 200 68
Dederoo-oya near Chilaw 38 700 70
4212 5100

1: See ante, p. 12, for a definition of what constitutes the "mountain zone" of Ceylon.

In addition to these, there are a number of large rivers which belong entirely to the plains in the northern and south-eastern portions of the island, the principal of which are the Arive and the Moderegam, which flow into the Gulf of Manaar; the Kala-oya and the Kanda-lady, which empty themselves into the Bay of Calpentyn; the Maniek or Kattragam, and the Koombookgam, opposite to the Little Bass rocks and the Naveloor, the Chadawak, and Arookgam, south of Batticaloa. The extent of country drained by these latter streams is little short of thirteen thousand square miles.

Very few of the rivers of Ceylon are navigable, and these only by canoes and flat-bottomed paddy boats, which ascend some of the largest for short distances, till impeded by the rapids, occasioned by rocks in the lowest range of the hills. In this way the Niwalle at Matura can be ascended for about fifteen miles, as far as Wellehara; the Kalu-ganga can be traversed from Caltura to Ratnapoora; the Bentotte river for sixteen miles to Pittagalla; and the Kalany from Colombo to the foot of the mountains near Ambogammoa. The Mahawelli-ganga is navigable from Trincomalie to within a short distance of Kanda[1]; and many of the lesser streams, the Kirinde and Wellawey in the south, and the Kaymel, the Dedroo-oya, and the Aripo river on the west of the island, are used for short distances by boats.

1: For an account of the capabilities of the Mahawelli-ganga, as regards navigation, see BROOKE'S Report, Roy. Geog. Journ. vol. iii. p. 223. and post, Vol. II. p. 423.

All these streams are liable, during the fury of the monsoons, to be surcharged with rain till they overflow their banks, and spread in wide inundations over the level country. On the subsidence of these waters, the intense heat of the sun acting on the surface they leave deserted, produces a noxious and fatal malaria. Hence the rivers of Ceylon present the curious anomaly, that whilst the tanks and reservoirs of the interior diffuse a healthful coolness around, the running water of the rivers is prolific of fevers; and in some seasons so deadly is the pestilence that the Malabar coolies, as well as the native peasantry, betake themselves to precipitate flight.[1]

1: It has been remarked along the Mahawelli-ganga, a few miles from Kandy, that during the deadly season, after the subsidence of the rains, the jungle fever generally attacks one face of the hills through which it winds, leading the opposite side entirely exempted, as if the poisonous vapour, being carried by the current of air, affected only those aspects against which it directly impinged.

Few of the larger rivers have been bridged, except those which intersect the great high roads from Point-de-Galle to Colombo, and thence to Kandy. Near the sea this has been effected by timber platforms, sustained by piles sufficiently strong to withstand the force of the floods at the change of each monsoon. A bridge of boats connects each side of the Kalany, and on reaching the Mahawelli-ganga at Peradenia, one of the most picturesque structures on the island is a noble bridge of a single arch, 205 feet in span, chiefly constructed of satin-wood, and thrown across the river by General Fraser in 1832.

On reaching the margin of the sea, an appearance is presented by the outline of the coast, near the embouchures of the principal rivers, which is very remarkable. It is common to both sides of the island, though it has attained its greatest development on the east. In order to comprehend its formation, it is necessary to observe that Ceylon lies in the course of the ocean currents in the Bay of Bengal, which run north or south according to the prevalence of the monsoon, and with greater or less velocity in proportion to its force at particular periods.

Ocean current in the northeast monsoon.


In the beginning and during the strength of the northeast monsoon the current sets strongly along the coast of Coromandel to the southward, a portion of it frequently entering Palks Bay to the north of Ceylon; but the main stream keeping invariably to the east of the island, runs with a velocity of from one and a half to two miles an hour, and after passing the Great Bass, it keeps its course seaward. At other times, after the monsoon has spent its violence, the current is weak, and follows the line of the land to the westward as far as Point-de-Galle, or even to Colombo.

Ocean current in the southwest monsoon.


In the south-west monsoon the current changes its direction; and, although it flows steadily to the northward, its action is very irregular and unequal till it readies the Coromandel coast, after passing Ceylon. This is accounted for by the obstruction opposed by the headlands of Ceylon, which so intercept the stream that the current, which might otherwise set into the Gulf of Manaar, takes a south-easterly direction by Galle and Donedra Head.[1]

1: For an account of the currents of Ceylon, see HORSBURGH's Directions for Sailing to and from the East Indies, &c.; vol i. p. 516, 536, 580; KEITH JOHNSTON's Physical Atlas, plate xiii. p. 50.

There being no lakes in Ceylon[1], in the still waters of which the rivers might clear themselves of the earthy matter swept along in their rapid course from the hills, they arrive at the beach laden with sand and alluvium, and at their junction with the ocean being met transversely by the gulf-streams, the sand and soil with which they are laden, instead of being carried out to sea, are heaped up in bars along the shores, and these, being augmented by similar deposits held in suspension by the currents, soon extend to north, and south, and force the rivers to flow behind them in search of a new outlet.

1: Pliny alludes to a lake in Ceylon of vast dimensions, but it is clear that his informants must have spoken of one of the huge tanks for the purpose of irrigation. Some of the Mappe-mondes of the Middle Ages place a lake in the middle of the island, with a city inhabited by astrologers; but they have merely reproduced the error of earlier geographers. (SANTAREM, Cosmog. tom. iii. p. 336.)

These formations once commenced, their growth proceeds with rapidity, more especially on the east side of the island; as the southern current in skirting the Coromandel coast brings with it quantities of sand, which it deposits, in tranquil weather, and this being carried by the wind is piled in heaps from Point Pedro to Hambangtotte. Hence at the latter point hills are formed of such height and dimensions, that it is often necessary to remove buildings out of their line of encroachment.[1]

1: This is occasioned by the waste of the banks further north during the violence of the N. E. monsoon; and the sand, being carried south by the current, is intercepted by the headland at Hambangtotte and thrown up these hills as described.

Gobbs on the East Coast


At the mouths of the rivers the bars thus created generally follow the direction of the current, and the material deposited being dried and partially consolidated in the intervals between the tides, long embankments are gradually raised, behind which the rivers flow for considerable distances before entering the sea. Occasionally these embouchures become closed by the accumulations without, and the pent-up water assumes the appearance of a still canal, more or less broad according to the level of the beach, and extending for miles along the coast, between the mainland and the new formations. But when swollen by the rains, if not assisted by artificial outlets to escape, they burst new openings for themselves, and not unfrequently they leave their ancient channels converted into shallow lagoons without any visible exit. Examples of these formations present themselves on the east side of Ceylon at Nilla-velle, Batticaloa, and a number of other places north and south of Trincomalie.

On the west coast embankments of this kind, although frequent are less conspicuous than on the east, owing chiefly to the comparative weakness of the current. For six months in the year during the north-east monsoon that side of the island is exempt from a current in any direction, and for the remaining six, the current from the south not only rarely affects the Gulf of Manaar, but as it flows out of the Indian Ocean it brings no earthy deposits. In addition to this, the surf during the south-west monsoon rolls with such turbulence on the level beach between Colombo and Point-de-Galle, as in a great degree to disperse the accumulations of sand brought down by the rivers, or heaped up by the tide, when the wind is off the land. Still, many of the rivers are thrown back by embankments, and after forming tortuous lakes flow for a long distance parallel to the shore, before finding an escape for their waters. Examples of this occur at Pantura, to the south of Colombo, and at Negombo, Chilaw, and elsewhere to the north of it.

Gobbs on the West Coast


In process of time these banks of sand[1] become covered with vegetation; herbaceous plants, shrubs, and finally trees peculiar to saline soils make their appearance in succession, and as these decay, their decomposition generates a sufficiency of soil to sustain continued vegetation.

1: In the voyages of The Two Mahometans, the unique MS. of which dates about A.D. 851, and is now in the Bibliothèque Royale at Paris, Abon-zeyd, one of its authors, describes the "Gobbs" of Ceylon—a word, he says, by which the natives designate the valleys deep and broad which open to the sea. "En face de cette íle y a de vastes Gobb, mot par lequel on désigne une vallée, quand elle est à la fois longue et large, et qu'elle débouche dans la mer. Les navigateurs emploient, pour traverser le gobb appelé 'Gobb de Serendib,' deux mois et même davantage, passant à travers des bois et des jardins, au milieu d'une température moyenne."—REINAUD, Voyages faits par les Arabes, vol. i. p. 129.

A misapprehension of this passage has been admitted into the English version of the Voyages of the two Mahometans which is published in PINKERTON'S Collections of Voyages and Travels, vol. iii.; the translator having treated gobb as a term applicable to valleys in general. "Ceylon," he says, "contains valleys of great length, which extend to the sea, and here travellers repair for two months or more, in which one is called Gobb Serendib, allured by the beauty of the scenery, chequered with groves and plains, water and meadows, and blessed by a balmy air. The valley opens to the sea, and is transcendently pleasant."—PINKERTON'S Voyages, vol. vii. p. 218.

But a passage in Edrisi, while it agrees with the terms of Abou-zeyd, explains at the same time that these gobbs were not valleys converted into gardens, to which the seamen resorted for pleasure to spend two or three months, but the embouchures of rivers flowing between banks, covered with gardens and forests, into which mariners were accustomed to conduct their vessels for more secure navigation, and in which they were subjected to detention for the period stated. The passage is as follows in Jaubert's translation of Edrisi, tom. i. p. 73:—"Cette île (Serendib) depend des terres de l'Inde; ainsi que les vallées (in orig. aghbab) par lesquelles se dechargent les rivières, et qu'on nomme 'Vallées de Serendib.' Les navires y mouillent, et les navigateurs y passent un mois ou deux dans l'abondance et dans les plaisirs."

It is observable that Ptolemy, in enumerating the ports and harbours of Ceylon, maintains a distinction between the ordinary bays, [Greek: kolpos], of which he specifies two corresponding to those of Colombo and Trincomalie, and the shallower indentations, [Greek: limên], of which he enumerates five, the positions of which go far to identify them with the remarkable estuaries or gobbs, on the eastern and western coast between Batticaloa and Calpentyn.

To the present day these latter gulfs are navigable for small craft. On the eastern side of the island one of them forms the harbour of Batticaloa, and on the western those of Chilaw and Negombo are bays of this class. Through the latter a continuous navigation has been completed by means of short connecting canals, and a traffic is maintained during the south-west monsoon, from Caltura to the north of Chilaw, a distance of upwards of eighty miles, by means of craft which navigate these shallow channels.

These narrow passages conform in every particular to the description given by Abou-zeyd and Edrisi: they run through a succession of woods and gardens; and as a leading wind is indispensable for their navigation, the period named by the Arabian geographers for their passage is perhaps not excessive during calms or adverse winds.

An article on the meaning of the word gobb will be found in the Journal Asiatique for September, 1844; but it does not exhibit clearly the very peculiar features of these openings. It is contained in an extract from the work on India of ALBYROUNI, a contemporary of Avicenna, who was born in the valley of the Indus.—"Un golfe (gobb) est comme une encoignure et un détour que fait la mer en pénétrant dans le continens: les navires n'y sont pas sans péril particulièrement à l'égard du flux et reflux."—Extrait de l'ouvrage d' ALBYROUNI sur l'Inde; Fragmens Arabes et Persans, relatifs à l'Inde, recueillés par M. REINAUD; Journ. Asiat., Septembre et Octobre, 1844, p. 261. In the Turkish nautical work of SIDI ALI CHELEBI, the Mohit, written about A.D. 1550, which contains directions for sailors navigating the eastern seas, the author alludes to the gobbha's on the coast of Arracan; and conscious that the term was local not likely to be understood beyond those countries, he adds that "gobbha" means "a gulf full of shallows, shoals, and breakers." See translation by VON HAMMER, Journ. Asiat. Soc. Beng. v. 466.

The process of this conversion may be seen in all its stages at various points along the coast of Ceylon.

The margin of land nearest to the water is first taken possession of by a series of littoral plants, which apparently require a large quantity of salt to sustain their vegetation. These at times are intermixed with others, which, though found further inland, yet flourish in perfection on the shore. On the northern and north-western coasts the glass worts[1] and salt worts[2] are the first to appear on the newly raised banks, and being provided with penetrating roots, a breakwater is thus early secured, and the drier sand above becomes occupied with creeping plants which in their turn afford shelter to a third and erect class.

1: Salicornia Indica.

2: Salsola Indica.

The Goat's-foot Ipomoea[1], which appears to encircle the world, abounds on these shores, covering the surface to the water's edge with its procumbent branches, which sending down roots from every joint serve to give the bank its first firmness, whilst the profusion of its purple-coloured flowers contrasts strikingly with its dark green foliage.

1: Ipomoea pes-capræ

Along with the Ipomoea grow two species of beans[1] each endowed with a peculiar facility for reproduction, thus consolidating the sands into which they strike; and the moodu-gaeta-kola[2] (literally the "jointed seashore plant,") with pink flowers and thick succulent leaves.

1: The Mooduawara (Canavalia obtusifolia), whose flowers have the fragrance of the sweet pea, and Dolichos luteus.

2: Hydrophylax maritima.

Another plant which performs an important function in the fertilisation of these arid formations, is the Spinifex squarrosus, the "water pink," as it is sometimes called by Europeans. The seeds of this plant are contained in a circular head, composed of a series of spine-like divisions, which radiate from the stalk in all directions, making the diameter of the whole about eight to nine inches. When the seeds are mature, and ready for dispersion, these heads become detached from the plant, and are carried by the wind with great velocity along the sands, over the surface of which they are impelled on their elastic spines. One of these balls may be followed by the eye for miles as it hurries along the level shore, dropping its seeds as it rolls, which speedily germinate and strike root where they fall. The globular heads are so buoyant as to float lightly on the water, and the uppermost spines acting as sails, they are thus carried across narrow estuaries to continue the process of embanking on newly-formed sand bars. Such an organisation irresistibly suggests the wonderful means ordained by Providence to spread this valuable plant along the barren beach to which no seed-devouring bird ever resorts; and even the unobservant natives, struck by its singular utility in resisting the encroachments of the sea, have recorded their admiration by conferring on it the name of Maha-Rawana roewula,—"the great beard of Rawana or Rama."

The banks being thus ingeniously protected from the action of the air above, and of the water at their base, other herbaceous plants soon cover them in quick succession, and give the entire surface the first aspect of vegetation. A little retired above high water are to be found a species of Aristolochia[1], the Sayan[2], or Choya, the roots of which are the Indian Madder (in which, under the Dutch Government, some tribes in the Wanny paid their tribute); the gorgeous Gloriosa superba, the beautiful Vistnu-karandi[3] with its profusion of blue flowers, which remind one of the English "Forget-me-not," and the thickly-matted verdure of the Hiramana-doetta[4], so well adapted for imparting consistency to the soil. In the next stage low shrubs make their appearance, their seeds being drifted by the waves and wind, and taking ready root wherever they happen to rest. The foremost of these are the Scævolas[5] and Screw Pines[6], which grow luxuriantly within the actual wash of the tide, while behind them rises a dense growth of peculiar plants, each distinguished by the Singhalese by the prefix of "Moodu," to indicate its partiality for the sea.[7]

1: Aristolocia bracteata. On the sands to the north of Ceylon there is also the A. Indica, which forms the food of the great red and white butterfly (Papilio Hector).

2: Hedyotis umbellata. A very curious account of the Dutch policy In relation to Choya dye will be found in a paper On the Vegetable Productions of Ceylon, by W.C. ONDAATJIE, in the Ceylon Calendar for 1853. See also BERTOLACCI, B. iii. p. 270.

3: Evolvulus alsinoides.

4: Lippia nodiflora.

5: Scævola takkada and S. Koenigii

6: Pandanus odoratissimus.

7: Moodu-kaduru (Ochrosia parviflora); Moodu-cobbe (Ornitrophe serrata); Moodu-murunga (Sophora tomentosa,) &c. &c. Amongst these marine shrubs the Nil-picha (Guettarda speciosca), with its white and delightfully fragrant flowers, is a conspicuous object on some parts of the sea-shore between Colombo and Point-de-Galle.

Where the sand in the lagoons and estuaries is more or less mingled with the alluvium brought down by the rivers, there are plants of another class which are equally characteristic. Amongst these the Mangroves[1] take the first place in respect to their mass of vegetation; then follow the Belli-patta[2] and Suriya-gaha[3], with their large hibiscus-like flowers; the Tamarisks[4]; the Acanthus[5], with its beautiful blue petals and holly-like leaves; the Water Coco-nut[6]; the Ægiceras and Hernandia[7], with its sonorous fruits; while the dry sands above are taken possession of by the Acacias, Salvadora Persica (the true mustard-tree of Scripture[8], which, here attains a height of forty feet), Ixoras, and the numerous family of Cassias.

1: Two species of Rhizophora, two of Bruguiera, and one of Ceriops.

2: Paritimn tilliaceum.

3: Thespesia populnea.

4: Tamarix Indica.

5: Dilivaria ilicifolia.

6: Nipa fruticans.

7: Hernandia sonora.

8: The identification of this tree with the mustard-tree alluded to by our Saviour is an interesting fact. The Greek term [Greek: sinapis], which occurs Matt. xiii 31, and elsewhere, is the name given to mustard; for which the Arabic equivalent is chardul or khardal, and the Syriac khardalo. The same name is applied at the present day to a tree which grows freely in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, and generally throughout Palestine; the seeds of which, have an aromatic pungency, which enables them to be used instead of the ordinary mustard (Sinapis nigra); besides which, its structure presents all the essentials to sustain the illustration sought to be established in the parable, some of which are wanting or dubious in the common plant, It has a very small seed; it may be sown in a garden: it grows into an "herb," and eventually "becometh a tree; so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof." With every allowance for the extremest development attainable by culture, it must be felt that the dimensions of the domestic sinapis scarcely justify the last illustration; besides which it is an annual, and cannot possibly be classed as a "tree." The khardal grows abundantly in Syria: it was found in Egypt by Sir Gardner Wilkinson; in Arabia by Bové; on the Indus by Sir Alexander Burnes; and throughout the north-west of India it bears the name of kharjal. Combining all these facts, Dr. Royle, in an erudite paper, has shown demonstrative reasons for believing that the Salvadora Persica, the "kharjal" of Hindostan, is the "khardal" of Arabia, the "chardul" of the Talmud, and the "mustard-tree" of the parable.

Lastly, after a sufficiency of earth has been formed by the decay of frequent successions of their less important predecessors, the ground becomes covered by trees of ampler magnitude, most of which are found upon the adjacent shores of the mainland—the Margoza[1], from whose seed the natives express a valuable oil; the Timbiri[2], with the glutinous nuts with which the fishermen "bark" their nets; the Cashu-nut[3]; the Palu[4], one of the most valuable timber trees of the Northern Provinces; and the Wood-apple[5], whose fruit is regarded by the Singhalese as a specific for dysentery.

1: Azadirachta Indica.

2: Diospyros glutinosa.

3: Anacardium occidentale.

4: Mimusopa hexandra.

5: Ægle marmelos.

But the most important fact connected with these recently formed portions of land, is their extraordinary suitability for the growth of the coco-nut, which requires the sea-air (and in Ceylon at least appears never to attain its full luxuriance when removed to any considerable distance from it)[1], and which, at the same time, requires a light and sandy soil, and the constant presence of water in large quantities. All these essentials are combined in the sea-belts here described, lying as they do between the ocean on the one side and the fresh-water lakes formed by the great rivers on the other, thus presenting every requisite of soil and surface. It is along a sand formation of this description, about forty miles long and from one to three miles broad, that thriving coco-nut plantations have been recently commenced at Batticaloa. At Calpentyn, on the western coast, a like formation has been taken advantage of for the same purpose. At Jaffna somewhat similar peculiarities of soil and locality have been seized on for this promising cultivation; and, generally, along the whole seaborde of Ceylon to the south and west, the shore for the breadth of one or two miles exhibits almost continuous groves of coco-nut palms.

1: Coco-nuts are cultivated at moderate elevations in the mountain villages of the Interior; but the fruit bears no comparison, in number, size, or weight, with that produced in the lowlands, and near the sea, on either side of the island.

Harbours.—With the exception of the estuaries above alluded to, chiefly in the northern section of the island, the outline of the coast is interrupted by few sinuosities. There are no extensive inlets, or bays, and only two harbours—that of Point-de-Galle which, in addition to being incommodious and small, is obstructed by coral rocks, reefs of which have been upreared to the surface, and render the entrance critical to strange ships[1]; and the magnificent basin of Trincomalie, which, in extent, security, and beauty, is unsurpassed by any haven in the world.

1: Owing to the obstructions at its entrance, Galle is extremely difficult of access in particular winds. In 1857 it was announced in the Colombo Examiner that "the fine ship the 'Black Eagle' was blown out of Galle Roads the other day, with the pilot on board; whilst the captain was temporarily engaged on shore; and as she was not able to beat in again, she made for Trincomalie, where she has been lying for a fortnight. Such an event is by no means unprecedented at Galle."—Examiner, 20 Sept. 1857.

Tides.—The variation of the tides is so slight that navigation is almost unaffected by it. The ordinary rise and fall is from 18 to 24 inches, with an increase of about a third at spring tides. High water is later on the eastern than on the western coast; occurring, on full and new moon, a little after eleven o'clock at Adam's Bridge, about 1 o'clock at Colombo, and 1.25 at Galle, whilst it attains its greatest elevation between 5 and 6 o'clock in the harbour of Trincomalie.

Red infusoria.—On both sides of the island (but most frequently at Colombo), during the south-west monsoon, a broad expanse of the sea assumes a red tinge, considerably brighter than brick-dust; and this is confined to a space so distinct that a line seems to separate it from the green water which flows on either side. Observing that the whole area changed its position without parting with any portion of its colouring, I had some of the water brought on shore, and, on examination with the microscope, it proved to be filled with infusoria, probably similar to those which have been noticed near the shores of South America, and whose abundance has imparted a name to the "Vermilion Sea" off the coast of California.

THE POPULATION OF CEYLON, of all races, was, in 1857, 1,697,975; but this was exclusive of the military and their families, both Europeans and Malays, which together amounted to 5,430; and also of aliens and other casual strangers, forming about 25,000 more.

The particulars are as follow:—

Provinces Whites. Coloured. Total. Population to the sq. mile.
Males. Females. Males. Females. Males. Females.
Western. 1,293 1,246 293,409 259,106 294,702 260,352 146.59
N. Western 21 11 100,807 96,386 100,828 96,397 59.93
Southern 238 241 156,900 149,649 157,138 149,890 143.72
Eastern 201 143 39,923 35,531 40,124 35,674 16.08
Northern 387 362 153,062 148,678 153,449 149,040 55.85
Central 468 204 143,472 116,237 143,940 116,441 52.57
2,608 2,207 887,573 805,587 890,181 807,794 69.73



The climate of Ceylon, from its physical configuration and insular detachment, contrasts favourably with that of the great Indian peninsula. Owing to the moderate dimensions of the island, the elevation of its mountains, the very short space during which the sun is passing over it[1] in his regression from or approach to the solstices, and its surrounding seas being nearly uniform in temperature, it is exempt from the extremes of heating and cooling to which the neighbouring continent of India is exposed. From the same causes it is subjected more uniformly to the genial influences of the trade winds that blow over the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal.

1: In his approach to the northern solstice, the sun, having passed the equator on the 21st of March, reaches the south of Ceylon about the 5th of April, and ten days later is vertical over Point Pedro, the northern extremity of the island. On his return he is again over Point Pedro about the 27th of August, and passes southward over Dondera Head about the 7th of September.

The island is seldom visited by hurricanes[1], or swept by typhoons, and the breeze, unlike the hot and arid winds of Coromandel and the Dekkan, is always more or less refreshing. The range of the thermometer exhibits no violent changes, and never indicates a temperature insupportably high. The mean on an annual average scarcely exceeds 80° at Colombo, though in exceptional years it has risen to 86°. But at no period of the day are dangerous results to be apprehended from exposure to the sun; and except during parts of the months of March, and April, there is no season when moderate exercise is not practicable and agreeable. For half the year, from October to May, the prevailing winds are from the north-east, and during the remaining months the south-west monsoon blows steadily from the great Indian Ocean. The former, affected by the wintry chills of the vast tracts of land which it traverses before crossing the Bay of Bengal, is subject to many local variations and intervals of calm. But the latter, after the first violence of its outset is abated, becomes nearly uniform throughout the period of its prevalence, and presents the character of an on-shore breeze extending over a prodigious expanse of sea and land, and exerting a powerful influence along the regions of southern Asia.

1: The exception to the exemption of Ceylon from hurricanes is the occasional occurrence of a cyclone extending its circle till the verge has sometimes touched Batticaloa, on the south-eastern extremity of the island, causing damage to vegetation and buildings. Such an event is, however, exceedingly rare. On the 7th of January, 1805, H.M.S. "Sheerness" and two others were driven on shore in a hurricane at Trincomalie.

In Ceylon the proverbial fickleness of the winds, and the uncertainty which characterises the seasons in northern climates, is comparatively unknown; and the occurrence of changes or rain may be anticipated with considerable accuracy in any month of a coming year. There are, of course, abnormal seasons with higher ranges of temperature, heavier rains, or droughts of longer continuance, but such extremes are exceptional and rare. Great atmospheric changes occur only at two opposite periods of the year, and so gradual is their approach that the climate is monotonous, and one longs to see again "the falling of the leaf" to diversify the sameness of perennial verdure. The line is faint which divides the seasons. No period of the year is divested of its seed-time and its harvest in some part of the island; and fruit hangs ripe on the same branches that are garlanded with opening buds. But as every plant has its own period for the production of its flowers and fruit, each month is characterised by its own peculiar flora.

As regards the foliage of the trees, it might be expected that the variety of tints would be wanting which forms the charm of a European landscape, and that all nature would wear one mantle of unchanging green. But it has been remarked by a tasteful observer[1] that such is far from the fact, and though in Ceylon there is no revolution of seasons, the change of leaf on the same plant exhibits colours as bright as those which tinge the autumnal woods of America. It is not the decaying leaves, but the fresh shoots, which exhibit these brightened colours, the older are still vividly green, whilst the young are bursting forth; and the extremities of the branches present tufts of pale yellow, pink, crimson, and purple, which give them at a distance the appearance of a cluster of flowers.[2]

1: Prof. Harvey, Trin. Coll. Dublin.

2: Some few trees, such as the margosa (Azadirachta Indica), the country almond (Terminalia catappa), and others, are deciduous, and part with their leaves. The cinnamon shoots forth in all shades from bright yellow to dark crimson. The maella (Olax Zeylanica) has always a copper colour; and the ironwood trees of the interior have a perfect blaze of young crimson leaves, as brilliant as flowers. The lovi-lovi (Flacourtia inermis) has the same peculiarity; while the large bracts of the mussænda (Mussænda frondosa) attract the notice of Europeans for their angular whiteness.

A notice of the variations exhibited by the weather at Colombo may serve as an index to the atmospheric condition of the rest of the island, except in those portions (such as the mountains of the interior, and the low plains of the northern extremity) which exhibit modifications of temperature and moisture incident to local peculiarities.

Wind N.E.
Temperature, 24 hours:
  Mean greatest    85.6º
  Mean least       69.2º
Rain (inches)       3.1

January.—At the opening of the year, the north-east monsoon, which sets in two months previously, is nearly in mid career. This wind, issuing from the chill north and robbed of its aqueous vapour in passing over the elevated mountain regions on the confines of China and Thibet, sweeps across the Bay of Bengal, whence its lowest strata imbibe a quantity of moisture, moderate in amount, yet still leaving the great mass of air far below saturation. Hence it reaches Ceylon comparatively dry, and its general effects are parching and disagreeable. This character is increased as the sun recedes towards its most southern declination, and the wind acquires a more direct draught from the north; passing over the Indian peninsula and almost totally digested of humidity, it blows down the western coast of the island, and is known there by the name of the "along-shore-wind." For a time its influence is uncomfortable and its effects injurious both to health and vegetation: it warps and rends furniture, dries up the surface of the earth, and withers the delicate verdure which had sprung up during the prevalence of the previous rains. These characteristics, however, subside towards the end of the month, when the wind becomes somewhat variable with a westerly tendency and occasional showers; and the heat of the day is then partially compensated by the greater freshness of the nights. The fall of rain within the month scarcely exceeds three inches.

Wind N.E.
Temperature, 24 hours:
  Mean greatest    89°
  Mean least       71°
Rain (inches)     2.1

February is dry and hot during the day, but the nights are cloudless and cool, and the moonlight singularly agreeable. Rain is rare, and when it occurs it falls in dashes, succeeded by damp and sultry calms. The wind is unsteady and shifts from north-east to north-west, sometimes failing entirely between noon and twilight. The quantity of rain is less than in January, and the difference of temperature between day and night is frequently as great as 15° or 20°.[1]

1: Dr. MACVICAR, in a paper in the Ceylon Miscellany, July, 1843, recorded the results of some experiments, made near Colombo, as to the daily variation of temperature and Its effects on cultivation, from which it appeared that a register thermometer, exposed on a tuft of grass in the cinnamon garden in a clear night and under the open sky, on the 2nd of January, 1841, showed in the morning that it had been so low as 52°, and when laid on the ground in the place in the sunshine on the following day, it rose to upwards of 140° Fahr.

Wind N.E. to N.W.
Temperature, 24 hours:
  Mean greatest    87.7°
  Mean least       73.1°
Rain (inches)       2.1

March.—In March the heat continues to increase, the earth receiving more warmth than it radiates or parts with by evaporation. The day becomes oppressive, the nights unrefreshing, the grass is withered and brown, the earth hard and cleft, the lakes shrunk to shallows, and the rivers evaporated to dryness. Europeans now escape from the low country, and betake themselves to the shade of the forests adjoining the coffee-plantations in the hills; or to the still higher sanatarium of Neuera-ellia, nearly the loftiest plateau in the mountains of the Kandyan range. The winds, when any are perceptible, are faint and unsteady with a still increasing westerly tendency, partial showers sometimes fall, and thunder begins to mutter towards sunset. At the close of the month, the mean temperature will be found to have advanced about a degree, but the sensible temperature and the force of the sun's rays are felt in a still more perceptible proportion.

Wind N.W. to S.W.
Temperature, 24 hours:
  Mean greatest    88.7°
  Mean least       73.6°
Rain (inches)       7.4

April is by far the most oppressive portion of the year for those who remain at the sea-level of the island. The temperature continues to rise as the sun in his northern progress passes vertically over the island. A mirage fills the hollows with mimic water; the heat in close apartments becomes extreme, and every living creature flies to the shade from the suffocating glare of mid-day. At length the sea exhibits symptoms of an approaching change, a ground swell sets in from the west, and the breeze towards sunset brings clouds and grateful showers. At the end of the month the mean temperature attains its greatest height during the year, being about 83° in the day, and 10° lower at night.

Wind N.W. to S.W.
Temperature, 24 hours:
  Mean greatest    87.2°
  Mean least       72.9°
Rain (inches)      13.3

May is signalised by the great event of the change of the monsoon, and all the grand phenomena which accompany its approach.

It is difficult for any one who has not resided in the tropics to comprehend the feeling of enjoyment which accompanies these periodical commotions of the atmosphere; in Europe they would be fraught with annoyance, but in Ceylon they are welcomed with a relish proportionate to the monotony they dispel.

Long before the wished-for period arrives, the verdure produced by the previous rains becomes almost obliterated by the burning droughts of March and April. The deciduous trees shed their foliage, the plants cease to put forth fresh leaves, and all vegetable life languishes under the unwholesome heat. The grass withers on the baked and cloven earth, and red dust settles on the branches and thirsty brushwood. The insects, deprived of their accustomed food, disappear underground or hide beneath the decaying bark; the water-beetles bury themselves in the hardened mud of the pools, and the helices retire into the crevices of the stones or the hollows amongst the roots of the trees, closing the apertures of their shells with the hybernating epiphragm. Butterflies are no longer seen hovering over the flowers, the birds appear fewer and less joyous, and the wild animals and crocodiles, driven by the drought from their accustomed retreats, wander through the jungle, and even venture to approach the village wells in search of water. Man equally languishes under the general exhaustion, ordinary exertion becomes distasteful, and the native Singhalese, although inured to the climate, move with lassitude and reluctance.

Meanwhile the air becomes loaded to saturation with aqueous vapour drawn up by the augmented force of evaporation acting vigorously over land and sea: the sky, instead of its brilliant blue, assumes the sullen tint of lead, and not a breath disturbs the motionless rest of the clouds that hang on the lower range of hills. At length, generally about the middle of the month, but frequently earlier, the sultry suspense is broken by the arrival of the wished-for change. The sun has by this time nearly attained his greatest northern declination, and created a torrid heat throughout the lands of southern Asia and the peninsula of India. The air, lightened by its high temperature and such watery vapour as it may contain, rises into loftier regions and is replaced by indraughts from the neighbouring sea, and thus a tendency is gradually given to the formation of a current bringing up from the south the warm humid air of the equator. The wind, therefore, which reaches Ceylon comes laden with moisture, taken up in its passage across the great Indian Ocean. As the monsoon draws near, the days become more overcast and hot, banks of clouds rise over the ocean to the west, and in the peculiar twilight the eye is attracted by the unusual whiteness of the sea-birds that sweep along the strand to seize the objects flung on shore by the rising surf.

At last the sudden lightnings flash among the hills and sheet through the clouds that overhang the sea[1], and with a crash of thunder the monsoon bursts over the thirsty land, not in showers or partial torrents, but in a wide deluge, that in the course of a few hours overtops the river banks and spreads in inundations over every level plain.

1: The lightnings of Ceylon are so remarkable, that in the middle ages they were as well known to the Arabian seamen, who coasted the island on their way to China, as in later times the storms that infested the Cape of Good Hope were familiar to early navigators of Portugal. In the Mohit of SIDI ALI CHELEBI, translated by Von Hammer, it is stated that to seamen, sailing from Diu to Malacca, "the sign of Ceylon being near is continual lightning, be it accompanied by rain or without rain; so that 'the lightning of Ceylon' is proverbial for a liar!"—Journ. Asiat. Soc. Beng. v. 465.

All the phenomena of this explosion are stupendous: thunder, as we are accustomed to be awed by it in Europe, affords but the faintest idea of its overpowering grandeur in Ceylon, and its sublimity is infinitely increased as it is faintly heard from the shore, resounding through night and darkness over the gloomy sea. The lightning, when it touches the earth where it is covered with the descending torrent, flashes into it and disappears instantaneously; but, when it strikes a drier surface, in seeking better conductors, it often opens a hollow like that formed by the explosion of a shell, and frequently leaves behind it traces of vitrification.[1] In Ceylon, however, occurrences of this kind are rare, and accidents are seldom recorded from lightning, probably owing to the profusion of trees, and especially of coco-nut palms, which, when drenched with rain, intercept the discharge, and conduct the electric matter to the earth. The rain at these periods excites the astonishment of a European: it descends in almost continuous streams, so close and so dense that the level ground, unable to absorb it sufficiently fast, is covered with one uniform sheet of water, and down the sides of acclivities it rushes in a volume that wears channels in the surface.[2] For hours together, the noise of the torrent, as it beats upon the trees and bursts upon the roofs, flowing thence in rivulets along the ground, occasions an uproar that drowns the ordinary voice, and renders sleep impossible.

1: See DARWIN'S Naturalist's Voyage, ch. iii. for an account of those vitrified siliceous tubes which are formed by lightning entering loose sand. During a thunderstorm which passed over Galle, on the 16th May, 1854, the fortifications were shaken by lightning, and an extraordinary cavity was opened behind the retaining wall of the rampart, where a hole, a yard in diameter, was carried into the ground to the depth of twenty feet, and two chambers, each six feet in length, branched out on either side at its extremity.

2: One morning on awaking at Pusilawa, in the hills between Kandy and Neuera-ellia, I was taken to see the effect of a few hours' rain, during the night, on a macadamised road which I had passed the evening before. There was no symptom of a storm at sunset, and the morning was bright and cloudless; but between midnight and dawn such an inundation had swept the highway that in many places the metal had been washed over the face of the acclivity; and in one spot where a sudden bend forced the torrent to impinge against the bank, it had scooped out an excavation extending to the centre of the high road, thirteen feet in diameter, and deep enough to hold a carriage and horses.

This violence, however, seldom lasts more than an hour or two, and gradually abates after intermittent paroxysms, and a serenely clear sky supervenes. For some days, heavy showers continue to fall at intervals in the forenoon; and the evenings which follow are embellished by sunsets of the most gorgeous splendour, lighting the fragments of clouds that survive the recent storm.

Wind S.W.
Temperature, 24 hours:
 Mean greatest   85.8°
 Mean least      74.4°
Rain (inches)     6.8

June.—The extreme heat of the previous month becomes modified in June: the winds continue steadily to blow from the south-west, and frequent showers, accompanied by lightning and thunder, serve still further to diffuse coolness throughout the atmosphere and verdure over the earth.

So instantaneous is the response of Nature to the influence of returning moisture, that, in a single day, and almost between sunset and dawn, the green hue of reviving vegetation begins to tint the saturated ground. In ponds, from which but a week before the wind blew clouds of sandy dust, the peasantry are now to be seen catching the re-animated fish; and tank-shells and water-beetles revive and wander over the submerged sedges. The electricity of the air stimulates the vegetation of the trees; and scarce a week will elapse till the plants are covered with the larvæ of butterflies, the forest murmuring with the hum of insects, and the air harmonious with the voice of birds.

The extent to which the temperature is reduced, after the first burst of the monsoon, is not to be appreciated by the indications of the thermometer alone, but is rendered still more sensible by the altered density of the air, the drier state of which is favourable to evaporation, whilst the increase of its movement bringing it more rapidly in contact with the human body, heat is more readily carried off, and the coolness of the surface proportionally increased. It occasionally happens during the month of June that the westerly wind acquires considerable strength, sometimes amounting to a moderate gale. The fishermen, at this period, seldom put to sea: their canoes are drawn far up in lines upon the shore, and vessels riding in the roads of Colombo are often driven from their anchorage and stranded on the beach.

Wind S.W.
Temperature, 24 hours:
  Mean greatest    84.8º
  Mean least       74.9º
Rain (inches)       3.4

July resembles, to a great extent, the month which precedes it, except that, in all particulars the season is more moderate, showers are less frequent, there is less wind, and less absolute heat.

Wind S.W.
Temperature, 24 hours:
  Mean greatest     84.9°
  Mean least        74.7°
  Rain (inches)      2.8

August.—In August the weather is charming, notwithstanding withstanding a slight increase of heat, owing to diminished evaporation; and the sun being now on its return to the equator, its power is felt in greater force on full exposure to its influence.

Wind S.W.
Temperature, 24 hours:
  Mean greatest     84.9º
  Mean least        74.8º
Rain (inches)        5.2

September.—The same atmospheric condition continues throughout September, but towards its close the sea-breeze becomes unsteady and clouds begin to collect, symptomatic of the approaching change to the north-east monsoon. The nights are always clear and delightfully cool. Rain is sometimes abundant.

Wind S.W. and N.E.
Temperature, 24 hours:
  Mean greatest     85.1º
  Mean least        73.3º
Rain (inches)       11.2

October is more unsettled, the wind veering towards the north, with pretty frequent rain; and as the sun is now far to the southward, the heat continues to decline.

Wind N.E.
Temperature, 24 hours:
  Mean greatest     86.3º
  Mean least        71.5º
Rain (inches)       10.7

November sees the close of the south-west monsoon and the arrival of the north-eastern. In the early part of the month the wind visits nearly every point of the compass, but shows a marked predilection for the north, generally veering from N.E. at night and early morning, to N.W. at noon; calms are frequent and precede gentle showers, and clouds form round the lower range of hills. By degrees as the sun advances in its southern declination, and warms the lower half of the great African continent, the current of heated air ascending from the equatorial belt leaves a comparative vacuum, towards which the less rarefied atmospheric fluid is drawn down from the regions north, of the tropic, bringing with it the cold and dry winds from the Himalayan Alps, and the lofty ranges of Assam. The great change is heralded as before by oppressive calms, lurid skies, vivid lightning, bursts of thunder, and tumultuous rain. But at this change of the monsoon the atmospheric disturbance is less striking than in May; the previous temperature is lower, the moisture of the air is more reduced, and the change is less agreeably perceptible from the southern breeze to the dry and parching wind from the north.

Wind N.E.
Temperature 24 hours:
  Mean greatest    85°
  Mean least       70°
Rain (inches)      4.3

December.—In December the sun attains to its greatest southern declination, and the wind setting steadily from the northeast brings with it light but frequent rains from Bay Of Bengal. The thermometer shows a maximum temperature of 85° with a minimum of 70°; the morning and the afternoon are again enjoyable in the open air, but at night every lattice that faces the north is cautiously closed against the treacherous "along-shore-wind."

Notwithstanding the violence and volume in which the rains have been here described as descending during the paroxysms of the monsoons, the total rain-fall in Ceylon is considerably less than on the continent of Throughout Hindustan the annual mean is 117.5 and on some parts on the Malabar coast, upwards of 300 inches have fallen in a single year[1]; whereas the in Ceylon rarely exceeds 80, and the highest registered in an exceptional season was 120 inches.

1: At Mahabaleshwar, in the Western Ghauts, the annual mean is 254 inches, and at Uttray Mullay; in Malabar, 263; whilst at Bengal it is 209 inches at Sylhet; and 610.3 at Cherraponga.

The distribution is of course unequal, both as to time and localities, and in those districts where the fall is most considerable, the number of rainless days is the greatest.[1] An idea may be formed of the deluge that descends in Colombo during the change of the monsoon, from the fact that out of 72.4 inches, the annual average there, no less than 20.7 inches fall in April and May, and 21.9 in October and November, a quantity one-third greater than the total rain in England throughout an entire year.

1: The average number of days on which rain fell at Colombo in the years 1832, 1833, 1834, and 1835, was as follows:—

In January 3
February    4
March 6
April 11
May 13
June 13
July 8
August 10
September 14
October 17
November 11
December 8
Total 118

In one important particular the phenomenon, of the Dekkan affords an analogy for that which presents itself in Ceylon. During the south-west monsoon the clouds are driven against the lofty chain of mountains that overhang the western shore of the peninsula, and their condensed vapour descends there in copious showers. The winds, thus early robbed of their moisture, carry but little rain to the plains of the interior, and whilst Malabar is saturated by daily showers, the sky of Coromandel is clear and serene. In the north-east monsoon a condition the very opposite exists; the wind that then prevails is much drier, and the hills which it encounters being of lower altitude, the rains are carried further towards the interior, and whilst the weather is unsettled and stormy on the eastern shore, the western is comparatively exempt, and enjoys a calm and cloudless sky.[1]

1: The mean of rain is, on the western side of the Dekkan, 80 inches, and on the eastern, 52.8.

In like manner the west coast of Ceylon presents a contrast with the east, both in the volume of rain in each of the respective monsoons, and in the influence which the same monsoon exerts simultaneously on the one side of the island and on the other. The greatest quantity of rain falls on the south-western portion, in the month of May, when the wind from the Indian Ocean is intercepted, and its moisture condensed by the lofty mountain ranges, surrounding Adam's Peak. The region principally affected by it stretches from Point-de-Galle, as far north as Putlam, and eastward till it includes the greater portion of the ancient Kandyan kingdom. But the rains do not reach the opposite side of the island; whilst the west coast is deluged, the east is sometimes exhausted with dryness; and it not unfrequently happens that different aspects of the same mountain present at the same moment the opposite extremes of drought and moisture.[1]

1: ADMIRAL FITZROY has described, in his Narrative of the Voyages of the Adventure and Beagle, the striking degree in which this simultaneous dissimilarity of climate is exhibited on opposite sides of the Galapagos Islands; one aspect exposed to the south being covered with verdure and freshened with moisture, whilst all others are barren and parched.—Vol. ii. p. 502-3. The same state of things exists in the east and west sides of the Peruvian Andes, and in the mountains of Patagonia. And no more remarkable example of it exists than in the island of Socotra, east of the Straits of Bab el Mandeb, the west coast of which, during the north-east monsoon, is destitute of rain and verdure, whilst the eastern side is enriched by streams and covered by luxuriant pasturage.—Journ. Asiat. Soc. Beng. vol. iv. p. 141.



One maximum at the spring change of the monsoon anticipating a little that on the West coast of India; another at the autumnal change corresponding more exactly with that of the East coast. The entire fall through the year more equably distributed at Columbo.

On the east coast, on the other hand, the fall, during the north-east monsoon, is very similar in degree to that on the coast of Coromandel, as the mountains are lower and more remote from the sea, the clouds are carried farther inland and it rains simultaneously on both sides of the island, though much less on the west than during the other monsoon.

The climate of Galle, as already stated, resembles in its general characteristics that of Colombo, but, being further to the south, and more equally exposed to the influence of both the monsoons, the temperature is not quite so high; and, during the cold season, it falls some degrees lower, especially in the evening and early morning.[1]

1: At Point-de-Galle, in 1854, the number of rainy days was as follows:

January 12
February 7
March 16
April 12
May 23
June 18
July 11
August 21
September 16
October 20
November     15
December 13

Kandy, from its position, shares in the climate of the western coast; but, from the frequency of the mountain showers, and its situation, at an elevation of upwards of sixteen hundred feet above the level of the sea, it enjoys a much cooler temperature. It differs from the low country in one particular, which is very striking—the early period of the day at which the maximum heat is attained. This at Colombo is generally between two and three o'clock in the afternoon, whereas at Kandy the thermometer shows the highest temperature of the day between ten and eleven o'clock in the morning.

In the low country, ingenuity has devised so many expedients for defence from the excessive heat of the forenoon, that the languor it induces is chiefly experienced after sunset, and the coolness of the night is insufficient to compensate for the exhaustion of the day; but, in Kandy, the nights are so cool that it is seldom that warm covering can be altogether dispensed with. In the colder months, the daily range of the thermometer is considerable—approaching 30°; in the others, it differs little from 15°. The average mean, however, of each month throughout the year is nearly identical, deviating only a degree from 76°, the mean annual temperature.[1]

1: The following Table appeared in the Colombo Observer, and is valuable from the care taken by Mr. Caley in its preparation;

Analysis of the Climate at Peradenia, from 1851 to 1858 inclusive.

Months. Temperature. Rainfall. Remarks.
Max. Min. Mean. Average of Years In. Average of Years
January 85.0 52.5 74.06 6 4.04 6 Fine, sunny, heavy dew at night, hot days, and cold nights and mornings.
February 87.75 55.0 75.76 7 1.625 6 Fine, sunny, dewy nights, foggy mornings, days hot, nights and mornings cold.
March 89.5 59.5 77.42 7 3.669 6 Generally a very hot and oppressive month.
April 89.5 67.5 77.91 7 7.759 6 Showery, sultry, and oppressive weather.
May 88.0 66.0 77.7 8 8.022 6 Cloudy, windy, rainy; monsoon generally changes.
June 86.0 71.0 76.69 8 7.155 6 A very wet and stormy month.
July 86.0 67.0 75.64 8 5.72 6 Ditto    ditto
August 85.5 67.0 75.81 8 8.55 6 Showery, but sometimes more moderate, variable
September 85.5 67.0 76.13 8 6.318 6 Pretty dry weather, compared with the next two months.
October 85.73 68.2 75.1 8 15.46 6 Wind variable, much rain.
November 84.0 62.0 74.79 8 14.732 6 Wind variable, storms from all points of compass, wet; monsoon generally changes.
December 82.75 57.0 74.05 7 7.72 5 Sometimes wet, but generally more moderate; towards end of year like January weather.
Mean yearly Temperature,75.92º Mean yearly Rainfall, 91.75 in. nearly. Nov. 29, 1858 J.A. CALEY.

In all the mountain valleys, the soil being warmer than the air, vapour abounds in the early morning for the most part of the year. It greatly adds to the chilliness of travelling before dawn; but, generally speaking, it is not wetting, as it is charged with the same electricity as the surface of the earth and the human body. When seen from the heights, it is a singular object, as it lies compact and white as snow in the hollows beneath, but it is soon put in motion by the morning currents, and wafted in the direction of the coast, where it is dissipated by the sunbeams.

Snow is unknown in Ceylon; Hail occasionally falls in the Kandyan hills at the change of the monsoon,[1] but more frequently during that from the north-east. As observed at Kornegalle, the clouds, after collecting as usual for a few evenings, and gradually becoming more dense, advanced in a wedge-like form, with a well-defined outline. The first fall of rain was preceded by a downward blast of cold air, accompanied by hailstones which outstripped the rain in their descent. Rain and hail then poured down together, and, eventually, the latter only spread its deluge far and wide, In 1852, the hail which thus fell at Kornegalle was of such a size that half-a-dozen lumps filled a tumbler, In shape, they were oval and compressed, but the mass appeared to have formed an hexagonal pyramid, the base of which was two inches in diameter, and about half-an-inch thick, gradually thinning towards the edge. They were tolerably solid internally, each containing about the size of a pea of clear ice at the centre, but the sides and angles were spongy and flocculent, as if the particles had been driven together by the force of the wind, and had coalesced at the instant of contact. A phenomenon so striking as the fall of ice, at the moment of the most intense atmospherical heat, naturally attracts the wonder of the natives, who hasten to collect the pieces, and preserve them, when dissolved, in bottles, from a belief in their medicinal properties. Mr. Morris, who has repeatedly observed hailstones in the Seven Korles, is under the impression that their occurrence always happens at the first outburst of the monsoon, and that they fall at the moment, which is marked by the first flash of lightning.

1: It is stated in the Physical Atlas of KEITH JOHNSTON, that hail in India has not been noticed south of Madras. But in Ceylon it has fallen very recently at Korngalle, at Badulla, at Kaduganawa; and I have heard of a hail storm at Jaffna. On 1 the 24th of Sept. 1857, during a thunder-storm, hail fell near Matelle in such quantity that in places it formed drifts upwards of a foot in depth.

According to Professor Stevelly, of Belfast, the rationale of their appearance on such occasions seems to be that, on the sudden formation and descent of the first drops, the air expanding and rushing into the void spaces, robs the succeeding drops of their caloric so effectually as to send them to the earth frozen into ice-balls.

These descriptions, it will be observed, apply exclusively to the southern regions on the east and west of Ceylon; and, in many particulars, they are inapplicable to the northern portions of the island. At Trincomalie, the climate bears a general resemblance to that of the Indian peninsula south of Madras: showers are frequent, but light, and the rain throughout the year does not exceed forty inches. With moist winds and plentiful dew, this sustains a vigorous vegetation near the coast; but in the interior it would be insufficient for the culture of grain, were not the water husbanded in tanks; and, for this reason, the bulk of the population are settled along the banks of the great rivers.

The temperature of this part of Ceylon follows the course of the sun, and ranges from a minimum of 70° in December and January, to a maximum of 94° in May and June; but the heat is rendered tolerable at all seasons by the steadiness of the land and sea breezes.[1]

1: The following facts regarding the climate of Trincomalie have been, arranged from elaborate returns furnished by Mr. Higgs, the master-attendant of the port, and published under the authority of the meteorological department of the Board of Trade:—

1854 Mean Maximum Temperature Mean Minimum Temperature Extreme Range for the Month Highest Temperature Noted Days of Rain
Jan. 81.3° 74.7° 14° 83 10
Feb. 83.8 75.8 14 86 7
Mar. 85.9 76.1 16 88 3
April 89.6 78.9 16 92 3
May 89.1 79.3 19 93 3
June 90.0 79.5 19 94 3
July 87.7 77.7 16 90 5
Aug. 87.9 77.4 16 91 4
Sept. 89.3 77.8 18 93 2
Oct. 85.2 75.8 15 89 14
Nov. 81.0 74.9 11 83 15
Dec. 80.1 74.3 11 82 15
Mean temperature for the year 81.4.

In the extreme north of the island, the peninsula of Jaffna, and the vast plains of Neura-kalawa and the Wanny, form a third climatic division, which, from the geological structure and peculiar configuration of the district, differs essentially from the rest of Ceylon. This region, which is destitute of mountains, is undulating in a very slight degree; the dry and parching north-east wind desiccates the soil in its passage, and the sandy plains are covered with a low and scanty vegetation, chiefly fed by the night dews and whatever moisture is brought by the on-shore wind. The total rain of the year does not exceed thirty inches; and the inhabitants live in frequent apprehension of droughts and famines. These conditions attain their utmost manifestation at the extreme north and in the Jaffna peninsula: there the temperature is the highest[1] in the island, and, owing to the humidity of the situation and the total absence of hills, it is but little affected by the changes of the monsoons; and the thermometer keeps a regulated pace with the progress of the sun to and from the solstices. The soil, except in particular spots, is porous and sandy, formed from the detritus of the coral rocks which it overlays. It is subject to droughts sometimes of a whole year's continuance; and rain, when it falls, is so speedily absorbed, that it renders but slight service to cultivation, which is entirely carried on by means of tanks and artificial irrigation, in the practice of which the Tamil population of this district exhibits singular perseverance and ingenuity.[2] In the dry season, when scarcely any verdure is discernible above ground, the sheep and goats feed on their knees—scraping away the sand, in order to reach the wiry and succulent roots of the grasses. From the constancy of this practice horny callosities are produced, by which these hardy creatures may be distinguished.

1: The mean lowest temperature at Jaffna is 70º, the mean highest 90º; but in 1845-6 the thermometer rose to 90º and 100º.

2: For an account of the Jaffna wells, and the theory of their supply with fresh water, see ch. i. p. 21.

Water-spouts are frequent on the coast of Ceylon, owing to the different temperature of the currents of air passing across the heated earth and the cooler sea, but instances are very rare of their bursting over land, or of accidents in consequence.[1]

1: CAMOENS, who had opportunities of observing the phenomena of these seas during his service on board the fleet of Cabral, off the coast of Malabar and Ceylon, has introduced into the Lusiad the episode of a water-spout in the Indian Ocean; but, under the belief that the water which descends had been previously drawn up by suction from the ocean, he exclaims:—

"But say, ye sages, who can weigh the cause,

And trace the secret springs of Nature's laws;

Say why the wave, of bitter brine erewhile,

Should be the bosom of the deep recoil,

Robbed of its salt, and from the cloud distil,

Sweet as the waters of the limpid rill?"

(Book v.)

But the truth appears to be that the torrent which descends from a water-spout, is but the condensed accumulation of its own vapour, and, though in the hollow of the lower cone which rests upon the surface of the sea, salt water may possibly ascend in the partial vacuum caused by revolution; or spray may be caught up and collected by the wind, still these cannot be raised by it beyond a very limited height, and what Camoens saw descend was, as he truly says, the sweet water distilled from the cloud.

A curious phenomenon, to which the name of "anthelia" has been given, and which may probably have suggested to the early painters the idea of the glory surrounding the heads of beatified saints, is to be seen in singular beauty, at early morning, in Ceylon. When the light is intense, and the shadows proportionally dark—when the sun is near the horizon, and the shadow of a person walking is thrown on the dewy grass—each particle of dew furnishes a double reflection from its concave and convex surfaces; and to the spectator his own figure, but more particularly the head, appears surrounded by a halo as vivid as if radiated from diamonds.[1] The Buddhists may possibly have taken from this beautiful object their idea of the agni or emblem of the sun, with which the head of Buddha is surmounted. But unable to express a halo in sculpture, they concentrated it into a flame.

1: SCORESBY describes the occurrence of a similar phenomenon in the Arctic Seas in July, 1813, the luminous circle being produced on the particles of fog which rested on the calm water. "The lower part of the circle descended beneath my feet to the side of the ship, and although it could not be a hundred feet from the eye, it was perfect, and the colours distinct. The centre of the coloured circle was distinguished by my own shadow, the head of which, enveloped by a halo, was most conspicuously pourtrayed. The halo or glory evidently impressed on the fog, but the figure appeared to be a shadow on the water; the different parts became obscure in proportion to their remoteness from the head, so that the lower extremities were not perceptible."—Account of the Arctic Regions, vol. i. ch. v. sec. vi. p. 394. A similar phenomenon occurs in the Khasia Hills, in the north-east of Bengal.—Asiat. Soc. Journ. Beng. vol. xiii. p. 616.



Another luminous phenomenon which sometimes appears in the hill country, consists of beams of light, which intersect the sky, whilst the sun is yet in the ascendant; sometimes horizontally, accompanied by intermitting movements, and sometimes vertically, a broad belt of the blue sky interposing between them.[1]

1: VIGNE mentions an appearance of this kind in the valley of Kashmir: "Whilst the rest of the horizon was glowing golden over the mountain tops, a broad well-defined ray-shaped streak of indigo was shooting upwards in the zenith: it remained nearly stationary about an hour, and was then blended into the sky around it, and disappeared with the day. It was, no doubt, owing to the presence of some particular mountains which intercepted the red rays, and threw a blue shadow, by causing so much of the sky above Kashmir to remain unaffected by them."—Travels in Kashmir, vol. ii. ch. x. p. 115.

In Ceylon this is doubtless owing to the air holding in suspension a large quantity of vapour, which receives shadows and reflects rays of light. The natives, who designate them "Buddha's rays," attach a superstitious dread to their appearance, and believe them to be portentous of misfortune—in every month, with the exception of May, which, for some unexplained reason, is exempted.

HEALTH.—In connection with the subject of "Climate," one of the most important inquiries is the probable effect on the health and constitution of a European produced by a prolonged exposure to an unvarying temperature, upwards of 30 degrees higher than the average of Great Britain. But to this the most tranquillising reply is the assurance that mere heat, even to a degree beyond that of Ceylon, is not unhealthy in itself. Aden, enclosed in a crater of an extinct volcano, is not considered insalubrious; and the hot season in India, when the thermometer stands at 100° at midnight, is comparatively a healthy period of the year. In fact, in numerous cases heat may be the means of removing the immediate sources of disease. Its first perceptible effect is a slight increase, of the normal bodily temperature beyond 98°, and, simultaneously, an increased activity of all the vital functions. To this everything contributes an exciting sympathy—the glad surprise of the natural scenery, the luxury of verdure, the tempting novelty of fruits and food, and all the unaccustomed attractions of a tropical home. Under these combined influences the nervous sensibility is considerably excited, and the circulation acquires greater velocity, with somewhat diminished force. This is soon followed, however, by the disagreeable evidences of the effort made by the system to accommodate itself to the new atmospheric condition. The skin often becomes fretted by "prickly heat," or tormented by a profusion of boils, but relief being speedily obtained through these resources, the new comer is seldom afterwards annoyed by a recurrence of the process, unless under circumstances of impaired tone, the result of weakened digestion or climatic derangement.

Malaria.—Compared with Bengal and the Dekkan, the climate of Ceylon presents a striking superiority in mildness and exemption from all the extremes of atmospheric disturbance; and, except in particular localities, all of which are well known and avoided[1], from being liable after the rains to malaria, or infested at particular seasons with agues and fever, a lengthened residence in the island may be contemplated, without the slightest apprehension of prejudicial results. These pestilential localities are chiefly at the foot of mountains, and, strange to say, in the vicinity of some active rivers, whilst the vast level plains, whose stagnant waters are made available for the cultivation of rice, are seldom or never productive of disease. It is even believed that the deadly air is deprived of its poison in passing over an expanse of still water; and one of the most remarkable circumstances is, that the points fronting the aerial currents are those exposed to danger, whilst projecting cliffs, belts of forest, and even moderately high walls, serve to protect all behind them from attack.[2] In traversing districts suspected of malaria, experience has dictated certain precautions, which, with ordinary prudence and firmness, serve to neutralise the risk—retiring punctually at sunset, generous diet, moderate stimulants, and the daily use of quinine both before and after exposure. These, and the precaution, at whatever sacrifice of comfort, to sleep under mosquito curtains, have been proved in long journeys to be valuable prophylactics against fever and the pestilence of the jungle.

1: Notwithstanding this general condition, fevers of a very serious kind have been occasionally known to attack persons on the coast, who had never exposed themselves to the miasma of the jungle. Such instances have occurred at Galle, and more rarely at Colombo. The characteristics of places in this regard have, in some instances, changed unaccountably; thus at Persadenia, close to Kandy, it was at one time regarded as dangerous to sleep.

2: Generally speaking, a flat open country is healthy, either when flooded deeply by rains, or when dried to hardness by the sun; but in the process of dessication, its exhalations are perilous. The wooded slopes at the base of mountains are notorious for fevers; such as the terrai of the Nepal hills, the Wynaad jungle, at the foot of the Ghauts, and the eastern side of the mountains of Ceylon.

Food.—Always bearing in mind that of the quantity of food habitually taken in a temperate climate, a certain proportion is consumed to sustain the animal heat, it is obvious that in the glow of the tropics, where the heat is already in excess, this portion of the ingesta not only becomes superfluous so far as this office is concerned, but occasions disturbance of the other functions both of digestion and elimination. Over-indulgence in food, equally with intemperance in wine, is one fruitful source of disease amongst Europeans in Ceylon; and maladies and mortality are often the result of the former, in patients who would repel as an insult the imputation of the latter.

So well have national habits conformed to instinctive promptings in this regard, that the natives of hot countries have unconsciously sought to heighten the enjoyment of food by taking their principal repast after sunset[1]; and the European in the East will speedily discover for himself the prudence, not only of reducing the quantity, but in regard to the quality of his meals, of adopting those articles which nature has bountifully supplied as best suited to the climate. With a moderate use of flesh meat, vegetables, and especially farinaceous food, are chiefly to be commended.

1: The prohibition of swine, which has formed an item in the dietetic ritual of the Egyptians, the Hebrews, and Mahometans, has been defended in all ages, from Manetho and Herodotus downwards, on the ground that the flesh of an animal so foully fed has a tendency to promote cutaneous disorders, a belief which, though held as a fallacy in northern climates, may have a truthful basis in the East.—ÆLIAN, Hist. Anim. 1. X. 16. In a recent general order Lord Clyde has prohibited its use in the Indian army. Camel's flesh, which is also declared unclean in Leviticus, is said to produce in the Arabs serious derangement of the stomach.

The latter is rendered attractive by the unrivalled excellence of the Singhalese in the preparation of innumerable curries[1], each tempered by the delicate creamy juice expressed from the flesh of the coco-nut after it has been reduced to a pulp. Nothing of the same class in India can bear a comparison with the piquant delicacy of a curry in Ceylon, composed of fresh condiments and compounded by the skilful hand of a native.

1: The popular error of thinking curry to be an invention of the Portuguese in India is disproved by the mention in the Rajavali of its use in Ceylon in the second century before the Christian era, and in the Mahawanso in the fifth century of it. This subject is mentioned elsewhere: see chapter on the Arts and Sciences of the Singhalese.

The use of fruit—Fruits are abundant and wholesome; but with the exception of oranges, pineapples, the luscious mango and the indescribable "rambutan," for want of horticultural attention they are inferior in flavour, and soon cease to be alluring.

Wine.—Wine has of late years become accessible to all, and has thus, in some degree, been substituted for brandy; the abuse of which at former periods is commemorated in the records of those fearful disorders of the liver, derangements of the brain, exhausting fevers, and visceral diseases, which characterise the medical annals of earlier times. With a firm adherence to temperance in the enjoyment of stimulants, and moderation in the pleasures of the table, with attention to exercise and frequent resort to the bath, it may be confidently asserted that health in Ceylon is as capable of preservation and life as susceptible of enjoyment, as in any country within the tropics.

Exposure.—Prudence and foresight are, however, as indispensable there as in any other climate to escape well-understood risks. Catarrhs and rheumatism are as likely to follow needless exposure to the withering "along-shore wind" of the winter months in Ceylon[1], as they are traceable to unwisely confronting the east winds of March in Great Britain; and during the alternation, from the sluggish heat which precedes the monsoon, to the moist and chill vapours that follow the descent of the rains, intestinal disorders, fevers, and liver complaints are not more characteristic of an Indian monsoon than an English autumn, and are equally amenable to those precautions by which liability may be diminished in either place.

1: See ante, p. 57. It is an agreeable characteristic of the climate of Ceylon, that sun-stroke, which is so common even in the northern portions of India, is almost unknown in the island. Sportsmen are out all day long in the hottest weather, a practice which would be thought more than hazardous in Oude or the north-west provinces. Perhaps an explanation of this may be found in the difference in moisture in the two atmospheres, which may modify the degrees of evaporation; but the inquiry is a curious one. It is becoming better understood in the army that active service, and even a moderate exposure to the solar rays (always guarding them from the head,) are conducive rather than injurious to health in the tropics. The pale and sallow complexion of ladies and children born in India, is ascribable in a certain degree to the same process by which vegetables are blanched under shades which exclude the light:—they are reared in apartments too carefully kept dark.

Paleness.—At the same time it must be observed, that the pallid complexion peculiar to old residents, is not alone ascribable to an organic change in the skin from its being the medium of perpetual exudation, but in part to a deficiency of red globules in the blood, and mainly to a reduced vigour in the whole muscular apparatus, including the action of the heart, which imperfectly compensates by increased rapidity for diminution of power. It is remarkable how suddenly this sallowness disappears, and is succeeded by the warm tints of health, after a visit of a very few days to the plains of Neuera-ellia, or the picturesque coffee plantations in the hills that surround it.

Ladies.—Ladies, from their more regular and moderate habits, and their avoidance of exposure, might be expected to withstand the climate better than men; and to a certain extent the anticipation appears to be correct, but it by no means justifies the assumption of general immunity. Though less obnoxious to specific disease, debility and delicacy are the frequent results of habitual seclusion and avoidance of the solar light. These, added to more obvious causes of occasional illness, suggest the necessity of vigorous exertion and regular exercise as indispensable protectives.

If suitably clothed, and not injudiciously fed, children may remain in the island till eight or ten years of age, when anxiety is excited by the attenuation of the frame and the apparent absence of strength in proportion to development. These symptoms, the result of relaxed tone and defective nutrition, are to be remedied by change of climate either to the more lofty ranges of the mountains, or, more providently, to Europe.

Effects on Europeans already Diseased.—To persons already suffering from disease, the experiment of a residence in Ceylon is one of questionable propriety. Those of a scrofulous diathesis need not consider it hazardous, as experience does not show that in such there is any greater susceptibility to local or constitutional disorders, or that when these are present, there is greater difficulty in their removal.

To those threatened with consumption, the island may be supposed to offer some advantages in the equability of the temperature, and the comparative quiescence of the lungs from reduced necessity for respiratory effort. Besides, the choice of climates presented by Ceylon enables a patient, by the easy change of residence to a different altitude and temperature, avoiding the heats of one period and the dry winds of another, to check to a great extent the predisposing causes likely to lead to the development of tubercle. This, with attention to clothing and systematic exercise as preventives of active disease, may serve to restrain the further progress though it fail to eradicate the tendency to phthibis. But when already the formation of tubercle has taken place to any considerable extent, and is accompanied by softening, the morbid condition is not unlikely to advance with alarming celerity; and the only compensating circumstance is the diminution of apparent suffering, ascribable to general languor, and the absence of the bronchial irritation occasioned by cold humid air.

Dyspepsia.—Habitual dyspeptics, and those affected by hepatic obstructions, had better avoid a lengthened sojourn in Ceylon; but the tortures of rheumatism and gout, if they be not reduced, are certainly postponed for longer intervals than those conceded to the same sufferers in England. Gout, owing to the great cutaneous excretion, in most instances totally disappears.

Precautions for Health.—Next to attention to diet, health in Ceylon is mainly to be preserved by systematic exercise, and a costume adapted to the climate and its requirements. Paradoxical as it may sound, the great cause of disease in hot climates is cold. Nothing ought more cautiously to be watched and avoided than the chills produced by draughts and dry winds; and a change of dress or position should be instantly resorted to when the warning sensation of chilliness is perceived.

Exercise.—The early morning ride, after a single cup of coffee and a biscuit on rising, and the luxury of the bath before dressing for breakfast, constitute the enjoyments of the forenoon; and a similar stroll on horseback, returning at sunset to repeat the bath[1] preparatory to the evening toilette, completes the hygienic discipline of the day. At night the introduction of the Indian punka into bed-rooms would be valuable, a thin flannel coverlet being spread over the bed. Nothing serves more effectually to break down an impaired constitution in the tropics than the want of timely and refreshing sleep.

1: "Je me souviens que les deux premières années que je fus en ce pais-là, j'eus deux maladies: alors je pris la coütume de me bien laver soir et matin, et pendant 16 ans que j'y ay demeuré depuis, je n'ay pas senti le moindre mal."—RIBEYRO, Hist. de l'Isle de Ceylan, vol. v. ch. xix. p. 149.

Dress.—In the selection of dress experience has taught the superiority of calico to linen, the latter, when damp from the exhalation of the skin, causing a chill which is injurious, whilst the former, from some peculiarity in its fibre, however moist it may become, never imparts the same sensation of cold. The clothing best adapted to the climate is that whose texture least excites the already profuse perspiration, and whose fashion presents the least impediment to its escape.[1] The discomfort of woollen has led to its avoidance as far as possible; but those who, in England, may have accustomed themselves to flannel, will find the advantage of persevering to wear it, provided it is so light as not to excite perspiration. So equipped for active exercise, exposure to the sun, however hot, may be regarded without apprehension, provided the limbs are in motion and the body in ordinary health; but the instinct of all oriental races has taught the necessity of protecting the head, and European ingenuity has not failed to devise expedients for this all-important object.

1: "Man not being created an aquatic animal, his skin cannot with impunity be exposed to perpetual moisture, whether directly applied or arising from perspiration retained by dress. The importance to health of keeping the skin dry does not appear to have hitherto received due attention."—PICKERING, Races of Man, &c., ch. xliv.

From what has been said, it will be apparent that, compared with continental India, the securities for health in Ceylon are greatly in favour of the island. As to the formidable diseases which are common to both, their occurrence in either is characterised by the same appalling manifestations: dysentery fastens, with all its fearful concomitants, on the unwary and incautious; and cholera, with its dark horrors, sweeps mysteriously across neglected districts, exacting its hecatombs. But the visitation and ravages of both are somewhat under control, and the experience bequeathed by each gloomy visitation has added to the facilities for checking its recurrence.[1]

1: "It is worthy of remark, that although all the troops in Ceylon have occasionally, but at rare intervals; suffered severely from cholera, the disease has in very few instances attacked the officers; or indeed Europeans in the same grade of life. This is one important difference to be borne in mind when estimating the comparative risk of life in India and Ceylon. It must be due to the difference in comforts and quarters, or more particularly to the exemption from night duty, by far the most trying of the soldiers' hardships. The small mortality amongst the officers of European regiments in Ceylon is very remarkable."—Note by Dr. CAMERON, Army Med. Staff.

In some of the disorders incidental to the climate, and the treatment of ulcerations caused by the wounds of the mosquitoes and leeches, the native Singhalese have a deservedly high reputation; but their practice, when it depends on specifics, is too empirical to be safely relied on; and their traditional skill, though boasting a well authenticated antiquity, achieves few triumphs in competition with the soberer discipline of European science.



Although the luxuriant vegetation of Ceylon has at all times been the theme of enthusiastic admiration, its flora does not probably exceed 3000 phænogamic plants[1]; and notwithstanding that it has a number of endemic species, and a few genera, which are not found on the great Indian peninsula, still its botanical features may be described as those characteristic of the southern regions of Hindustan and the Dekkan. The result of some recent experiments has, however, afforded a curious confirmation of the opinion ventured by Dr. Gardner, that, regarding its botany geographically, Ceylon exhibits more of the Malayan flora and that of the Eastern Archipelago, than of any portion of India to the west of it. Two plants peculiar to Malacca, the nutmeg and the mangustin, have been attempted, but unsuccessfully, to be cultivated in Bengal; but in Ceylon the former has been reared near Colombo with such singular success that its produce now begins to figure in the exports of the island;—and mangustins, which, ten years ago, were exhibited as curiosities from a single tree in the old Botanic Garden at Colombo, are found to thrive readily, and they occasionally appear at table, rivalling in their wonderful delicacy of flavour those which have heretofore been regarded as peculiar to the Straits.

1: The prolific vegetation of the island is likely to cause exaggeration in the estimate of its variety. Dr. Gardner, shortly after his appointment as superintendent of the Botanic Garden at Kandy, in writing to Sir W. Hooker, conjectured that the Ceylon flora might extend to 4000 or 5000 species. But from a recent Report of the present curator, Mr. Thwaites, it appears that the indigenous phænogamic plants discovered up to August, 1856, was 2670; of which 2025 were dicotyledonous, and 644 monocotyledonous flowering plants, besides 247 ferns and lycopods. When it is considered that this is nearly double the indigenous flora of England, and little under one thirtieth of the entire number of plants hitherto described over the world, the botanical richness of Ceylon, in proportion to its area, must be regarded as equal to that of any portion of the globe.

Up to the present time the botany of Ceylon has been imperfectly submitted to scientific scrutiny. Linnæus, in 1747, prepared his Flora Zeylanica, from specimens collected by Hermann, which had previously constituted the materials of the Thesaurus Zeylanicus of Burman and now form part of the herbarium in the British Museum. A succession of industrious explorers have been since engaged in following up the investigation[1]; but, with the exception of an imperfect and unsatisfactory catalogue by Moon, no enumeration of Ceylon plants has yet been published. Dr. Gardner had made some progress with a Singhalese Flora, when his death took place in 1849, an event which threw the task on other hands, and has postponed its completion for years.[2]

1: Amongst the collections of Ceylon plants deposited in the Hookerian Herbarium, are those made by General and Mrs. Walker, by Major Champion (who left the island in 1848), and by Mr. Thwaites, who succeeded Dr. Gardner in charge of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kandy. Moon, who had previously held that appointment, left extensive collections in the herbarium at Peradenia which have been lately increased by his successors; and Macrae, who was employed by the Horticultural Society of London, has enriched their museum with Ceylon plants. Some admirable letters of Mrs. Walker are printed in HOOKER'S Companion to the Botanical Magazine. They include an excellent account of the vegetation of Ceylon.

2: Dr. Gardner, in 1848, drew up a short paper containing Some Remarks on the Flora of Ceylon, which was printed in the appendix to LEE'S Translation of Ribeyro: to this essay, and to his personal communications during frequent journeys, I am indebted for many facts incorporated in the following pages.

From the identity of position and climate, and the apparent similarity of soil between Ceylon and the southern extremity of the Indian peninsula, a corresponding agreement might be expected between their vegetable productions: and accordingly in its aspects and subdivisions Ceylon participates in those distinctive features which the monsoons have imparted respectively to the opposite shores of Hindustan. The western coast being exposed to the milder influence of the south-west wind, shows luxuriant vegetation, the result of its humid and temperate climate; whilst the eastern, like Coromandel, has a comparatively dry and arid aspect, produced by the hot winds which blow for half the year. The littoral vegetation of the seaborde exhibits little variation from that common throughout the Eastern archipelago; but it wants the Phoenix paludosa[1], a dwarf date-palm, which literally covers the islands of the Sunderbunds at the delta of the Ganges. A dense growth of mangroves[2] occupies the shore, beneath whose overarching roots the ripple of the sea washes unseen over the muddy beach.

1: Drs. HOOKER and THOMSON, in their Introductory Essay to the Flora of India, speaking of Ceylon, state that the Nipa fruticans (another characteristic palm of the Gangetic delta) and Cycads are also wanting there, but both these exist (the former abundantly), though perhaps not alluded to in any work on Ceylon botany to which those authors had access. In connection with this subject it may be mentioned, as a fact which is much to be regretted, that, although botanists have been appointed to the superintendence of the Botanic Gardens at Kandy, information regarding the vegetation of the island is scarcely obtainable without extreme trouble and reference to papers scattered through innumerable periodicals. That the majority of Ceylon plants are already known to science is owing to the coincidence of their being also natives of India, whence they have been described; but there has been no recent attempt on the part of colonial or European botanists even to throw into a useful form the already published descriptions of the commoner plants of the island. Such a work would be the first step to a Singhalese Flora. The preparation of such a compendium would seem, to belong to the duties of the colonial botanist, and as such it was an object of especial solicitude to the late superintendent, Dr. Gardner. But the heterogeneous duties imposed upon the person holding his office (the evils arising from which are elsewhere alluded to), have hitherto been insuperable obstacles to the attainment of this object, as they have also been to the preparation of a systematic account of the general features of Ceylon vegetation. Such a work is strongly felt to be a desideratum by numbers of intelligent persons in Ceylon, who are not accomplished botanists, but who are anxious to acquire accurate ideas as to the aspects of the flora at different elevations, different seasons, and different quarters of the island; of the kinds of plants that chiefly contribute to the vegetation of the coasts, the plains, and mountains; of the general relations that subsist between them and the flora of the Carnatic, Malabar, and the Malay archipelago; and of the more useful plants in science, arts, medicine, and commerce.

To render such a work (however elementary) at once accurate as well as interesting, would require sound scientific knowledge; and, however skilfully and popularly written, there would still be portions somewhat difficult of comprehension to the ordinary reader; but curiosity would be stimulated by the very occurrence of difficulty, and thus an impulse might be given to the acquisition of rudimentary botany, which would eventually enable the inquirer to contribute his quota to the natural history of Ceylon.

P.S. Since the foregoing was written, Mr. Thwaites has announced the early publication of a new work on Ceylon plants, to be entitled Enumeratio Plantarum Zeylaniæ: with Descriptions of the new and little known genera and species, and observations on their habits, uses, &c. In the Identification of the species Mr. Thwaites is to be assisted by Dr. Hooker, F.R.S.; and from their conjoint labours we may at last hope for a production worthy of the subject.

2: Rhizophera Candelaria, Kandelia Rheedei, Bruguiera gymnorhiza.

Retiring from the strand, there are groups of Sonneratia[1], Avicennia, Heritiera, and Pandanus; the latter with a stem like a dwarf palm, round which the serrated leaves ascend in spiral convolutions till they terminate in a pendulous crown, from which drop the amber clusters of beautiful but uneatable fruit, with a close resemblance in shape and colour to that of the pineapple, from which, and from the peculiar arrangement of the leaves, the plant has acquired its name of the Screw-pine.

1: At a meeting of the Entomological Society in 1842, Dr. Templeton sent, for the use of the members, many thin slices of substance to replace cork-wood as a lining for insect cases and drawers. Along with the soft wood he sent the following notice:—"In this country (he writes from Colombo, Ceylon, May 19, 1842), along the marshy banks of the large rivers, grows a very large handsome tree, named Sonneratia acida, by the younger Linnæus: its roots spread far and wide through the soft moist earth, and at various distances along send up most extraordinary long spindle-shaped excrescences four or five feet above the surface. Of these Sir James Edward Smith remarks 'what these horn-shaped excrescences are which occupy the soil at some distance from the base of the tree from a span to a foot in length and of a corky substance, as described by Rumphins, we can offer no conjecture.' Most curious things (remarks Dr. Templeton) they are; they all spring very narrow from the root, expand as they rise, and then become gradually attenuated, occasionally forking, but never throwing out shoots or leaves, or in any respect resembling the parent root or wood. They are firm and close in their texture, nearly devoid of fibrous structure, and take a moderate polish when cut with a sharp instrument; but for lining insect boxes and making setting-boards they have no equal in the world. The finest pin passes in with delightful ease and smoothness, and is held firmly and tightly so that there is no risk of the insects becoming disengaged. With a fine saw I form them into little boards and then smooth them with a sharp case knife, but the London veneering-mills would turn them out fit for immediate use, without any necessity for more than a touch of fine glass-paper. Some of my pigmy boards are two feet long by three and a half inches wide, which is more than sufficient for our purpose, and to me they have proved a vast acquisition. The natives call them 'Kirilimow,' the latter syllable signifying root"—TEMPLETON, Trans. Ent. Soc. vol. iii. p. 302.

A little further inland, the sandy plains are covered by a thorny jungle, the plants of which are the same as those of the Carnatic, the climate being alike; and wherever man has encroached on the solitude, groves of coco-nut palms mark the vicinity of his habitations.

Remote from the sea, the level country of the north has a flora almost identical with that of Coromandel; but the arid nature of the Ceylon soil, and its drier atmosphere, is attested by the greater proportion of euphorbias and fleshy shrubs, as well as by the wiry and stunted nature of the trees, their smaller leaves and thorny stems and branches.[1]

1: Dr. Gardner.

Conspicuous amongst them are acacias of many kinds; Cassia fistula the wood apple (Feronia elephantum), and the mustard tree of Scripture (Salvadora Persica), which extends from Ceylon to the Holy Land. The margosa (Azadirachta Indica), the satin wood, the Ceylon oak, and the tamarind and ebony, are examples of the larger trees; and in the extreme north and west the Palmyra palm takes the place of the coco-nut, and not only lines the shore, but fills the landscape on every side with its shady and prolific groves.

Proceeding southward on the western coast, the acacias disappear, and the greater profusion of vegetation, the taller growth of the timber, and the darker tinge of the foliage, all attest the influence of the increased moisture both from the rivers and the rains. The brilliant Ixoras, Erythrinas, Buteas, Jonesias, Hibiscus, and a variety of flowering shrubs of similar beauty, enliven the forests with their splendour; and the seeds of the cinnamon, carried by the birds from the cultivated gardens near the coasts, have germinated in the sandy soil, and diversify the woods with the fresh verdure of its polished leaves and delicately-tinted shoots. It is to be found universally to a considerable height in the lower range of hills, and thither the Chalias were accustomed to resort to cut and peel it, a task which was imposed on them as a feudal service by the native sovereign, who paid an annual tribute in prepared cinnamon to the Dutch, and to the present time this branch of the trade in the article continues, but divested of its compulsory character.

The Dutch, in like manner, maintained, during the entire period of their rule, an extensive commerce in pepper worts, which still festoon the forest, but the export has almost ceased from Ceylon. Along with these the trunks of the larger trees are profusely covered with other delicate creepers, chiefly Convolvuli and Ipomoeas; and the pitcher-plant (Nepenthes distillatoria) lures the passer-by to halt and conjecture the probable uses of the curious mechanism, by means of which it distils a quantity of limpid fluid into the vegetable vases at the extremity of its leaves. The Orchideæ suspend their pendulous flowers from the angles of branches, whilst the bare roots and the lower part of the stem are occasionally covered with fungi of the most gaudy colours, bright red, yellow, and purple.

Of the east side of the island the botany has never yet been examined by any scientific resident, but the productions of the hill country have been largely explored, and present features altogether distinct from those of the plains. For the first two or three thousand feet the dissimilarity is less perceptible to an unscientific eye, but as we ascend, the difference becomes apparent in the larger size of the leaves, and the nearly uniform colour of the foliage, except where the scarlet shoots of the ironwood tree (Mesua ferrea) seem, like flowers in their blood-red hue. Here the broad leaves of the wild plantains (Musa textilis) penetrate the soil among the broken rocks; and in moist spots the graceful bamboo flourishes in groups, whose feathery foliage waves like the plumes of the ostrich.[1] It is at these elevations that the sameness of the scenery is diversified by the grassy patenas before alluded to[2], which, in their aspect, though not their extent, may be called the Savannahs of Ceylon. Here peaches, cherries, and other European fruit trees, grow freely; but they become evergreens in this summer climate, and, exhausted by perennial excitement, and deprived of their winter repose, they refuse to ripen their fruit.[3] A similar failure was discovered in some European vines, which were cultivated at Jaffna; but Mr. Dyke, the government agent, in whose garden they grew, conceiving that the activity of the plants might be equally checked by exposing them to an extreme of warmth, as by subjecting them to cold, tried, with perfect success, the experiment of laying bare the roots in the strongest heat of the sun. The result verified his conjecture. The circulation of the sap was arrested, the vines obtained the needful repose, and the grapes, which before had fallen almost unformed from the tree, are now brought to thorough maturity, though inferior in flavour to those produced at home.[4]

1: In the Malayan peninsula the bamboo has been converted into an instrument of natural music, by perforating it with holes through which the wind is permitted to sigh; and the effect is described as perfectly charming. Mr. Logan, who in 1847 visited Naning; contiguous to the frontier of the European settlement of Malacca, on approaching the village of Kándáng, was surprised by hearing "the most melodious sounds, some soft and liquid like the notes of a flute, and others deep and full like the tones of an organ. They were sometimes low, interrupted, or even single, and presently they would swell into a grand burst of mingled melody. On drawing near to a clump of trees; above the branches of which waved a slender bamboo about forty feet in length, he found that the musical tones issued from it, and were caused by the breeze passing through perforations in the stem; the instrument thus formed is called by the natives the bulu perindu, or plaintive bamboo." Those which Mr. Logan saw had a slit in each joint, so that each stem possessed fourteen or twenty notes.

2: See ante, p. 24.

3: The apple-tree in the Peradenia Gardens seems not only to have become an evergreen but to have changed its character in another particular; for it is found to send out numerous runners under ground, which continually rise into small stems and form a growth of shrub-like plants around the parent tree.

4: An equally successful experiment, to give the vine an artificial winter by baring the roots, is recorded by Mr. BALLARD, of Bombay, in the Transactions of the Agric. and Hortic. Society of India, under date 24th May,1824. Calcutta. 1850. Vol. i. p. 96.

The tea plant has been raised with complete success in the hills on the estate of the Messrs. Worms, at Rothschild, in Pusilawa[1]; but the want of any skilful manipulators to collect and prepare the leaves, renders it hopeless to attempt any experiment on a large scale, until assistance can be secured from China, to conduct the preparation.

1: The cultivation of tea was attempted by the Dutch, but without success.

Still ascending, at an elevation of 6500 feet, as we approach the mountain plateau of Neuera-ellia, the dimensions of the trees again diminish, the stems and branches are covered with orchideæ and mosses, and around them spring up herbaceous plants and balsams, with here and there broad expanses covered with Acanthaceæ, whose seeds are the favourite food of the jungle fowl, which are always in perfection during the ripening of the Nilloo.[1] It is in these regions that the tree-ferns (Alsophila gigantea) rise from the damp hollows, and carry their gracefully plumed heads sometimes to the height of twenty feet.

1: There are said to be fourteen species of the Nilloo (Strobilanthes) in Ceylon. They form a complete under-growth in the forest five or six feet in height, and sometimes extending for miles. When in bloom, their red and blue flowers are a singularly beautiful feature in the landscape, and are eagerly searched by the honey bees. Some species are said to flower only once in five, seven, or nine years; and after ripening their seed they die. This is one reason assigned for the sudden appearance of the rats, which have been elsewhere alluded to (vol. i. p. 149, ii. p. 234) as invading the coffee estates, when deprived of their ordinary food by the decay of the nilloo. It has been observed that the jungle fowl, after feeding on the nilloo, have their eyes so affected by it, as to be partially blinded, and permit themselves to be taken by the hand. Are the seeds of this plant narcotic like some of the Solanaceaæ? or do they cause dilatation of the pupil, like those of the Atropa Belladonna?

At length in the loftiest range of the hills the Rhododendrons are discovered; no longer delicate bushes, as in Europe, but timber trees of considerable height, and corresponding dimensions, and every branch covered with a blaze of crimson flowers. In these forests are also to be met with some species of Michelia, the Indian representatives of the Magnolias of North America, several arboreous myrtaceæ and ternstromiaceæ, the most common of which is the camelia-like Gordonia Ceylanica.[1] These and Vaccinia, Gaultheria, Symploci, Goughia, and Gomphandra, establish the affinity between the vegetation of this region and that of the Malabar ranges, the Khasia and Lower Himalaya.[2]

1: Dr. Gardner.

2: Introduction to the Flora Indica of Dr. HOOKER and Dr. THOMSON, p. 120. London, 1855.

Generally speaking, the timber on the high mountains is of little value for oeconomic purposes. Though of considerable dimensions, it is too unsubstantial to be serviceable for building or domestic uses; and perhaps, it may be regarded as an evidence of its perishable nature, that dead timber is rarely to be seen in any quantity encumbering the ground, in the heart of the deepest forests. It seems to go to dust almost immediately after its fall, and although the process of destruction is infinitely accelerated by the ravages of insects, especially the white ants (termites) and beetles, which instantly seize on every fallen branch: still, one would expect that the harder woods would, more or less, resist their attacks till natural decomposition should have facilitated their operations and would thus exhibit more leisurely the progress of decay. But here decay is comparatively instantaneous, and it is seldom that fallen timber is to be found, except in the last stage of conversion into dust.

Some of the trees in the higher ranges are remarkable for the prodigious height to which they struggle upwards from the dense jungle towards the air and light; and one of the most curious of nature's devices, is the singular expedient by which some families of these very tall and top-heavy trees throw out buttresses like walls of wood, to support themselves from beneath. Five or six of these buttresses project like rays from all sides of the trunk: they are from six to twelve inches thick, and advance from five to fifteen feet outward; and as they ascend, gradually sink into the hole and disappear at the height of from ten to twenty feet from the ground. By the firm resistance which they offer below, the trees are effectually steadied, and protected from the leverage of the crown, by which they would otherwise be uprooted. Some of these buttresses are so smooth and flat, as almost to resemble sawn planks.

The greatest ornaments of the forest in these higher regions are the large flowering trees; the most striking of which is the Rhododendron, which in Ceylon forms a forest in the mountains, and when covered with flowers, it seems from a distance as though the hills were strewn with vermilion. This is the principal tree on the summit of Adam's Peak, and grows to the foot of the rock on which rests the little temple that covers the sacred footstep on its crest. Dr. Hooker states that the honey of its flowers is believed to be poisonous in some parts of Sikkim; but I never heard it so regarded in Ceylon.

One of the most magnificent of the flowering trees, is the coral tree[1], which is also the most familiar to Europeans, as the natives of the low country and the coast, from the circumstance of its stem being covered with thorns, plant it largely for fences, and grow it in the vicinity of their dwellings. It derives its English name from the resemblance which its scarlet flowers present to red coral, and as these clothe the branches before the leaves appear, their splendour attracts the eye from a distance, especially when lighted by the full blaze of the sun.

1: Erythrina Indica. It belongs to the pea tribe, and must not be confounded with the Jatropha multifida which has also acquired the name of the coral tree. Its wood is so light and spongy, that it is used in Ceylon to form corks for preserve jars; and both there and at Madras the natives make from it models of their implements of husbandry, and of their sailing boats and canoes.

The Murutu[1] is another flowering tree which may vie with the Coral, the Rhododendron, or the Asoca, the favourite of Sanskrit poetry. It grows to a considerable height, especially in damp places and the neighbourhood of streams, and pains have been taken, from appreciation of its attractions, to plant it by the road side and in other conspicuous positions. From the points of the branches panicles are produced, two or three feet in length, composed of flowers, each the size of a rose and of all shades, from a delicate pink to the deepest purple. It abounds in the south-west of the island.

1: Lagerstroemia Reginæ.

The magnificent Asoca[1] is found in the interior, and is cultivated, though not successfully, in the Peradenia Garden, and in that attached to Elie House at Colombo. But in Toompane, and in the valley of Doombera, its loveliness vindicates all the praises bestowed on it by the poets of the East. Its orange and crimson flowers grow in graceful racemes, and the Singhalese, who have given the rhododendron the pre-eminent appellation of the "great red flower," (maha-rat-mal,) have called the Asoca the diya-rat-mal to indicate its partiality for "moisture," combined with its prevailing hue.

1: Jonesia Asoca.

But the tree which will most frequently attract the eye of the traveller, is the kattoo-imbul of the Singhalese[1], one of which produces the silky cotton which, though incapable of being spun, owing to the shortness of its delicate fibre, makes the most luxurious stuffing for sofas and pillows. It is a tall tree covered with formidable thorns; and being deciduous, the fresh leaves, like those of the coral tree, do not make their appearance till after the crimson flowers have covered the branches with their bright tulip-like petals. So profuse are these gorgeous flowers, that when they fall, the ground for many roods on all sides is a carpet of scarlet. They are succeeded by large oblong pods, in which the black polished seeds are deeply embedded in the floss which is so much prized by the natives. The trunk is of an unusually bright green colour, and the branches issue horizontally from the stem, in whorls of threes with a distance of six or seven feet between each whorl.

1: Bombax Malabaricus. As the genus Bombax is confined to tropical America, the German botanists, Schott and Endlicher, have assigned to the imbul its ancient Sanskrit name, and described it as Salmalia Malabarica.

Near every Buddhist temple the priests plant the Iron tree (Messua ferrea)[1] for the sake of its flowers, with which they decorate the images of Buddha. They resemble white roses, and form a singular contrast with the buds and shoots of the tree, which are of the deepest crimson. Along with its flowers the priests use likewise those of the Champac (Michelia Champaca), belonging to the family of magnoliaceæ. They have a pale yellow tint, with the sweet oppressive perfume which is celebrated in the poetry of the Hindus. From the wood of the champac the images of Buddha are carved for the temples.

1: Dr. Gardner supposed the ironwood tree of Ceylon to have been confounded with the Messua ferrea of Linnæus. He asserted it to be a distinct species, and assigned to it the well-known Singhalese name "nagaha," or iron-wood tree. But this conjecture has since proved erroneous.

The celebrated Upas tree of Java (Antiaris toxicaria) which has been the subject of so many romances, exploded by Dr. Horsfield[1], was supposed by Dr. Gardner to exist in Ceylon, but more recent scrutiny has shown that what he mistook for it, was an allied species, the A. saccidora, which grows at Kornegalle, and in other parts of the island; and is scarcely less remarkable, though for very different characteristics. The Ceylon species was first brought to public notice by E. Rawdon Power, Esq., government agent of the Kandyan province, who sent specimens of it, and of the sacks which it furnishes, to the branch of the Asiatic Society at Colombo. It is known to the Singhalese by the name of "ritigaha," and is identical with the Lepurandra saccidora, from which the natives of Coorg, like those of Ceylon, manufacture an ingenious substitute for sacks by a process which is described by Mr. Nimmo.[2] "A branch is cut corresponding to the length and breadth of the bag required, it is soaked and then beaten with clubs till the liber separates from the timber. This done, the sack which is thus formed out of the bark is turned inside out, and drawn downwards to permit the wood to be sawn off, leaving a portion to form the bottom which is kept firmly in its place by the natural attachment of the bark."

1: The vegetable poisons, the use of which is ascribed to the Singhalese, are chiefly the seeds of the Datura, which act as a powerful narcotic, and those of the Croton tiglium, the excessive effect of which ends in death. The root of the Nerium odorum is equally fatal, as is likewise the exquisitely beautiful Gloriosa superba, whose brilliant flowers festoon the jungle in the plains of the low country. See Bennett's account of the Antiaris, in HORSFIELD'S Plantæ Javanicæ.

2: Catalogue of Bombay Plants, p. 193. The process in Ceylon is thus described in Sir W. HOOKER'S Report on the Vegetable Products exhibited in Paris in 1855: "The trees chosen for the purpose measure above a foot in diameter. The felled trunks are cut into lengths, and the bark is well beaten with a stone or a club till the parenchymatous part comes off, leaving only the inner bark attached to the wood; which is thus easily drawn out by the hand. The bark thus obtained is fibrous and tough, resembling a woven fabric: it is sewn at one end into a sack, which is filled with sand, and dried in the sun."

As we descend the hills the banyans[1] and a variety of figs make their appearance. They are the Thugs of the vegetable world, for although not necessarily epiphytic, it may be said that in point of fact no single plant comes to perfection, or acquires even partial development, without the destruction of some other on which to fix itself as its supporter. The family generally make their first appearance as slender roots hanging from the crown or trunk of some other tree, generally a palm, among the moist bases of whose leaves the seed carried thither by some bird which had fed upon the fig, begins to germinate. This root branching as it descends, envelopes the trunk of the supporting tree with a network of wood, and at length penetrating the ground, attains the dimensions of a stem. But unlike a stem it throws out no buds, leaves, or flowers; the true stem, with its branches, its foliage, and fruit, springs upwards from the crown of the tree whence the root is seen descending; and from it issue the pendulous rootlets, which, on reaching the earth, fix themselves firmly and form the marvellous growth for which the banyan is so celebrated.[2] In the depth of this grove, the original tree is incarcerated till, literally strangled by the folds and weight of its resistless companion, it dies and leaves the fig in undisturbed possession of its place. It is not unusual in the forest to find a fig-tree which had been thus upborne till it became a standard, now forming a hollow cylinder, the centre of which was once filled by the sustaining tree: but the empty walls form a circular network of interlaced roots and branches; firmly agglutinated under pressure, and admitting the light through interstices that look like loopholes in a turret.

1: Ficus Indica.

2: I do not remember to have seen the following passage from Pliny referred to as the original of Milton's description of this marvellous tree:—

"Ipsa se serens, vastis diffunditur ramis: quorum imi adeo in terram curvantur, ut annuo spatio infigantur, novamque sibi propaginem faciant circa parentem in orbem. Intra septem eam æstivant pastores, opacam pariter et munitam vallo arboris, decora specie subter intuenti, proculve, fornicato arbore. Foliorum latitudo peltæ effigiem Amazonicæ habet," &c.—PLINY, 1. xii. c. 11.

"The fig-tree—not that kind for fruit renowned,

But such as at this day to Indians known,

In Malabar or Dekkan spreads her arms,

Branching so broad and long, that on the ground

The bended twigs take root, and daughters grow

About the mother tree: a pillar'd shade

High over arched and echoing walks between.

There oft the Indian herdsman, shunning heat,

Shelters in cool and tends his pasturing flocks

At loop-holes cut through thickest shade. These leaves

They gathered; broad as Amazonian targe:

And with what skill they had, together sewed

To gird their waist," &c.

Par. Lost, ix. 1100.

Pliny's description is borrowed, with some embellishments, from THEOPHRASTUS de. Nat. Plant. l. i. 7. iv. 4.



Another species of the same genus, F. repens, is a fitting representative of the English ivy, and is constantly to be seen clambering over rocks, turning through heaps of stones, or ascending some tall tree to the height of thirty or forty feet, while the thickness of its own stem does not exceed a quarter of an inch.

The facility with which the seeds of the fig-tree take root where there is a sufficiency of moisture to permit of germination, has rendered them formidable assailants of the ancient monuments throughout Ceylon. The vast mounds of brickwork which constitute the remains of the Dagobas at Anarajapoora and Pollanarrua are covered densely with trees, among which the figs are always conspicuous. One, which has fixed itself on the walls of a ruined edifice at the latter city, forms one of the most remarkable objects of the place—its roots streaming downwards over the walls as if their wood had once been fluid, follow every sinuosity of the building and terraces till they reach the earth.



To this genus belongs the Sacred Bo-tree of the Buddhists, Ficus religiosa, which is planted close to every temple, and attracts almost as much veneration as the statue of the god himself. At Anarajapoora is still preserved the identical tree said to have been planted 288 years before the Christian era.[1]

1: For a memoir of this celebrated tree, see the account of Anarajapoora, Vol. II. p. 10.

Although the India-rubber tree (F. elastica) is not indigenous to Ceylon, it is now very widely diffused over the island. It is remarkable for the pink leathery covering which envelopes the leaves before expansion, and for the delicate tracing of the nerves which run in equi-distant rows at right angles from the mid-rib. But its most striking feature is the exposure of its roots, masses of which appear above ground, extending on all sides from the base, and writhing over the surface in undulations—

"Like snakes in wild festoon,

In ramous wrestlings interlaced,

A forest Laocoon."[1]

1: HOOD's poem of The Elm Tree.

So strong, in fact, is the resemblance, that the villagers give it the name of the "Snake-tree." One, which grows close to Cotta, at the Church Missionary establishment within a few miles of Colombo, affords a remarkable illustration of this peculiarity.



There is an avenue of these trees leading to the Gardens of Peradenia, the roots of which meet from either side of the road, and have so covered the surface by their agglutinated reticulations as to form a wooden framework, the interstices of which retain the materials that form the roadway.[1]

1: Mr. Ferguson of the Surveyor-General's Department, assures me that he once measured the root of a small wild fig-tree, growing in a patena at Hewahette, and found it upwards of 140 feet in length, whilst the tree itself was not 30 feet high.

The Kumbuk of the Singhalese (called by the Tamils Maratha-maram)[1] is one of the noblest and most widely distributed trees in the island; it delights in the banks of rivers and moist borders of tanks and canals; it overshadows the stream of the Mahawelli-ganga, almost from Kandy to the sea; and it stretches its great arms above the still water of the lakes on the eastern side of the island.

1: Pentaptera tomentosa (Rox.).

One venerable patriarch of this species, which grows at Mutwal, within three miles of Colombo, towers to so great a height above the surrounding forests of coconut palms, that it forms a landmark for the native boatmen, and is discernible from Negombo, more than twenty miles distant. The circumference of its stem, as measured by Mr. W. Ferguson, in 1850, was forty-five feet close to the earth, and seven yards at twelve feet above the ground.

The timber, which is durable, is applied to the carving of idols for the temples, besides being extensively used for less dignified purposes; but it is chiefly prized for the bark, which is sold as a medicine, and, in addition to yielding a black dye, it is so charged with calcareous matter that its ashes, when burnt, afford a substitute for the lime which the natives chew with their betel.

Some of the trees found in the forests of the interior are remarkable for the curious forms in which they produce their seeds. One of these, which sometimes grows to the height of one hundred feet without throwing out a single branch, has been confounded with the durian of the Eastern Archipelago, or supposed to be an allied species[1], but it differs from it in the important particular that its fruit is not edible. The real durian is not indigenous to Ceylon, but was brought there by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century.[2] It has been very recently re-introduced, and is now cultivated successfully. The native name for the Singhalese tree, "Katu-boeda," denotes the prickles that cover its fruit, which is as large as a coco-nut, and set with thorns each nearly an inch in length.

1: It is the Cullenia excelsa of WIGHT's Icones, &c. (761-2).

2: PORCACCHI, in his Isolario, written in the sixteenth century, enumerates the true durian as being then amongst the ordinary fruit of Ceylon.—"Vi nasce anchora un frutto detto Duriano, verde et grande come quei cocomeri, che a Venetia son chiamati angurie: in mezo del quale trouano dentro cinque frutti de sapor molto excellente."—Lib. iii. p. 188. Padua, A.D. 1619.

The Sterculia foetida, one of the finest and noblest of the Ceylon forest-trees, produces from the end of its branches large bunches of dark purple flowers of extreme richness and beauty; but emitting a stench so intolerable as richly to entitle it to its very characteristic botanical name. The fruit is equally remarkable, and consists of several crimson cases of the consistency of leather, within which are enclosed a number of black bean-like seeds: these are dispersed by the bursting of their envelope, which splits open to liberate them when sufficiently ripened.

The Moodilla (Barringtonia speciosa) is another tree which attracts the eye of the traveller, not less from the remarkably shaped fruit which it bears than from the contrast between its dark glossy leaves and the delicate flowers which they surround. The latter are white, tipped with crimson, but the petals drop off early, and the stamens, of which there are nearly a hundred to each flower, when they fall to the ground might almost be mistaken for painters' brushes. The tree (as its name implies) loves the shore of the sea, and its large quadrangular fruits, of pyramidal form, being protected by a hard fibrous covering, are tossed by the waves till they root themselves on the beach. It grows freely at the mouths of the principal rivers on the west coast, and several noble specimens of it are found near the fort of Colombo.

The Goda-kaduru, or Strychnos nux-vomica is abundant in these prodigious forests, and has obtained an European celebrity on account of its producing the poisonous seeds from which strychnine is extracted. Its fruit, which it exhibits in great profusion, is of the size and colour of a small orange, within which a pulpy substance envelopes the seeds that form the "nux-vomica" of commerce. It grows in great luxuriance in the vicinity of the ruined tanks throughout the Wanny, and on the west coast as far south as Negombo. It is singular that in this genus there should be found two plants, the seeds of one being not only harmless but wholesome, and that of the other the most formidable of known poisons.[1] Amongst the Malabar immigrants there is a belief that the seeds of the goda-kaduru, if habitually taken, will act as a prophylactic against the venom of the cobra de capello; and I have been assured that the coolies coming from the coast of India accustom themselves to eat a single seed per day in order to acquire the desired protection from the effects of this serpent's bite.[2]

1: The tettan-cotta, the use of which is described in Vol. II. Pt. ix. ch. i. p. 411, when applied by the natives to clarify muddy water, is the seed of another species of strychnos, S. potatorum. The Singhalese name is ingini (tettan-cotta is Tamil).

2: In India, the distillers of arrack from the juice of the coco-nut palm are said, by Roxburgh, to introduce the seeds of the strychnus, in order to increase the intoxicating power of the spirit.

In these forests the Euphorbia[1], which we are accustomed to see only as a cactus-like green-house plant, attains the size and strength of a small timber-tree; its quadrangular stem becomes circular and woody, and its square fleshy shoots take the form of branches, or rise with a rounded top as high as thirty feet.[2]

1: E. Antiquorun.

2: Amongst the remarkable plants of Ceylon, there is one concerning which a singular error has been perpetuated in botanical works from the time of Paul Hermann, who first described it in 1687, to the present. I mean the kiri-anguna (Gymnema lactiferum), evidently a form of the G. sylvestre, to which has been given the name of the Ceylon cow-tree; and it is asserted that the natives drink its juice as we do milk. LOUDON (Ency. of Plants, p. 197) says, "The milk of the G. lactiferum is used instead of the vaccine ichor, and the leaves are employed in sauces in the room of cream." And LINDLEY, in his Vegetable Kingdom, in speaking of the Asclepiads, says, "the cow plant of Ceylon, 'kiri-anguna,' yields a milk of which the Singhalese make use for food; and its leaves are also used when boiled." Even in the English Cyclopædia of CHARLES KNIGHT, published so lately as 1854, this error is repeated. (See art. Cow-tree, p. 178.) But this in altogether a mistake;—the Ceylon plant, like many others, has acquired its epithet of kiri, not from the juices being susceptible of being used as a substitute for milk, but simply from its resemblance to it in colour and consistency. It is a creeper, found on the southern and western coasts, and used medicinally by the natives, but never as an article of food. The leaves, when chopped and boiled, are administered to nurses by native practitioners, and are supposed to increase the secretion of milk. As to its use, as stated by London, in lieu of the vaccine matter, it is altogether erroneous. MOON, in his Catalogue of the Plants of Ceylon, has accidentally mentioned the kiri-anguna twice, being misled by the Pali synonym "kiri-hangula": they are the same plant, though he has inserted them as different, p. 21.

But that which arrests the attention even of an indifferent passer-by is the endless variety and almost inconceivable size and luxuriance of the climbing plants and epiphytes which live upon the forest trees in every part of the island. It is rare to see a single tree without its families of dependents of this description, and on one occasion I counted on a single prostrate stem no less than sixteen species of Capparis, Beaumontia, Bignonia, Ipomoea, and other genera, which, in its fall, it had brought along with it to the ground. Those which are free from climbing plants have their higher branches and hollows occupied by ferns and orchids, of which latter the variety is endless in Ceylon, though the beauty of their flower is not equal to those of Brazil and other tropical countries. In the many excursions which I made with Dr. Gardner he added numerous species to those already known, including the exquisite Saccolabium guttatum, which we came upon in the vicinity of Bintenne, but which had before been discovered in Java and the mountains of northern India. Its large groups of lilac flowers hung in rich festoons from the branches as we rode under them, and caused us many an involuntary halt to admire and secure the plants.

A rich harvest of botanical discovery still remains for the scientific explorer of the districts south and east of Adam's Peak, whence Dr. Gardner's successor, Mr. Thwaites, has already brought some remarkable species. Many of the Ceylon orchids, like those of South America, exhibit a grotesque similitude to various animals; and one, a Dendrobium., which the Singhalese cultivate in the palms near their dwelling, bears a name equivalent to the White-pigeon flower, from the resemblance which its clusters present to a group of those birds in miniature clinging to the stem with wings at rest.

But of this order the most exquisite plant I have seen is the Anæctochilus setaceus, a terrestrial orchid which is to be found about the moist roots of the forest trees, and has drawn the attention of even the apathetic Singhalese, among whom its singular beauty has won for it the popular name of the Wanna Raja, or "King of the Forest." It is common in humid and shady places a few miles removed from the sea-coast; its flowers have no particular attraction, but its leaves are perhaps the most exquisitely formed in the vegetable kingdom; their colour resembles dark velvet, approaching to black, and reticulated over all the surface with veins of ruddy gold.[1]

1: There is another small orchid bearing a slight resemblance to the wanna raja, which is often found growing along with it, called by the Singhalese iri raja, or "striped king." Its leaves are somewhat bronzed, but they are longer and narrower than those of the wanna raja; and, as its Singhalese name implies, it has two white stripes running through the length of each. They are not of the same genus; the wanna raja being the only species of Anæctochilus yet found in Ceylon.

The branches of all the lower trees and brushwood are so densely covered with convolvuli, and similar delicate climbers of every colour, that frequently it is difficult to discover the tree which supports them, owing to the heaps of verdure under which it is concealed. One very curious creeper, which always catches the eye, is the square-stemmed vine[1], whose fleshy four-sided runners climb the highest trees, and hang down in the most fantastic bunches. Its stem, like that of another plant of the same genus (the Vitis Indica), when freshly cut, yields a copious draught of pure tasteless fluid, and is eagerly sought after by elephants.

1: Cissus edulis, Dalz.

But it is the trees of older and loftier growth that exhibit the rank luxuriance of these wonderful epiphytes in the most striking manner. They are tormented by climbing plants of such extraordinary dimensions that many of them exceed in diameter the girth of a man; and these gigantic appendages are to be seen surmounting the tallest trees of the forest, grasping their stems in firm convolutions, and then flinging their monstrous tendrils over the larger limbs till they reach the top, whence they descend to the ground in huge festoons, and, after including another and another tree in their successive toils, they once more ascend to the summit, and wind the whole into a maze of living network as massy as if formed by the cable of a line-of-battle ship. When, by-and-by, the trees on which this singular fabric has become suspended give way under its weight, or sink by their own decay, the fallen trunk speedily disappears, whilst the convolutions of climbers continue to grow on, exhibiting one of the most marvellous and peculiar living mounds of confusion that it is possible to fancy. Frequently one of these creepers may be seen holding by one extremity the summit of a tall tree, and grasping with the other an object at some distance near the earth, between which it is strained as tight and straight as if hauled over a block. In all probability the young tendril had been originally fixed in this position by the wind, and retained in it till it had gained its maturity, where it has the appearance of having been artificially arranged as if to support a falling tree.

This peculiarity of tropical vegetation has been turned to profitable account by the Ceylon woodmen, employed by the European planters in felling forest trees, preparatory to the cultivation of coffee. In this craft they are singularly expert, and far surpass the Malabar coolies, who assist in the same operations. In steep and mountainous places where the trees have been thus lashed together by the interlacing climbers, the practice is to cut halfway through each stem in succession, till an area of some acres in extent is prepared for the final overthrow. Then severing some tall group on the eminence, and allowing it in its descent to precipitate itself on those below, the whole expanse is in one moment brought headlong to the ground; the falling timber forcing down those beneath it by its weight, and dragging those behind to which it is harnessed by its living attachments. The crash occasioned by this startling operation is so deafeningly loud, that it is audible for two or three miles in the clear and still atmosphere of the hills.

One monstrous creeping plant called by the Kandyans the Maha-pus-wael, or "Great hollow climber,"[1] has pods, some of which I have seen fully five feet long and six inches broad, with beautiful brown beans, so large that the natives hollow them out, and carry them as tinder-boxes.

1: Entada pursætha. The same plant, when found in lower situations, where it wants the soil and moisture of the mountains, is so altered in appearance that the natives call it the "heen-pus-wael;" and even botanists have taken it for a distinct species. The beautiful mountain region of Pusilawa, now familiar as one of the finest coffee districts in Ceylon, in all probability takes its name from the giant bean, "Pus-waelawa."

Another climber of less dimensions[1], but greater luxuriance, haunts the jungle, and often reaches the tops of the highest trees, whence it suspends large bunches of its yellow flowers, and eventually produces clusters of prickly pods containing greyish-coloured seeds, less than an inch in diameter, which are so strongly coated with silex, that they are said to strike fire like a flint.

1: Guilandina Bonduc.

One other curious climber is remarkable for the vigour and vitality of its vegetation, a faculty in which it equals, if it do not surpass, the banyan. This is the Cocculus cordifolius, the "rasa-kindu" of the Singhalese, a medicinal plant which produces the guluncha of Bengal. It is largely cultivated in Ceylon, and when it has acquired the diameter of half an inch, it is not unusual for the natives to cut from the main stem a portion of from twenty to thirty feet in length, leaving the dissevered plant suspended from the branches of the tree which sustained it. The amputation naturally serves for a time to check its growth, but presently small rootlets, not thicker than a pack-thread, are seen shooting downwards from the wounded end; these swing in the wind till, reaching the ground, they attach themselves in the soil, and form new stems, which in turn, when sufficiently grown, are cut away and replaced by a subsequent growth. Such is its tenacity of life, that when the Singhalese wish to grow the rasa-kindu, they twist several yards of the stem into a coil of six or eight inches in diameter, and simply hang it on the branch of a tree, where it speedily puts forth its large heart-shaped leaves, and sends down its rootlets to the earth.

The ground too has its creepers, and some of them very curious. The most remarkable are the ratans, belonging to the Calamus genus of palms. Of these I have seen a specimen 250 feet long and an inch in diameter, without a single irregularity, and no appearance of foliage other than the bunch of feathery leaves at the extremity.

The strength of these slender plants is so extreme, that the natives employ them with striking success in the formation of bridges across the water-courses and ravines. One which crossed the falls of the Mahawelliganga, in the Kotmahe range of hills, was constructed with the scientific precision of an engineer's work. It was entirely composed of the plant, called by the natives the "Waywel," its extremities fastened to living trees, on the opposite sides of the ravine through which a furious and otherwise impassable mountain torrent thundered and fell from rock to rock with a descent of nearly 100 feet. The flooring of this aerial bridge consisted of short splints of wood, laid transversely, and bound in their places by thin strips of the waywel itself. The whole structure vibrated and swayed with fearful ease, but the coolies traversed it though heavily laden; and the European, between whose estate and the high road it lay, rode over it daily without dismounting.

Another class of trees which excites the astonishment of an European, are those whose stems are protected, as high as cattle can reach, by thorns, which in the jungle attain a growth and size quite surprising. One species of palm[1], the Caryota horrida, often rises to a height of fifty feet, and has a coating of thorns for about six or eight feet from the ground, each about an inch in length, and so densely covering the stem that the bark is barely visible.

1: This palm I have called a Caryota on the authority of Dr. GARDNER, and of MOON'S Catalogue; but I have been informed by Dr. HOOKER and Mr. THWAITES that it is an Areca. The natives identify it with the Caryota, and call it the "katu-kittul."

A climbing plant, the "Kudu-miris" of the Singhalese[1], very common in the hill jungles, with a diameter of three or four inches, is thickly studded with knobs about half an inch high, and from the extremity of each a thorn protrudes, as large and sharp as the bill of a sparrow-hawk. It has been the custom of the Singhalese from time immemorial, to employ the thorny trees of their forests in the construction of defences against their enemies. The Mahawanso relates, that in the civil wars, in the reign of Prakrama-bahu in the twelfth century, the inhabitants of the southern portion of the island intrenched themselves against his forces behind moats filled with thorns.[2] And at an earlier period, during the contest of Dutugaimunu with Elala, the same authority states, that a town which he was about to attack was "surrounded on all sides by the thorny Dadambo creeper (probably Toddalia aculeata), within which was a triple hue of fortifications, with one gate of difficult access."[3]

1: Toddalia aculeata.

2: Mahawanso ch. lxxiv.

3: Mahawanso ch. xxv.

During the existence of the Kandyan kingdom as an independent state, before its conquest by the British, the frontier forests were so thickened and defended by dense plantations of these thorny palms and climbers at different points, as to exhibit a natural fortification impregnable to the feeble tribes on the other side, and at each pass which led to the level country, movable gates, formed of the same formidable thorny beams, were suspended as an ample security against the incursions of the naked and timid lowlanders.[1]

1: The kings of Kandy maintained a regulation "that no one; on pain of death, should presume to cut a road through the forest wider than was sufficient for one person to pass."—WOLF'S Life and Adventures, p. 308.

The pasture grounds throughout the vicinity of Jaffna abound in a low shrub called the Buffalo-thorn[1], the black twigs of which are beset at every joint by a pair of thorns, set opposite each other like the horns of an ox, as sharp as a needle, from two to three inches in length, and thicker at the base than the stem they grow on.

1: Acacia latronum.

The Acacia tomentosa is of the same genus, with thorns so large as to be called the "jungle-nail" by Europeans. It is frequent in the woods of Jaffna and Manaar, where it bears the Tamil name of Aani mulla, or "elephant thorn." In some of these thorny plants, as in the Phoberos Goertneri, Thun.,[1] the spines grow not singly, but in branching clusters, each point presenting a spike as sharp as a lancet; and where these formidable shrubs abound they render the forest absolutely impassable, even to the elephant and to animals of great size and force.

1: Mr. Wm. Ferguson writes to me, "This is the famous Katu-kurundu, or 'thoray cinnamon,' of the Singhalese, figured and described by Gaertner as the Limonia pusilla, which after a great deal of labour and research I think I have identified as the Phoberos macrophyllus" (W. and A. Prod. p. 30). Thunberg alludes to it (Travels, vol. iv.)—"Why the Singhalese have called it a cinnamon, I do not know, unless from some fancied similarity in its seeds to those of the cinnamon laurel."

The family of trees which, from their singularity as well as their beauty, most attract the eye of the traveller in the forests of Ceylon, are the palms, which occur in rich profusion, although, of upwards of six hundred species which are found in other countries, not more than ten or twelve are indigenous to the island.[1] At the head of these is the coco-nut, every particle of whose substance, stem, leaves, and fruit, the Singhalese turn to so many accounts, that one of their favourite topics to a stranger is to enumerate the hundred uses to which they tell us this invaluable tree is applied.[2]

1: Mr. Thwaites has enumerated fifteen species (including the coco-nut, and excluding the Nipa fruticans, which more properly belongs to the family of screw-pines): viz. Areca, 4; Caryota, 1; Calamus, 5; Borassus, 1; Corypha, 1; Phoenix, 2; Cocos, 1.

2: The following are only a few of the countless uses of this invaluable tree. The leaves, for roofing, for mats, for baskets, torches or chules, fuel, brooms, fodder for cattle, manure. The stem of the leaf, for fences, for pingoes (or yokes) for carrying burthens on the shoulders, for fishing-rods, and innumerable domestic utensils. The cabbage or cluster of unexpended leaves, for pickles and preserves. The sap for toddy, for distilling arrack, and for making vinegar, and sugar. The unformed nut, for medicine and sweetmeats. The young nut and its milk, for drinking, for dessert; the green husk for preserves. The nut, for eating, for curry, for milk, for cooking. The oil, for rheumatism, for anointing the hair, for soap, for candles, for light; and the poonak, or refuse of the nut after expressing the oil, for cattle and poultry. The shell of the nut, for drinking cups, charcoal, tooth-powder, spoons, medicine, hookahs, beads, bottles, and knife-handles. The coir, or fibre which envelopes the shell within the outer husk, for mattresses, cushions, ropes, cables, cordage, canvass, fishing-nets, fuel, brushes, oakum, and floor mats. The trunk, for rafters, laths, railing, boats, troughs, furniture, firewood; and when very young, the first shoots, or cabbage, as a vegetable for the table. The entire list, with a Singhalese enthusiast, is an interminable narration of the virtues of his favourite tree.

The most majestic and wonderful of the palm tribe is the talpat or talipat[1], the stem of which sometimes attains the height of 100 feet, and each of its enormous fan-like leaves, when laid upon the ground, will form a semicircle of 16 feet in diameter, and cover an area of nearly 200 superficial feet. The tree flowers but once, and dies; and the natives firmly believe that the bursting of the shadix is accompanied by a loud explosion. The leaves alone are converted by the Singhalese to purposes of utility. Of them they form coverings for their houses, and portable tents of a rude but effective character; and on occasions of ceremony, each chief and headman on walking abroad is attended by a follower, who holds above his head an elaborately-ornamented fan, formed from a single leaf of the talpat.

1: Corypha umbraculifera, Linn.

But the most interesting use to which they are applied is as substitutes for paper, both for books and for ordinary purposes. In the preparation of olas, which is the term applied to them when so employed, the leaves are taken whilst still tender, and, after separating the central ribs, they are cut into strips and boiled in spring water. They are dried first in the shade, and afterwards in the sun, then made into rolls, and kept in store, or sent to the market for sale. Before they are fit for writing on they are subjected to a second process, called madema. A smooth plank of areca-palm is tied horizontally between two trees, each ola is then damped, and a weight being attached to one end of it, it is drawn backwards and forwards across the edge of the wood till the surface becomes perfectly smooth and polished; and during the process, as the moisture dries up, it is necessary to renew it till the effect is complete. The smoothing of a single ola will occupy from fifteen to twenty minutes.[1]

1: See Vol. II. p. 528.

The finest specimens in Ceylon are to be obtained at the Panselas, or Buddhist monasteries; they are known as pusk[(o]la and are prepared by the Samanera priests (novices) and the students, under the superintendence of the priests.

The raw leaves, when dried without any preparation, are called karak[(o]la, and, like the leaves of the palmyra, are used only for ordinary purposes by the Singhalese; but in the Tamil districts, where palmyras are abundant, and talpat palms rare, the leaves of the former are used for books as well as for letters.

The palmyra[1] is another invaluable palm, and one of the most beautiful of the family. It grows in such profusion over the north of Ceylon, and especially in the peninsula of Jaffna, as to form extensive forests, whence its timber is exported for rafters to all parts of the island, as well as to the opposite coast of India, where, though the palmyra grows luxuriantly, its wood, from local causes, is too soft and perishable to be used for any purpose requiring strength and durability, qualities which, in the palmyra of Ceylon, are pre-eminent. To the inhabitants of the northern provinces this invaluable tree is of the same importance as the coco-nut palm is to the natives of the south. Its fruit yields them food and oil; its juice "palm wine" and sugar; its stem is the chief material of their buildings; and its leaves, besides serving as roofs to their dwellings and fences to their farms, supply them with matting and baskets, with head-dresses and fans, and serve as a substitute for paper for their deeds and writings, and for the sacred books, which contain the traditions of their faith. It has been said with truth that a native of Jaffna, if he be contented with ordinary doors and mud walls, may build an entire house (as he wants neither nails nor iron work), with walls, roof, and covering from the Palmyra palm. From this same tree he may draw his wine, make his oil, kindle his fire, carry his water, store his food, cook his repast, and sweeten it, if he pleases; in fact, live from day to day dependent on his palmyra alone. Multitudes so live, and it may be safely asserted that this tree alone furnishes one-fourth the means of sustenance for the population of the northern provinces.

1: Borassus flabelliformis. For an account of the Palmyra, and its cultivation in the peninsula of Jaffna, see FERGUSON'S monograph on the Palmyra Palm of Ceylon, Colombo, 1850.

The Jaggery Palm[1], the Kitool of the Singhalese, is chiefly cultivated in the Kandyan hills for the sake of its sap, which is drawn, boiled down, and crystallised into a coarse brown sugar, in universal use amongst the inhabitants of the south and west of Ceylon, who also extract from its pith a farina scarcely inferior to sago. The black fibre of the leaf is twisted by the Rodiyas into ropes of considerable smoothness and tenacity. A single Kitool tree has been pointed out at Ambogammoa, which furnished the support of a Kandyan, his wife, and their children. A tree has been known to yield one hundred pints of toddy within twenty-four hours.

1: Caryota urens.

The Areca[1] Palm is the invariable feature of a native garden, being planted near the wells and water-courses, as it rejoices in moisture. Of all the tribe it is the most graceful and delicate, rising to the height of forty or fifty feet[2], without an inequality on its thin polished stem, which is dark green towards the top, and sustains a crown of feathery foliage, in the midst of which are clustered the astringent nuts for whose sake it is carefully tended.

1: A. catechu.

2: Mr. Ferguson measured an areca at Caltura which was seventy-five feet high, and grew near a coco-nut which was upwards of ninety feet. Caltura is, however, remarkable for the growth and luxuriance of its vegetation.

The chewing of these nuts with lime and the leaf of the betel-pepper supplies to the people of Ceylon the same enjoyment which tobacco affords to the inhabitants of other countries; but its use is, if possible, more offensive, as the three articles, when combined, colour the saliva of so deep a red that the lips and teeth appear as if covered with blood. Yet, in spite of this disgusting accompaniment, men and women, old and young, from morning till night indulge in the repulsive luxury.[1]

1: Dr. Elliot, of Colombo, has observed several cases of cancer in the cheek which, from its peculiar characteristics, he has designated the "betel-chewer's cancer."

It is seldom, however, that we find in semi-civilised life habits universally prevailing which have not their origin, however ultimately they may be abused by excess, in some sense of utility. The Turk, when he adds to the oppressive warmth of the sun by enveloping his forehead in a cumbrous turban, or the Arab, when he increases the sultry heat by swathing his waist in a showy girdle, may appear to act on no other calculation than a willingness to sacrifice comfort to a love of display; but the custom in each instance is the result of precaution—in the former, because the head requires especial protection from sun-strokes; and in the latter, from the fact well known to the Greeks ([Greek: eozônoi Achaioi]) that, in a warm climate, danger is to be apprehended from a sudden chill to that particular region of the stomach. In like manner, in the chewing of the areca-nut with its accompaniments of lime and betel, the native of Ceylon is unconsciously applying a specific corrective to the defective qualities of his daily food. Never eating flesh meat by any chance, seldom or never using milk, butter, poultry, or eggs, and tasting fish but occasionally (more rarely in the interior of the island,) the non-azotised elements abound in every article he consumes with the exception of the bread-fruit, the jak, and some varieties of beans. In their indolent and feeble stomachs these are liable to degenerate into flatulent and acrid products; but, apparently by instinct, the whole population have adopted a simple prophylactic. Every Singhalese carries in his waistcloth an ornamented box of silver or brass, according to his means, enclosing a smaller one to hold a portion of chunam (lime obtained by the calcination of shells) whilst the larger contains the nuts of the areca and a few fresh leaves of the betel-pepper. As inclination or habit impels, he scrapes down the nut, which abounds in catechu, and, rolling it up with a little of the lime in a betel-leaf, the whole is chewed, and finally swallowed, after provoking an extreme salivation. No medical prescription could be more judiciously compounded to effect the desired object than this practical combination of antacid, the tonic, and carminative.

The custom is so ancient in Ceylon and in India that the Arabs and Persians who resorted to Hindustan in the eighth and ninth centuries carried back the habit to their own country; and Massoudi, the traveller of Bagdad, who wrote the account of his voyages in A.D. 943, states that the chewing of betel prevailed along the southern coast of Arabia, and reached as far as Yemen and Mecca.[1] Ibn Batuta saw the betel plant at Zahfar A.D. 1332, and describes it accurately as trained like a vine over a trellis of reeds, or climbing the steins of the coco-nut palm.[2]

1: Massoudi, Maraudj-al-Dzeheb, as translated by REINAUD, Mémoire sur l'Lede. p. 230.

2: Voyages, &c. t. ii. p. 205.

The leaves of the coca[1] supply the Indians of Bolivia and Peru with a stimulant, whose use is equivalent to that of the betel-pepper among the natives of Hindustan and the Eastern Archipelago. With an admixture of lime, they are chewed perseveringly; but, unlike the betel, the colour imparted by them to the saliva is greenish, instead of red. It is curious, too, as a coincidence common to the humblest phases of semi-civilised life, that, in the absence of coined money, the leaves of the coca form a rude kind of currency in the Andes, as does the betel in some parts of Ceylon, and tobacco amongst the tribes of the south-west of Africa.[2]

1: Erythroxylon coca.

2: Tobacco was a currency in North America when Virginia was colonised in the early part of the 17th century; debts were contracted and paid in it, and in every ordinary transaction tobacco answered the purposes of coin.

Neither catechu nor its impure equivalent, "terra japonica," is prepared from the areca in Ceylon; but the nuts are exported in large quantities to the Maldive Islands and to India, the produce of which they excel both in astringency and size. The fibrous wood of the areca being at once straight, firm, and elastic, is employed for making the pingoes (yokes for the shoulders), by means of which the Singhalese coolie, like the corresponding class among the ancient Egyptians and the Greeks, carries his burdens, dividing them into portions of equal weight, one of which is suspended from each end of the pingo. By a swaying motion communicated to them as he starts, his own movement is facilitated, whereas one unaccustomed to the work, by allowing the oscillation to become irregular, finds it almost impossible to proceed with a load of any considerable weight.[1]

1: The natives of Tahti use a yoke of the same form as the Singhalese pingo, but made from the wood of the Hibiscus tiliaceus.—DARWIN, Nat. Voy. ch. xviii. p. 407. For a further account of the pingo see Vol. I. Part iv. ch. viii. p. 497.

Timber trees, either for export or domestic use, are not found in any abundance except in the low country, and here the facility of floating them to the sea, down the streams which intersect the eastern coast of the island, has given rise to an active trade at Batticaloa and Trincomalie. But, unfortunately, the indifference of the local officers entrusted with the issue of licences to fell, and the imperfect control exercised over the adventurers who embark in these speculations, has led to a destruction of trees quite disproportionate to the timber obtained, and utterly incompatible with the conservation of the valuable kinds. The East India Company have had occasion to deplore the loss of their teak forests by similar neglect and mismanagement; and it is to be hoped that, ere too late, the attention of the Ceylon Government may be so directed to this important subject as to lead to the appointment of competent foresters, under whose authority and superintendence the felling of timber may be carried on.

An interesting memoir on the timber trees of Ceylon has been prepared by a native officer at Colombo, Adrian Mendis, of Morottu, carpeater-moodliar to the Royal Engineers, in which he has enumerated upwards of ninety species, which, in various parts of the island, are employed either as timber or cabinet woods.[1] Of these, the jak, the Kangtal of Bengal (Artocarpus integrifolia), is, next to the coco-nut and Palmyra, by far the most valuable to the Singhalese; its fruit, which sometimes attains the weight of 50 lbs., supplying food for their table, its leaves fodder for their cattle, and its trunk timber for every conceivable purpose both oeconomic and ornamental. The Jak tree, as well as the Del, or wild bread-fruit, is indigenous to the forests on the coast and in the central provinces; but, although the latter is found in the vicinity of the villages, it does not appear to be an object of special cultivation. The Jak, on the contrary, is planted near every house, and forms the shade of every garden. Its wood, at first yellow, approaches the colour of mahogany after a little exposure to the air, and resembles it at all times in its grain and marking.

1: Mendis' List will be found appended to the Ceylon Calendar for 1854.

The Del (Artocarpus pubescens) affords a valuable timber, not only for architectural purposes, but for ship-building. It and the Halmalille[1] resembling but larger than the linden tree of England, to which it is closely allied, are the favourite building woods of the natives, and the latter is used for carts, casks, and all household purposes, as well as for the hulls of their boats, from the belief that It resists the attack of the marine worms, and that some unctuous property in the wood preserves the iron work from rust.[2]

1: Berry a ammonilla.

2: The Masula boats, which brave the formidable surf of Madrus are made of Halmalille, which is there called "Trincomalie wood" from the place of exportation.

The Teak (Tectona grandis), which is superior to all others, is not a native of this island, and although largely planted, has not been altogether successful. But the satin-wood[1], in point of size and durability, is by far the first of the timber trees of Ceylon. For days together I have ridden under its magnificent shade. All the forests around Batticaloa and Trincomalie, and as far north as Jaffna, are thickly set with this valuable tree. It grows to the height of a hundred feet, with a rugged grey bark, small white flowers, and polished leaves, with a somewhat unpleasant odour. Owing to the difficulty of carrying its heavy beams, the natives only cut it near the banks of the rivers, down which it is floated to the coast, whence large quantities are exported to every part of the colony. The richly-coloured and feathery pieces are used for cabinet-work, and the more ordinary logs for building purposes, every house in the eastern province being floored and timbered with satin-wood.

1: Chieroxylon Swietenia.

Another useful tree, very common in Ceylon, is the Suria[1], with flowers so like those of a tulip that Europeans know it as the tulip tree. It loves the sea air and saline soils. It is planted all along the avenues and streets in the towns near the coast, where it is equally valued for its shade and the beauty of its yellow flowers, whilst its tough wood is used for carriage shafts and gun-stocks.

1: Thespesia populnea.

The forests to the east furnish the only valuable cabinet woods used in Ceylon, the chief of which is ebony[1], which grows in great abundance throughout all the flat country to the west of Trincomalie. It is a different species from the ebony of Mauritius[2], and excels it and all others in the evenness and intensity of its colour. The centre of the trunk is the only portion which furnishes the extremely black part which is the ebony of commerce; but the trees are of such magnitude that reduced logs of two feet in diameter, and varying from ten to fifteen feet in length, can readily be procured from the forests at Trincomalie.

1: Diospyros ebenum.

2: D. reticulata.

There is another cabinet wood, of extreme beauty, called by the natives Cadooberia. It is a bastard species of ebony[1], in which the prevailing black is stained with stripes of rich brown, approaching to yellow and pink. But its density is inconsiderable, and in durability it is far inferior to that of true ebony.

1: D. ebenaster.

The Calamander[1], the most valuable cabinet wood of the island, resembling rose-wood, but much surpassing it both in beauty and durability, has at all times been in the greatest repute in Ceylon. It grows chiefly in the southern provinces, and especially in the forests at the foot of Adam's Peak; but here it has been so prodigally felled, first by the Dutch, and afterwards by the English, without any precautions for planting or production, that it has at last become exceedingly rare. Wood of a large scantling is hardly procurable at any price; and it is only in a very few localities, the principal of which is Saffragam, in the western province, that even small sticks are now to be found; one reason, assigned for this is that the heart of the tree is seldom sound, a peculiarity which extends to the Cadooberia.

1: D. hirsuta.

The twisted portions, and especially the roots of the latter, yield veneers of unusual beauty, dark wavings and blotches, almost black, being gracefully disposed over a delicate fawn-coloured ground. Its density is so great (nearly 60 lbs. to a cubic foot) that it takes an exquisite polish, and is in every way adapted for the manufacture of furniture, in the ornamenting of which the native carpenters excel. The chiefs and headmen, with a full appreciation of its beauty, take particular pride in possessing specimens of this beautiful wood, roots of which they regard as most acceptable gifts.

Notwithstanding its value, the tree is nearly eradicated, and runs some risk of becoming extinct in the island; but, as it is not peculiar to Ceylon, it may be restored by fresh importations from the south-eastern coast of India, of which it is equally a native, and I apprehend that the name, Calamander, which was used by the Dutch, is but a corruption of "Coromandel."

Another species of cabinet wood is produced from the Nedun[1], a large tree common on the western coast; it belongs to the Pea tribe, and is allied to the Sisso of India. Its wood, which is lighter than the "Blackwood" of Bombay, is used for similar purposes.

1: Dalbergia lanceolaria.

The Tamarind tree[1], and especially its fine roots, produce a variegated cabinet wood of much beauty, but of such extreme hardness as scarcely to be workable by any ordinary tool.[2]

1: Tamarindus Indica.

2: The natives of Western India have a belief that the shade of the tamarind tree is unhealthy, if not poisonous. But in Ceylon it is an object of the people, especially in the north of the island, to build their houses under it, from the conviction that of all trees its shade is the coolest. In this feeling, too, the Europeans are so far disposed to concur that it has been suggested whether there may not be something peculiar in the respiration of its leaves. The Singhalese have an idea that the twigs of the ranna-wara (Cassia auriculata) diffuse an agreeable coolness, and they pull them for the sake of enjoying it by holding them in their hands or applied to the head. In the south of Ceylon it is called the Matura tea-tree, its leaves being infused as a substitute for tea.

As to fruit trees, it is only on the coast, or near the large villages and towns, that they are found in any perfection. In the deepest jungle the sight of a single coco-nut towering above the other foliage is in Ceylon a never-failing landmark to intimate to a traveller his approach to a village. The natives have a superstition that the coco-nut will not grow out of the sound of the human voice, and will die if the village where it had previously thriven become deserted; the solution of the mystery being in all probability the superior care and manuring which it receives in such localities.[1] In the generality of the forest hamlets there are always to be found a few venerable Tamarind trees of patriarchal proportions, the ubiquitous Jak, with its huge fruits, weighing from 5 to 50 lbs. (the largest eatable fruit in the world), each springing from the rugged surface of the bark, and suspended by a powerful stalk, which attaches it to the trunk of the tree. Lime-trees, Oranges, and Shaddoks are carefully cultivated in these little gardens, and occasionally the Rose-apple and the Cachu-nut, the Pappaya, and invariably as plentiful a supply of Plantains as they find it prudent to raise without inviting the visits of the wild elephants, with whom they are especial favourites.

1: See Vol. II. p. 125.

These, and the Bilimbi and Guava, the latter of which is naturalised in the jungle around every cottage, are almost the only fruits of the country; but the Pine-apple, the Mango, the Avocado-pear, the Custard-apple, the Rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum), the Fig, the Granadilla, and a number of other exotics, are successfully reared in the gardens of the wealthier inhabitants of the towns and villages; and within the last few years the peerless Mangustin of Malacca, the delicacy of which we can imagine to resemble that of perfumed snow, has been successfully cultivated in the gardens of Caltura and Colombo.

With the exception of the orange, the fruits of Ceylon have one deficiency, common, I apprehend, to all tropical countries. They are wanting in that piquancy which in northern climates is attributable to the exquisite perfection in which the sweet and aromatic flavours are blended with the acidulous. Either the acid is so ascendant as to be repulsive to the European palate, or the saccharine so preponderates as to render Singhalese fruit cloying and distasteful.

Still, all other defects are compensated by the coolness which pervades them; and, under the exhaustion of a blazing sun, no more exquisite physical enjoyment can be imagined than the chill and fragrant flesh of the pine-apple, or the abundant juice of the mango, which, when freshly pulled, feels as cool as iced water. But the fruit must be eaten instantly; even an interval of a few minutes after it has been gathered is sufficient to destroy the charm; for, once severed from the stem, it rapidly acquires the temperature of the surrounding air.

Sufficient admiration has hardly been bestowed upon the marvellous power displayed by the vegetable world in adjusting its own temperature, notwithstanding atmospheric fluctuations,—a faculty in the manifestation of which it appears to present a counterpart to that exhibited by animal oeconomy in regulating its heat. So uniform is the exercise of the latter faculty in man and the higher animals, that there is barely a difference of three degrees between the warmth of the body in the utmost endurable vicissitudes of heat and cold; and in vegetables an equivalent arrangement enables them in winter to keep their temperature somewhat above that of the surrounding air, and in summer to reduce it far below it. It would almost seem as if plants possessed a power of producing cold analogous to that exhibited by animals in producing heat; and of this beneficent arrangement man enjoys the benefit in the luxurious coolness of the fruit which nature lavishes on the tropics.

The peculiar organisation by which this result is obtained is not free from obscurity, but in all probability the means of adjusting the temperature of plants is simply dependent on evaporation. As regards the power possessed by vegetables of generating heat, although it has been demonstrated to exist, it is in so trifling a degree as to be almost inappreciable, except at the period of germination, when it probably arises from the consumption of oxygen in generating the carbonic acid gas which is then evolved. The faculty of retaining this warmth at night and at other times may, therefore, be referable mainly to the closing of the pores, and the consequent check of evaporation.

On the other hand, the faculty of maintaining a temperature below that of the surrounding air, can only be accounted for by referring it to the mechanical process of imbibing a continuous supply of fresh moisture from the soil, the active transpiration of which imparts coolness to every portion of the tree and its fruit. It requires this combined operation to produce the desired result; and the extent to which evaporation can bring down the temperature of the moisture received by absorption, may be inferred from the fact that Dr. Hooker, when in the valley of the Ganges, found the fresh milky juice of the Mudar (calotropis) to be but 72°, whilst the damp sand in the bed of the river where it grew was from 90° to 104°.

Even in temperate climates this phenomenon is calculated to excite admiration; but it is still more striking to find the like effect rather increased than diminished in the tropics, where one would suppose that the juices, especially of a small and delicate plant, before they could be cooled by evaporation, would be liable to be heated by the blazing sun.

A difficulty would also seem to present itself in the instance of fruit, whose juices, having to undergo a chemical change, their circulation would be conjectured to be slower; and in the instance of those with hard skins, such as the pomegranate, or with a tough leathery coating, like the mango, the evaporation might be imagined to be less than in those of a soft and spongy texture. But all share alike in the general coolness of the plant, so long as circulation supplies fluid for evaporation; and the moment this resource is cut off by the separation of the fruit from the tree, the supply of moisture failing, the process of refrigeration is arrested, and the charm of agreeable freshness gone.

It only remains to notice the aquatic plants, which are found in greater profusion in the northern and eastern provinces than in any other districts of the island, owing to the innumerable tanks and neglected watercourses which cover the whole surface of this once productive province, but which now only harbour the alligator, or satisfy the thirst of the deer and the elephant.

1: See on this subject LINDLEY'S Introduction to Botany, vol. ii. book ii. ch. viii. p. 215.

CARPENTER, Animal Physiology, ch. ix. s. 407. CARPENTER'S Vegetable Physiology, ch. xi. s. 407, Lond. 1848.

The chief ornaments of these neglected sheets of water are the large red and white Lotus[1], whose flowers may be seen from a great distance reposing on their broad green leaves. In China and some parts of India the black seeds of these plants, which are not unlike little acorns in shape, are served at table in place of almonds, which they are said to resemble, but with a superior delicacy of flavour. At some of the tanks where the lotus grows in profusion in Ceylon, I tasted the seeds enclosed in the torus of the flowers, and found them white and delicately-flavoured, not unlike the small kernel of the pine cone of the Apennines. This red lotus of the island appears to be the one that Herodotus describes as abounding in the Nile in his time, but which is now extinct; with a flower resembling a rose, and a fruit in shape like a wasp's nest, and containing seeds of the size of an olive stone, and of an agreeable flavour.[2] But it has clearly no identity with those which he describes as the food of the Lotophagi of Africa, of the size of the mastic[3], sweet as a date, and capable of being made into wine.

1: Nelumbium speciosum.

2: Herodotus, b. ii. s. 92.

3: The words are "[Greek: Esti megathos hoson te tês schinou]" (Herod. b. iv. s. 177); and as [Greek: schinos] means also a squill or a sea-onion, the fruit above referred to, as the food of the Lotophagi, must have been of infinitely larger size and in every way different from the lotus of the Nile, described in the 2nd book, as well as from the lotus in the East. Lindley records the conjecture that the article referred to by Herodotus was the nabk, the berry of the lote-bush (Zizyphus lotus), which the Arabs of Barbary still eat. (Vegetable Kingdom, p. 582.)

One species of the water lily, the Nymphæa rubra, with small red flowers, and of great beauty, is common in the ponds near Jaffna and in the Wanny; and I found in the fosse, near the fort of Moeletivoe, the beautiful blue lotus, N. stellata, with lilac petals, approaching to purple in the centre, which had not previously been supposed to be a native of the island.

Another very interesting aquatic plant, which was discovered by Dr. Gardner in the tanks north of Trincomalie, is the Desmanthus natans, with highly sensitive leaves floating on the surface of the water. It is borne aloft by masses of a spongy cellular substance, which occur at intervals along its stem and branches, but the roots never touch the bottom, absorbing nourishment whilst floating at liberty, and only found in contact with the ground after the subsidence of water in the tanks.[1]

1: A species of Utricularia, with yellow flowers (U. stellaris), is a common water-plant in the still lakes near the fort of Colombo, where an opportunity is afforded of observing the extraordinary provision of nature for its reproduction. There are small appendages attached to the roots, which become distended with air, and thus carry the plant aloft to the surface, during the cool season. Here it floats till the operation of flowering is over, when the vesicles burst, and by its own weight it returns to the bottom of the lake to ripen its seeds and deposit them in the soil; after which the air vessels again fill, and again it re-ascends to undergo the same process of fecundation.





With the exception of the Mammalia and the Birds, the fauna of Ceylon has, up to the present, failed to receive that systematic attention to which its richness and variety so amply entitle it. The Singhalese themselves, habitually indolent and singularly unobservant of nature in her operations, are at the same time restrained from the study of natural history by tenets of their religion which forbid the taking of life under any circumstances. From the nature of their avocations, the majority of the European residents engaged in planting and commerce, are discouraged from gratifying this taste; and it is to be regretted that the civil servants of the government, whose position and duties would have afforded them influence and extended opportunity for successful investigation, have never seen the importance of encouraging such studies.

The first effective impulse to the cultivation of natural science in Ceylon, was communicated by Dr. Davy when connected with the medical staff of the army from 1816 to 1820, and his example stimulated some of the assistant surgeons of Her Majesty's forces to make collections in illustration of the productions of the colony. Of the late Dr. Kinnis was one of the most energetic and successful. He was seconded by Dr. Templeton of the Royal Artillery, who engaged assiduously in the investigation of various orders, and commenced an interchange of specimens with Mr. Blyth[1], the distinguished naturalist and curator of the Calcutta Museum.

1: Journ. Asiat. Soc. Bengal, vol. xv. p. 280, 314.

The birds and rarer vertebrata of the island were thus compared with their peninsular congeners, and a tolerable knowledge of those belonging to the island, so far as regards the higher classes of animals, has been the result. The example so set has been perseveringly followed by Mr. E.L. Layard and Dr. Kelaart, and infinite credit is due to Mr. Blyth for the zealous and untiring energy with which he has devoted his attention and leisure to the identification of the various interesting species forwarded from Ceylon, and to their description in the Calcutta Journal. To him, and to the gentleman I have named, we are mainly indebted, for whatever accurate knowledge we now possess of the zoology of the colony.

The mammalia, birds, and reptiles received their first scientific description in an able work published recently by Dr. Kelaart of the army medical staff[1], which is by far the most valuable that has yet appeared on the Singhalese fauna. Co-operating with him, Mr. Layard has supplied a fund of information especially in ornithology and conchology. The zoophytes and crustacea have been investigated by Professor Harvey, who visited Ceylon for that purpose in 1852, and by Professor Schmarda, of the University of Prague, who was lately sent there for a similar object. From the united labours of these gentlemen and others interested in the same pursuits, we may hope at an early day to obtain such a knowledge of the zoology of Ceylon, as may to some extent compensate for the long indifference of the government officers.

1: Prodromus Faunæ Zeylanicæ; being Contributions to the Zoology of Ceylon, by F. KELAART, Esq., M.D., F.L.S., &c. &c. 2 vols. Colombo and London, 1852. Mr. DAVY, of the Medical Staff; brother to Sir Humphry, published in 1821 his Account of the Interior of Ceylon and its Inhabitants, which contains the earliest notices of the natural history of the island, and especially of the Ophidian reptiles.

I. QUADRUMANA. 1 Monkeys.—To a stranger in the tropics, among the most attractive creatures in the forests are the troops of monkeys, which career in ceaseless chase among the loftiest trees. In Ceylon there are five species, four of which belong to one group, the Wanderoos, and the other is the little graceful grimacing rilawa[1], which is the universal pet and favourite, of both natives and Europeans.

1: Macacus pileatus, Shaw and Desmmarest. The "bonneted Macaque" is common in the south and west; and a spectacled monkey is said to inhabit the low country near to Bintenne; but I have never seen one brought thence. A paper by Dr. TEMPLETON in the Mag. Nat. Hist. n.s. xiv. p. 361, contains some interesting facts relative to the Rilawa of Ceylon.

KNOX, in his captivating account of the island, gives an accurate description of both; the Rilawas, with "no beards, white faces, and long hair on the top of their heads, which parteth and hangeth down like a man's, and which do a deal of mischief to the corn, and are so impudent that they will come into their gardens, and eat such fruit as grows there. And the Wanderoos, some as large as our English Spaniel dogs, of a darkish grey colour, and black faces with great white beards round from ear to ear, which makes them shew just like old men. This sort does but little mischief, keeping in the woods, eating only leaves and buds of trees, but when they are catched they will eat anything."[1]

1: KNOX, Historical Relation of Ceylon, an Island in the East Indies.—P. i. ch. vi. p. 25. Fol. Lond. 1681.

KNOX, whose experience was confined almost exclusively to the hill country around Kandy, spoke in all probability of one large and comparatively powerful species, Presbytes ursinus, which inhabits the lofty forests, and which, as well as another of the same group, P. Thersites, was, till recently, unknown to European naturalists. The Singhalese word Ouanderu has a generic sense, and being in every respect the equivalent for our own term of "monkey," it necessarily comprehends the low country species, as well as those which inhabit other parts of the island. And, in point of fact, in the island there are no less than four animals, each of which is entitled to the name of "wanderoo."[1]

1: Down to a very late period, a large and somewhat repulsive-looking monkey, common to the Malabar coast, the Silenus veter, Linn., was, from the circumstance of his possessing a "great white beard," incorrectly assumed to be the "wanderoo" of Ceylon, described by KNOX; and under that usurped name it has figured in every author from Buffon to the present time. Specimens of the true Singhalese species were, however, received in Europe; but in the absence of information in this country as to their actual habitat, they were described, first by Zimmerman, on the continent, under the name of Leucoprymnus cephalopterus, and subsequently by Mr. E. Bennett, under that of Semnopithecus Nestor (Proc. Zool. Soc. pt. i. p. 67: 1833); the generic and specific characters being on this occasion most carefully pointed out by that eminent naturalist. Eleven years later Dr. Templeton forwarded to the Zoological Society a description, accompanied by drawings, of the wanderoo of the western maritime districts of Ceylon, and noticed the fact that the wanderoo of authors (S. veter) was not to be found in the island except as an introduced species in the custody of the Arab horse-dealers, who visit the port of Colombo at stated periods. Mr. Waterhouse, at the meeting (Proc. Zool. Soc. p. 1: 1844) at which this communication was read, recognised the identity of the subject of Dr. Templeton's description with that already laid before them by Mr. Bennett; and from this period the species in question was believed to truly represent the wanderoo of Knox. The later discovery, however, of the P. ursinus by Dr. Kelaart, in the mountains amongst which we are assured that Knox spent so many years of captivity, reopens the question, but at the same time appears to me to clearly demonstrate that in this latter we have in reality the animal to which his narrative refers.

Each separate species has appropriated to itself a different district of the wooded country, and seldom encroaches on the domain of its neighbours.

1. Of the four species found in Ceylon, the most numerous in the island, and the one best known in Europe, is the Wanderoo of the low country, the P. cephalopterus of Zimmerman.[1] It is an active and intelligent creature, not much larger than the common bonneted Macaque, and far from being so mischievous as others of the monkeys in the island. In captivity it is remarkable for the gravity of its demeanour and for an air of melancholy in its expression and movements, which is completely in character with its snowy beard and venerable aspect. Its disposition is gentle and confiding, it is in the highest degree sensible of kindness, and eager for endearing attentions, uttering a low plaintive cry when its sympathies are excited. It is particularly cleanly in its habits when domesticated, and spends much of its time in trimming its fur, and carefully divesting its hair of particles of dust.

1: Leucoprymnus Nestor, Bennett.

Although common in the southern and western provinces, it is never found at a higher elevation than 1300 feet.

When observed in their native wilds, a party of twenty or thirty of these creatures is generally busily engaged in the search for berries and buds. They are seldom to be seen on the ground, and then only when they have descended to recover seeds or fruit that have fallen at the foot of their favourite trees. In their alarm, when disturbed, their leaps are prodigious; but generally speaking, their progress is made not so much by leaping as by swinging from branch to branch, using their powerful arms alternately; and when baffled by distance, flinging themselves obliquely so as to catch the lower boughs of an opposite tree, the momentum acquired by their descent being sufficient to cause a rebound, that carries them again upwards, till they can grasp a higher branch; and thus continue their headlong flight. In these perilous achievements, wonder is excited less by the surpassing agility of these little creatures, frequently encumbered as they are by their young, which cling to them in their career, than by the quickness of their eye and the unerring accuracy with which they seem almost to calculate the angle at which a descent would enable them to cover a given distance, and the recoil to elevate themselves again to a higher altitude.

2. The low country Wanderoo is replaced in the hills by the larger species, P. ursinus, which inhabits the mountain zone. The natives, who designate the latter the Maha or Great Wanderoo, to distinguish it from the Kaloo, or black one, with which they are familiar, describe it as much wilder and more powerful than its congener of the lowland forests. It is rarely seen by Europeans, this portion of the country having till very recently been but partially opened; and even now it is difficult to observe its habits, as it seldom approaches the few roads which wind through these deep solitudes. It was first captured by Dr. Kelaart in the woods near Neuera-ellia, and from its peculiar appearance it has been named P. ursinus by Mr. Blyth.[1]

1: Mr. Blyth quotes as authority for this trivial name a passage from MAJOR FORBES' Eleven Years in Ceylon; and I can vouch for the graphic accuracy of the remark.—"A species of very large monkey, that passed some distance before me, when resting on all fours, looked so like a Ceylon bear, that I nearly took him for one."

3. The P. Thersites, which is chiefly distinguished from the others by wanting the head tuft, is so rare that it was for some time doubtful whether the single specimen procured by Dr. Templeton from Neuera-kalawa, west of Trincomalie, and on which Mr. Blyth conferred this new name, was in reality native; but the occurrence of a second, since identified by Dr. Kelaart, has established its existence as a separate species.

Like the common wanderoo, this one was partial to fresh vegetables, plantains, and fruit; but he ate freely boiled rice, beans, and gram. He was fond of being noticed and petted, stretching out his limbs in succession to be scratched, drawing himself up so that his ribs might be reached by the finger, and closing his eyes during the operation, evincing his satisfaction by grimaces irresistibly ludicrous.

4. The P. Priamus inhabits the northern and eastern provinces, and the wooded hills which occur in these portions of the island. In appearance it differs both in size and in colour from the common wanderoo, being larger and more inclining to grey; and in habits it is much less reserved. At Jaffna, and in other parts of the island where the population is comparatively numerous, these monkeys become so familiarised with the presence of man as to exhibit the utmost daring and indifference. A flock of them will take possession of a Palmyra palm; and so effectually can they crouch and conceal themselves among the leaves that, on the slightest alarm, the whole party becomes invisible in an instant. The presence of a dog, however, excites such an irrepressible curiosity that, in order to watch his movements, they never fail to betray themselves. They may be seen frequently congregated on the roof of a native hut; and, some years ago, the child of a European clergyman stationed at Tillipalli having been left on the ground by the nurse, was so teased and bitten by them as to cause its death.

The Singhalese have the impression that the remains of a monkey are never found in the forest; a belief which they have embodied in the proverb that "he who has seen a white crow, the nest of a paddy bird, a straight coco-nut tree, or a dead monkey, is certain to live for ever." This piece of folk-lore has evidently reached Ceylon from India, where it is believed that persons dwelling on the spot where a hanuman monkey, S. entellus, has been killed, will die, and that even its bones are unlucky, and that no house erected where they are hid under ground can prosper. Hence when a house is to be built, it is one of the employments of the Jyotish philosophers to ascertain by their science that none such are concealed; and Buchanan observes that "it is, perhaps, owing to this fear of ill-luck that no native will acknowledge his having seen a dead hanuman."[1]

1: BUCHANAN'S Survey of Bhagulpoor, p. 142. At Gibraltar it is believed that the body of a dead monkey is never found on the rock.

The only other quadrumanous animal found in Ceylon is the little loris[1], which, from its sluggish movements, nocturnal habits, and consequent inaction during the day, has acquired the name of the "Ceylon Sloth." There are two varieties in the island; one of the ordinary fulvous brown, and another larger, whose fur is entirely black. A specimen of the former was sent to me from Chilaw, on the western coast, and lived for some time at Colombo, feeding on rice, fruit, and vegetables. It was partial to ants and other insects, and always eager for milk or the bone of a fowl. The naturally slow motion of its limbs enables the loris to approach its prey so stealthily that it seizes birds before they can be alarmed by its presence. The natives assert that it has been known to strangle the pea-fowl at night, and feast on the brain. During the day the one which I kept was usually asleep in the strange position represented below; its perch firmly grasped with all hands, its back curved into a ball of soft fur, and its head hidden deep between its legs. The singularly-large and intense eyes of the loris have attracted the attention of the Singhalese, who capture the creature for the purpose of extracting them as charms and love-potions, and this they are said to effect by holding the little animal to the fire till its eyeballs burst. Its Tamil name is theivangu, or "thin-bodied;" and hence a deformed child or an emaciated person has acquired in the Tamil districts the same epithet. The light-coloured variety of the loris in Ceylon has a spot on its forehead, somewhat resembling the namam, or mark worn by the worshippers of Vishnu; and, from this peculiarity, it is distinguished as the Nama-theivangu.[2]

1: Loris gracilis, Geoff.

2: There is an interesting notice of the loris of Ceylon by Dr. TEMPLETON, in the Mag. Nat. Hist. 1844, ch. xiv. p. 362.



II. CHEIROPTERA. Bats.—The multitude of bats is one of the features of the evening landscape; they abound in every cave and subterranean passage, in the tunnels on the highways, in the galleries of the fortifications, in the roofs of the bungalows, and the ruins of every temple and building. At sunset they are seen issuing from their diurnal retreats to roam through the twilight in search of crepuscular insects, and as night approaches and the lights in the rooms attract the night-flying lepidoptera, the bats sweep round the dinner-table and carry off their tiny prey within the glitter of the lamps. Including the frugivorous section about sixteen species have been identified in Ceylon, and of these, two varieties are peculiar to the island. The colours of some of them are as brilliant as the plumage of a bird, bright yellow, deep orange, and a rich ferruginous brown inclining to red.[1] The Roussette[2] of Ceylon (the "Flying-fox," as it is usually called by Europeans) measures from three to four feet from point to point of its extended wings, and some of them have been seen wanting but a few inches of five feet in the alar expanse. These sombre-looking creatures feed chiefly on ripe fruits, the guava, the plantain, and the rose-apple, and are abundant in all the maritime districts, especially at the season when the silk-cotton tree, the pulun-imbul,[3] is putting forth its flower-buds, of which they are singularly fond. By day they suspend themselves from the highest branches, hanging by the claws of the hind legs, pressing the chin against the breast, and using the closed membrane attached to the forearms as a mantle to envelope the head. At sunset launching into the air, they hover with a murmuring sound occasioned by the beating of their broad membranous wings, around the fruit trees, on which they feed till morning, when they resume their pensile attitude as before. They are strongly attracted to the coco-nut trees during the period when toddy is drawn for distillation, and exhibit, it is said, at such times symptoms resembling intoxication.[4]


Rhinolophus affinis? var. rubidus, Kelaart.

Hipposideros murinus, var. fulvus, Kelaart.

Hipposideros speoris, var. aureus, Kelaart.

Kerivoula picta, Pallas.

Scotophilus Heathii, Horsf.

2: Pteropus Edwardsii, Geoff.

3: Eriodendron orientale, Stead.

4: Mr. THWAITES, of the Royal Botanic Garden, at Kandy, in a recent letter, 19th Dec. 1858, gives the following description of a periodical visit of the pteropus to an avenue of fig-trees:—"You would be much interested now in observing a colony of the pteropus bat, which has established itself for a season on some trees within sight of my bungalow. They came about the same time last year, and, after staying a few weeks, disappeared: I suppose they had demolished all the available food in the neighbourhood. They are now busy of an evening eating the figs of Ficus elastica, of which we have a long avenue in the grounds, as I dare say you remember.

"These bats take possession during the day of particular trees, upon which they hang like so much ripe fruit, but they take it into their heads to have some exercise every morning between the hours of 9 and 11, during which they are wheeling about in the air by the hundred, seemingly enjoying the sunshine and warmth. They then return to their fevourite tree, and remain quiet until the evening, when they move off towards their feeding ground. There is a great chattering and screaming amongst them before they can get agreeably settled in their places after their morning exercise; quarrelling, I suppose, for the most comfortable spots to hang on by during the rest of the day. The trees they take possession of become nearly stripped of leaves; and it is a curious sight to see them in such immense numbers. I do not allow them to be disturbed."

The flying-fox is killed by the natives for the sake of its flesh, which I have been told, by a gentleman who has eaten it, resembles that of the hare.[1]

1: In Western India the native Portuguese eat the flying-fox, and pronounce it delicate, and far from disagreeable in flavour.

There are several varieties (some of them peculiar to the island) of the horse-shoe-headed Rhinolophus, with the strange leaf-like appendage erected on the extremity of the nose. It has been suggested that bats, though nocturnal, are deficient in that keen vision characteristic of animals which take their prey at night. I doubt whether this conjecture be well founded; but at least it would seem that in their peculiar oeconomy some additional power is required to supplement that of vision, as in insects that of touch is superadded, in the most sensitive development, to that of sight. Hence, it is possible that the extended screen stretched at the back of their nostrils may be intended by nature to facilitate the collection and conduction of odours, as the vast development of the shell of the ear in the same family is designed to assist in the collection of sounds—and thus to reinforce their vision when in pursuit of their prey at twilight by the superior sensitiveness of the organs of hearing and smell, as they are already remarkable for that marvellous sense of touch which enables them, even when deprived of sight, to direct their flight with security, by means of the delicate nerves of the wing. One tiny little bat, not much larger than the humble bee[1], and of a glossy black colour, is sometimes to be seen about Colombo. It is so familiar and gentle that it will alight on the cloth during dinner, and manifests so little alarm that it seldom makes any effort to escape before a wine glass can be inverted to secure it.[2]

1: It is a very small Singhalese variety of Scotophilus Coromandelicus; F. Cuv.

2: For a notice of the curious parasite peculiar to the bat, see Note A. end of this chapter.

III. CARNIVORA.—Bears.—Of the carnivora, the one most dreaded by the natives of Ceylon, and the only one of the larger animals which makes the depths of the forest its habitual retreat, is the bear[1], attracted by the honey which is to be found in the hollow trees and clefts of the rocks. Occasionally spots of fresh earth are observed which have been turned up by them in search of some favourite root. They feed also on the termites and ants. A friend of mine traversing the forest near Jaffna, at early dawn, had his attention attracted by the growling of a bear, which was seated upon a lofty branch thrusting portions of a red-ant's nest into its mouth with one paw, whilst with the other he endeavoured to clear his eyebrows and lips of the angry inmates which bit and tortured him in their rage. The Ceylon bear is found only in the low and dry districts of the northern and south-eastern coast, and is seldom met with on the mountains or the moist and damp plains of the west. It is furnished with a bushy tuft of hair on the back, between the shoulders, to which the young are accustomed to cling till sufficiently strong to provide for their own safety. During a severe drought which prevailed in the northern province in 1850, the district of Caretchy was so infested by bears that the Oriental custom of the women resorting to the wells was altogether suspended, as it was a common occurrence to find one of these animals in the water, unable to climb up the yielding and slippery soil, down which his thirst had impelled him to slide during the night.

1: Prochilus labiatus, Blainville.

Although the structure of the bear shows him to be naturally omnivorous, he rarely preys upon flesh in Ceylon, and his solitary habits whilst in search of honey and fruits, render him timid and retiring. Hence he evinces alarm on the approach of man or other animals, and, unable to make a rapid retreat, his panic rather than any vicious disposition leads him to become an assailant in self-defence. But so furious are his assaults under such circumstances that the Singhalese have a terror of his attack greater than that created by any other beast of the forest. If not armed with a gun, a native, in the places where bears abound, usually carries a light axe, called "kodelly," with which to strike them on the head. The bear, on the other hand, always aims, at the face, and, if successful in prostrating his victim, usually commences by assailing the eyes. I have met numerous individuals on our journeys who exhibited frightful scars from these encounters, the white seams of their wounds contrasting hideously with the dark colour of the rest of their bodies.

The Veddahs in Bintenne, whose chief stores consist of honey, live in dread of the bears, because, attracted by its perfume, they will not hesitate to attack their rude dwellings, when allured by this irresistible temptation. The Post-office runners, who always travel by night, are frequently exposed to danger from these animals, especially along the coast from Putlam to Aripo, where they are found in considerable numbers; and, to guard against surprise, they are accustomed to carry flambeaux, to give warning to the bears, and enable them to shuffle out of the path.[1]

1: Amongst the Singhalese there is a belief that certain charms are efficacious in protecting them from the violence of bears, and those whose avocations expose them to encounters of this kind are accustomed to carry a talisman either attached to their neck or enveloped in the folds of their luxuriant hair. A friend of mine, writing of an adventure which occurred at Anarajapoora, thus describes an occasion on which a Moor, who attended him, was somewhat rudely disabused of his belief in the efficacy of charms upon bears:—"Desiring to change the position of a herd of deer, the Moorman (with his charm) was sent across some swampy land to disturb them. As he was proceeding we saw him suddenly turn from an old tree and run back with all speed, his hair becoming unfastened and like his clothes streaming in the wind. It soon became evident that he was flying from some terrific object, for he had thrown down his gun, and, in his panic, he was taking the shortest line towards us, which lay across a swamp covered with sedge and rushes that greatly impeded his progress, and prevented us approaching him, or seeing what was the cause of his flight. Missing his steps from one hard spot to another he repeatedly fell into the water, but he rose and resumed his flight. I advanced as far as the sods would bear my weight, but to go further was impracticable. Just within ball range there was an open space, and, as the man gained it, I saw that he was pursued by a bear and two cubs. As the person of the fugitive covered the bear, it was impossible to fire without risk. At last he fell exhausted, and the bear being close upon him, I discharged both barrels. The first broke the bear's shoulder, but this only made her more savage, and rising on her hind legs she advanced with ferocious grunts, when the second barrel, though I do not think it took effect, served to frighten her, for turning round she retreated at full speed, followed by the cubs. Some natives then waded through the mud to the Moorman, who was just exhausted and would have been drowned but that he fell with his head upon a tuft of grass: the poor man was unable to speak, and for several weeks his intellect seemed confused. The adventure sufficed to satisfy him that he could not again depend upon a charm to protect him from bears, though he always insisted that but for its having fallen from his hair where he had fastened it under his turban, the bear would not have ventured to attack him."

Leopards[1] are the only formidable members of the tiger race in Ceylon, and they are neither very numerous nor very dangerous as they seldom attack man. By Europeans they are commonly called cheetahs; but the true cheetah, the hunting leopard of India (Felis jubata), does not exist in Ceylon. There is a rare variety which has been found in various parts of the island, in which the skin, instead of being spotted, is of a uniform black.[2] The leopards frequent the vicinity of pasture lands in quest of the deer and other peaceful animals which resort to them; and the villagers often complain of the destruction of their cattle by these formidable marauders. In relation to them, the natives have a curious but firm conviction that when a bullock is killed by a leopard, and, in expiring, falls so that its right side is undermost, the leopard will not return to devour it. I have been told by English sportsmen (some of whom share in the popular belief), that sometimes, when they have proposed to watch by the carcase of a bullock recently killed by a leopard, in the hope of shooting the spoiler on his return in search of his prey, the native owner of the slaughtered animal, though earnestly desiring to be avenged, has assured them that it would be in vain, as, the beast having fallen on its right side, the leopard would not return.

1: Felis pardus, Linn. What is called a leopard, or a cheetah, in Ceylon, is in reality the true panther.

2: F. melas, Peron and Leseur.

The Singhalese hunt them for the sake of their extremely beautiful skins, but prefer taking them in traps and pitfalls, and occasionally in spring cages formed of poles driven firmly into the ground, within which a kid is generally fastened as a bait; the door being held open by a sapling bent down by the united force of several men, and so arranged to act as a spring, to which a noose is ingeniously attached, formed of plaited deer hide. The cries of the kid attract the leopards, one of which, being tempted to enter, is enclosed by the liberation of the spring and grasped firmly round the body by the noose.

Like the other carnivora, they are timid and cowardly in the presence of man, never intruding on him voluntarily and making a hasty retreat when approached. Instances have, however, occurred of individuals having been slain by them, and like the tiger, it is believed, that, having once tasted human blood they acquire an habitual relish for it. A peon on night duty at the courthouse at Anarajapoora, was some years ago carried off by a leopard from a table in the verandah on which he had laid down his head to sleep. At Batticaloa a "cheetah" in two instances in succession was known to carry off men placed on a stage erected in a tree to drive away elephants from the rice-lands: but such cases are rare, and as compared with their dread of the bear, the natives of Ceylon entertain but slight apprehensions of the "cheetah." It is, however, the dread of sportsmen, whose dogs when beating in the jungle are especially exposed to its attacks: and I am aware of one instance in which a party having tied their dogs to the tent-pole for security, and fallen asleep around them, a leopard sprang into the tent and carried off a dog from the midst of its slumbering masters.

They are strongly attracted by the peculiar odour which accompanies small-pox. The reluctance of the natives to submit themselves or their children to vaccination exposes the island to frightful visitations of this disease; and in the villages in the interior it is usual on such occasions to erect huts in the jungle to serve as temporary hospitals. Towards these the leopards are certain to be allured; and the medical officers are obliged to resort to increased precautions in consequence. On one occasion being in the mountains near Kandy, a messenger despatched to me through the jungle excused his delay by stating that a "cheetah" had seated itself in the only practicable path, and remained quietly licking its fore paws and rubbing them over its face, till he was forced to drive it, with stones, into the forest.

Major Skinner, who for upwards of forty years has had occasion to live almost constantly in the interior, occupied in the prosecution of surveys and the construction of roads, is strongly of opinion that towards man the disposition of the leopard is essentially pacific, and that, when discovered, its natural impulse is to effect its escape. In illustration of this, I insert an extract from one of his letters, which describes an adventure highly characteristic of this instinctive timidity.

"On the occasion of one of my visits to Adam's Peak in the prosecution of my military reconnoissances of the mountain, zone, I fixed on a pretty little patena (i.e. meadow) in the midst of an extensive and dense forest in the southern segment of the Peak Range, as a favourable spot for operations. It would have been difficult, after descending from the cone of the peak, to have found one's way to this point, in the midst of so vast a wilderness of trees, had not long experience assured me that good game tracks would be found leading to it, and by one of them I reached it. It was in the afternoon, just after one of those tropical sun-showers which decorate every branch and blade with its pendant brilliants, and the little patena was covered with game, either driven to the open space by the drippings from the leaves or tempted by the freshness of the pasture: there were several pairs of elk, the bearded antlered male contrasting finely with his mate; and other varieties of game in a profusion not to be found in any place frequented by man. It was some time before I could allow them to be disturbed by the rude fall of the axe, in our necessity to establish our bivouac for the night, and they were so unaccustomed to danger, that it was long before they took alarm at our noises.

"The following morning, anxious to gain a height in time to avail myself of the clear atmosphere of sunrise for my observations, I started off by myself through the jungle, leaving orders for my men, with my surveying instruments, to follow my track by the notches which I cut in the bark of the trees. On leaving the plain, I availed myself of a fine wide game track which lay in my direction, and had gone, perhaps half a mile from the camp, when I was startled by a slight rustling in the nilloo[1] to my right, and in another instant, by the spring of a magnificent leopard which, in a bound of full eight feet in height over the lower brushwood, lighted at my feet within eighteen inches of the spot whereon I stood, and lay in a crouching position, his fiery gleaming eyes fixed on me.

1: A species of one of the suffruticose Acanthacea which grows abundantly in the mountain ranges of Ceylon. See ante, p. 90 n.

"The predicament was not a pleasant one. I had no weapon of defence, and with one spring or blow of his paw the beast could have annihilated me. To move I knew would only encourage his attack. It occurred to me at the moment that I had heard of the power of man's eye over wild animals, and accordingly I fixed my gaze as intently, as the agitation of such a moment enabled me, on his eyes: we stared at each other for some seconds, when, to my inexpressible joy, the beast turned and bounded down the straight open path before me." "This scene occurred just at that period of the morning when the grazing animals retired from the open patena to the cool shade of the forest: doubtless, the leopard had taken my approach for that of a deer, or some such animal. And if his spring had been at a quadruped instead of a biped, his distance was so well measured, that it must have landed him on the neck of a deer, an elk, or a buffalo; as it was, one pace more would have done for me. A bear would not have let his victim off so easily."

It is said, but I never have been able personally to verify the fact, that the Ceylon leopard exhibits a peculiarity in being unable entirely to retract its claws within their sheaths.

Of the lesser feline species the number and variety in Ceylon is inferior to that of India. The Palm-cat[1] lurks by day among the fronds of the coco-nut trees, and by night makes destructive forays on the fowls of the villagers; and, in order to suck the blood of its victim, inflicts a wound so small as to be almost imperceptible. The glossy genette[2], the "Civet" of Europeans, is common in the northern province, where the Tamils confine it in cages for the sake of its musk, which they collect from the wooden bars on which it rubs itself. Edrisi, the Moorish geographer, writing in the twelfth century, enumerates musk as one of the productions then exported from Ceylon.[3]

1: Paradoxurus typus, F. Cuv.

2: Viverra Indica, Geoffr., Hodgson.

3: EDRISI, Géogr., sec. vii. Jaubert's translation, t. ii. p. 72.

Dogs.—There is no native wild dog in Ceylon, but every village and town is haunted by mongrels of European descent, which are known by the generic description of Pariahs. They are a miserable race, acknowledged by no owners, living on the garbage of the streets and sewers, lean, wretched, and mangy, and if spoken to unexpectedly, shrinking with an almost involuntary cry. Yet in these persecuted outcasts there survives that germ of instinctive affection which binds the dog to the human race, and a gentle word, even a look of compassionate kindness, is sufficient foundation for a lasting attachment.

The Singhalese, from their religious aversion to taking away life in any form, permit the increase of these desolate creatures till in the hot season they become so numerous as to be a nuisance; and the only expedient hitherto devised by the civil government to reduce their numbers, is once in each year to offer a reward for their destruction, when the Tamils and Malays pursue them in the streets with clubs (guns being forbidden by the police for fear of accidents), and the unresisting dogs are beaten to death on the side-paths and door steps, where they had been taught to resort for food. Lord Torrington, during his tenure of office, attempted the more civilised experiment of putting some check on their numbers, by imposing a dog tax, the effect of which would have been to lead to the drowning of puppies; whereas there is reason to believe that dogs are at present bred by the horse-keepers to be killed for sake of the reward.

Jackal.—The Jackal[1] in the low country hunts in packs, headed by a leader, and these audacious prowlers have been seen to assault and pull down a deer. The small number of hares in the districts they infest is ascribed to their depredations. An excrescence is sometimes found on the head of the jackal, consisting of a small horny cone about half an inch in length, and concealed by a tuft of hair. This the natives call Narri-comboo, and they aver that this "Jackal's Horn" only grows on the head of the leader of the pack.[2] The Singhalese and the Tamils alike regard it as a talisman, and believe that its fortunate possessor can command by its instrumentality the realisation of every wish, and that if stolen or lost by him, it will invariably return of its own accord. Those who have jewels to conceal, rest in perfect security if along with them they can deposit a Narri-comboo, fully convinced that its presence is an effectual safeguard against robbers.

1: Canis aureus. Linn.

2: In the Museum of the College of Surgeons, London (No. 4362 A), there is a cranium of a jackal which exhibits this strange osseous process on the super-occipital; and I have placed along with it a specimen of the horny sheath, which was presented to me by Mr. Lavalliere, the district judge of Kandy.

Jackals are subject to hydrophobia, and instances are frequent of cattle being bitten by them and dying in consequence.

The Mongoos.—Of the Mongoos or Ichneumons five species have been described; and one which frequents the hills near Neuera-ellia[1], is so remarkable from its bushy fur, that the invalid soldiers in the sanatarium, to whom it is familiar, call it the "Ceylon Badger." I have found universally that the natives of Ceylon attach no credit to the European story of the Mongoos (H. griseus) resorting to some plant, which no one has yet succeeded in identifying, as an antidote against the bite of the venomous serpents on which it preys. There is no doubt that in its conflicts with the cobra de capello and other poisonous snakes, which it attacks with as little hesitation as the harmless ones, it may be seen occasionally to retreat, and even to retire into the jungle, and, it is added, to eat some vegetable; but a gentleman who has been a frequent observer of its exploits, assures me that most usually the herb it resorted to was grass; and if this were not at hand, almost any other that grew near seemed equally acceptable. Hence has probably arisen the long list of plants; such as the Ophioxylon serpentinum and Ophiorhiza mungos, the Aristolochia Indica, the Mimosa octandru, and others, each of which has been asserted to be the ichneumon's specific; whilst their multiplicity is demonstrative of the non-existence of any one in particular to which the animal resorts for an antidote. Were there any truth in the tale as regards the mongoos, it would be difficult to understand, why other creatures, such as the secretary bird and the falcon, which equally destroy serpents, should be left defenceless, and the ichneumon alone provided with a prophylactic. Besides, were the ichneumon inspired by that courage which would result from the consciousness of security, it would be so indifferent to the bite of the serpent, that we might conclude that, both in its approaches and its assault, it would be utterly careless as to the precise mode of its attack. Such, however, is far from being the case; and next to its audacity, nothing is more surprising than the adroitness with which it escapes the spring of the snake under a due sense of danger, and the cunning with which it makes its arrangements to leap upon the back and fasten its teeth in the head of the cobra. It is this display of instinctive ingenuity that Lucan[2] celebrates where he paints the ichneumon diverting the attention of the asp, by the motion of his bushy tale, and then seizing it in the midst of its confusion.

1: Herpestes vitticollis. Mr. W. ELLIOTT, in his Catalogue of Mammalia found in the Southern Maharata Country, Madras, 1840, says, that "One specimen of this Herpestes was procured by accident in the Ghat forests in 1829, and is now deposited in the British Museum; it is very rare, inhabiting only the thickest woods, and its habits are very little known," p. 9. In Ceylon, it is comparatively common.

2: The passage in Lucan is a versification of the same narrative related by Pliny, lib. viii. ch. 35; and Ælian, lib. iii. ch. 22.

"Aspidas ut Pharias caudâ solertior hostis

Ludit, et iratas incertâ provocat umbrâ:

Obliquusque caput vanas serpentis in auras

Effusæ toto comprendit guttura morsu

Letiferam citra saniem; tune irrita pestis

Exprimitur, faucesque fluunt pereunte veneno."

Pharsalia, lib. iv. v. 729.

The mystery of the mongoos and its antidote has been referred to the supposition that there may be some peculiarity in its organisation which renders it proof against the poison of the serpent. It remains for future investigation to determine how far this conjecture is founded in truth; and whether in the blood of the mongoos there exists any element or quality which acts as a prophylactic. Such exceptional provisions are not without precedent in the animal oeconomy: the hornbill feeds with impunity on the deadly fruit of the strychnos; the milky juice of some species of euphorbia, which is harmless to oxen, is invariably fatal to the zebra; and the tsetse fly, the pest of South Africa, whose bite is mortal to the ox, the dog, and the horse, is harmless to man and the untamed creatures of the forest.[1]

1: Dr. LIVINGSTONE, Tour in S. Africa, p. 80. Is it a fact that in America, pigs extirpate the rattlesnakes with impunity?

The Singhalese distinguish one species of mongoos, which they designate "Hotambeya," and which they assert never preys upon serpents. A writer in the Ceylon Miscellany mentions, that they are often to be seen "crossing rivers and frequenting mud-brooks near Chilaw; the adjacent thickets affording them shelter, and their food consisting of aquatic reptiles, crabs, and mollusca."[1]

1: This is possibly the "musbilai" or mouse-cat of Behar, which preys upon birds and fish. Could it be the Urva of the Nepalese (Urva cancrivora, Hodgson), which Mr. Hodgson describes as dwelling in burrows, and being carnivorous and ranivorous?—Vide Journ. As. Soc. Beng., vol. vi. p. 56.

IV. RODENTIA. Squirrels.—Smaller animals in great numbers enliven the forests and lowland plains with their graceful movements. Squirrels[1], of which there are a great variety, make their shrill metallic call heard at early morning in the woods, and when sounding their note of warning on the approach of a civet or a tree-snake, the ears tingle with the loud trill of defiance, which rings as clear and rapid as the running down of an alarum, and is instantly caught up and re-echoed from every side by their terrified playmates.

1: Of two kinds which frequent the mountains, one which is peculiar to Ceylon was discovered by Mr. Edgar L. Layard, who has done me the honour to call it the Sciurus Tennentii. Its dimensions are large, measuring upwards of two feet from head to tail. It is distinguished from the S. macrurus by the predominant black colour of the upper surface of the body, with the exception of a rusty spot at the base of the ears.

One of the largest, belonging to a closely allied subgenus, is known as the "Flying Squirrel,"[1] from its being assisted in its prodigious leaps from tree to tree, by the parachute formed by the skin of the flanks, which on the extension of the limbs front and rear, is laterally expanded from foot to foot. Thus buoyed up in its descent, the spring which it is enabled to make from one lofty tree to another resembles the flight of a bird rather than the bound of a quadruped. Of these pretty creatures there are two species, one common to Ceylon and India, the other (Sciuropterus Layardii, Kelaart) is peculiar to the island, and is by far the most beautiful of the family.

1: Pteromys oral., Tickel. P. petaurista, Pallas.

Rats.—Among the multifarious inhabitants to which the forest affords at once a home and provender is the tree rat[1], which forms its nest on the branches, and by turns makes its visits to the dwellings of the natives, frequenting the ceilings in preference to the lower parts of houses. Here it is incessantly followed by the rat-snake[2], whose domestication is encouraged by the native servants, in consideration of its services in destroying vermin. I had one day an opportunity of surprising a snake which had just seized on a rat of this description, and of covering it suddenly with a glass shade, before it had time to swallow its prey. The serpent, which appeared stunned by its own capture, allowed the rat to escape from its jaws, which cowered at one side of the glass in the most pitiable state of trembling terror. The two were left alone for some moments, and on my return to them the snake was as before in the same attitude of sullen stupor. On setting them at liberty, the rat bounded towards the nearest fence; but quick as lightning it was followed by its pursuer, which seized it before it could gain the hedge, through which I saw the snake glide with its victim in its jaws.

1: There are two species of the tree rat in Ceylon: M. rufescens, Gray; (M. flavescens; Elliot;) and Mus nemoralis, Blyth.

2: Coryphodon Blumenbachii.

Another indigenous variety of the rat is that which made its appearance for the first time in the coffee plantations on the Kandyan hills in the year 1847, and in such swarms does it infest them, that as many as a thousand have been killed in a single day on one estate. In order to reach the buds and blossoms of the coffee, it cuts such slender branches, as would not sustain its weight, and feeds as they fall to the ground; and so delicate and sharp are its incisors, that the twigs thus destroyed are detached by as clean a cut as if severed with a knife. The coffee-rat[1] is an insular variety of the Mus hirsutus of W. Elliot, found in Southern India. They inhabit the forests, making their nests among the roots of the trees, and like the lemmings of Norway and Lapland, they migrate in vast numbers on the occurrence of a scarcity of their ordinary food. The Malabar coolies are so fond of their flesh, that they evince a preference for those districts in which the coffee plantations are subject to these incursions, where they fry the rats in oil, or convert them into curry.

1: Golunda Ellioti, Gray.

Bandicoot.—Another favourite article of food with the coolies is the pig-rat or Bandicoot[1], which attains on those hills the weight of two or three pounds, and grows to nearly the length of two feet. As it feeds on grain and roots, its flesh is said to be delicate, and much resembling young pork. Its nests, when rifled, are frequently found to contain considerable quantities of rice, stored up against the dry season.

1: Mus bandicota, Beckst. The English term bandicoot is a corruption of the Telinga name pandikoku, literally pig-rat.

Porcupine.—The Porcupine[1] is another of the rodentia which has drawn down upon itself the hostility of the planters, from its destruction of the young coco-nut palms, to which it is a pernicious and persevering, but withal so crafty, a visitor, that it is with difficulty any trap can be so disguised, or any bait made so alluring, as to lead to its capture. The usual expedient is to place some of its favourite food at the extremity of a trench, so narrow as to prevent the porcupine turning, whilst the direction of his quills effectually bars his retreat. On a newly planted coco-nut tope, at Hang-welle, within a few miles of Colombo, I have heard of as many as twenty-seven being thus captured in a single night; but such success is rare. The more ordinary expedient is to smoke them out by burning straw at the apertures of their burrows. The flesh is esteemed a delicacy in Ceylon, and in consistency, colour, and flavour, it very much resembles that of a young pig.

1: Hystrix leucurus, Sykes.

V. EDENTATA, Pengolin.—Of the Edentata the only example in Ceylon is the scaly ant-eater, called by the Singhalese, Caballaya, but usually known by its Malay name of Pengolin[1], a word indicative of its faculty of "rolling itself up" into a compact ball, by bending its head towards its stomach, arching its back into a circle, and securing all by a powerful fold of its mail-covered tail. The feet of the pengolin are armed with powerful claws, which they double in in walking like the ant-eater of Brazil. These they use in extracting their favourite food, the termites, from ant-hills and decaying wood. When at liberty, they burrow in the dry ground to a depth of seven or eight feet, where they reside in pairs, and produce annually one or two young.

1: Manis pentadactyla, Linn.

Of two specimens which I kept alive at different times, one from the vicinity of Kandy, about two feet in length, was a gentle and affectionate creature, which, after wandering over the house in search of ants, would attract attention to its wants by climbing up my knee, laying hold of my leg with its prehensile tail. The other, more than double that length, was caught in the jungle near Chilaw, and brought to me in Colombo. I had always understood that the pengolin was unable to climb trees; but the one last mentioned frequently ascended a tree in my garden, in search of ants, and this it effected by means of its hooked feet, aided by an oblique grasp of the tail. The ants it seized by extending its round and glutinous tongue along their tracks. In both, the scales of the back were a cream-coloured white, with a tinge of red in the specimen which came from Chilaw, probably acquired by the insinuation of the Cabook dust which abounds along the western coast of the island. Generally speaking, they were quiet during the day, and grew restless as evening and night approached.

VI. RUMINATA. The Gaur.—Besides the deer and some varieties of the humped ox, which have been introduced from the opposite continent of India, Ceylon has probably but one other indigenous ruminant., the buffalo.[1] There is a tradition that the gaur, found in the extremity of the Indian peninsula, was at one period a native of the Kandyan mountains; but as Knox speaks of one which in his time "was kept among the king's creatures" at Kandy[2], and his account of it tallies with that of the Bos Gaurus of Hindustan, it would appear even then to have been a rarity. A place between Neuera-ellia and Adam's Peak bears the name of Gowra-ellia, and it is not impossible that the animal may yet be discovered in some of the imperfectly explored regions of the island.[3] I have heard of an instance in which a very old Kandyan, residing in the mountains near the Horton Plains, asserted that when young he had seen what he believed to have been a gaur, and which he described as between an elk and a buffalo in size, dark brown in colour, and very scantily provided with hair.

1: Bubalus buffelus; Gray.

2: Historical Relation of Ceylon, &c., A.D. 1681. Book i. c, 6.

3: KELAART, Fauna Zeylan., p. 87.

Oxen.—Oxen are used by the peasantry both in ploughing and in tempering the mud in the wet paddi fields before sowing the rice; and when the harvest is reaped they "tread out the corn," after the immemorial custom of the East. The wealth of the native chiefs and landed proprietors frequently consists in their herds of bullocks, which they hire out to their dependents during the seasons for agricultural labour; and as they already supply them with land to be tilled, and lend the seed which is to crop it, the further contribution of this portion of the labour serves to render the dependence of the peasantry on the chiefs and head-men complete.

The cows are worked equally with the oxen; and as the calves are always permitted to suck them, milk is an article which the traveller can rarely hope to procure in a Kandyan village. From their constant exposure at all seasons, the cattle in Ceylon, both those employed in agriculture and on the roads, are subject to the most devastating murrains, which sweep them away by thousands. So frequent is the recurrence of these calamities, and so extended their ravages, that they exercise a serious influence over the commercial interests of the colony, by reducing the facilities of agriculture, and augmenting the cost of carriage during the most critical periods of the coffee season.

A similar disorder, probably peripneumonia, frequently carries off the cattle in Assam and other hill countries on the continent of India; and there, as in Ceylon, the inflammatory symptoms in the lungs and throat, and the internal derangement and external eruptive appearances, seem to indicate that the disease is a feverish influenza, attributable to neglect and exposure in a moist and variable climate; and that its prevention might be hoped for, and the cattle preserved by the simple expedient of more humane and considerate treatment, especially by affording them cover at night.

During my residence in Ceylon an incident occurred at Neuera-ellia, which invested one of these pretty animals with an heroic interest. A little cow, belonging to an English gentleman, was housed, together with her calf, near the dwelling of her owner, and being aroused during the night by her furious bellowing, the servants, on hastening to the stall, found her goring a leopard, which had stolen in to attack the calf. She had got him into a corner, and whilst lowing incessantly to call for help, she continued to pound him with her horns. The wild animal, apparently stupified by her unexpected violence, was detained by her till despatched by a gun.

The Buffalo.—Buffaloes abound in all parts of Ceylon, but they are only to be seen in their native wildness in the vast solitudes of the northern and eastern provinces, where rivers, lagoons, and dilapidated tanks abound. In these they delight to immerse themselves, till only their heads appear above the surface; or, enveloped in mud to protect themselves from the assaults of insects, luxuriate in the long sedges by the water margins.

When the buffalo is browsing, a crow will frequently be seen stationed on his back, engaged in freeing it from the ticks and other pests which attach themselves to his leathery hide, the smooth brown surface of which, unprotected by hair, shines with an unpleasant polish in the sunlight. When in motion he throws back his clumsy head till the huge horns rest on his shoulders, and the nose is presented in a line with the eyes. When wild they are at all times uncertain in disposition, but so frequently savage that it is never quite safe to approach them, if disturbed in their pasture or alarmed from their repose in the shallow lakes. On such occasions they hurry into line, draw up in defensive array, with a few of the oldest bulls in advance; and, wheeling in circles, their horns clashing with a loud sound as they clank them together in their rapid evolutions, the herd betakes itself to flight. Then forming again at a safer distance, they halt as before, elevating their nostrils, and throwing back their heads to take a cautious survey of the intruders. The sportsman rarely molests them, so huge a creature affording no worthy mark for his skill, and their wanton slaughter adding nothing to the supply of food for their assailant.

In the Hambangtotte country, where the Singhalese domesticate the buffaloes, and use them to assist in the labour of the rice lands, the villagers are much annoyed by the wild ones, which mingle with the tame when sent out to the woods to pasture; and it constantly happens that a savage stranger, placing himself at the head of the tame herd, resists the attempts of the owners to drive them homewards at sunset. In the districts of Putlam and the Seven Corles, buffaloes are generally used for draught; and in carrying heavy loads of salt from the coast towards the interior, they drag a cart over roads which would defy the weaker strength of bullocks.

In one place between Batticaloa and Trincomalie I found the natives making an ingenious use of them when engaged in shooting water-fowl in the vast salt marshes and muddy lakes. Being an object to which the birds are accustomed, the Singhalese train the buffalo to the sport, and, concealed behind, the animal browsing listlessly along, they guide it by ropes attached to its horns, and thus creep undiscovered within shot of the flock. The same practice prevails, I believe, in some of the northern parts of India, where they are similarly trained to assist the sportsman in approaching deer. One of these "sporting buffaloes" sells for a considerable sum.

The buffalo, like the elk, is sometimes found in Ceylon as an albino, with purely white hair and pink iris. There is a peculiarity in the formation of its foot, which, though it must have attracted attention, I have never seen mentioned by naturalists. It is equivalent to an arrangement that distinguishes the foot of the reindeer from that of the stag and the antelope. In them, the hoofs, being constructed for lightness and flight, are compact and vertical; but, in the reindeer, the joints of the tarsal bones admit of lateral expansion, and the broad hoofs curve upwards in front, while the two secondary ones behind (which are but slightly developed in the fallow deer and others of the same family) are prolonged till, in certain positions, they are capable of being applied to the ground, thus adding to the circumference and sustaining power of the foot. It has been usually suggested as the probable design of this structure, that it is to enable the reindeer to shovel under the snow in order to reach the lichens beneath it; but I apprehend that another use of it has been overlooked, that of facilitating its movements in search of food by increasing the difficulty of its sinking in the snow.

A formation precisely analogous in the buffalo seems to point to a corresponding design. The ox, whose life is spent on firm ground, has the bones of the foot so constructed as to afford the most solid support to an animal of its great weight; but in the buffalo, which delights in the morasses on the margins of pools and rivers, the formation of the foot resembles that of the reindeer. The tarsi in front extend almost horizontally from the upright bones of the leg, and spread widely on touching the ground; the hoofs are flattened and broad, with the extremities turned upwards; and the false hoofs descend behind till, in walking, they make a clattering sound. In traversing the marshes, this combination of abnormal incidents serves to give extraordinary breadth to the foot, and not only prevents the buffalo from sinking inconveniently in soft ground[1], but at the same time presents no obstacle to the withdrawal of his foot from the mud.

1: PROFESSOR OWEN has noticed a similar fact regarding the rudiments of the second and fifth digits in the instance of the elk and bison, which have them largely expanded where they inhabit swampy ground; whilst they are nearly obliterated in the camel and dromedary, which traverse arid deserts.—OWEN on Limbs, p. 34; see also BELL on the Hand, ch. iii.

Deer.—"Deer," says the truthful old chronicler, Robert Knox, "are in great abundance in the woods, from the largeness of a cow to the smallness of a hare, for here is a creature in this land no bigger than the latter, though every part rightly resembleth a deer: it is called meminna, of a grey colour, with white spots and good meat."[1] The little creature which thus dwelt in the recollection of the old man, as one of the memorials of his long captivity, is the small "musk deer"[2] so called in India, although neither sex is provided with a musk-bag; and the Europeans in Ceylon know it by the name of the moose deer. Its extreme length never reaches two feet; and of those which were domesticated about my house, few exceeded ten inches in height, their graceful limbs being of similar delicate proportion. It possesses long and extremely large tusks, with which it inflicts a severe bite. The interpreter moodliar of Negombo had a milk white meminna in 1847, which he designed to send home as an acceptable present to Her Majesty, but it was unfortunately killed by an accident.[3]

1: KNOX'S Relation, &c., book i. c. 6.

2: Moschus meminna.

3: When the English took possession of Kandy, in 1803, they found "five beautiful milk-white deer in the palace, which was noted as a very extraordinary thing."—Letter in Appendix to PERCIVAL'S Ceylon, p. 428. The writer does not say of what species they were.

Ceylon Elk.—In the mountains, the Ceylon elk[1], which reminds one of the red deer of Scotland, attains the height of four or five feet; it abounds in all places which are intersected by shady rivers; where, though its hunting affords an endless resource to the sportsmen, its venison scarcely equals in quality the inferior beef of the lowland ox. In the glades and park-like openings that diversify the great forests of the interior, the spotted Axis troops in herds as numerous as the fallow deer in England; and, in journeys through the jungle, when often dependent on the guns of our party for the precarious supply of the table, we found the flesh of the Axis[2] and the Muntjac[3] a sorry substitute for that of the pea-fowl, the jungle-cock, and flamingo. The occurrence of albinos is very frequent in troops of the axis. Deer's horns are an article of export from Ceylon, and considerable quantities are annually sent to the United Kingdom.

1: Rusa Aristotelis. Dr. GRAY has lately shown that this is the great axis of Cuvier.—Oss. Foss. 502, t. 39, f. 10. The Singhalese, on following the elk, frequently effect their approaches by so imitating the call of the animal as to induce them to respond. An instance occurred during my residence in Ceylon, in which two natives, whose mimicry had mutually deceived them, crept so close together in the jungle that one shot the other, supposing the cry to proceed from the game.

2: Axis maculata, H. Smith.

3: Stylocerus muntjac, Horsf.

VII. PACHYDERMATA. The Elephant.—The elephant and the wild boar, the Singhalese "waloora," are the only representatives of the pachydermatous order. The latter, which differs in no respect from the wild boar of India, is found in droves in all parts of the island where vegetation and water are abundant. The elephant, the lord paramount of the Ceylon forests, is to be met with in every district, on the confines of the woods, in whose depths he finds concealment and shade during the hours when the sun is high, and from which he emerges only at twilight to wend his way towards the rivers and tanks, where he luxuriates till dawn, when he again seeks the retirement of the deep forests. This noble animal fills so dignified a place both in the zoology and oeconomy of Ceylon, and his habits in a state of nature have been so much misunderstood, that I shall devote a separate section to his defence from misrepresentation, and to an exposition of what, from observation and experience, I believe to be his genuine character when free in his native domains.

VIII. CETACEA.—Among the Cetacea the occurrence of the Dugong[1] on various points of the coast, and especially on the western side of the island, will be noticed elsewhere; and whales are so frequently seen that they have been captured within sight of Colombo, and more than once their carcases, after having been flinched by the whalers, have floated on shore near the light-house, tainting the atmosphere within the fort by their rapid decomposition.

1: Halicore dugong, F. Cuv.

From this sketch of the Mammalia it will be seen that, in its general features, this branch of the Fauna bears a striking resemblance to that of Southern India, although many of the larger animals of the latter are unknown in Ceylon; and, on the other hand, some species discovered there are altogether peculiar to the island. A deer[1] as large as the Axis, but differing from it in the number and arrangement of its spots, has been described by Dr. Kelaart, to whose vigilance the natural history of Ceylon is indebted, amongst others, for the identification of two new species of monkeys[2], a number of curious shrews[3], and an orange-coloured ichneumon[4], before unknown. There are also two descriptions of squirrels[5] that have not as yet been discovered elsewhere, one of them belonging to those equipped with a parachute[6], as well as some local varieties of the palm squirrel (Sciurus penicillatus, Leach).[7]

1: Cervus orizus, KELAART, Prod. F. Zeyl., p. 83.

2: Presbytes ursinus, Blyth, and P. Thersites, Elliot.

3: Sorex montanus, S. ferrugineus, and Feroculus macropus.

4: Herpestes fulvescens, KELAART, Prod. Fann. Zeylan., App. p. 42.

5: Sciurus Tennentii, Layard.

6: Sciuropterus Layardi, Kelaart.

7: There is a rat found only in the Cinnamon Gardens at Colombo, Mus Ceylonus, Kelaart; and a mouse which Dr. Kelaart discovered at Trincomalie, M. fulvidi-ventris, Blyth, both peculiar to Ceylon. Dr. TEMPLETON has noticed a little shrew (Corsira purpurascens, Mag. Nat. Hist. 1855, p. 238) at Neuera-ellia, not as yet observed elsewhere.

But the Ceylon Mammalia, besides wanting a number of minor animals found in the Indian peninsula, cannot boast such a ruminant as the majestic Gaur[1], which inhabits the great forests from Cape Comorin to the Himalaya; and, providentially, the island is equally free of the formidable tiger and the ferocious wolf of Hindustan.

1: Bos cavifrons, Hodgs, B. frontalis, Lamb.

The Hyena and Cheetah[1], common in Southern India, are unknown in Ceylon; and though abundant in deer, the island possesses no example of the Antelope or the Gazelle.

1: Felis jubata, Schreb.

List of Ceylon Mammalia.

A list of the Mammalia of Ceylon is subjoined. In framing it, as well as the lists appended to other chapters on the Fauna of the island, the principal object in view has been to exhibit the extent to which its natural history had been investigated, and collections made up to the period of my leaving the colony in 1850. It has been considered expedient to exclude a few individuals which have not had the advantage of a direct comparison with authentic specimens, either at Calcutta or in England. This will account for the omission of a number which have appeared in other catalogues, but of which many, though ascertained to exist, have not been submitted to this rigorous process of identification.

The greater portion of the species of mammals and birds contained in these lists will be found, with suitable references to the most accurate descriptions, in the admirable catalogue of the collection at the India House, now in course of publication under the care of Dr. Horsfield. This work cannot be too highly extolled, not alone for the scrupulous fidelity with which the description of each species is referred to its first discoverer, but also for the pains which have been taken to elaborate synonymes and to collate from local periodicals and other sources, little accessible to ordinary inquirers, such incidents and traits as are calculated to illustrate characteristics and habits.










Parasite of the Bat

One of the most curious peculiarities connected with the bats is their singular parasite, the Nycteribia.[1] On cursory observation, this creature appears to have neither head, antennæ, eyes, nor mouth; and the earlier observers of its structure assured themselves that the place of the latter was supplied by a cylindrical sucker, which, being placed between the shoulders, the creature had no option but to turn on its back to feed. This apparent inconvenience was thought to have been compensated for by another anomaly: its three pairs of legs, armed with claws, being so arranged that they seemed to be equally distributed over its upper and under sides, the creature being thus enabled to use them like hands, and to grasp the strong hairs above it while extracting its nourishment. It moves by rolling itself rapidly along, rotating like a wheel on the extremities of its spokes, or like the clown in a pantomime hurling himself forward on hands and feet alternately. Its celerity is so great that Colonel Montague, who was one of the first to describe it minutely[2], says its speed exceeds that of any known insect, and as its joints are so flexible as to yield in every direction (like what mechanics call a "ball and socket"), its motions are exceedingly grotesque as it tumbles through the fur of the bat.

1: This extraordinary creature had formerly been discovered only on a few European bats. Joinville figured one which he found on the large roussette (the flying-fox), and says he had seen another on a bat of the same family. Dr. Templeton observed them in Ceylon in great abundance on the fur of the Scotophilus Coromandelicus, and they will, no doubt, be found on many others.

2: Celeripes vespertilionis, Mont. Lin. Trans, xi. p. 11.

To enable it to attain its marvellous velocity, each foot is armed with two sharp hooks, with elastic pads opposed to them, so that the hair can not only be rapidly seized and firmly held, but as quickly disengaged as the creature whirls away in its headlong career.

The insects to which it hears the nearest affinity are the Hippoboscidæ or "spider flies," that infest birds and horses, but, unlike them, it is unable to fly.

Its strangest peculiarity, and that which gave rise to the belief that it is headless, is its faculty when at rest of throwing back its head and pressing it close between its shoulders till the under side becomes uppermost, not a vestige of head being discernible where we would naturally look for it, and the whole seeming but a casual inequality on its back.

On closer examination this apparent tubercle is found to have a leathery attachment like a flexible neck, and by a sudden jerk the little creature is enabled to project it forward into its normal position, when it is discovered to be furnished with a mouth, antennæ, and four eyes, two on each side.

The organisation of such an insect is a marvellous adaptation of physical form to special circumstances. As the nycteribia has to make its way through fur and hairs, its feet are furnished with prehensile hooks that almost convert them into hands; and being obliged to conform to the sudden flights of its patron, and accommodate itself to inverted positions, all attitudes are rendered alike to it by the arrangement of its limbs, which enables it, after every possible gyration, to find itself always on its feet.



Of the Birds of the island, upwards of three hundred and twenty species have been indicated, for which we are indebted to the persevering labours of Dr. Templeton, Dr. Kelaart, and Mr. Layard; but many yet remain to be identified. In fact, to the eye of a stranger, their prodigious numbers, and especially the myriads of waterfowl which, notwithstanding the presence of the crocodiles, people the lakes and marshes in the eastern provinces, form one of the marvels of Ceylon.

In the glory of their plumage, the birds of the interior are surpassed by those of South America and Northern India; and the melody of their song will bear no comparison with that of the warblers of Europe, but the want of brilliancy is compensated by their singular grace of form, and the absence of prolonged and modulated harmony by the rich and melodious tones of their clear and musical calls. In the elevations of the Kandyan country there are a few, such as the robin of Neuera-ellia[1] and the long-tailed thrush[2], whose song rivals that of their European namesakes; but, far beyond the attraction of their notes, the traveller rejoices in the flute-like voices of the Oriole, the Dayal-bird[3], and some others equally charming; when, at the first dawn of day, they wake the forest with their clear reveille.

1: Pratincola atrata, Kelaart.

2: Kittacincla macroura, Gm.

3: Copsychus saularis, Linn. Called by the Europeans in Ceylon the "Magpie Robin." This is not to be confounded with the other popular favourite, the "Indian Robin" (Thamnobia fulicata, Linn.), which is "never seen in the unfrequented jungle, but, like the coco-nut palm, which the Singhalese assert will only flourish within the sound of the human voice, it is always found near the habitations of men."—E.L. LAYARD.

It is only on emerging from the dense forests, and coming into the vicinity of the lakes and pasture of the low country, that birds become visible in great quantities. In the close jungle one occasionally hears the call of the copper-smith[1], or the strokes of the great orange-coloured woodpecker[2] as it beats the decaying trees in search of insects, whilst clinging to the bark with its finely-pointed claws, and leaning for support upon the short stiff feathers of its tail. And on the lofty branches of the higher trees, the hornbill[3] (the toucan of the East), with its enormous double casque, sits to watch the motions of the tiny reptiles and smaller birds on which it preys, tossing them into the air when seized, and catching them in its gigantic mandibles as they fall.[4] The remarkable excrescence on the beak of this extraordinary bird may serve to explain the statement of the Minorite friar Odoric, of Portenau in Friuli, who travelled in Ceylon in the fourteenth century, and brought suspicion on the veracity of his narrative by asserting that he had there seen "birds with two heads."[5]

1: The greater red-headed Barbet (Megalaima indica, Lath.; M. Philippensis, var. A. Lath.), the incessant din of which resembles the blows of a smith hammering a cauldron.

2: Brachypternus aurantius, Linn.

3: Buceros pica, Scop.; B. coronata, Bodd. The natives assert that B. pica builds in holes in the trees, and that when incubation has fairly commenced, the female takes her seat on the eggs, and the male closes up the orifice by which she entered, leaving only a small aperture through which he feeds his partner, whilst she successfully guards their treasures from the monkey tribes; her formidable bill nearly filling the entire entrance. See a paper by Edgar L. Layard, Esq. Mag. Nat. Hist. March, 1853. Dr. Horsfield had previously observed the same habit in a species of Buceros in Java. (See HORSFIELD and MOORE'S Catal. Birds, E.I. Comp. Mus. vol. ii.) It is curious that a similar trait, though necessarily from very different instincts, is exhibited by the termites, who literally build a cell round the great progenitrix of the community, and feed her through apertures.

4: The hornbill is also frugivorous, and the natives assert that when endeavouring to detach a fruit, if the stem is too tough to be severed by his mandibles, he flings himself off the branch so as to add the weight of his body to the pressure of his beak. The hornbill abounds in Cuttack, and bears there the name of "Kuchila-Kai," or Kuchila-eater, from its partiality for the fruit of the Strychnus nux-vomica. The natives regard its flesh as a sovereign specific for rheumatic affections.—Asiat. Res. ch. xv. p. 184.

5: Itinerarius FRATRIS ODORICI, de Foro Julii de Portu-vahonis.—HAKLUYT, vol. ii. p. 39.

As we emerge from the deep shade and approach the park-like openings on the verge of the low country, quantities of pea-fowl are to be found either feeding amongst the seeds and nuts in the long grass or sunning themselves on the branches of the surrounding trees. Nothing to be met with in demesnes in England can give an adequate idea either of the size or the magnificence of this matchless bird when seen in his native solitudes. Here he generally selects some projecting branch, from which his plumage may hang free of the foliage, and, if there be a dead and leafless bough, he is certain to choose it for his resting-place, whence he droops his wings and suspends his gorgeous train, or spreads it in the morning sun to drive off the damps and dews of the night.

In some of the unfrequented portions of the eastern province, to which Europeans rarely resort, and where the pea-fowl are unmolested by the natives, their number is so extraordinary that, regarded as game, it ceases to be a "sport" to destroy them; and their cries at early morning are so tumultuous and incessant as to banish sleep, and amount to an actual inconvenience. Their flesh is excellent when served up hot, though it is said to be indigestible; but, when cold, it contracts a reddish and disagreeable tinge.

But of all, the most astonishing in point of multitude, as well as the most interesting from their endless variety, are the myriads of aquatic birds and waders which frequent the lakes and watercourses; especially those along the coast near Batticaloa, between the mainland and the sand formations of the shore, and the innumerable salt marshes and lagoons to the south of Trincomalie. These, and the profusion of perching birds, fly-catchers, finches, and thrushes, which appear in the open country, afford sufficient quarry for the raptorial and predatory species—eagles, hawks, and falcons—whose daring sweeps and effortless undulations are striking objects in the cloudless sky.

I. ACCIPITRES. Eagles.—The Eagles, however, are small, and as compared with other countries rare; except, perhaps, the crested eagle[1], which haunts the mountain provinces and the lower hills, disquieting the peasantry by its ravages amongst their poultry; and the gloomy serpent eagle[2], which, descending from its eyrie in the lofty jungle, and uttering a loud and plaintive cry, sweeps cautiously around the lonely tanks and marshes, where it feeds upon the reptiles on their margin. The largest eagle is the great sea Erne[3], seen on the northern coasts and the salt lakes of the eastern provinces, particularly when the receding tide leaves bare an expanse of beach, over which it hunts, in company with the fishing eagle[4], sacred to Siva. Unlike its companions, however, the sea eagle rejects garbage for living prey, and especially for the sea snakes which abound on the northern coasts. These it seizes by descending with its wings half closed, and, suddenly darting down its talons, it soars aloft again with its writhing victim.[5]

1: Spizaëtus limnaëtus, Horsf.

2: Hæmatornis cheela, Daud.

3: Pontoaetus leucogaster, Gmel.

4: Haliastur indus, Bodd.

5: E.L. Layard. Europeans have given this bird the name of the "Brahminy Kite," probably from observing the superstitious feeling of the natives regarding it, who believe that when two armies are about to engage, its appearance prognosticates victory to the party over whom it hovers.

Hawks.—The beautiful Peregrine Falcon[1] is rare, but the Kestrel[2] is found almost universally; and the bold and daring Goshawk[3] wherever wild crags and precipices afford safe breeding places. In the district of Anarajapoora, where it is trained for hawking, it is usual, in lieu of a hood, to darken its eyes by means of a silken thread passed through holes in the eyelids. The ignoble birds of prey, the Kites[4], keep close by the shore, and hover round the returning boats of the fishermen to feast on the fry rejected from their nets.

1: Falco peregrinus, Linn.

2: Tinnunculus alaudarius, Briss.

3: Astur trivirgatus, Temm.

4: Milvus govinda, Sykes. Dr. Hamilton Buchanan remarks that when gorged this bird delights to sit on the entablature of buildings, exposing its back to the hottest rays of the sun, placing its breast against the wall, and stretching out its wings exactly as the Egyptian Hawk is represented on their monuments.

Owls.—Of the nocturnal accipitres the most remarkable is the brown owl, which, from its hideous yell, has acquired the name of the "Devil-Bird."[l] The Singhalese regard it literally with horror, and its scream by night in the vicinity of a village is bewailed as the harbinger of approaching calamity.

1: Syrnium indranee, Sykes. The horror of this nocturnal scream was equally prevalent in the West as in the East. Ovid Introduces it in his Fasti, L. vi. 1. 139; and Tibullus in his Elegies, L.i. El 5. Statius says—

"Nocturnæ-que gemunt striges, et feralia bubo

Danna canens." Theb. iii. I. 511.

But Pliny, 1. xi. c. 93, doubts as to what bird produced the sound; and the details of Ovid's description do not apply to an owl.

Mr. Mitford, of the Ceylon Civil Service, to whom I am indebted for many valuable notes relative to the birds of the island, regards the identification of the Singhalese Devil-Bird as open to similar doubt: he says—"The Devil-Bird is not am owl. I never heard it until I came to Kornegalle, where it haunts the rocky hill at the back of Government-House. Its ordinary note is a magnificent clear shout like that of a human being, and which can be heard at a great distance, and has a fine effect in the silence of the closing night. It has another cry like that of a hen just caught, but the sounds which have earned for it its bad name, and which I have heard but once to perfection, are indescribable, the most appalling that can be imagined, and scarcely to be heard without shuddering; I can only compare it to a boy in torture, whose screams are being stopped by being strangled. I have offered rewards for a specimen, but without success. The only European who had seen and fired at one agreed with the natives that it is of the size of a pigeon, with a long tail. I believe it is a Podargus or Night Hawk," In a subsequent note he further says—"I have since seen two birds by moonlight, one of the size and shape of a cuckoo, the other a large black bird, which I imagine to be the one which gives these calls."

II. PASSERES. Swallows.—Within thirty-five miles of Caltura, on the western coast, are inland caves, the resort of the Esculent Swift[1], which there builds the "edible bird's nest," so highly prized in China. Near the spot a few Chinese immigrants have established themselves, who rent the royalty from the government, and make an annual export of their produce. But the Swifts are not confined to this district, and caves containing them have been found far in the interior, a fact which complicates the still unexplained mystery of the composition of their nest; and notwithstanding the power of wing possessed by these birds, adds something to the difficulty of believing that it consists of glutinous algæ.[2] In the nests brought to me there was no trace of organisation; and whatever may be the original material, it is so elaborated by the swallow as to present somewhat the appearance and consistency of strings of isinglass. The quantity of these nests exported from Ceylon is trifling.

1: Collocalia brevirostris, McClell.; C. nidifica, Gray.

2: An epitome of what has been written on this subject will be found in Dr. Horsfield's Catalogue of the Birds in the E.I. Comp. Museum, vol. i. p. 101, etc.

Kingfishers.—In solitary places, where no sound breaks the silence except the gurgle of the river as it sweeps round the rocks, the lonely Kingfisher sits upon an overhanging branch, his turquoise plumage hardly less intense in its lustre than the deep blue of the sky above him; and so intent is his watch upon the passing fish that intrusion fails to scare him from his post; the emblem of vigilance and patience.

Sun Birds.—In the gardens the Sun Birds[1] (known as the Humming Birds of Ceylon) hover all day long, attracted by the plants over which they hang, poised on their glittering wings, and inserting their curved beaks to extract the tiny insects that nestle in the flowers. Perhaps the most graceful of the birds of Ceylon in form and motions, and the most chaste in colouring, is that which Europeans call "the Bird of Paradise,"[2] and the natives "the Cotton Thief," from the circumstance that its tail consists of two long white feathers, which stream behind it as it flies, Mr. Layard says:—"I have often watched them, when seeking their insect prey, turn suddenly on their perch and whisk their long tails with a jerk over the bough, as if to protect them from injury."

1: Nectarina Zeylanica, Linn.

2: Tchitrea paradisi, Linn.

The Bulbul.—The Condatchee Bulbul[1], which, from the crest on its head, is called by the Singhalese the "Konda Coorola," or Tuft bird, is regarded by the natives as the most "game" of all birds; and the training it to fight was one of the duties entrusted by the Kings of Kandy to the Kooroowa, or Bird Head-man. For this purpose the Bulbul is taken from the nest as soon as the sex is distinguishable by the tufted crown; and being secured by a string, is taught to fly from hand to hand of its keeper. When pitted against an antagonist, such is the obstinate courage of this little creature that it will sink from exhaustion rather than release its hold. This propensity, and the ordinary character of its notes, render it impossible that the Bulbul of India can be identical with the Bulbul of Iran, the "Bird of a Thousand Songs,"[2] of which poets say that its delicate passion for the rose gives a plaintive character to its note.

1: Pycnonotus hæmorrhous, Gmel.

2: "Hazardasitaum," the Persian name for the bulbul. "The Persians," according to Zakary ben Mohamed al Caswini, "say the bulbul has a passion for the rose, and laments and cries when he sees it pulled."—OUSELEY'S Oriental Collections, vol. i. p. 16. According to Pallas it is the true nightingale of Europe, Sylvia luscinia, which the Armenians call boulboul, and the Crim-Tartars byl-byl-i.

Tailor-Bird.—The Weaver-Bird.—The tailor-bird[1] having completed her nest, sewing together the leaves by passing through them a cotton thread twisted by the creature herself, leaps from branch to branch to testify her happiness by a clear and merry note; and the Indian weaver[2], a still more ingenious artist, having woven its dwelling with grass something into the form of a bottle, with a prolonged neck, hangs it from a projecting branch with its entrance inverted so as to baffle the approaches of its enemies, the tree snakes and other reptiles. The natives assert that the male bird carries fire flies to the nest, fastening them to its sides by a particle of soft mud, and Mr. Layard assures me that although he has never succeeded in finding the fire fly, the nest of the male bird (for the female occupies another during incubation) invariably contains a patch of mud on each side of the perch.

1: Orthotomus longicauda, Gmel.

2: Ploceus baya, Blyth; P. Philippinus, Auct.

Crows.—Of all the Ceylon birds of this order the most familiar and notorious is the small glossy crow, whose shining black plumage shot with blue has obtained for him the title of Corvus splendens.[1] They frequent the towns in companies, and domesticate themselves in the close vicinity of every house; and it may possibly serve to account for the familiarity and audacity which they exhibit in their intercourse with men, that the Dutch during their sovereignty in Ceylon enforced severe penalties against any one killing a crow, under the belief that they are instrumental in extending the growth of cinnamon by feeding on the fruit, and thus disseminating the undigested seed.[2]

1: There is another species, the C. culminatus, so called from the convexity of its bill; but though seen in the towns, it lives chiefly in the open country, and may be constantly observed wherever there are buffaloes, perched on their backs and engaged, in company with the small Minah (Acridotheres tristis) in freeing them from ticks.

2: WOLF'S Life and Adventures, p. 117.

So accustomed are the natives to its presence and exploits, that, like the Greeks and Romans, they have made the movements of the crow the basis of their auguries; and there is no end to the vicissitudes of good and evil fortune which may not be predicted from the direction of their flight, the hoarse or mellow notes of their croaking, the variety of trees on which they rest, and the numbers in which they are seen to assemble. All day long they are engaged in watching either the offal of the offices, or the preparation for meals in the dining-room; and as doors and windows are necessarily opened to relieve the heat, nothing is more common than the passage of crows across the room, lifting on the wing some ill-guarded morsel from the dinner-table.

No article, however unpromising its quality, provided only it be portable, can with safety be left unguarded in any apartment accessible to them. The contents of ladies' work-boxes, kid gloves, and pocket handkerchiefs vanish instantly if exposed near a window or open door. They open paper parcels to ascertain the contents; they will undo the knot on a napkin if it encloses anything eatable, and I have known a crow to extract the peg which fastened the lid of a basket in order to plunder the provender within.

On one occasion a nurse seated in a garden adjoining a regimental mess-room, was terrified by seeing a bloody clasp-knife drop from the air at her feet; but the mystery was explained on learning that a crow, which had been watching the cook chopping mince-meat, had seized the moment when his head was turned to carry off the knife.

One of these ingenious marauders, after vainly attitudinising in front of a chained watch-dog, which was lazily gnawing a bone, and after fruitlessly endeavouring to divert his attention by dancing before him, with head awry and eye askance, at length flew away for a moment, and returned bringing with it a companion who perched itself on a branch a few yards in the rear. The crow's grimaces were now actively renewed, but with no better result, till its confederate, poising himself on his wings, descended with the utmost velocity, striking the dog upon the spine with all the force of his beak. The ruse was successful; the dog started with surprise and pain, but not quickly enough to seize his assailant, whilst the bone he had been gnawing disappeared the instant his head was turned. Two well-authenticated instances of the recurrence of this device came within my knowledge at Colombo, and attest the sagacity and powers of communication and combination possessed by these astute and courageous birds.

On the approach of evening the crows assemble in noisy groups along the margin of the fresh-water lake which surrounds Colombo on the eastern side; here for an hour or two they enjoy the luxury of the bath, tossing the water over their shining backs, and arranging their plumage decorously, after which they disperse, each taking the direction of his accustomed quarters for the night.[1]

1: A similar habit has been noticed in the damask Parrots of Africa (Palæornis fuscus), which daily resort at the same hour to their accustomed water to bathe.

During the storms which usher in the monsoon, it has been observed, that when coco-nut palms are struck by lightning, the destruction frequently extends beyond a single tree, and from the contiguity and conduction of the spreading leaves, or some other peculiar cause, large groups will be affected by a single flash, a few killed instantly, and the rest doomed to rapid decay. In Belligam Bay, a little to the east of Point-de-Galle, a small island, which is covered with coco-nuts, has acquired the name of "Crow Island," from being the resort of those birds, which are seen hastening towards it in thousands towards sunset. A few years ago, during a violent storm of thunder, such was the destruction of the crows that the beach for some distance was covered with a black line of their remains, and the grove on which they had been resting was to a great extent destroyed by the same flash.[1]

1: Similar instances are recorded in other countries of sudden mortality amongst crows to a prodigious extent, but whether occasioned by lightning seems uncertain. In 1839 thirty-three thousand dead crows were found on the shores of a lake in the county Westmeath in Ireland after a storm.—THOMPSON'S Nat. Hist. Ireland, vol. i. p. 319, and Patterson in his Zoology, p. 356, mentions other cases.

III. SCANSORES. Parroquets.—Of the Psittacidæ the only examples are the parroquets, of which the most renowned is the Palæornis Alexandri, which has the historic distinction of bearing the name of the great conquerer of India, having been the first of its race introduced to the knowledge of Europe on the return of his expedition. An idea of their number may be formed from the following statement of Mr. Layard, as to the multitudes which are found on the western coast. "At Chilaw I have seen such vast flights of parroquets coming to roost in the coco-nut trees which overhang the bazaar, that their noise drowned the Babel of tongues bargaining for the evening provisions. Hearing of the swarms which resorted to this spot, I posted myself on a bridge some half mile distant, and attempted to count the flocks which came from a single direction to the eastward. About four o'clock in the afternoon, straggling parties began to wend towards home, and in the course of half an hour the current fairly set in. But I soon found that I had no longer distinct flocks to count, it became one living screaming stream. Some flew high in the air till right above their homes, and dived abruptly downward with many evolutions till on a level with the trees; others kept along the ground and dashed close by my face with the rapidity of thought, their brilliant plumage shining with an exquisite lustre in the sun-light. I waited on the spot till the evening closed, when I could hear, though no longer distinguish, the birds fighting for their perches, and on firing a shot they rose with a noise like the 'rushing of a mighty wind,' but soon settled again, and such a din commenced as I shall never forget; the shrill screams of the birds, the fluttering of their innumerable wings, and the rustling of the leaves of the palm trees, was almost deafening, and I was glad at last to escape to the Government Rest House."[1]

1: Annals of Nat. Hist. vol xiii. p.263.

IV. COLUMBIDÆ. Pigeons.—Of pigeons and doves there are at least a dozen species; some living entirely on trees[1] and never alighting on the ground; others, notwithstanding the abundance of food and warmth, are migratory[2], allured, as the Singhalese allege, by the ripening of the cinnamon berries, and hence one species is known in the southern provinces as the "Cinnamon Dove." Others feed on the fruits of the banyan: and it is probably to their instrumentality that this marvellous tree chiefly owes its diffusion, its seeds being carried by them to remote localities. A very beautiful pigeon, peculiar to the mountain range, discovered in the lofty trees at Neuera-ellia, has, in compliment to the Vicountess Torrington, been named Carpophaga Torringtoniæ.

1: Treron bicenta, Jerd.

2: Alsocomus puniceus, the "Season Pigeon" of Ceylon, so called from its periodical arrival and departure.

Another, called by the natives neela-cobeya[1], although strikingly elegant both in shape and colour, is still more remarkable far the singularly soothing effect of its low and harmonious voice. A gentleman who has spent many years in the jungle, in writing to me of this bird and of the effects of its melodious song, says, that "its soft and melancholy notes, as they came from some solitary place in the forest, were the most gentle sounds I ever listened to. Some sentimental smokers assert that the influence of the propensity is to make them feel as if they could freely forgive all who had ever offended them, and I can say with truth such has been the effect on my own nerves of the plaintive murmurs of the neela-cobeya, that sometimes, when irritated, and not without reason, by the perverseness of some of my native followers, the feeling has almost instantly subsided into placidity on suddenly hearing the loving tones of these beautiful birds."

1: Chalcophaps Indicus, Linn.

V. GALLINÆ. The Ceylon Jungle-fowl.—The jungle-fowl of Ceylon[1] is shown by the peculiarity of its plumage to be distinct from the Indian species. It has never yet bred or survived long in captivity, and no living specimens have been successfully transmitted to Europe. It abounds in all parts of the island, but chiefly in the lower ranges of mountains; and one of the vivid memorials which are associated with our journeys through the hills, is its clear cry, which sounds like a person calling "George Joyce." At early morning it rises amidst mist and dew, giving life to the scenery that has scarcely yet been touched by the sunlight.

1: Gallus Lafayetti, Lesson.

VI. GRALLÆ.—On reaching the marshy plains and shallow lagoons on either side of the island, the astonishment of the stranger is excited by the endless multitudes of stilt-birds and waders which stand in long array within the wash of the water, or sweep in vast clouds above it. Ibises[1], storks[2], egrets, spoonbills[3], herons[4], and the smaller races of sand larks and plovers, are seen busily traversing the wet sand, in search of the red worm which burrows there, or peering with steady eye to watch the motions of the small fry and aquatic insects in the ripple on the shore.

1: Tantalus leucocephalus, and Ibis falcinellus.

2: The violet-headed Stork (Ciconia leucocephala).

3: Platalea leucorodia, Linn.

4: Ardea cinerea. A. purpurea.

VII. ANSERES.—Preeminent in size and beauty, the tall flamingoes[1], with rose-coloured plumage, line the beach in long files. The Singhalese have been led, from their colour and their military order, to designate them the "English Soldier birds." Nothing can be more startling than the sudden flight of these splendid creatures when alarmed; their strong wings beating the air sound like distant thunder; and as they soar over head, the flock which appeared almost white but a moment before, is converted into crimson by the sudden display of the red lining of their wings. A peculiarity in the beak of the flamingo has scarcely attracted due attention, as a striking illustration of creative wisdom in adapting the organs of animals to their local necessities. The upper mandible, which is convex in other birds, is in them flattened, whilst the lower, instead of being flat, is convex. To those who have had an opportunity of witnessing the action of the bird in its native haunts, the expediency of this arrangement is at once apparent. The flamingo, to counteract the extraordinary length of its legs, is provided with a proportionately long neck, so that in feeding in shallow water the crown of the head becomes inverted and the upper mandible brought into contact with the bottom; where its flattened surface qualifies it for performing the functions of the lower one in birds of the same class; and the edges of both being laminated, it is thus enabled, like the duck, by the aid of its fleshy tongue, to sift its food before swallowing.

1: Phoenicopterus roseus, Pallas.

Floating on the surface of the deeper water, are fleets of the Anatidæ, the Coromandel teal[1], the Indian hooded gull[2], the Caspian tern, and a countless variety of ducks and smaller fowl. Pelicans[3] in great numbers resort to the mouths of the rivers, taking up their position at sunrise on some projecting rock, from which to dart on the passing fish, and returning far inland at night to their retreats among the trees which overshadow some ruined watercourse or deserted tank.

1: Nettapus Coromandelianus, Gmel.

2: Larus brunnicephalus, Jerd.

3: Pelicanus Philippensis, Gmel.

Of the birds familiar to European sportsmen, partridges and quails are to be had at all times; the woodcock has occasionally been shot in the hills, and the ubiquitous snipe, which arrives in September from Southern India, is identified not alone by the eccentricity of its flight, but by retaining in high perfection the qualities which have endeared it to the gastronome at home. But the magnificent pheasants which inhabit the Himalayan range and the woody hills of the Chin-Indian peninsula, have no representative amongst the tribes that people the woods of Ceylon; although a bird believed to be a pheasant has more than once been seen in the jungle, close to Rambodde, on the road to Neuera-ellía.

List of Ceylon Birds.

In submitting this catalogue of the birds of Ceylon, I am anxious to state that the copious mass of its contents is mainly due to the untiring energy and exertions of my friend, Mr. E.L. Layard. Nearly every bird in the list has fallen by his gun; so that the most ample facilities have been thus provided, not only for extending the limited amount of knowledge which formerly existed on this branch of the zoology of the island; but for correcting, by actual comparison with recent specimens, the errors which had previously prevailed as to imperfectly described species. The whole of Mr. Layard's fine collection is at present in England.









The following is a list of the birds which are, as far as is at present known, peculiar to the island; it will probably at some future day be determined that some included in it have a wider geographical range.

Hæmatornis spilogaster. The "Ceylon eagle;" was discovered by Mr. Layard in the Wanny, and by Dr. Kelaart at Trincomalie.

Athene castonotus. The chestnut-winged hawk owl. This pretty little owl was added to the list of Ceylon birds by Dr. Templeton.

Batrachostomus monoliger. The oil bird; was discovered amongst the precipitous rocks of the Adam's Peak range by Mr. Layrard. Another specimen was sent about the same time to Sir James Emerson Tennent from Avisavelle. Mr. Mitford has met with it at Ratnapoora.

Caprimulgus Kelaarti. Kelaart's night-jar; swarms on the marshy plains of Neuera-ellia at dusk.

Hirundo hyperythra. The red-bellied swallow; was discovered in 1849 by Mr. Layard at Ambepusse. They build a globular nest with a round hole at top. A pair built in the ring for a hanging lamp in Dr. Gardner's study at Peradinia, and hatched their young, undisturbed by the daily trimming and lighting of the lamp.

Cisticola omalura. Layard's mountain grass warbler; is found in abundance on Horton Plain and Neuera-ellia, among the long Patena grass.

Drymoica valida. Layard's wren-warbler; frequents tufts of grass and low bushes, feeding on insects.

Pratincola atrata. The Neuera-ellia robin; a melodious songster; added to our catalogue by Dr. Kelaart.

Brachypteryx Palliseri. Ant thrush. A rare bird, added by Dr. Kelaart from Dimboola and Neuera-ellia.

Pellorneum fuscocapillum. Mr. Layard found two specimens of this rare thrush creeping about shrubs and bushes, feeding on insects.

Alcippe nigrifrons. This thrush frequents low impenetrable thickets, and seems to be widely distributed.

Oreocincla spiloptera. The spotted thrush is only found in the mountain zone about lofty trees.

Merula Kinnisii. The Neuera-ellia blackbird; was added by Dr. Kelaart.

Garrulax cinereifrons. The ashy-headed babbler; was found by Mr. Layard near Ratnapoora.

Pomatorhinus melanurus. Mr. Layard states that the mountain babbler frequents low, scraggy, impenetrable brush, along the margins of deserted cheena land.

Malacocercus rufescens. The red-dung thrush added by Dr. Templeton to the Singhalese Fauna, is found in thick jungle in the southern and midland districts.

Pycnonotus penicillatus. The yellow-eared bulbul; was found by Dr. Kelaart at Neuera-ellia.

Butalis Muttui. This very handsome flycatcher was procured at Point Pedro, by Mr. Layard.

Dicrurus edoliformis. Dr. Templeton found this kingcrow at the Bibloo Oya. Mr. Layard has since got it at Ambogammoa.

Dicrurus leucopygialis. The Ceylon kingcrow was sent to Mr. Blyth from the vicinity of Colombo, by Dr. Templeton.

Tephrodornis affinis. The Ceylon butcher-bird. A migratory species found in the wooded grass lands in October.

Cissa puella. Layard's mountain jay. A most lovely bird, found along mountain streams at Neuera-ellia and elsewhere.

Enlabes ptilogenys. Templeton's mynah. The largest and most beautiful of the species. It is found in flocks perching on the highest trees, feeding on berries.

Loriculus asiaticus. The small parroquet, abundant in various districts.

Palæornis Calthropæ. Layard's purple-headed parroquet, found at Kandy, is a very handsome bird, flying in flocks, and resting on the summits of the very highest trees. Dr. Kelaart states that it is the only parroquet of the Neuera-ellia range.

Palæornis Layardi. The Jaffna parroquet was discovered by Mr. Layard at Point Pedro.

Megalaima flavifrons. The yellow-headed barbet, is not uncommon.

Megalaima rubricapilla, is found in most parts of the island.

Picus gymnophthalmus. Layard's woodpecker. The smallest of the species, was discovered near Colombo, amongst jak trees.

Brachypternus Ceylonus. The Ceylon woodpecker, is found in abundance near Neuera-ellia.

Brachypternus rubescens. The red woodpecker.

Centropus chlororhynchus. The yellow-billed cuckoo, was detected by Mr. Layard in dense jungle near Colombo and Avisavelle.

Phoenicophaus pyrrhocephalus. The malkoha, is confined to the southern highlands.

Treron flavogularis. The common green pigeon, is found in abundance at the top of Balacaddua Pass and at Ratnapoora. It feeds on berries and flies in large flocks. It was believed to be identical with the following.—Mag. Nat. Hist. p. 58: 1854.

Treron Pompadoura. The Pompadour pigeon. "The Prince of Canino has shown that this is a totally distinct bird, much smaller, with the quantity of maroon colour on the mantle greatly reduced."—Paper by Mr. BLYTH, Mag. Nat Hist. p. 514: 1857.

Carpophaga Torringtoniæ. Lady Torrington's pigeon; a very handsome pigeon discovered in the highlands by Dr. Kelaart. It flies high in long sweeps, and makes its nest on the loftiest trees.

Carpophaga pusilla. The little-hill dove, a migratory species found by Mr. Layard in the mountain zone, only appearing with the ripened fruit of the teak, banyan, &c., on which they feed.

Gallus Lafayetti. The Ceylon jungle fowl. The female of this handsome bird was figured by Mr. GRAY (Ill. Ind. Zool.) under the name of G. Stanleyi. The cock bird had long been lost to naturalists, until a specimen was forwarded to Mr. Blyth, who at once recognised it as the long-looked for male of Mr. Gray's recently described female. It is abundant in all the uncultivated portions of Ceylon; coming out into the open spaces to feed in the mornings and evenings.



LIZARDS. Iguana.—One of the earliest if not the first remarkable animal to startle a stranger on arriving in Ceylon, whilst wending his way from Point-de-Galle to Colombo, is a huge lizard of from four to five feet in length, the Talla-goya of the Singhalese, and Iguana[1] of the Europeans. It may be seen at noonday searching for ants and insects in the middle of the highway and along the fences; when disturbed, but by no means alarmed, by the approach of man, it moves off to a safe distance; and, the intrusion being over, returns again to the occupation in which it had been interrupted. Repulsive as it is in appearance, it is perfectly harmless, and is hunted down by dogs in the maritime provinces, where its delicate flesh is converted into curry, and its skin into shoes. When seized, it has the power of inflicting a smart blow with its tail. The Talla-goya lives in almost any convenient hollow, such as a hole in the ground, or the deserted nest of the termites; and home small ones which frequented my garden at Colombo, made their retreat in the heart of a decayed tree. A still larger species, the Kabragoya[2], which is partial to marshy ground, when disturbed upon land, will take refuge in the nearest water. From the somewhat eruptive appearance of the yellow blotches on its scales, a closely allied species, similarly spotted, formerly obtained amongst naturalists the name of Monitor exanthemata, and it is curious that the native appellation of this one, Kabra[3], is suggestive of the same idea. The Singhalese, on a strictly homoeopathic principle, believe that its fat, externally applied, is a cure for cutaneous disorders, but that inwardly taken it is poisonous.[4] It is one of the incidents which seem to indicate that Ceylon belongs to a separate circle of physical geography, this lizard has not hitherto been discovered on the continent of Hindustan, though it is found to the eastward in Burmah.[5]

1: Monitor dracæna, Linn. Among the barbarous nostrums of the uneducated natives both Singhalese and Tamil, is the tongue of the iguana, which they regard as a specific for consumption, if plucked from the living animal and swallowed whole.

2: Hydrosaurus salvator, Wagler.

3: In the Mahawanso the hero, Tisso, is said to have been "afflicted with a cutaneous complaint which, made his skin scaly like that of the godho."—Ch. xxiv. p. 148. "Godho" is the Pali name for the Kabra-goya.

4: In the preparation of the mysterious poison, the Cobra-tel, which is regarded with so much horror by the Singhalese; the unfortunate Kabra-goya is forced to take a painfully prominent part. The receipt, as written down by a Kandyan, was sent to me from Kornegalle, by Mr. Morris, in 1840; and in dramatic arrangement it far outdoes the cauldron of Macbeth's witches. The ingredients are extracted from venomous snakes, the Cobra de Capello (from which it takes its name), the Carawella, and the Tic prolonga, by making an incision in the head and suspending the reptiles over a chattie to collect the poison. To this, arsenic and other drugs are added, and the whole is to be "boiled in a human skull, with the aid of the three Kabra-goyas, which are tied on three sides of the fire, with their heads directed towards it, and tormented by whips to make them hiss, so that the fire may blaze. The froth from their lips is then to be added to the boiling mixture, and so soon as an oily scum rises to the surface, the cobra-tel is complete."

Although it is obvious that the arsenic is the main ingredient in the poison, Mr. Morris reported to me that this mode of preparing it was actually practised in his district; and the above account was transmitted by him apropos to the murder of a Mohatal and his wife, which was then under investigation, and which had been committed with the cobra-tel. Before commencing the operation of preparing the poison, a cock is first sacrificed to the yakkos or demons.

5: In corroboration of the view propounded elsewhere (see pp. 7, 84, &c.), and opposed to the popular belief that Ceylon, at some remote period, was detached from the continent of India by the interposition of the sea, a list of reptiles will be found at p. 203, including, not only individual species, but whole genera peculiar to the island, and not to be found on the mainland. See a paper by DR. A. GÜNTHER on The Geog. Distribution of Reptiles, Magaz. Nat. Hist. for March, 1859, p. 230.

Blood-suckers.—These, however, are but the stranger's introduction to innumerable varieties of lizards, all most attractive in their sudden movements, and some unsurpassed in the brilliancy of their colouring, which bask on banks, dart over rocks, and peer curiously out of the decaying chinks of every ruined wall. In all their motion there is that vivid and brief energy, the rapid but restrained action which is associated with their limited power of respiration, and which justifies the accurate picture of—

"The green lizard, rustling thro' the grass,

And up the fluted shaft, with short, quick, spring

To vanish in the chinks which time has made."[1]

1: ROGERS' Pæstum.

One of the most beautiful of this race is the green calotes[1], in length about twelve inches, which, with the exception of a few dark streaks about the head, is as brilliant as the purest emerald or malachite. Unlike its congeners of the same family, it never alters this dazzling hue, whilst many of them possess the power, like the chameleon, but in a less degree, of exchanging their ordinary colours for others less conspicuous. The C. ophiomachus, and another, the C. versicolor, exhibit this faculty in a remarkable manner. The head and neck, when the animal is irritated or hastily swallowing its food, becomes of a brilliant red (whence the latter has acquired the name of the "blood-sucker"), whilst the usual tint of the rest of the body is converted into pale yellow. The sitana[2], and a number of others, exhibit similar phenomena.

1: Calotes viridis, Gray.

2: Sitana Ponticereana, Cuv.

Chameleon.—The true chameleon[1] is found, but not in great numbers, in the dry districts in the north of Ceylon, where it frequents the trees, in slow pursuit of its insect prey. Whilst the faculty of this creature to blush all the colours of the rainbow has attracted the wonder of all ages, sufficient attention has hardly been given to the imperfect sympathy which subsists between the two lobes of the brain, and the two sets of nerves which permeate the opposite sides of its frame. Hence, not only have each of the eyes an action quite independent of the other, but one side of its body would appear to be sometimes asleep whilst the other is vigilant and active: one will assume a green tinge whilst the opposite one is red; and it is said that the chameleon is utterly unable to swim, from the incapacity of the muscles of the two sides to act in concert.

1: Chamælio vulgaris, Daud.

Ceratophora.—A unique lizard, and hitherto known only by two specimens, one in the British Museum, and another in that of Leyden, is the Ceratophora Stoddartii, distinguished by the peculiarity of its having no external ear, whilst its muzzle bears on its extremity the horn-like process from which it takes its name. It has recently been discovered by Dr. Kelaart to be a native of the higher Kandyan hills, where it is sometimes seen in the older trees in pursuit of sect larvæ.[1]

1: Dr. Kelaart has likewise discovered at Neuera-ellia a Salea, distinct from the S. Jerdoni.

Geckoes.—But the most familiar and attractive of the class are the Geckoes[1], which frequent the sitting-rooms, and being furnished with pads to each toe, are enabled to ascend perpendicular walls and adhere to glass and ceilings. Being nocturnal in their habits, the pupil of the eye, instead of being circular as in the diurnal species, is linear and vertical like those of the cat. As soon as evening arrives, they emerge from the chinks and recesses where they conceal themselves during the day, in search of insects which retire to settle for the night, and are to be seen in every house in keen and crafty pursuit of their prey. In a boudoir where the ladies of my family spent their evenings, one of these familiar and amusing little creatures had its hiding-place behind a gilt picture frame, and punctually as the candles were lighted, it made its appearance on the wall to be fed with its accustomed crumb; and, if neglected, it reiterated its sharp quick call of chic, chic, chit, till attended to. It was of a delicate grey colour, tinged with pink; and having by accident fallen on a work-table, it fled, leaving its tail behind it, which, however, it reproduced within less than a month. This faculty of reproduction is doubtless designed to enable the creature to escape from its assailants: the detaching of the limb is evidently its own act; and it is observable, that when reproduced, the tail generally exhibits some variation from its previous form, the diverging spines being absent, the new portion covered with small square uniform scales placed in a cross series, and the scuta below being seldom so distinct as in the original member.[2] In an officer's quarters in the fort of Colombo, a Geckoe had been taught to come daily to the dinner-table, and always made its appearance along with the dessert. The family were absent for some months, during which the house underwent extensive repairs, the roof having been raised, the walls stuccoed, and ceilings whitened. It was naturally surmised that so long a suspension of its accustomed habits would have led to the disappearance of the little lizard; but on the return of its old friends, at their first dinner it made its entrance as usual the instant the cloth had been removed.

1: Hemidactylus maculatus, Dum. et Bib., Gray; H. Leschenaultii, Dum. et Bib.; H. frenatus, Schlegel.

2: Brit. Mus. Cat. p. 143; KELAART'S Prod. Faun. Zeylan. p. 183.

Crocodile.—The Portuguese in India, like the Spaniards in South America, affixed the name of lagarto to the huge reptiles which infest the rivers and estuaries of both continents; and to the present day the Europeans in Ceylon apply the term alligator to what are in reality crocodiles, which literally swarm in the still waters and tanks throughout the northern provinces, but rarely frequent rapid streams, and have never been found in the marshy elevations among the hills. Their instincts in Ceylon present no variation from their habits in other countries. There would appear to be two well-distinguished species in the island, the Allie Kimboola[1], the Indian crocodile, which inhabits the rivers and estuaries throughout the low countries of the coasts, attaining the length of sixteen or eighteen feet, and which will assail man when pressed by hunger; and the Marsh crocodile[2], which lives exclusively in fresh water, frequenting the tanks in the northern and central provinces, and confining its attacks to the smaller animals: in length it seldom exceeds twelve or thirteen feet. Sportsmen complain that their dogs are constantly seized by both species; and water-fowl, when shot, frequently disappear before they can be secured by the fowler.[3] The Singhalese believe that the crocodile can only move swiftly on sand or smooth clay, its feet being too tender to tread firmly on hard or stony ground. In the dry season, when the watercourses begin to fail and the tanks become exhausted, the Marsh crocodiles are sometimes encountered wandering in search of water in the jungle; but generally, during the extreme drought, when unable to procure their ordinary food from the drying up of the watercourses, they bury themselves in the mud, and remain in a state of torpor till released by the recurrence of the rains.[4] At Arne-tivoe, in the eastern province, whilst riding across the parched bed of the tank, I was shown the recess, still bearing the form and impress of the crocodile, out of which the animal had been seen to emerge the day before. A story was also related to me of an officer attached to the department of the Surveyor-General, who, having pitched his tent in a similar position, had been disturbed during the night by feeling a movement of the earth below his bed, from which on the following day a crocodile emerged, making its appearance from beneath the matting.[5]

1: Crocodilus biporcatus. Cuvier.

2: Crocodilus palustris, Less.

3: In Siam the flesh of the crocodile is sold for food in the markets and bazaars. "Un jour je vis plus de cinquante crocodiles, petits et grands, attachés aux colonnes de leurs maisons. Ils les vendent la chair comme on vendrait de la chair de porc, mais à bien meilleur marché."—PALLEGOIX, Siam, vol. i. p. 174.

4: HERODOTUS records the observations of the Egyptians that the crocodile of the Nile abstains from food during the four winter months.—Euterpe, lviii.

5: HUMBOLDT relates a similar story as occurring at Calabazo, in Venezuela.—Personal Narrative, c. xvi.

The species which inhabits the fresh water is essentially cowardly in its instincts, and hastens to conceal itself on the appearance of man. A gentleman (who told me the circumstance), when riding in the jungle, overtook a crocodile, evidently roaming in search of water. It fled to a shallow pool almost dried by the sun, and, thrusting its head into the mud till it covered up its eyes, it remained unmoved in profound confidence of perfect concealment. In 1833, during the progress of the Pearl Fishery, Sir Robert Wilmot Horton employed men to drag for crocodiles in a pond which was infested with them in the immediate vicinity of Aripo. The pool was about fifty yards in length, by ten or twelve wide, shallowing gradually to the edge, and not exceeding four or five feet in the deepest part. As the party approached the bund, from twenty to thirty reptiles, which had been basking in the sun, rose and fled to the water. A net, specially weighted so as to sink its lower edge to the bottom, was then stretched from bank to bank and swept to the further end of the pond, followed by a line of men with poles to drive the crocodiles forward: so complete was the arrangement, that no individual could evade the net, yet, to the astonishment of the Governor's party, not one was to be found when it was drawn on shore, and no means of escape was apparent or possible except descending into the mud at the bottom of the pond.[1]

1: A remarkable instance of the vitality of the common crocodile, C. biporcatus, was related to me by a gentleman at Galle: he had caught on a baited hook an unusually large one, which his coolies disembowelled, the aperture in the stomach being left expanded by a stick placed across it. On returning in the afternoon with a view to secure the head, they found that the creature had crawled for some distance, and made its escape into the water.

TESTUDINATA. Tortoise,—Of the testudinata the land tortoises are numerous, but present no remarkable features beyond the beautiful marking of the starred variety[1], which is common, in the north-western province around Putlam and Chilaw, and is distinguished by the bright yellow rays which diversify the deep black of its dorsal shield. From one of these which was kept in my garden I took a number of flat ticks (Ixodes), which adhered to its fleshy neck in such a position as to baffle any attempt of the animal itself to remove them; but as they were exposed to constant danger of being crushed against the plastron during the protrusion and retraction of the head, each was covered with a horny case almost as resistant as the carapace of the tortoise itself. Such an adaptation of structure is scarcely less striking than that of the parasites found on the spotted lizard of Berar by Dr. Hooker, each of which presented the distinct colour of the scale to which it adhered.[2]

1: Testudo stellata, Schweig.

2: HOOKER'S Himalayan Journals, vol. i. p. 37.

The marshes and pools of the interior are frequented by the terrapins[1], which the natives are in the habit of keeping alive in wells under the conviction that they clear them of impurities. The edible turtle[2] is found on all the coasts of the island, and sells for a few shillings or a few pence, according to its size and abundance at the moment. At certain seasons the turtle on the south-western coast of Ceylon is avoided as poisonous, and some lamentable instances are recorded of death which was ascribed to their use. At Pantura, to the south of Colombo, twenty-eight persons who had partaken of turtle in October, 1840, were seized with sickness immediately, after which coma succeeded, and eighteen died during the night. Those who survived said there was nothing unusual in the appearance of the flesh except that it was fatter than ordinary. Other similarly fatal occurrences have been attributed to turtle curry; but as they have never been proved to proceed exclusively from that source, there is room for believing that the poison may have been contained in some other ingredient. In the Gulf of Manaar turtle is frequently found of such a size as to measure between four and five feet in length; and on one occasion, in riding along the sea-shore north of Putlam, I saw a man in charge of some sheep, resting under the shade of a turtle shell, which he had erected on sticks to protect him from the sun—almost verifying the statement of Ælian, that in the seas off Ceylon there are tortoises so large that several persons may find ample shelter beneath a single shell.[3]

1: Emyda Ceylonensis, GRAY, Catalogue, p. 64, tab. 29 a.; Mag. Nat. Hist. p. 265: 1856. Dr. KELAART, in his Prodromus (p. 179), refers this to the common Indian species, E. punctata; but Dr. Gray has shown it to be a distinct one. It is generally distributed in the lower parts of Ceylon, in lakes and tanks. It is put into wells to act the part of a scavenger. By the Singhalese it is named Kiri-ibba.

2: Chelonia virgata, Schweig.

3: "Tiktontai de ara en tautê tê thalattê, kai chelônai megintai, ônper oun ta elytra orophoi ginontai kai gar esti kai mentekaideka pêchôn en chelôneion, hôs hypoikein ouk oligous, kai tous hêlious pyrôiestatous apostegei, kai skian asmetois parechei."—Lib. xvi. c. 17. Ælian copied this statement literatim from MEGASTHENES, Indica Frag. lix. 31; and may not Megasthenes have referred to some tradition connected with the gigantic fossilised species discovered on the Sewalik Hills, the remains of which are now in the Museum at the East India House?

The hawksbill turtle[1], which supplies the tortoise-shell of commerce, was at former times taken in great numbers in the vicinity of Hambangtotte during the season when they came to deposit their eggs, and there is still a considerable trade in this article, which is manufactured into ornaments, boxes, and combs by the Moormen resident at Galle. If taken from the animal after death and decomposition, the colour of the shell becomes clouded and milky, and hence the cruel expedient is resorted to of seizing the turtles as they repair to the shore to deposit their eggs, and suspending them over fires till heat makes the plates on the dorsal shields start from the bone of the carapace, after which the creature is permitted to escape to the water.[2] In illustration of the resistless influence of instinct at the period of breeding, it may be mentioned that the same tortoise is believed to return again and again to the same spot, notwithstanding that at each visit she had to undergo a repetition of this torture. In the year 1826, a hawksbill turtle was taken near Hambangtotte, which bore a ring attached to one of its fins that had been placed there by a Dutch officer thirty years before, with a view to establish the fact of these recurring visits to the same beach.[3]

1: Chelonia imbricata; Linn.

2: At Celebes, whence the finest tortoise-shell is exported to China, the natives kill the turtle by blows on the head, and immerse the shell in boiling water to detach the plates. Dry heat is only resorted to by the unskilful, who frequently destroy the tortoise-shell in the operation.—Journ. Indian Archipel. vol. iii. p. 227, 1849.

3: BENNETT'S Ceylon, ch. xxxiv.

Snakes.—It is perhaps owing to the aversion excited by the ferocious expression and unusual action of serpents, combined with an instinctive dread of attack, that exaggerated ideas prevail both as to their numbers in Ceylon, and the danger to be apprehended from encountering them. The Singhalese profess to distinguish a great many kinds, of which not more than one half have as yet been scientifically identified; but so cautiously do serpents make their appearance, that the surprise of long residents is invariably expressed at the rarity with which they are to be seen; and from my own journeys, through the jungle, often of two to five hundred miles, I have frequently returned without seeing a single snake.[1] Davy, whose attention was carefully directed to the poisonous serpents of Ceylon[2], came to the conclusion that but four, out of twenty species examined by him, were venomous, and that of these only two (the tic-polonga[3] and cobra de capello[4]) were capable of inflicting a wound likely to be fatal to man. The third is the caraicilla[5], a brown snake of about twelve inches in length; and for the fourth, of which only a few specimens have been, procured, the Singhalese have no name in their vernacular,—a proof that it is neither deadly nor abundant.

1: Mr. Bennett, who resided much in the south-east of the island, ascribes the rarity of serpents in the jungle to the abundance of the wild peafowl, whose partiality to snakes renders them the chief destroyers of these reptiles.

2: See DAVY'S Ceylon, ch. xiv.

3: Dabois elegans, Grey.

4: Naja tripadians, Gunther.

5: Trigonocephalus hypnale, Wegl.

Cobra de Capello.—The cobra de capello is the only one exhibited by the itinerant snake-charmers: and the accuracy of Davy's conjecture, that they control it, not by extracting its fangs, but by courageously availing themselves of its accustomed timidity and extreme reluctance to use its fatal weapons, received a painful confirmation during my residence in Ceylon, by the death of one of these performers, whom his audience had provoked to attempt some unaccustomed familiarity with the cobra; it bit him on the wrist, and he expired the same evening. The hill near Kandy, on which the official residences of the Governor and Colonial Secretary had been built, is covered in many places with the deserted nests of the white ants (termites), and these are the favourite retreats of the sluggish and spiritless cobra, which watches from their apertures the toads and lizards on which it preys. Here, when I have repeatedly come upon them, their only impulse was concealment; and on one occasion, when a cobra of considerable length could not escape sufficiently quickly, owing to the bank being nearly precipitous on both sides of the road, a few blows from my whip were sufficient to deprive it of life. There is a rare variety which the natives fancifully designate the "king of the cobras;" it has the head and the anterior half of the body of so light a colour, that at a distance it seems like a silvery white.[1] A gentleman who held a civil appointment at Kornegalle, had a servant who was bitten by a snake, and he informed me that on enlarging a hole near the foot of the tree under which the accident occurred, he unearthed a cobra of upwards of three feet long, and so purely white as to induce him to believe that it was an albino. With the exception of the rat-snake[2], the cobra de capello is the only serpent which seems from choice to frequent the vicinity of human dwellings, but it is doubtless attracted by the young of the domestic fowl and by the moisture of the wells and drainage. The Singhalese remark that if one cobra be destroyed near a house, its companion is almost certain to be discovered immediately after,—a popular belief which I had an opportunity of verifying on more than one occasion. Once, when a snake of this description was killed in a bath of Government House at Colombo, its mate was found in the same spot the day after; and again, at my own stables, a cobra of five feet long, having fallen into the well, which was too deep to permit its escape, its companion of the same size was found the same morning in an adjoining drain.[3] On this occasion the snake, which had been several hours in the well, swam with ease, raising its head and hood above water; and instances have repeatedly occurred of the cobra de capello voluntarily taking considerable excursions by sea. When the "Wellington," a government vessel employed in the conservancy of the pearl banks, was anchored about a quarter of a mile from land, in the bay of Koodremalé, a cobra was seen, about an hour before sunset, swimming vigorously towards the ship. It came within twelve yards, when the sailors assailed it with billets of wood and other missiles, and forced it to return to land. The following morning they discovered the track which it had left on the shore, and traced it along the sand till it disappeared in the jungle.[4] On a later occasion, in the vicinity of the same spot, when the "Wellington" was lying at some distance from the shore, a cobra was found and killed on board, where it could only have gained access by climbing up the cable. It was first discovered by a sailor, who felt the chill as it glided over his foot.[5]

1: A Singhalese work, the Sarpa Doata, quoted in the Ceylon Times, January, 1857, enumerates four species of the cobra;—the raja, or king; the velyander, or trader; the baboona, or hermit; and the goore, or agriculturist. The young cobras, it says, are not venomous till after the thirteenth day, when they shed their coat for the first time.

2: Coryphodon Blumenbachii. WOLF, in his interesting story of his Life and Adventures in Ceylon, mentions that rat-snakes were often so domesticated by the natives as to feed at their table. He says: "I once saw an example of this in the house of a native. It being meal time, he called his snake, which immediately came forth from the roof under which he and I were sitting. He gave it victuals from his own dish, which the snake took of itself from off a fig-leaf that was laid for it, and ate along with its host. When it had eaten its fill, he gave it a kiss and bade it go to its hole."

Since the above was written, Major Skinner, writing to me 12th Dec. 1858, mentions the still more remarkable case of the domestication of the cobra de capello in Ceylon. "Did you ever hear," he says, "of tame cobras being kept and domesticated about a house, going in and out at pleasure, and in common with the rest of the inmates? In one family, near Negombo, cobras are kept as protectors, in the place of dogs, by a wealthy man who has always large sums of money in his house. But this is not a solitary case of the kind. I heard of it only the other day, but from undoubtedly good authority. The snakes glide about the house, a terror to thieves, but never attempting to harm the inmates."

3: PLINY notices the affection that subsists between the male and female asp; and that if one of them happens to be killed, the other seeks to avenge its death.—Lib. viii. c. 37.

4: STEWART'S Account of the Pearl Fisheries of Ceylon, p. 9: Colombo, 1843.

The Python reticulatus (the "rock-snake") has been known like the cobra de capello, to make short voyages at sea. One was taken on board H.M.S. "Hastings," when off the coast of Burmah, in 1853; it is now in the possession of the surgeon, Dr. Scott.

5: SWAINSON, in his Habits and Instincts of Animals, c. iv. p. 187, says that instances are well attested of the common English snake having been met with in the open channel; between the coast of Wales and the island of Anglesea, as if they had taken their departure from the one and were bound for the other.

In BENNETT'S account of "Ceylon and its Capabilities" there is a curious piece of Singhalese folk-lore, to the effect, that the cobra de capello every time it expends its poison loses a joint of its tail, and eventually acquires a head which resembles that of a toad. A recent discovery of Dr. Kelaart has thrown light on the origin of this popular fallacy. The family of "false snakes" (pseudo-typhlops), as Schlegel names the group, have till lately consisted of but three species, one only of which was known to inhabit Ceylon. They belong to a family intermediate between the lizards and serpents with the body of the latter, and the head of the former, with which they are moreover identified by having the upper jaw fixed to the skull as in mammals and birds, instead of movable as amongst the true ophidians. In this they resemble the amphisbænidæ; but the tribe of Uropeltidæ, or "rough tails," has the further peculiarity, that the tail is truncated, instead of ending, like that of the typhlops, in a point more or less acute; and the reptile assists its own movements by pressing the flat end to the ground. Within a very recent period an important addition has been made to this genus, by the discovery of five new species in Ceylon; in some of which the singular construction of the tail is developed to an extent much more marked than in any previously existing specimen. One of these, the Uropeltis grandis of Kelaart, is distinguished by its dark brown colour, shot with a bluish metallic lustre, closely approaching the ordinary shade of the cobra; and the tail is abruptly and flatly compressed as though it had been severed by a knife. The form of this singular reptile will be best understood by a reference to the accompanying figure; and there can be, I think, little doubt that to its strange and anomalous structure is to be traced the fable of the transformation of the cobra de capello. The colour alone would seem to identify the two reptiles, but the head and mouth are no longer those of a serpent, and the disappearance of the tail might readily suggest the mutilation which the tradition asserts.



The Singhalese Buddhists, in their religious abstinence from inflicting death on any creature, are accustomed, after securing a venomous snake, to enclose it in a basket of woven palm leaves, and to set it afloat on a river. During my residence in Ceylon, I never heard of the death of a European which was caused by the bite of a snake; and in the returns of coroners' inquests which were made officially to my department, such accidents to the natives appear chiefly to have happened at night, when the animal having been surprised or trodden on, had inflicted the wound in self-defence.[1] For these reasons the Singhalese, when obliged to leave their houses in the dark, carry a stick with a loose ring, the noise[2] of which as they strike it on the ground is sufficient to warn the snakes to leave their path.

1: In a return of 112 coroners' inquests, in cases of death from wild animals, held in Ceylon in five years, from 1851 to 1855 inclusive, 68 are ascribed to the bites of serpents; and in almost every instance the assault is set down as having taken place at night. The majority of the sufferers were children and women.

2: PLINY notices that the serpent has the sense of hearing more acute than that of sight; and that it is more frequently put in motion by the sound of footsteps than by the appearance of the intruder, "excitatur pede sæpius."—Lib. viii. c. 36.

The Python.—The great python[1] (the "boa," as it is commonly designated by Europeans, the "anaconda" of Eastern story), which is supposed to crush the bones of an elephant, and to swallow the tiger, is found, though not of so portentous dimensions, in the cinnamon gardens within a mile of the fort of Colombo, where it feeds on hog-deer and other smaller animals.

1: Python reticulatus, Gray.

The natives occasionally take it alive, and securing it to a pole expose it for sale as a curiosity. One which was brought to me in this way measured seventeen feet with a proportionate thickness: but another which crossed my path on a coffee estate on the Peacock Mountain at Pusilawa, considerably exceeded these dimensions. Another which I watched in the garden at Elie House, near Colombo, surprised me by the ease with which it erected itself almost perpendicularly in order to scale a wall upwards of ten feet high.

Of ten species which ascend the trees to search for squirrels and lizards, and to rifle the nests of birds, one half, including the green carawilla, and the deadly tic polonga, are believed by the natives to be venomous; but the fact is very dubious. I have heard of the cobra being found on the crown of a coco-nut palm, attracted, it was said, by the toddy which was flowing at the time, as it was the season for drawing it.

Water-Snakes.—The fresh-water snakes, of which four species have been described as inhabiting the still water and pools, are all harmless in Ceylon. A gentleman, who found near a river an agglutinated cluster of the eggs of one variety (Tropidonotus umbratus), placed them under a glass shade on his drawing-room table, where one by one the young serpents emerged from the shell to the number of twenty.

The use of the Pamboo-Kaloo, or snake-stone, as a remedy in cases of wounds by venomous serpents, has probably been communicated to the Singhalese by the itinerant snake-charmers who resort to the island from the coast of Coromandel; and more than one well-authenticated instance of its successful application has been told to me by persons who had been eye-witnesses to what they described. On one occasion, in March, 1854, a friend of mine was riding, with some other civil officers of the government, along a jungle path in the vicinity of Bintenne, when they saw one of two Tamils, who were approaching them, suddenly dart into the forest and return, holding in both hands a cobra de capello which he had seized by the head and tail. He called to his companion for assistance to place it in their covered basket, but, in doing this, he handled it so inexpertly that it seized him by the finger, and retained its hold for a few seconds, as if unable to retract its fangs. The blood flowed, and intense pain appeared to follow almost immediately; but, with all expedition, the friend of the sufferer undid his waistcloth, and took from it two snake-stones, each of the size of a small almond, intensely black and highly polished, though of an extremely light substance. These he applied one to each wound inflicted by the teeth of the serpent, to which the stones attached themselves closely, the blood that oozed from the bites being rapidly imbibed by the porous texture of the article applied. The stones adhered tenaciously for three or four minutes, the wounded man's companion in the meanwhile rubbing his arm downwards from the shoulder towards the fingers. At length the snake-stones dropped off of their own accord; the suffering of the man appeared to have subsided; he twisted his fingers till the joints cracked, and went on his way without concern. Whilst this had been going on, another Indian of the party who had come up took from his bag a small piece of white wood, which resembled a root, and passed it gently near the head of the cobra, which the latter immediately inclined close to the ground; he then lifted the snake without hesitation, and coiled it into a circle at the bottom of his basket. The root by which he professed to be enabled to perform this operation with safety he called the Naya-thalee Kalinga (the root of the snake-plant), protected by which he professed his ability to approach any reptile with impunity.

In another instance, in 1853, Mr. Lavalliere, the District Judge of Kandy, informed me that he saw a snake-charmer in the jungle, close by the town, search for a cobra de capello, and, after disturbing it in its retreat, the man tried to secure it, but, in the attempt, he was bitten in the thigh till blood trickled from the wound. He instantly applied the Pamboo-Kaloo, which adhered closely for about ten minutes, during which time he passed the root which he held in his hand backwards and forwards above the stone, till the latter dropped to the ground. He assured Mr. Lavalliere that all danger was then past. That gentleman obtained from him the snake-stone he had relied on, and saw him repeatedly afterwards in perfect health.

The substances which were used on both these occasions are now in my possession. The roots employed by the several parties are not identical. One appears to be a bit of the stem of an Aristolochia; the other is so dried as to render it difficult to identify it, but it resembles the quadrangular stem of a jungle vine. Some species of Aristolochia, such as the A. serpentaria of North America, are supposed to act as a specific in the cure of snake-bites; and the A. indica is the plant to which the ichneumon is popularly believed to resort as an antidote when bitten[1]; but it is probable that the use of any particular plant by the snake-charmers is a pretence, or rather a delusion, the reptile being overpowered by the resolute action of the operator, and not by the influence of any secondary appliance, the confidence inspired by the supposed talisman enabling its possessor to address himself fearlessly to his task, and thus to effect, by determination and will, what is popularly believed to be the result of charms and stupefaction. Still it is curious that, amongst the natives of Northern Africa, who lay hold of the Cerastes without fear or hesitation, their impunity is ascribed to the use of a plant with which they anoint themselves before touching the reptile[2]; and Bruce says of the people of Sennar that they acquire exemption from the fatal consequences of the bite by chewing a particular root and washing themselves with an infusion of certain plants. He adds that a portion of this root was given him, with a view to test its efficacy in his own person, but that he had not sufficient resolution to undergo the experiment.

1: For an account of the encounter between the ichneumon and the venomous snakes of Ceylon, see Pt. II. ch. i. p. 149.

2: Hassellquist.

As to the snake-stone itself, I submitted one, the application of which I have been describing, to Mr. Faraday, and he has communicated to me, as the result of his analysis, his belief that it is "a piece of charred bone which has been filled with blood perhaps several times, and then carefully charred again. Evidence of this is afforded, as well by the apertures of cells or tubes on its surface as by the fact that it yields and breaks under pressure, and exhibits an organic structure within. When heated slightly, water rises from it, and also a little ammonia; and, if heated still more highly in the air, carbon burns away, and a bulky white ash is left, retaining the shape and size of the stone." This ash, as is evident from inspection, cannot have belonged to any vegetable substance, for it is almost entirely composed of phosphate of lime. Mr. Faraday adds that "if the piece of matter has ever been employed as a spongy absorbent, it seems hardly fit for that purpose in its present state; but who can say to what treatment it has been subjected since it was fit for use, or to what treatment the natives may submit it when expecting to have occasion to use it?"

The probability is, that the animal charcoal, when instantaneously applied, may be sufficiently porous and absorbent to extract the venom from the recent wound, together with a portion of the blood, before it has had time to be carried into the system; and that the blood which Mr. Faraday detected in the specimen submitted to him was that of the Indian on whose person the effect was exhibited on the occasion to which my informant was an eye-witness. The snake-charmers from the coast who visit Ceylon profess to prepare the snake-stones for themselves, and preserve the composition as a secret. Dr. Davy[1], on the authority of Sir Alexander Johnston, says the manufacture of them is a lucrative trade, carried on by the monks of Manilla, who supply the merchants of India—and his analysis confirms that of Mr. Faraday. Of the three different kinds which he examined—one being of partially burnt bone, and another of chalk, the third, consisting chiefly of vegetable matter, resembled a bezoar,—all of them (except the first, which possessed a slight absorbent power) were quite inert, and incapable of having any effect exclusive of that on the imagination of the patient. Thunberg was shown the snake-stone used by the boers at the Cape in 1772, which was imported for them "from the Indies, especially from Malabar," at so high a price that few of the farmers could afford to possess themselves of it; he describes it as convex on one side black, and so porous that "when thrown into water, it caused bubbles to rise;" and hence, by its absorption, it served, if speedily applied, to extract the poison from the wound.[2]

1: Account of the Interior of Ceylon, ch. iii. p. 101.

2: Thunberg, vol. 1. p. 155.

Cæcilia.—The rocky jungle, bordering the higher coffee estates, provides a safe retreat for a very singular animal, first introduced to the notice of European naturalists about a century ago by Linnæus, who gave it the name Cæcilia glutinosa, to indicate two peculiarities manifest to the ordinary observer—an apparent defect of vision, from the eyes being so small and imbedded as to be scarcely distinguishable; and a power of secreting from minute pores in the skin a viscous fluid, resembling that of snails, eels, and some salamanders. Specimens are rare in Europe from the readiness with which it decomposes, breaking down into a flaky mass in the spirits in which it is attempted to be preserved.

The creature is about the length and thickness of an ordinary round desk ruler, a little flattened before and rounded behind. It is brownish, with a pale stripe along either side. The skin is furrowed into 350 circular folds, in which are imbedded minute scales. The head is tolerably distinct, with a double row of fine curved teeth for seizing the insects and worms on which it is supposed to live.

Naturalists are most desirous that the habits and metamorphoses of this creature should be carefully ascertained, for great doubts have been entertained as to the position it is entitled to occupy in the chain of creation.

Frogs.—In the numerous marshes formed by the overflowing of the rivers in the vast plains of the low country, there are many varieties of frogs, which, both by their colours and by their extraordinary size, are calculated to excite the surprise of strangers.[1] In the lakes around Colombo and the still water near Trincomalie, there are huge creatures of this family, from six to eight inches in length[2], of an olive hue, deepening into brown on the back and yellow on the under side. The Kandian species, recently described, is much less in dimensions, but distinguished by its brilliant colouring, a beautiful grass green above and deep orange underneath.[3]

1: The Indian toad (Bufo melanostictus, Schneid) is found In Ceylon, and the belief in its venomous nature is as old as the third century B.C., when the Mahawanso mentions that the wife of "King Asoca attempted to destroy the great bo-tree (at Magadha) with the poisoned fang of a toad."—Ch. xx. p. 122.

2: Rana eutipora, and the Malabar bull-frog, R. Malabarica.

3: R. Kandiana, Kelaart.

In the shrubberies around my house at Colombo the graceful little hylas[1] were to be found in great numbers, crouching under broad leaves to protect them from the scorching sun; some of them utter a sharp metallic sound at night, similar to that produced by smacking the lips. They possess in a high degree the power of changing their colour; and one which had seated itself on the gilt pillar of a dinner lamp was scarcely to be distinguished from the or-molu to which it clung. They are enabled to ascend glass by means of the suckers at the extremity of their toes. Their food consists of flies and minute coleoptera.

1: The tree-frog, Hyla leucomystax, Gracer.

List of Ceylon Reptiles.

I am indebted to Dr. Gray of the British Museum for a more complete enumeration of the reptiles of Ceylon than is to be found in Dr. Kelaart's published lists; but many of those new to Europeans have been carefully described by the latter gentleman in his Prodromus Faunæ Zeylanicæ and its appendices, as well as in the 13th vol. Magaz. Nat. Hist. (1854).







NOTE.—The following species are peculiar to Ceylon; and the genera Aspidura, Cercaspis, and Haplocercus would appear to be similarly restricted. Trimesurus Ceylonensis, T. nigro-marginatus; Megæra Trigonocephala; Trigonocephalus hypnalis; Daboia elegans; Cylindrophis maculata; Aspidura brachyorrhos; Haplocercus Ceylonensis; Oligodon sublineatus; Cynophis Helena; Cyclophis calamaria; Dipsadomorphus Ceylonensis; Cercaspis carinata; Ixalus variabilis, I. Leucorhinus, I. poecilopleurus; Polypedates microtympanum, P. eques.



Little has been yet done to examine and describe the fishes of Ceylon, especially those which frequent the rivers and inland waters. Mr. Bennett, who was for some years employed in the Civil Service, directed his attention to the subject, and published in 1830 some portions of a projected work on the marine ichthyology of the island[1], but it never proceeded beyond the description of about thirty individuals. The great work of Cuvier and Valenciennes[2] particularises about one hundred species, specimens of which were procured from Ceylon by Reynard Leschenault and other correspondents, but of these not more than half a dozen belong to fresh water.

1: A Selection of the most Remarkable and Interesting Fishes found on the Coast of Ceylon. By J.W. BENNETT, Esq. London, 1830.

2: Historie Naturelle des Poissons.

The fishes of the coast, so far as they have been examined, present few which are not common to the seas of Ceylon and India. A series of drawings, including upwards of six hundred species and varieties, of Ceylon fish, all made from recently-captured specimens, has been submitted to Professor Huxley, and a notice of their general characteristics forms an interesting article in the appendix to the present chapter.[1]

1: See note C to this chapter.

Of those in ordinary use for the table the finest by far is the Seir-fish[1], a species of scomber, which is called Tora-malu by the natives. It is in size and form very similar to the salmon, to which the flesh of the female fish, notwithstanding its white colour, bears a very close resemblance both in firmness and flavour.

1: Cybium (Scomber, Linn.) guttatum.

Mackerel, dories, carp, whitings, mullet, red and striped, perches and soles, are abundant, and a sardine (Sardinella Neohowii, Val.) frequents the southern and eastern coast in such profusion that on one instance in 1839 a gentleman, who was present, saw upwards of four hundred thousand taken in a haul of the nets in the little bay of Goyapanna, east of Point-de-Galle. As this vast shoal approached the shore the broken water became as smooth as if a sheet of ice had been floating below the surface.[1]

1: These facts serve to explain the story told by the friar ODORIC of Friule, who visited India about the year 1320 A.D., and says there are "fishes in those seas that come swimming towards the said country in such abundance that for a great distance into the sea nothing can be seen but the backs of fishes, which casting themselves on the shore, do suffer men for the space of three daies to come and to take as many of them as they please, and then they return again into the sea."—Hakluyt, vol. ii. p. 57.

Poisonous Fishes.—The sardine has the reputation of being poisonous at certain seasons, and accidents ascribed to its use are recorded in all parts of the island. Whole families of fishermen who have partaken of it have died. Twelve persons in the jail of Chilaw were thus poisoned about the year 1829; and the deaths of soldiers have repeatedly been ascribed to the same cause. It is difficult in such instances to say with certainty whether the fish were in fault; whether there may not have been a peculiar susceptibility in the condition of the recipients; or whether the mischief may not have been occasioned by the wilful administration of poison, or its accidental occurrence in the brass cooking vessels used by the natives. The popular belief was, however, deferred to by an order passed by the Governor in Council in February, 1824, which, after reciting that "Whereas it appears by information conveyed to the Government that at three several periods at Trincomalie death has been the consequence to several persons from eating the fish called Sardinia during the months of January and December," enacts that it shall not be lawful in that district to catch sardines during these months, under pain of fine and imprisonment. This order is still in force, but the fishing continues notwithstanding.[1]

1: There are two species of Sardine at Ceylon; the S. neohowii, Val., alluded to above, and the S. leiogaster, Val. and Cuv. xx. 270, which was found by Mr. Reynaud at Trincomalie. It occurs also off the coast of Java. Another Ceylon fish of the same group, a Clupea, is known as the "poisonous sprat," the bonito (Scomber pelamys?), the kangewena, or unicorn fish (Balistes?), and a number of others, are more or less in bad repute from the same imputation.

Sharks.—Sharks appear on all parts of the coast, and instances continually occur of persons being seized by them whilst bathing even in the harbours of Trincomalie and Colombo. In the Gulf of Manaar they are taken for the sake of their oil, of which they yield such a quantity that "shark's oil" is now a recognised export. A trade also exists in drying their fins, and from the gelatine contained in them, they find a ready market in China, to which the skin of the basking shark is also sent;—it is said to be there converted into shagreen.

Saw Fish.—The huge saw fish, the Pristis antiquorum[1], infests the eastern coast of the island[2], where it attains a length of from twelve to fifteen feet, including the powerful weapon from which its name is derived.

1: Two other species are found in the Ceylon waters, P. cuspidatus and P. pectinatus.



2: ELIAN mentions, amongst the extraordinary marine animals found in the seas around Ceylon, a fish with feet instead of fins; [Greek: poias ge mên chêlas ê pteri gia.]—Lib xvi. c. 18. Does not this drawing of a species of Chironectes, captured near Colombo, justify his description?

But the most striking to the eye of a stranger are those fishes whose brilliancy of colouring has won for them the wonder even of the listless Singhalese. Some, like the Red Sea Perch (Helocentrus ruber, Bennett) and the Great Fire Fish[1], are of the deepest scarlet and flame colour; in others purple predominates, as in the Serranus flavo-cæruleus; in others yellow, as in the Chæetodon Brownriggii[2], and Acanthurus vittatus, Bennett[3], and numbers, from the lustrous green of their scales, have obtained from the natives the appropriate name of Giraway, or parrots, of which one, the Sparus Hardwickii of Bennett, is called the "Flower Parrot," from its exquisite colouring, being barred with irregular bands of blue, crimson, and purple, green, yellow, and grey, and crossed by perpendicular stripes of black.

1: Pterois muricata, Cuv. and Val. iv. 363. Scorpæna miles, Bennett; named, by the Singhalese, "Maha-rata-gini," the Great Red Fire, a very brilliant red species spotted with black. It is very voracious, and is regarded on some parts of the coast as edible, while on others it is rejected. Mr. Bennett has given a drawing of this species, (pl. 9), so well marked by the armature of the head. The French naturalists regard this figure as being only a highly-coloured variety of their species "dont l'éclat est occasionné par la saison de l'amour." It is found in the Red Sea and Bourbon and Penang. Dr. CANTOR calls it Pterois miles, and reports that it preys upon small crustaceæ.—Cat. Malayan Fishes, p. 44.

2: Glyphisodon Brownriggii, Cuv. and Val. v. 484; Chætodon Brownriggii, Bennett. A very small fish about two inches long, called Kaha bartikyha by the natives. It is distinct from Chætodon, in which Mr. Bennett placed it. Numerous species of this genus are scattered throughout the Indian Ocean. It derives its name from the fine hair-like character of its teeth. They are found chiefly among coral reefs, and, though eaten, are not much esteemed. In the French colonies they are called "Chauffe-soleil." One species is found on the shores of the New World (G. saxatilis), and it is curious that Messrs. Quoy and Gaimard found this fish at the Cape de Verde Islands in 1827.

3: This fish has a sharp round spine on the side of the body near the tail; a formidable weapon, which is generally partially concealed within a scabbard-like incision. The fish raises or depresses this spine at pleasure. It is yellow, with several nearly parallel blue stripes on the back and sides; the belly is white, the tail and fins brownish green, edged with blue.

It is found in rocky places; and according to Mr. Bennett, who has figured it in his second plate, it is named Seweya. It is scarce on the southern coast of Ceylon.

Fresh-water Fishes.—Of the fresh-water fish, which inhabit the rivers and tanks, so very little has hitherto been known to naturalists[1], that of nineteen drawings sent home by Major Skinner in 1852, although specimens of well-known genera, Colonel Hamilton Smith pronounced nearly the whole to be new and undescribed species.

1: In extenuation of the little that is known of the fresh-water fishes of Ceylon, it may be observed that very few of them are used at table by Europeans, and there is therefore no stimulus on the part of the natives to catch them. The burbot and grey mullet are occasionally eaten, but they taste of mud, and are not in request.

Of eight of these, which were from the Mahawelli-ganga, and caught in the vicinity of Kandy, five were carps[1], of which two were Leucisci, and one a Mastacemblus, to which Col. H. Smith has given the name of its discoverer, M. Skinneri[2], one was an Ophicephalus, and one a Polyacanthus, with no serræ on the gills. Six were from the Kalany-ganga, close to Colombo, of which two were Helastoma, in shape approaching the Choetodon; two Ophicephali, one a Silurus, and one an Anabas, but the gills were without denticulation. From the still water of the lake, close to the walls of Colombo, there were two species of Eleotris, one Silurus with barbels, and two Malacopterygians, which appear to be Bagri.

1: Of the fresh-water fishes belonging to the family Cyprinidæ, there are about eighteen species from Ceylon in the collection of the British Museum.

2: This fish bears the native name of Theliya in Major Skinner's list; and is described by Colonel Hamilton Smith as being "of the proportions of an eel; beautifully mottled, with eyes and spots of a lighter olive upon a dark green." This so nearly corresponds with a fish of the same name, Theliya, which was brought to Gronovius from Ceylon, and proved to be identical with the Aral of the Coromandel coast, that it may be doubtful whether it be not the individual already noted by Cuvier as Rhyncobdella ocellata, Cuv. and Val. viii. 445.

In this collection, brought together without premeditation, the naturalist will be struck by the preponderance of those genera which are adapted by nature to endure a temporary privation of moisture; and this, taken in connection with the vicissitudes affecting the waters they inhabit, exhibits a surprising illustration of the wisdom of the Creator in adapting the organisation of His creatures to the peculiar circumstances under which they are destined to exist.

So abundant are fish in all parts of the island, that Knox says, not the running streams alone, but the reservoirs and ponds, "nay, every ditch and little plash of water but ankle deep hath fish in it."[1] But many of these reservoirs and tanks are, twice in each year, liable to be evaporated to dryness till the mud of the bottom is converted into dust, and the clay cleft by the heat into gaping apertures. Yet within a very few days after the change of the monsoon, the natives are busily engaged in fishing in those very spots and in the hollows contiguous to them, although entirely unconnected with any pool or running streams; in the way in which Knox described nearly 200 years ago, with a funnel-shaped basket, open at bottom and top, which, as he says, they "jibb down, and the end sticks in the mud, which often happens upon a fish; which, when they feel beating itself against the sides, they put in their hands and take it out, and reive a ratan through their gills, and so let them drag after them."[2]

1: KNOX'S Historical Relation of Ceylon, Part 1. ch. vii. The occurrence of fish in the most unlooked-for situations, is one of the mysteries of other eastern countries as well as Ceylon and India. In Persia irrigation is carried on to a great extent by means of wells sunk in line in the direction in which it is desired to lead a supply of water, and these are connected by channels, which are carefully arched over to protect them from evaporation. These kanats, as they are called, are full of fish, although neither they nor the wells they unite have any connection with streams or lakes.

2: KNOX, Historical Relation of Ceylon, Part I. ch. vii.



This operation may be seen in the lowlands, which are traversed by the high road leading from Colombo to Kandy, the hollows on either side of which, before the change of the monsoon, are covered with dust or stunted grass; but when flooded by the rains, they are immediately resorted to by the peasants with baskets, constructed precisely as Knox has stated, in which the fish are encircled and taken out by the hand.[1]



1: As anglers, the native Singhalese exhibit little expertness; but for fishing the rivers, they construct with singular ingenuity fences formed of strong stakes, protected by screens of ratan, which stretch diagonally across the current; and along these the fish are conducted into a series of enclosures from which retreat is impracticable. Mr. LAYARD, in the Magazine of Natural History for May, 1853, has given a diagram of one of these fish "corrals," as they are called.

So singular a phenomenon as the sudden reappearance of full-grown fishes in places which a few days before had been encrusted with hardened clay, has not failed to attract attention; but the European residents have been contented to explain it by hazarding the conjecture, either that the spawn had lain imbedded in the dried earth till released by the rains, or that the fish, so unexpectedly discovered, fall from the clouds during the deluge of the monsoon.

As to the latter conjecture; the fall of fish during showers, even were it not so problematical in theory, is too rare an event to account for the punctual appearance of those found in the rice-fields, at stated periods of the year. Both at Galle and Colombo in the south-west monsoon, fish are popularly thought to have fallen from the clouds during violent showers, but those found on the occasions that give rise to this belief, consist of the smallest fry, such as could be caught up by waterspouts, and vortices analogous to them, or otherwise blown on shore from the surf; whereas those which suddenly appear in the replenished tanks and in the hollows which they overflow, are mature and well-grown fish.[1] Besides, the latter are found, under the circumstances I have described, in all parts of the interior, whilst the prodigy of a supposed fall of fish from the sky has been noticed, I apprehend, only in the vicinity of the sea, or of some inland water.

1: I had an opportunity, on one occasion only, of witnessing the phenomenon which gives rise to this popular belief. I was driving in the cinnamon gardens near the fort of Colombo, and saw a violent but partial shower descend at no great distance before me. On coming to the spot I found a multitude of small silvery fish from one and a half to two inches in length, leaping on the gravel of the high road, numbers of which I collected and brought away in my palankin. The spot was about half a mile from the sea, and entirely unconnected with any watercourse or pool.

Mr. WHITING, who was many years resident at Trincomalie, writes me that he "had often been told by the natives on that side of the island that it sometimes rained fishes; and on one occasion (he adds) I was taken by them, in 1849, to a field at the village of Karran-cotta-tivo, near Batticaloa, which was dry when I passed over it in the morning, but had been covered in two hours by sudden rain to the depth of three inches in which there was then a quantity of small fish. The water had no connection with any pond or stream whatsoever." Mr. CRIPPS, in like manner, in speaking of Galle, says: "I have seen in the vicinity of the fort, fish taken from rain-water that had accumulated in the hollow parts of land that in the hot season are perfectly dry and parched. The place is accessible to no running stream or tank; and either the fish, or the spawn from which they were produced, must of necessity have fallen with the rain."

Mr. J. PRINSEP, the eminent secretary to the Asiatic Society of Bengal, found a fish in the pluviometer at Calcutta, in 1838.—Journ. Asiat. Soc. Bengal, vol. vi p. 465.

A series of instances in which fishes have been found on the continent of India under circumstances which lead to the conclusion that they must have fallen from the clouds, have been collected by Dr. BUIST of Bombay, and will be found in the appendix to this chapter.

The surmise of the buried spawn is one sanctioned by the very highest authority. Mr. YARRELL in his "History of British Fishes," adverting to the fact that ponds which had been previously converted into hardened mud, are replenished with small fish in a very few days after the commencement of each rainy season, offers this solution of the problem as probably the true one: "The impregnated ova of the fish of one rainy season, are left unhatched in the mud through the dry season, and from their low state of organisation as ova, the vitality is preserved till the recurrence, and contact of the rain and oxygen in the next wet season, when vivification takes place from their joint influence."[1]

1: YARRELL, History of British Fishes, introd. vol. i. p. xxvi.

This hypothesis, however, appears to have been offered upon imperfect data; for although some fish like the salmon scrape grooves in the sand and place their spawn in inequalities and fissures; yet as a general rule spawn is deposited not beneath but on the surface of the ground or sand over which the water flows, the adhesive nature of each egg supplying the means of attachment. But in the Ceylon tanks not only is the surface of the soil dried to dust after the evaporation of the water, but the earth itself, twelve or eighteen inches deep, is converted into sun-burnt clay, in which, although the eggs of mollusca, in their calcareous covering, are in some instances preserved, it would appear to be as impossible for the ova of fish to be kept from decomposition as for the fish themselves to sustain life. Besides, moisture in such situations is only to be found at a depth to which spawn could not be conveyed by the parent fish, by any means with which we are yet acquainted.

But supposing it possible to carry the spawn sufficiently deep, and to deposit it safely in the mud below, which is still damp, whence it could be liberated on the return of the rains, a considerable interval would still be necessary after the replenishing of the ponds with water to admit of vivification and growth. But so far from this interval being allowed to elapse, the rains have no sooner ceased than the fishing of the natives commences, and those captured in wicker cages are mature and full grown instead of being "small fish" or fry, as affirmed by Mr. Yarrell.

Even admitting the soundness of his theory, and the probability that, under favourable circumstances, the spawn in the tanks might be preserved during the dry season so as to contribute to the perpetuation of their inhabitants, the fact is no longer doubtful, that adult fish in Ceylon, like some of those that inhabit similar waters both in the New and Old World, have been endowed by the Creator with the singular faculty of providing against the periodical droughts either by journeying overland in search of still unexhausted water, or, on its utter disappearance, by burying themselves in the mud to await the return of the rains.

Travelling Fishes.—It was well known to the Greeks that certain fishes of India possessed the power of leaving the rivers and returning to them again after long migrations[1] on dry land, and modern observation has fully confirmed their statements. The fish leave the pools and nullahs in the dry season, and led by an instinct as yet unexplained, shape their course through the grass towards the nearest pool of water. A similar phenomenon is observable in countries similarly circumstanced. The Doras of Guiana[2] have been seen travelling over land during the dry season in search of their natural element[3], in such droves that the negroes have filled baskets with them during these terrestrial excursions.

1: I have collected into a note, which will be found in the appendix to this chapter, the opinions entertained by the Greeks and Romans upon this habit of the fresh-water fishes of India. See note B.

2: D. Hancockii, Cuv. et Val.

3: Sir R. Schomburgk's Fishes of Guiana, vol. i. pp. 113, 151, 160. Another migratory fish was found by Bose very numerous in the fresh waters of Carolina and in ponds liable to become dry in summer. When captured and placed on the ground, "they always directed themselves towards the nearest water, which they could not possibly see, and which they must have discovered by some internal index." They belong to the genus Hydrargyra, and are called Swampines.— KIBBY, Bridgewater Treatise, vol i. p. 143.

Eels kept in a garden, when August arrived (the period at which instinct impels them to go to the sea to spawn) were in the habit of leaving the pond and were invariably found moving eastward in the direction of the sea.—YARRELL, vol. ii. p. 384. Anglers observe that fish newly caught, when placed out of sight of water, always struggle towards it to escape.

Pallegoix in his account of Siam, enumerates three species of fishes which leave the tanks and channels and traverse the damp grass[1]; and Sir John Bowring, in his account of the embassy to the Siamese kings in 1855, states, that in ascending and descending the river Meinam to Bankok, he was amused with the novel sight of fish leaving the river, gliding over the wet banks, and losing themselves amongst the trees of the jungle.[2]

1: PALLEGOIX, vol. i. p. 144.

2: Sir J. BOWRING'S Siam, vol. i. p. 10.

The class of fishes which possess this power are chiefly those with labyrinthiform pharyngeal bones, so disposed in plates and cells as to retain a supply of moisture, which, whilst crawling on land, gradually exudes so as to keep the gills damp.[1]

1: CUVIER and VALENCIENNES, Hist. Nat. des Poissons, tom. vii. p. 246.

The individual which is most frequently seen in these excursions in Ceylon is a perch called by the Singhalese Kavaya or Kawhy-ya, and by the Tamils Pannei-eri, or Sennal. It is closely allied to, if not identical with, the Anabas scandens of Cuvier, the Perca scandens of Daldorf. It grows to about six inches in length, the head round and covered with scales, and the edges of the gill-covers strongly denticulated. Aided by the apparatus already adverted to in its head, this little creature issues boldly from its native pools and addresses itself to its toilsome march generally at night or in the early morning, whilst the grass is still damp with the dew; but in its distress it is sometimes compelled to travel by day, and Mr. E.L. Layard on one occasion encountered a number of them travelling along a hot and dusty gravel road under the midday sun.[1]

1: Annals and Mag. of Nat. Hist., May, 1853, p. 390. Mr. Morris, the government-agent of Trincomalie, writing to me on this subject in 1856, says—"I was lately on duty inspecting the bund of a large tank at Nade-cadua, which, being out of repair, the remaining water was confined in a small hollow in the otherwise dry bed. Whilst there heavy rain came on, and, as we stood on the high ground, we observed a pelican on the margin of the shallow pool gorging himself; our people went towards him and raised a cry of fish! fish! We hurried down, and found numbers of fish struggling upwards through the grass in the rills formed by the trickling of the rain. There was scarcely water enough to cover them, but nevertheless they made rapid progress up the bank, on which our followers collected about two bushels of them at a distance of forty yards from the tank. They were forcing their way up the knoll, and, had they not been intercepted first by the pelican and afterwards by ourselves, they would in a few minutes have gained the highest point and descended on the other side into a pool which formed another portion of the tank. They were chub, the same as are found in the mud after the tanks dry up." In a subsequent communication in July, 1857, the same gentleman says—"As the tanks dry up the fish congregate in the little pools till at last you find them in thousands in the moistest parts of the beds, rolling in the blue mud which is at that time about the consistence of thick gruel."

"As the moisture further evaporates the surface fish are left uncovered, and they crawl away in search of fresh pools. In one place I saw hundreds diverging in every direction, from the tank they had just abandoned to a distance of fifty or sixty yards, and still travelling onwards. In going this distance, however, they must have used muscular exertion sufficient to have taken them half a mile on level ground, for at these places all the cattle and wild animals of the neighbourhood had latterly come to drink; so that the surface was everywhere indented with footmarks in addition to the cracks in the surrounding baked mud, into which the fish tumbled in their progress. In those holes which were deep and the sides perpendicular they remained to die, and were carried off by kites and crows."

"My impression is that this migration takes place at night or before sunrise, for it was only early in the morning that I have seen them progressing, and I found that those I brought away with me in chatties appeared quiet by day, but a large proportion managed to get out of the chatties at night—some escaped altogether, others were trodden on and killed."

"One peculiarity is the large size of the vertebral column, quite disproportioned to the bulk of the fish. I particularly noticed that all in the act of migrating had their gills expanded."

Referring to the Anabas scandens, Mr. Hamilton Buchanan says, that of all the fish with which he was acquainted it is the most tenacious of life; and he has known boatmen on the Ganges to keep them for five or six days in an earthen pot without water, and daily to use what they wanted, finding them as lively and fresh as when caught.[1] Two Danish naturalists residing at Tranquebar, have contributed their authority to the fact of this fish ascending trees on the coast of Coromandel, an exploit from which it acquired its epithet of Perca scandens. Daldorf, who was a lieutenant in the Danish East India Company's service, communicated to Sir Joseph Banks, that in the year 1791 he had taken this fish from a moist cavity in the stem of a Palmyra palm, which grew near a lake. He saw it when already five feet above the ground struggling to ascend still higher;—suspending itself by its gill-covers, and bending its tail to the left, it fixed its anal fin in the cavity of the bark, and sought by expanding its body to urge its way upwards, and its march was only arrested by the hand with which he seized it.[2]

1: Fishes of the Ganges, 4to. 1822.

2: Transactions Linn. Soc. vol. iii. p. 63. It is remarkable, however, that this discovery of Daldorf, which excited so great an interest in 1791, had been anticipated by an Arabian voyager a thousand years before. Abou-zeyd, the compiler of the remarkable MS. known since Renandot's translation by the title of the Travels of Two Mahometans, states that Suleyman, one of his informants, who visited India at the close of the ninth century, was told there of a fish which, issuing from the waters, ascended the coco-nut palms to drink their sap, and returned to the sea. "On parle d'un poisson de mer que sortant de l'eau, monte sur la cocotier et boit le suc de la plante; ensuite il retourne à la mer." See REINAUD, Relations des Voyages faits par les Arabes et Persans dans le neuvième siècle, tom. i. p. 21, tom ii. p. 93.

There is considerable obscurity about the story of this ascent, although corroborated by M. John. Its motive for climbing is not apparent, since water being close at hand it could not have gone for sake of the moisture contained in the fissures of the palm; nor could it be in search of food, as it lives not on fruit but on aquatic insects.[1] The descent, too, is a question of difficulty. The position of its fins, and the spines on its gill-covers, might assist its journey upwards, but the same apparatus would prove anything but a facility in steadying its journey down. The probability is, as suggested by Buchanan, that the ascent which was witnessed by Daldorf was accidental, and ought not to be regarded as the habit of the animal. In Ceylon I heard of no instance of the perch ascending trees[2], but the fact is well established that both it, the pullata (a species of polyacanthus), and others, are capable of long journeys on the level ground.[3]

1: Kirby says that it is "in pursuit of certain crustaceans that form its food" (Bridgewater Treatise, vol. i. p. 144); but I am not aware of any crustaceans in the island which ascend the palmyra or feed upon its fruit. Birgus latro, which inhabits Mauritius and is said to climb the coco-nut for this purpose, has not been observed in Ceylon.

2: This assertion must be qualified by a fact stated by Mr. E.A. Layard, who mentions that on visiting one of the fishing stations on a Singhalese river, where the fish are caught in staked enclosures, as described at p. 212, and observing that the chambers were covered with netting, he asked the reason, and was told "that some of the fish climbed up the sticks and got over."—Mag. Nat. Hist. for May 1828, p. 390-1.

3: Strange accidents have more than once occurred in Ceylon arising from the habit of the native anglers; who, having neither baskets nor pockets in which to place what they catch, will seize a fish in their teeth whilst putting fresh bait on their hook. In August 1853, a man carried into the Pettah hospital at Colombo, having a climbing perch, which he thus attempted to hold, firmly imbedded in his throat. The spines of its dorsal fin prevented its descent, whilst those of the gill-covers equally forbade its return. It was eventually extracted by the forceps through an incision in the oesophagus, and the patient recovered. Other similar cases have proved fatal.

Burying Fishes.—But a still more remarkable power possessed by some of the Ceylon fishes, is that of secreting themselves in the earth in the dry season, at the bottom of the exhausted ponds, and there awaiting the renewal of the water at the change of the monsoon.

The instinct of the crocodile to resort to the same expedient has been already referred to[1], and in like manner the fish, when distressed by the evaporation of the tanks, seek relief by immersing first their heads, and by degrees their whole bodies, in the mud; and sinking to a depth at which they find sufficient moisture to preserve life in a state of lethargy long after the bed of the tank has been consolidated by the intense heat of the sun. It is possible, too, that the cracks which reticulate the surface may admit air to some extent to sustain their faint respiration.

1: See ante, P. II. ch. iii. p. 189.

The same thing takes place in other tropical regions, subject to vicissitudes of draught and moisture. The Protopterus[1] which inhabits the Gambia (and which, though demonstrated by Professor Owen to possess all the essential organisation of fishes, is nevertheless provided with true lungs), is accustomed in the dry season, when the river retires into its channel, to bury itself to the depth of twelve or sixteen inches in the indurated mud of the banks, and to remain in a state of torpor till the rising of the stream after the rains enables it to resume its active habits. At this period the natives of the Gambia, like those of Ceylon, resort to the river, and secure the fish in considerable numbers as they flounder in the still shallow water. A parallel instance occurs in Abyssinia in relation to the fish of the Mareb, one of the sources of the Nile, the waters of which are partially absorbed in traversing the plains of Taka. During the summer its bed is dry, and in the slime at the depth of more than six feet is found a species of fish without scales, different from any known to inhabit the Nile.[2]

1: Lepidosiren annectans, Owen. See Linn. Trans. 1839.

2: This statement will be found in QUATREMERE'S Memoires sur l'Egypte, tom. i. p. 17, on the authority of Abdullah ben Ahmed ben Solaim Assouany, in his History of Nubia, "Simon, héritier présomptif du royanme d'Alouah, m'a assuré que l'on trouve, dans la vase qui couvre le fond de cette rivière, un grand poisson sans écailles, qui ne ressemble en rien aux poissons du Nil, et que, pour l'avoir, il faut creuser à une toise et plus de profondeur." To this passage there is appended this note:—"Le patriarche Mendes, cité par Legrand (Relation Hist. d'Abyssinie, du P. LOBO, p. 212-3) rapporte que le fleuve Mareb, après avoir arrosé une étendue de pays considérable, se perd sous terre; et que quand les Portugais faisaient la guerre dans ce pays, ils fouilloient dans le sable, et y trouvoient de la bonne eau et du bon poison. Au rapport de l'auteur de l'Ayin Akbery (tom. ii. p. 146, ed. 1800), dans le Soubah de Caschmir, près du lieu nommé Tilahmoulah, est une grande pièce de terre qui est inondée pendant la saison des pluies. Lorsque les eaux se sont évaporées, et que la vase est presque sèche, les habitans prennent des bâtons d'environ une aune de long, qu'ils enfoncent dans la vase, et ils y trouvent quantité de grands et petits poissons." In the library of the British Museum there is an unique MS. of MANOEL DE ALMEIDA, written in the sixteenth century, from which Balthasar Tellez compiled his Historia General de Ethiopia alta, printed at Coimbra in 1660, and in it the above statement of Mendes is corroborated by Almeida, who says that he was told by João Gabriel, a Creole Portuguese, born in Abyssinia, who had visited the Merab, and who said that the "fish were to be found everywhere eight or ten palms down, and that he had eaten of them."

In South America the "round-headed hassar" of Guiana, Callicthys littoralis, and the "yarrow," a species of the family Esocidæ, although they possess no specially modified respiratory organs, are accustomed to bury themselves in the mud on the subsidence of water in the pools during the dry season.[1] The Loricaria of Surinam, another Siluridan, exhibits a similar instinct, and resorts to the same expedient. Sir R. Schomburgk, in his account of the fishes of Guiana, confirms this account of the Callicthys, and says "they can exist in muddy lakes without any water whatever, and great numbers of them are sometimes dug up from such situations."

1: See Paper "on some Species of Fishes and Reptiles in Demerara," by J. HANDCOOK, Esq., M.D., Zoological Journal, vol. iv. p. 243.

In those portions of Ceylon where the country is flat, and small tanks are extremely numerous, the natives in the hot season are accustomed to dig in the mud for fish. Mr. Whiting, the chief civil officer of the eastern province, informs me that, on two occasions, he was present accidentally when the villagers were so engaged, once at the tank of Moeletivoe, within a few miles of Kottiar, near the bay of Trincomalie, and again at a tank between Ellendetorre and Arnetivoe, on the bank of the Vergel river. The clay was firm, but moist, and as the men flung out lumps of it with a spade, it fell to pieces, disclosing fish from nine to twelve inches long, which were full grown and healthy, and jumped on the bank when exposed to the sun light.

Being desirous of obtaining a specimen of the fish so exhumed, I received from the Moodliar of Matura, A.B. Wickremeratne, a fish taken along with others of the same kind from a tank in which the water had dried up; it was found at a depth of a foot and a half where the mud was still moist, whilst the surface was dry and hard. The fish which the moodliar sent to me proved to be an Anabas, and closely resembles the Perca scandens of Daldorf.



But the faculty of becoming torpid at such periods is not confined in Ceylon to the crocodiles and fishes, it is equally possessed by some of the fresh-water mollusca and aquatic coleoptera. The largest of the former, the Ampullaria glauca, is found in still water in all parts of the island, not alone in the tanks, but in rice-fields and the watercourses by which they are irrigated. There it deposits a bundle of eggs with a white calcareous shell, to the number of one hundred and more in each group, at a considerable depth in the soft mud, under which, when the water is about to evaporate during the dry season, it burrows and conceals itself[1] till the returning rains restore it to liberty, and reproduce its accustomed food. The Melania Paludina in the same way retires during the droughts into the muddy soil of the rice lands; and it can only be by such an instinct that this and other mollusca are preserved when the tanks evaporate, to re-appear in full growth and vigour immediately on the return of the rains.[2]

1: A knowledge of this fact was turned to prompt account by Mr. Edgar S. Layard, when holding a judicial office at Point Pedro in 1849. A native who had been defrauded of his land complained before him of his neighbour, who, during his absence, had removed their common landmark by diverting the original watercourse and obliterated its traces by filling it to a level with the rest of the field. Mr. Layard directed a trench to be sunk at the contested spot, and discovering numbers of the Ampullaria, the remains of the eggs, and the living animal which had been buried for months, the evidence was so resistless as to confound the wrongdoer, and terminate the suit.

2: For a similar fact relative to the shells and water beetles in the pools near Rio Janeiro, see DARWIN'S Nat. Journal, ch. v. p. 90. BENSON, in the first vol. of Gleanings of Science, published at Calcutta in 1829, describes a species of Paludina found in pools, which are periodically dried up in the hot season but reappear with the rains, p. 363. And in the Journal of the Asiatic Soc. of Bengal for Sept. 1832, Lieut. HUTTON, in a singularly interesting paper, has followed up the same subject by a narrative of his own observations at Mirzapore, where in June, 1832, after a few heavy showers of rain, which formed pools on the surface of the ground near a mango grove, he saw the Paludinæ issuing from the ground, "pushing aside the moistened earth and coming forth from their retreats; but on the disappearance of the water not one of them was to be seen above ground. Wishing to ascertain what had become of them, he turned up the earth at the base of several trees, and invariably found the shells buried from an inch to two inches below the surface." Lieut. Hutton adds that the Ampullariæ and Planorbes, as well as the Paludinæ, are found in similar situations during the heats of the dry season. The British Pisidea exhibit the same faculty (see a monograph in the Camb. Phil. Trans. vol. iv.). The fact is elsewhere alluded to in the present work of the power possessed by the land leech of Ceylon of retaining vitality even after being parched to hardness during the heat of the rainless season. Vol. I. ch. vii. p. 312.

Dr. John Hunter[1] has advanced the opinion that hybernation, although a result of cold, is not its immediate consequence, but is attributable to that deprivation of food and other essentials which extreme cold occasions, and against the recurrence of which nature makes a timely provision by a suspension of her functions. Excessive heat in the tropics produces an effect upon animals and vegetables analogous to that of excessive cold in northern regions, and hence it is reasonable to suppose that the torpor induced by the one may be but the counterpart of the hybernation which results from the other. The frost which imprisons the alligator in the Mississippi as effectually cuts him off from food and action as the drought which incarcerates the crocodile in the sun-burnt clay of a Ceylon tank. The hedgehog of Europe enters on a period of absolute torpidity as soon as the inclemency of winter deprives it of its ordinary supply of slugs and insects; and the Tenrec[2] of Madagascar, its tropical representative, exhibits the same tendency during the period when excessive heat produces in that climate a like result.

1: HUNTER'S Observations on parts of the Animal Oeconomy, p. 88.

2: Centetes ecaudatus, Illiger.

The descent of the Ampullaria, and other fresh-water molluscs, into the mud of the tank, has its parallel in the conduct of the Bulimi and Helices on land. The European snail, in the beginning of winter, either buries itself in the earth or withdraws to some crevice or overarching stone to await the returning vegetation of spring. So, in the season of intense heat, the Helix Waltoni of Ceylon, and others of the same family, before retiring under cover, close the aperture of their shells with an impervious epiphragm, which effectually protects their moisture and juices from evaporation during the period of their æstivation. The Bulimi of Chili have been found alive in England in a box packed in cotton after an interval of two years, and the animal inhabiting a land-shell from Suez, which was attached to a tablet and deposited in the British Museum in 1846, was found in 1850 to have formed a fresh epiphragm, and on being immersed in tepid water, it emerged from its shell. It became torpid again on the 15th November, 1851, and was found dead and dried up in March, 1852.[1] But the exceptions serve to prove the accuracy of Hunter's opinion almost as strikingly as accordances, since the same genera of animals which hybernate in Europe, where extreme cold disarranges their oeconomy, evince no symptoms of lethargy in the tropics, provided their food be not diminished by the heat. Ants, which are torpid in Europe during winter, work all the year round in India, where sustenance is uniform.[2] The Shrews of Ceylon (Sorex montanus and S. ferrugineus of Kelaart) which, like those at home, subsist upon insects, inhabit a region where the equable temperature admits of the pursuit of their prey at all seasons of the year; and hence, unlike those of Europe, they never hybernate. A similar observation applies to the bats, which are dormant during a northern winter when insects are rare, but never become torpid in any part of the tropics.

1: Annals of Natural History, 1850. See Dr. BAIRD's Account of Helix desertorum; Excelsior, &c., ch. i. p. 345.

2: Colonel SYKES has described in the Entomological Trans. the operations of an ant which laid up a store of hay against the rainy season.

The bear, in like manner, is nowhere deprived of its activity except when the rigour of severe frost cuts off its access to its accustomed food. On the other hand, the tortoise, which immerses itself in indurated mud during the hot months in Venezuela, shows no tendency to torpor in Ceylon, where its food is permanent; and yet is subject to hybernation when carried to the colder regions of Europe.

To the fish in the detached tanks and pools when the heat, by exhausting the water, deprives them at once of motion and sustenance, the practical effect must be the same as when the frost of a northern winter encases them in ice. Nor is it difficult to believe that they can successfully undergo the one crisis when we know beyond question that they may survive the other.[1]

1: YARRELL, vol. i. p. 364, quotes the authority of Dr. J. Hunter in his Animal OEconomy, that fish, "after being frozen still retain so much of life as when thawed to resume their vital actions;" and in the same volume (Introd. vol. i. p. xvii.) he relates from JESSE'S Gleanings in Natural History, the story of a gold fish (Cyprinus auratus) which, together with the water in a marble basin, was frozen into one solid lump of ice, yet, on the water being thawed, the fish became as lively as usual Dr. RICHARDSON, in the third vol. of his Fauna Borealis Americana, says the grey sucking carp found in the fur countries of North America, may be frozen and thawed again without being killed in the process.

Hot-water Fishes.—Another incident is striking in connection with the fresh-water fishes of Ceylon. I have mentioned elsewhere the hot springs of Kannea, in the vicinity of Trincomalie, the water in which flows at a temperature varying at different seasons from 85° to 115°. In the stream formed by these wells M. Reynaud found and forwarded to Cuvier two fishes which he took from the water at a time when his thermometer indicated a temperature of 37° Reaumur, equal to 115° of Fahrenheit. The one was an Apogon, the other an Ambassis, and to each, from the heat of its habitat, he assigned the specific name of "Thermalis."[1]

1: CUV. and VAL., vol. iii. p. 363. In addition to the two fishes above named, a loche Cobitis thermalis, and a carp, Nuria thermoicos, were found in the hot-springs of Kannea at a heat 40° Cent., 114° Fahr., and a roach, Leuciscus thermalis, when the thermometer indicated 50° Cent., 122° Fahr.—Ib. xviii. p. 59, xvi. p. 182, xvii. p. 94. Fish have been taken from a hot spring at Pooree when the thermometer stood at 112° Fahr., and as they belonged to a carnivorous genus, they must have found prey living in the same high temperature.—Journ. Asiatic Soc. Beng. vol. vi. p. 465. Fishes have been observed in a hot spring at Manilla which raises the thermometer to 187°, and in another in Barbary, the usual temperature of which is 172°; and Humboidt and Bonpland, when travelling in South America, saw fishes thrown up alive from a volcano, in water that raised the temperature to 210°, being two degrees below the boiling point. PATTERSON'S Zoology. Pt. ii p. 211; YARRELL'S History of British Fishes, vol. i. In. p. xvi.

List of Ceylon Fishes.



Malacopterygrii (abdominales).

Malacopterygii (Sub-brachiati).

Malacopterygii (Apoda).






From the Bombay Times, 1856.

Dr. Buist, after enumerating cases in which fishes were said to have been thrown out from volcanoes in South America and precipitated from clouds in various parts of the world, adduces the following instances of similar occurrences in India. "In 1824," he says, "fishes fell at Meerut, on the men of Her Majesty's 14th Regiment, then out at drill, and were caught in numbers. In July, 1826, live fish were seen to fall on the grass at Moradabad during a storm. They were the common cyprinus, so prevalent in our Indian waters. On the 19th of February, 1830, at noon, a heavy fall of fish occurred at the Nokulhatty factory, in the Daccah zillah; depositions on the subject were obtained from nine different parties. The fish were all dead; most of them were large: some were fresh, others were rotten and mutilated. They were seen at first in the sky, like a flock of birds, descending rapidly to the ground; there was rain drizzling, but no storm. On the 16th and 17th of May, 1833, a fall of fish occurred in the zillah of Futtehpoor, about three miles north of the Jumna, after a violent storm of wind and rain. The fish were from a pound and a half to three pounds in weight, and of the same species as those found in the tanks in the neighbourhood. They were all dead and dry. A fall of fish occurred at Allahabad, during a storm in May, 1835; they were of the chowla species, and were found dead and dry after the storm had passed over the district. On the 20th of September, 1839, after a smart shower of rain, a quantity of live fish, about three inches in length and all of the same kind, fell at the Sunderbunds, about twenty miles south of Calcutta. On this occasion it was remarked that the fish did not fall here and there irregularly over the ground, but in a continuous straight line, not more than a span in breadth. The vast multitudes of fish, with which the low grounds round Bombay are covered, about a week or ten days after the first burst of the monsoon, appear to be derived from the adjoining pools or rivulets and not to descend from the sky. They are not, so far as I know, found in the higher parts of the island. I have never seen them, though I have watched carefully, in casks collecting water from the roofs of buildings, or heard of them on the decks or awnings of vessels in the harbour, where they must have appeared had they descended from the sky. One of the most remarkable phenomena of this kind occurred during a tremendous deluge of rain at Kattywar, on the 25th of July, 1850, when the ground around Rajkote was found literally covered with fish; some of them were found on the tops of haystacks, where probably they had been drifted by the storm. In the course of twenty-four successive hours twenty-seven inches of rain fell, thirty-five fell in twenty-six hours, seven inches within one hour and a half, being the heaviest fall on record. At Poonah, on the 3rd of August, 1852, after a very heavy fall of rain, multitudes of fish were caught on the ground in the cantonments, full half a mile from the nearest stream. If showers of fish are to be explained on the assumption that they are carried up by squalls or violent winds, from rivers or spaces of water not far away from where they fall, it would be nothing wonderful were they seen to descend from the air during the furious squalls which occasionally occur in June."



Opinions of the Greeks and Romans.

It is an illustration of the eagerness with which, after the expedition of Alexander the Great, particulars connected with the natural history of India were sought for and arranged by the Greeks, that in the works both of ARISTOTLE and THEOPHRASTUS the facts are recorded of the fishes in the Indian rivers migrating in search of water, of their burying themselves in the mud on its failure, of their being dug out thence alive during the dry season, and of their spontaneous reappearance on the return of the rains. The earliest notice is in the treatise of ARISTOTLE De Respiratione, chap. ix., who mentions the strange discovery of living fish found beneath the surface of the soil, [Greek: tôn ichthuôn oi polloi zôsin en tê gê, akinêtizontes mentoi, kai euriskontai oruttomenoi]; and in his History of Animals he conjectures that in ponds periodically dried the ova of the fish so buried become vivified at the change of the season.[1] HERODOTUS had previously hazarded a similar theory to account for the sudden appearance of fry in the Egyptian marshes on the rising of the Nile; but the cases are not parallel. THEOPHRASTUS, the friend and pupil of Aristotle, gave importance to the subject by devoting to it his essay [Greek: Peri tês tôn ichthyôn en zêrô diamonês], De Piscibus in sicco degentibus. In this, after adverting to the fish called exocoetus, from its habit of going on shore to sleep, [Greek: apo tês koitês], he instances the small fish ([Greek: ichthydia]), which leave the rivers of India to wander like frogs on the land; and likewise a species found near Babylon, which, when the Euphrates runs low, leave the dry channels in search of food, "moving themselves along by means of their fins and tail." He proceeds to state that at Heraclea Pontica there are places in which fish are dug out of the earth, ([Greek: oryktoi tôn ichthyôn]), and he accounts for their being found under such circumstances by the subsidence of the rivers, "when the water being evaporated the fish gradually descend beneath the soil in search of moisture; and the surface becoming hard they are preserved in the damp clay below it, in a state of torpor, but are capable of vigorous movements when disturbed. In this manner, too," Theophrastus adds, "the buried fish propagate, leaving behind them their spawn, which becomes vivified on the return of the waters to their accustomed bed." This work of Theophrastus became the great authority for all subsequent writers on this question. ATHENÆUS quotes it[2], and adds the further testimony of POLYBIUS, that in Gallia Narbonensis fish are similarly dug out of the ground.[3] STRABO repeats the story[4], and one and all the Greek naturalists received the statement as founded on reliable authority.

1: Lib. vi. ch, 15, 16, 17.

2: Lib. viii. ch. 2.

3: Ib. ch. 4.

4: Lib. iv. and xii.

Not so the Romans. LIVY mentions it as one of the prodigies which were to be "expiated," on the approach of a rupture with Macedon, that "in Gallico agro qua induceretur aratrum sub glebis pisces emersisse,"[1] thus taking it out of the category of natural occurrences. POMPONIUS MELA, obliged to notice the matter in his account of Narbon Gaul, accompanies it with the intimation that although asserted by both Greek and Roman authorities, the story was either a delusion or a fraud.[2] JUVENAL has a sneer for the rustic—

"miranti sub aratro

Piscibus inventis."—Sat. xiii. 63.

1: Lib. xlii. ch. 2.

2: Lib. ii ch, 5.

And SENECA, whilst he quotes Theophrastus, adds ironically, that now we must go to fish with a hatchet instead of a hook; "non cum hamis, sed cum dolabra ire piscatum."[1] PLINY, who devotes the 35th chapter of his 9th book to this subject, uses the narrative of Theophrastus, but with obvious caution, and universally the Latin writers treated the story as a fable.

1: Nat. Quæst. vii 16.

In later times the subject received more enlightened attention, and Beckmann, who in 1736 published his commentary on the collection [Greek: Peri Thaumasiôn akousmátôn], ascribed to Aristotle, has given a list of the authorities about his own times,—Georgius Agricola, Gesner, Rondelet, Dalechamp, Bomare, and Gronovius, who not only gave credence to the assertions of Theophrastus, but adduced modern instances in corroboration of his Indian authorities.



(Memorandum, by Professor Huxley.)

See p. 205.

The large series of beautifully coloured drawings of the fishes of Ceylon, which has been submitted to my inspection, possesses an unusual value for several reasons.

The fishes, it appears, were all captured at Colombo, and even had those from other parts of Ceylon been added, the geographical area would not have been very extended. Nevertheless there are more than 600 drawings, and though it is possible that some of these represent varieties in different stages of growth of the same species, I have not been able to find definite evidence of the fact in any of those groups which I have particularly tested. If, however, these drawings represent six hundred distinct species of fish, they constitute, so far as I know, the largest collection of fish from one locality in existence.

The number of known British fishes may be safely assumed to be less than 250, and Mr. Yarrell enumerates only 226, Dr. Cantor's valuable work on Malayan fishes enumerates not more than 238, while Dr. Russell has figured only 200 from Coromandel. Even the enormous area of the Chinese and Japanese seas has as yet not yielded 800 species of fishes.

The large extent of the collection alone, then, renders it of great importance; but its value is immeasurably enhanced by two circumstances,—the first, that every drawing was made while the fish retained all that vividness of colouring which becomes lost so soon after its removal from its native element; second, that when the sketch was finished its subject was carefully labelled, preserved in spirits, and forwarded to England, so that at the present moment the original of every drawing can be subjected to anatomical examination, and compared with already named species.

Under these circumstances, I do not hesitate to say that the collection is one of the most valuable in existence, and might, if properly worked out, become a large and secure foundation for all future investigation into the ichthyology of the Indian Ocean.

It would be very hazardous to express an opinion as to the novelty or otherwise of the species and genera figured without the study of the specimens themselves, as the specific distinctions of fish are for the most part based upon character; the fin-rays, teeth, the operculum, &c., which can only be made out by close and careful examination of the object, and cannot be represented in ordinary drawings however accurate.

There are certain groups of fish, however, whose family traits are so marked as to render it almost impossible to mistake even their portraits, and hence I may venture, without fear of being far wrong, upon a few remarks as to the general features of the ichthyological fauna of Ceylon.

In our own seas rather less than a tenth of the species of fishes belong to the cod tribe. I have not found one represented in these drawings, nor do either Russell or Cantor mention any in the surrounding seas, and the result is in general harmony with the known laws of distribution of these most useful of fishes.

On the other hand, the mackerel family, including the tunnies, the bonitos, the dories, the horse-mackerels, &c., which form not more than one sixteenth of our own fish fauna, but which are known to increase their proportion in hot climates, appear in wonderful variety of form and colour, and constitute not less than one fifth of the whole of the species of Ceylon fish. In Russell's catalogue they form less than one fifth, in Cantor's less than one sixth.

Marine and other siluroid fishes, a group represented on the continent of Europe, but doubtfully, if at all, in this country, constitute one twentieth of the Ceylon fishes. In Russell's and Cantor's lists they form about one thirtieth of the whole.

The sharks and rays form about one seventh of our own fish fauna. They constitute about one tenth or one eleventh of Russell and Cantor's lists, while among these Ceylon drawings I find not more than twenty, or about one thirtieth of the whole, which can be referred to this group of fishes. It must be extremely interesting to know whether this circumstance is owing to accident, or to the local peculiarities of Colombo, or whether the fauna of Ceylon really is deficient in such fishes.

The like exceptional character is to be noticed in the proportion of the tribe of flat fishes, or Pleuronectidæ. Soles, turbots, and the like, form nearly one twelfth of our own fishes. Both Cantor and Russell give the flat fishes as making one twenty-second part of their collection, while in the whole 600 Ceylon drawings I can find but five Pleuronectidæ.

When this great collection has been carefully studied, I doubt not that many more interesting distributional facts will be evolved.

Since receiving this note from Professor Huxley, the drawings in question have been submitted to Dr. Gray, of the British Museum, and that eminent naturalist, after a careful analysis, has favoured me with the following memorandum of the fishes they exhibit, numerically contrasting them with those of China and Japan, so far as we are acquainted with the ichthyology of those seas:—

  Ceylon China and Japan.
Squali 12 15
Raiæ 19 20
Sturiones 0 1
    tetraodontidæ 10 21
    balistidæ 9 19
    syngnathidæ 2 2
    pegasidæ 0 3
    lophidæ 1 3
    echeneidæ 0 1
    cyclopteridæ 0 1
    gobidæ 7 35
    callionymidæ 0 7
    uranoscopidæ 0 7
    cottidæ 0 13
    triglidæ 11 37
    polynemidæ 12 3
    mullidæ 1 7
    percidæ 26 12
    berycidæ 0 5
    sillaginidæ 3 1
    sciænidæ 19 13
    hæmulinidæ 6 12
    serranidæ 31 38
    theraponidæ 8 20
    cirrhitidæ 0 2
    mænidiæ 37 25
    sparidæ 16 17
    acanthuridæ 14 6
    chætodontidæ 25 21
    fistularidæ 2 3
    mugilidæ 5 7
    anabantidæ 6 15
    pomacentridæ 10 11
    labridæ 16 35
    scomberesocidæ 13 6
    blenniidæ 3 8
    zeidæ 0 2
    sphyrænidæ 5 4
    scomberidæ 118 62
    xiphiidæ 0 1
    cepolidæ 0 5
    platessoideæ 5 22
    siluridæ 31 24
    cyprinidæ 19 52
    scopelinidæ 2 7
    salmonidæ 0 1
    clupeidæ 43 22
    gadidæ 0 2
    macruridæ 1 0
    anguillidæ 8 12
    murænidæ 8 6
    sphagebranchidæ 8 10




Allusion has been made elsewhere to the profusion and variety of shells which abound in the seas and inland waters of Ceylon[1], and to the habits of the Moormen, who monopolise the trade of collecting and arranging them in satin-wood cabinets for transmission to Europe. But, although naturalists have long been familiar with the marine testacea of this island, no successful attempt has yet been made to form a classified catalogue of the species; and I am indebted to the eminent conchologist, Mr. Sylvanus Hanley, for the list which accompanies this notice of those found in the island.

1: See Vol. II. P. ix. ch. v.

In drawing it up, Mr. Hanley observes that he found it a task of more difficulty than would at first be surmised, owing to the almost total absence of reliable data from which to construct it. Three sources were available: collections formed by resident naturalists, the contents of the well-known satin-wood boxes prepared at Trincomalie, and the laborious elimination of locality from the habitats ascribed to all the known species in the multitude of works on conchology in general.

But, unfortunately, the first resource proved fallacious. There is no large collection in this country composed exclusively of Ceylon shells. And the very few cabinets rich in the marine treasures of the island having been filled as much by purchase as by personal exertion, there is an absence of the requisite confidence that all professing to be Singhalese have been actually captured in the island and its waters.

The cabinets arranged by the native dealers, though professing to contain the productions of Ceylon, include shells which have been obtained from other islands in the Indian seas; and books, probably from these very facts, are either obscure or deceptive. The old writers content themselves with assigning to any particular shell the too-comprehensive habitat of "the Indian Ocean," and seldom discriminate between a specimen from Ceylon and one from the Eastern Archipelago or Hindustan. In a very few instances, Ceylon has been indicated with precision as the habitat of particular shells, but even here the views of specific essentials adopted by modern conchologists, and the subdivisions established in consequence, leave us in doubt for which of the described forms the collective locality should be retained.

Valuable notices of Ceylon shells are to be found in detached papers, in periodicals, and in the scientific surveys of exploring voyages. The authentic facts embodied in the monographs of Reeve, Kuster, Sowerby, and Kienn, have greatly enlarged the knowledge of the marine testacea; and the land and fresh-water mollusca have been similarly illustrated by the contributions of Benson and Layard in the Annals of Natural History.

The dredge has been used but only in a few insulated spots along the coasts of Ceylon; European explorers have been rare; and the natives, anxious only to secure the showy and saleable shells of the sea, have neglected the less attractive ones of the land and the lakes. Hence Mr. Hanley finds it necessary to premise that the list appended, although the result of infinite labour and research, is less satisfactory than could have been wished. "It is offered," he says, "with diffidence, not pretending to the merit of completeness as a shell-fauna of the island, but rather as a form, which the zeal of other collectors may hereafter elaborate and fill up."

Looking at the little that has yet been done, compared with the vast and almost untried field which invites explorers, an assiduous collector may quadruple the species hitherto described. The minute shells especially may be said to be unknown; a vigilant examination of the corals and excrescences upon the spondyli and pearl-oysters would signally increase our knowledge of the Rissoæ, Chemnitziæ, and other perforating testacea, whilst the dredge from the deep water will astonish the amateur by the wholly new forms it can scarcely fail to display.

Dr. Kelaart, an indefatigable observer, has recently undertaken to investigate the Nudibranchiata, Inferobranchiata, and Tectibranchiata; and a recently-received report from him, in the Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, in which he has described fifty-six species,—thirty-three belonging to the genus Doris alone—gives ample evidence of what may be expected from the researches of a naturalist of his acquirements and industry.

List of Ceylon Shells.

The arrangement here adopted is a modified Lamarckian one, very similar to that used by Reeve and Sowerby, and by MR. HANLEY, in his Illustrated Catalogue of Recent Shells.[1]

1: Below will be found a general reference to the Works or Papers in which are given descriptive notices of the shells contained in the following list; the names of the authors (in full or abbreviated) being, as usual, annexed to each species.

ADAMS, Proceed. Zool. Soc. 1853, 54, 56; Thesaur. Conch. ALBERS, Zeitsch. Malakoz. 1853. ANTON, Wiegm. Arch. Nat. 1837; Verzeichn. Conch. BECK in Pfeiffer, Symbol. Helic. BENSON, Ann. Nat. Hist. vii. 1851; xii. 1853; xviii. 1856. BLAINVILLE, Dict. Sc. Nat.; Nouv. Ann. Mus. Hist. Nat. i. BOLTEN, Mus. BORN, Test. Mus. Cæs. Vind. BRODERIP, Zool. Journ. i. iii. BRUGUIDRE, Ency. Méthod. Vers. CARPENTER, Proc. Zool. Soc. 1856. CHEMNITZ, Conch. Cab. CHENU, Illus. Conch. DESHAYES, Encyc. Méth. Vers.; Mag. Zool. 1831; Voy. Belanger; Edit. Lam. An. s. Vert.; Proceed. Zool. Soc. 1853, 54, 55. DILLWYN, Descr. Cat. Shells. DOHRN, Proc. Zool. Soc. 1857, 58; Malak. Blatter; Land and Fluviatile Shells of Ceylon. DUCLOS, Monog. of Oliva. FABRICIUS, in Pfeiffer Monog. Helic.; in Dohrn's MSS. FÉRUSSAC, Hist. Mollusques. FORSKÄL, Anim. Orient. GMELIN, Syst. Nat. GRAY, Proc. Zool. Soc. 1834, 52; Index Testaceologicus Suppl.; Spicilegia Zool.; Zool. Journ. i.; Zool. Beechey Voy. GRATELOUP, Act. Linn. Bourdeaux, xi. GUERIN, Rev. Zool. 1847. HANLEY, Thesaur. Conch. i.; Recent Bivalves; Proc. Zool. Soc. 1858. HINDS, Zool. Voy. Sulphur; Proc. Zool. Soc. HUTTON, Journ. As. Soc. KARSTEN, Mus. Lesk. KIENER, Coquilles Vivantes. KRAUSS, Sud-Afrik Mollusk. LAMARCK, An. sans Vertéb. LAYARD, Proc. Zool. Soc. 1854. LEA, Proceed. Zool. Soc. 1850, LINNÆUS, Syst. Nat. MARTINI, Conch. Cab. MAWE, Introd. Linn. Conch.; Index. Test. Suppl. MEUSCHEN, in Gronov. Zoophylac. MENKE, Synop. Mollus. MULLER, Hist. Verm. Terrest. PETIT, Pro. Zool. Soc. 1842. PFEIFFER, Monog. Helic.; Monog. Pneumon.; Proceed. Zool. Soc. 1852, 53, 54, 55, 56 Zeitschr. Malacoz. 1853. PHILIPPI, Zeitsch. Mal. 1846, 47; Abbild. Neuer Conch. POTIEZ et MICHAUD, Galerie Douai. RANG, Mag. Zool. ser. i. p. 100. RÉCLUZ, Proceed. Zool. Soc. 1845; Revue Zool. Cuv.1841; Mag. Conch. REEVE, Conch. Icon.; Proc. Zool. Soc. 1842, 52. SCHUMACHER, Syst. SHUTTLEWORTH. SOLANDER, in Dillwyn's Desc. Cat. Shells. SOWERBY, Genera Shells; Species Conch.; Conch. Misc.; Thesaur. Conch.; Conch. Illus.; Proc. Zool. Soc.; App. to Tankerville Cat. SPENGLER, Skrivt. Nat. Selsk. Kiobenhav. 1792. SWAINSON, Zool. Illust. ser. ii. TEMPLETON, Ann. Nat. Hist. 1858. TROSCHEL, in Pfeiffer, Mon. Pneum; Zeitschr. Malak. 1847; Weigm. Arch. Nat. 1837. WOOD, General Conch.

1: A. dichotomum, Chenu.

2: Fistulana gregata, Lam.

3: Blainvillea, Hupé.

4: Latraria tellinoides, Lam.

5: I have also seen M. hians of Philippi in a Ceylon collection.

6: M. Taprobanensis, Index Test. Suppl.

7: Psammotella Skinneri, Reeve.

8: P. cærulescens, Lam.

9: Sanguinolaria rugosa, Lam.

10: T. striatula of Lamarck is also supposed to be indigenous to Ceylon.

11: T. rostrata, Lam.

12: L. divaricata is found, also, in mixed Ceylon collections.

13: C. dispar of Chemnitz is occasionally found in Ceylon collections.

14: C. impudica, Lam.

15: As Donax.

16: V. corbis, Lam.

17: As Tapes.

18: V. textile, Lam.

19: ? Arca Helblingii, Chemn.

20: Mr. Cuming informs me that he has forwarded no less than six distinct Uniones from Ceylon to Isaac Lea of Philadelphia for determination or description.

21: M. smaragdinus, Chemn.

22: As Avicula.

23: The specimens are not in a fitting state for positive determination. They are strong, extremely narrow, with the beak of the lower valve much produced, the inner edge of the upper valve denticulated throughout. The muscular impressions are dusky brown.

24: An Anomia.

25: The fissurata of Humphreys and Dacosta, pl. 4—E. rubra, Lamarck.

26: B. Ceylanica, Brug.

27: P. Tennentii. "Greyish brown, with longitudinal rows of rufous spots, forming interrupted bands along the sides. A singularly handsome species, having similar habits to Limax. Found in the valleys of the Kalany Ganga, near Ruanwellé."—Templeton MSS.

28: Not far from bistrialis and Ceylanica. The manuscript species of Mr. Dohrn will shortly appear in his intended work upon the land and fluviatile shells of Ceylon.

29: As Ellobium.

30: As Melampus.

31: As Ophicardelis.

32: M. fasciolata, Olivier.

33: These four species are included on the authority of Mr. Dohrn.

34: N. exuvia, Lam. not Linn.

35: Conch. Cab. f. 1926-7, and N. melanostoma, Lam. in part.

36: Chemn, Conch. Cab, 1892-3.

37: N. glaucina, Lam. not Linn.

38: Not of Lamarck. D. atrata. Reeve.

39: Philippia L.

40: Zeit. Mal. 1846 for T. argyrostoma, Lam. not Linn.

41: Buccinum pyramidatum, Gm. in part: B. sulcatum, var. C. of Brug.

42: Teste Cuming.

43: As Delphinulat.

44: P. papyracea, Lam. In mixed collections I have seen the Chinese P. bezoar of Lamarck as from Ceylon.

45: P. vespertilio, Gm.

46: R. albivaricosa, Reeve.

47: M. anguliferus var. Lam.

48: T. cynocephalus of Lamarck is also met with in Ceylon collections.

49: S. incisus of the Index Testaceologicus (urceus, var. Sow. Thesaur.) is found in mixed Ceylon collections.

50: C. plicaria of Lamarck, and C. coronulata of Sowerby, are also said to be found in Ceylon.

51: As Purpura.

52: N. suturalis, Reeve (as of Lam.), is met with in mixed Ceylon collections.

53: E. areolata Lam.

54: E. spirata, Lam. not Linn.

55: B Belangeri, Kiener.

56: As Turricula L.

57: 0. utriculus, Dillwyn.

58: C. planorbis, Born; C, vulpinus, Lam.

59: Conus ermineus, Born, in part.

A conclusion not unworthy of observation may be deduced from this catalogue; namely, that Ceylon was the unknown, and hence unacknowledged, source of almost every extra-European shell which has been described by Linnæus without a recorded habitat. This fact gives to Ceylon specimens an importance which can only be appreciated by collectors and the students of Mollusca.


The eastern seas are profusely stocked with radiated animals, but it is to be regretted that they have as yet received but little attention from English naturalists. Dr. Kelaart has, however, devoted himself to the investigation of some of the Singhalese species, and has given the fruits of his discoveries in the Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Asiatic Society for 1856-8. Our information respecting the radiata on the confines of the island is, therefore, very scanty; with the exception of the genera[1] examined by him. Hence the notice of this extensive class of animals must be limited to indicating a few of those which exhibit striking peculiarities, or which admit of the most common observation.

1: Actinia, 9 sp.: Anthea, 4 sp.; Actinodendron, 3 sp.; Dioscosoma, 1 sp.; Peechea, 1 sp.; Zoanthura, 1 sp.

Star Fish.—Very large species of Ophiuridæ are to be met with at Trincomalie, crawling busily about, and insinuating their long serpentine arms into the irregularities and perforations in the rocks. To these they attach themselves with such a firm grasp, especially when they perceive that they have attracted attention, that it is next to impossible to procure unmutilated specimens without previously depriving them of life, or at least modifying their muscular tenacity. The upper surface is of a dark purple colour, and coarsely spined; the arms of the largest specimens are more than a foot in length, and very fragile.

The star fishes, with immovable rays[1], are not by any means rare; many kinds are brought up in the nets, or may be extracted from the stomachs of the larger market fish. One very large species[2], figured by Joinville in the manuscript volume in the library at the India House, is not uncommon; it has thick arms, from which and the disc numerous large fleshy cirrhi of a bright crimson colour project downwards, giving the creature a remarkable aspect. No description of it, so far as I am aware has appeared in any systematic work on zoology.

1: Asterias, Linn.

2: Pentaceros?

Sea Slugs.—There are a few species of Holothuriæ, of which the trepang is the best known example. It is largely collected in the Gulf of Manaar, and dried in the sun to prepare it for export to China. A good description and figure of it are still desiderata.

Parasitic Worms.—Of these entozoa, the Filaria medinensis, or guinea worm, which burrows in the cellular tissue under the skin, is well known in the north of the island, but rarely found in the damper districts of the south and west. In Ceylon, as elsewhere, the natives attribute its occurrence to drinking the waters of particular wells; but this belief is inconsistent with the fact that its lodgment in the human body is almost always effected just above the ankle, which shows that the minute parasites are transferred to the skin of the leg from the moist vegetation bordering the footpaths leading to wells. The creatures are at this period minute, and the process of insinuation is painless and imperceptible. It is only when they attain to considerable size, a foot or more in length, that the operation of extracting them is resorted to, when exercise may have given rise to inconvenience and inflammation.

Planaria.—In the journal above alluded to, Dr. Kelaart has given descriptions of fifteen species of planaria, and four of a new genus, instituted by him for the reception of those differing from the normal kinds by some peculiarities which they exhibit in common. At Point Pedro, Mr. Edgar Layard met with one on the bark of trees, after heavy rain, which would appear to belong to the subgenus geoplana.[1]

1: "A curious species, which is of a light brown above, white underneath; very broad and thin, and has a peculiarly shaped tail, half-moon-shaped, in fact, like a grocer's cheese knife."

Acalephæ.—Acalephæ[1] are plentiful, so much so, indeed, that they occasionally tempt the larger cetacea into the Gulf of Manaar. In the calmer months of the year, when the sea is glassy, and for hours together undisturbed by a ripple, the minute descriptions are rendered perceptible by their beautiful prismatic tinting. So great is their transparency that they are only to be distinguished from the water by the return of the reflected light that glances from their delicate and polished surfaces. Less frequently they are traced by the faint hues of their tiny peduncles, arms, or tentaculæ; and it has been well observed that they often give the seas in which they abound the appearance of being crowded with flakes of half-melted snow. The larger kinds, when undisturbed in their native haunts, attain to considerable size. A faintly blue medusa, nearly a foot across, may be seen in the Gulf of Manaar, where, no doubt, others of still larger growth are to be found.

1: Jellyfish.

The remaining orders, including the corals, madrepores, and other polypi, have yet to find a naturalist to undertake their investigation, but in all probability the species are not very numerous.



Owing to the combination of heat, moisture, and vegetation, the myriads of insects in Ceylon form one of the characteristic features of the island. In the solitude of the forests there is a perpetual music from their soothing and melodious hum, which frequently swells to a startling sound as the cicada trills his sonorous drum on the sunny bark of some tall tree. At morning the dew hangs in diamond drops on the threads and gossamer which the spiders suspend across every pathway; and above the pool dragon flies, of more than metallic lustre, flash in the early sunbeams. The earth teems with countless ants, which emerge from beneath its surface, or make their devious highways to ascend to their nests in the trees. Lustrous beetles, with their golden elytra, bask on the leaves, whilst minuter species dash through the air in circles, which the ear can follow by the booming of their tiny wings. Butterflies of large size and gorgeous colouring flutter over the endless expanse of flowers, and frequently the extraordinary sight presents itself of flights of these delicate creatures, generally of a white or pale yellow hue, apparently miles in breadth, and of such prodigious extension as to occupy hours, and even days, uninterruptedly in their passage—whence coming no one knows; wither going no one can tell.[1] As day declines, the moths issue from their retreats, the crickets add their shrill voices to swell the din; and when darkness descends, the eye is charmed with the millions of emerald lamps lighted up by the fire-flies amidst the surrounding gloom.

1: The butterflies I have seen in these wonderful migrations in Ceylon were mostly Callidryas Hilariæ, C. Alcmeone, and C. Pyranthe, with straggling individuals of the genus Euploea, E. Coras, and E. Prothoe. Their passage took place in April and May, generally in a north-easterly direction.

No attempt has as yet been made to describe the class systematically, much less to enumerate the prodigious number of species which abound in every locality. Occasional observers have, from time to time, contributed notices of particular families to the Scientific Associations of Europe, but their papers remain undigested, and the time has not yet arrived for the preparation of an Entomology of the island.

What Darwin remarks of the Coleoptera of Brazil is nearly as applicable to the same order of insects in Ceylon: "The number of minute and obscurely coloured beetles is exceedingly great; the cabinets of Europe can as yet, with partial exceptions, boast only of the larger species from tropical climates, and it is sufficient to disturb the composure of an entomologist to look forward to the future dimensions of a catalogue with any pretensions to completeness."[l]

1: Nat. Journal, p. 39.

M. Neitner, a German entomologist, who has spent some years in Ceylon, has recently published, in one of the local periodicals, a series of papers on the Coleoptera of the island, in which every species introduced is stated to be previously undescribed.[1]

1: Republished in the Ann. Nat. Hist.

COLEOPTERA.—Buprestidoe; Golden Beetles.—In the morning the herbaceous plants, especially on the eastern side of the island, are studded with these gorgeous beetles whose golden elytra[1] are used to enrich the embroidery of the Indian zenana, whilst the lustrous joints of the legs are strung on silken threads, and form necklaces and bracelets of singular brilliancy.

1: Sternocera Chrysis; S. sternicornis.

These exquisite colours are not confined to one order, and some of the Elateridæ[1] and Lamellicorns exhibit hues of green and blue, that rival the deepest tints of the emerald and sapphire.

1: Of the family of Elateridæ, one of the finest is a Singhalese species, the Compsosternus Templetonii, of an exquisite golden green colour, with blue reflections (described and figured by Mr. WESTWOOD in his Cabinet of Oriental Entomology, pl. 35, f. 1). In the same work is figured another species of large size, also from Ceylon, this is the Alaus sordidus.—WESTWOOD, 1. c. pl. 35, f. 9.

Scavenger Beetles.—Scavenger beetles[1] are to be seen wherever the presence of putrescent and offensive matter affords opportunity for the display of their repulsive but most curious instincts; fastening on it with eagerness, severing it into lumps proportionate to their strength, and rolling it along in search of some place sufficiently soft in which to bury it, after having deposited their eggs in the centre. I had frequent opportunities, especially in traversing the sandy jungles in the level plains to the north of the island, of observing the unfailing appearance of these creatures instantly on the dropping of horse dung, or any other substance suitable for their purpose; although not one was visible but a moment before. Their approach through the air is announced by a loud and joyous booming sound, as they dash in rapid circles in search of the desired object, led by their sense of smell, but evidently little assisted by the eye in shaping their course towards it. In these excursions they exhibit a strength of wing and sustained power of flight, such as is possessed by no other class of beetles with which I am acquainted, but which is obviously indispensable for the due performance of the useful functions they discharge.

1: Ateuchus sacer; Copris sagax; C. capucinus, &c. &c.

The Coco-nut Beetle.—In the luxuriant forests of Ceylon, the extensive family of Longicorns live in destructive abundance. Their ravages are painfully familiar to the coco-nut planters.[1] The larva of one species of large dimensions, Batocera rubus[2], called by the Singhalese "Cooroominya" makes its way into the stems of the younger trees, and after perforating them in all directions, it forms a cocoon of the gnawed wood and sawdust, in which it reposes during its sleep as a pupa, till the arrival of the period when it emerges as a perfect beetle. Notwithstanding the repulsive aspect of the large pulpy larvæ of these beetles, they are esteemed a luxury by the Malabar coolies, who so far avail themselves of the privilege accorded by the Levitical law, which permitted the Hebrews to eat "the beetle after his kind."[3]

1: There is a paper in the Journ. of the Asiat. Society of Ceylon, May, 1845, by Mr. CAPPER, on the ravages perpetrated by these beetles. The writer had recently passed through several coco-nut plantations, "varying in extent from 20 to 150 acres, and about two to three years old; and in these he did not discover a single young tree untouched by the cooroominya."—P. 49.

2: Called also B. octo-maculatus; Lamia rubus, Fabr.

3: Leviticus, xi. 22.

Tortoise Beetles.—There is one family of insects, the members of which cannot fail to strike the traveller by their singular beauty, the Cassidiadæ or tortoise beetles, in which the outer shell overlaps the body, and the limbs are susceptible of being drawn entirely within it. The rim is frequently of a different tint from the centre, and one species which I have seen is quite startling from the brilliancy of its colouring, which gives it the appearance of a ruby enclosed in a frame of pearl; but this wonderful effect disappears immediately on the death of the insect.[1]

1: One species, the Cassida farinosa, frequent in the jungle which surrounded my official residence at Kandy, is covered profusely with a snow-white powder, arranged in delicate filaments, which it moves without dispersing: but when dead they fall rapidly to dust.

ORTHOPTERA. The Soothsayer.—But the admiration of colours is still less exciting than the astonishment created by the forms in which some of the insect families present themselves, especially the "soothsayers" (Mantidæ) and "walking leaves." The latter[1], exhibiting the most cunning of all nature's devices for the preservation of her creatures, are found in the jungle in all varieties of hue, from the pale yellow of an opening bud to the rich green of the full-blown leaf, and the withered tint of decaying foliage. And so perfect is the imitation in structure and articulation, that these amazing insects when at rest are almost indistinguishable from the verdure around them: not the wings alone being modelled to resemble ribbed and fibrous follicles, but every joint of the legs being expanded into a broad plait like a half-opened leaflet.

1: Phyllium siccifolium.

It rests on its abdomen, the legs serving to drag it slowly along, and thus the flatness of its attitude serves still further to add to the appearance of a leaf. One of the most marvellous incidents connected with its organisation was exhibited by one which I kept under a glass shade on my table; it laid a quantity of eggs, that, in colour and shape, were not to be discerned from seeds. They were brown and pentangular, with a short stem, and slightly punctured at the intersections.



The "soothsayer," on the other hand (Mantis superstitiosa Fab.[1]), little justifies by its propensities the appearance of gentleness, and the attitudes of sanctity, which have obtained for it its title of the praying mantis. Its habits are carnivorous, and degenerate into cannibalism, as it preys on the weaker individuals of its own species. Two which I enclosed in a box were both found dead a few hours after, literally severed limb from limb in their encounter. The formation of the foreleg enables the tibia to be so closed on the sharp edge of the thigh as to amputate any slender substance grasped within it.

1: M. aridifolia and M. extensicollis, as well as Empusa gongyloides, remarkable for the long leaf-like head, and dilatations on the posterior thighs, are common in the island.

The Stick-insect—The Phasmidoe or spectres, another class of orthoptera, present as close a resemblance to small branches or leafless twigs as their congeners do to green leaves. The wing-covers, where they exist, instead of being expanded, are applied so closely to the body as to detract nothing from its rounded form, and hence the name which they have acquired of "walking-sticks." Like the Phyllium, the Phasma lives exclusively on vegetables, and some attain the length of several inches.

Of all the other tribes of the Orthoptera Ceylon possesses many representatives; in swarms of cockroaches, grasshoppers, locusts, and crickets.

NEUROPTERA. Dragon-flies.—Of the Neuroptera, some of the dragon-flies are pre-eminently beautiful; one species, with rich brown-coloured spots upon its gauzy wings, is to be seen near every pool.[1] Another[2], which dances above the mountain streams in Oovah, and amongst the hills descending towards Kandy, gleams in the sun as if each of its green enamelled wings had been sliced from an emerald.[3]

1: Libellula pulchella.

2: Euphoea splendens, Hagen.

3: Gymnacantha subinterrupta, Ramb. distinguished by its large size, is plentiful about the mountain streamlets.

The Ant-lion.—Of the ant-lion, whose larvæ have earned a bad renown from their predaceous ingenuity, Ceylon has, at least, four species, which seem peculiar to the island.[1] This singular creature, preparatory to its pupal transformation, contrives to excavate a conical pitfall in the dust to the depth of about an inch, in the bottom of which it conceals itself, exposing only its open mandibles above the surface; and here every ant and soft-bodied insect which, curiosity tempts to descend, or accident may precipitate into the trap, is ruthlessly seized and devoured by its ambushed inhabitant.

1: Palpares contrarius, Walker; Myrmeleon gravis, Walker; M. dirus, Walker; M. barbarus, Walker.

The White Ant—But of the insects of this order the most noted are the white ants or termites (which are ants only by a misnomer). They are, unfortunately, at once ubiquitous and innumerable in every spot where the climate is not too chilly, or the soil too sandy, for them to construct their domed edifices.

These they raise from a considerable depth under ground, excavating the clay with their mandibles, and moistening it with tenacious saliva[1] until it assume the appearance, and almost the consistency, of sandstone. So delicate is the trituration to which they subject this material, that the goldsmiths of Ceylon employ the powdered clay of the ant hills in preference to all other substances in the preparation of crucibles and moulds for their finer castings; and KNOX says, in his time, "the people used this clay to make their earthen gods of, it is so pure and fine."[2] These structures the termites erect with such perseverance and durability that they frequently rise to the height of ten or twelve feet from the ground, with a corresponding diameter. They are so firm in their texture that the weight of a horse makes no apparent indentation on their solidity; and even the intense rains of the monsoon, which no cement or mortar can long resist, fail to penetrate the surface or substance of an ant hill.[3]

1: It becomes an interesting question whence the termites derive the large supplies of moisture with which they not only temper the clay for the construction of their long covered-ways above ground, but for keeping their passages uniformly damp and cool below the surface. Yet their habits in this particular are unvarying, in the seasons of droughts as well as after rain; in the driest and least promising positions, in situations inaccessible to drainage from above, and cut off by rocks and impervious strata from springs from below. Dr. Livingstone, struck with this phenomenon in Southern Africa, asks: "Can the white ants possess the power of combining the oxygen and hydrogen of their vegetable food by vital force so as to form water?"—Travels, p. 22. And he describes at Angola an insect (A. goudotti? Bennett.) resembling the Aphrophora spumaria; seven or eight individuals of which distil several pints of water every night.—P. 414. It is highly probable that the termites are endowed with some such faculty: nor is it more remarkable that an insect should combine the gases of its food to produce water, than that a fish should decompose water in order to provide itself with gas. FOURCROIX found the contents of the air-bladder in a carp to be pure nitrogen.—Yarrell, vol. i. p. 42. And the aquatic larva of the dragon-fly extracts air for its respiration from the water in which it is submerged. A similar mystery pervades the inquiry whence plants under peculiar circumstances derive the water essential to vegetation.

2: KNOX'S Ceylon, Part I, ch. vi. p. 24.

3: Dr. HOOKER, in his Himalayan Journal (vol. i. p. 20) is of opinion that the nests of the termites are not independent structures, but that their nucleus is "the debris of clumps of bamboos or the trunks of large trees which these insects have destroyed." He supposes that the dead tree falls leaving the stump coated with sand, which the action of the weather soon fashions info a cone. But independently of the fact that the "action of the weather" produces little or no effect on the closely cemented clay of the white ants' nest, they may be daily seen constructing their edifices in the very form of a cone, which they ever after retain. Besides which, they appear in the midst of terraces and fields where no trees are to be seen; and Dr. Hooker seems to overlook the fact that the termites rarely attack a living tree; and although their nests may be built against one, it continues to flourish not the less for their presence.

In their earlier stages the termites proceed with such energetic rapidity, that I have seen a pinnacle of moist clay, six inches in height and twice as large in diameter, constructed underneath a table between sitting down to dinner and the removal of the cloth.

As these lofty mounds of earth have all been carried up from beneath the surface, a cave of corresponding dimensions is necessarily scooped out below, and here, under the multitude of cupolas and pinnacles which canopy it above, the termites hollow out the royal chamber for their queen, with spacious nurseries surrounding it on all sides. Store-rooms and magazines occupy the lower apartments, and all are connected by arched galleries, long passages, and doorways of the most intricate and elaborate construction. In the centre and underneath the spacious dome is the recess for the queen—a hideous creature, with the head and thorax of an ordinary termite, but a body swollen to a hundred times its usual and proportionate bulk, and presenting the appearance of a mass of shapeless pulp. From this great progenitrix proceed the myriads which people the subterranean hive, consisting, like the communities of the genuine ants, of labourers and soldiers, which are destined never to acquire a fuller development than that of larvas, and the perfect insects which in due time become invested with wings and take their departing flight from the cave. But their new equipment seems only destined to facilitate their dispersion from the parent nest, which takes place at dusk; and almost as quickly as they leave it they divest themselves of their ineffectual wings, waving them impatiently and twisting them in every direction till they become detached and drop off, and the swarm, within a few hours of their emancipation, become a prey to the night-jars and bats, which are instantly attracted to them as they issue in a cloud from the ground. I am not prepared to say that the other insectivorous birds would not gladly make a meal of the termites, but, seeing that in Ceylon their numbers are chiefly kept in check by the crepuscular birds, it is observable, at least as a coincidence, that the dispersion of the swarm generally takes place at twilight. Those that escape the caprimulgi lose their wings before morning, and are then disposed of by the crows.

The strange peculiarity of the omnivorous ravages of the white ants is that they shrink from the light, in all their expeditions for providing food they construct a covered pathway of moistened clay, and their galleries above ground extend to an incredible distance from the central nest. No timber, except ebony and ironwood, which are too hard, and those which are strongly impregnated with camphor or aromatic oils, which they dislike, presents any obstacle to their ingress. I have had a case of wine filled, in the course of two days, with almost solid clay, and only discovered the presence of the white ants by the bursting of the corks. I have had a portmanteau in my tent so peopled with them in the course of a single night that the contents were found worthless in the morning. In an incredibly short time a detachment of these pests will destroy a press full of records, reducing the paper to fragments; and a shelf of books will be tunnelled into a gallery if it happen to be in their line of march.

The timbers of a house when fairly attacked are eaten from within till the beams are reduced to an absolute shell, so thin that it may be punched through with the point of the finger: and even kyanized wood, unless impregnated with an extra quantity of corrosive sublimate, appears to occasion them no inconvenience. The only effectual precaution for the protection of furniture is incessant vigilance—the constant watching of every article, and its daily removal from place to place, in order to baffle their assaults.

They do not appear in the hills above the elevation of 2000 feet. One species of white ant, the Termes Taprobanes, was at one time believed by Mr. Walker to be peculiar to the island, but it has recently been found in Sumatra and Borneo, and in some parts of Hindustan.

HYMENOPTERA. Mason Wasp.—In Ceylon as in all other countries, the order of hymenopterous insects arrests us less by the beauty of their forms than the marvels of their sagacity and the achievements of their instinct. A fossorial wasp of the family of Sphegidoe,[1] which is distinguished by its metallic lustre, enters by the open windows, and disarms irritation at its movements by admiration of the graceful industry with which it stops up the keyholes and similar apertures with clay in order to build in them a cell, into which it thrusts the pupa of some other insect, within whose body it has previously introduced its own eggs; and, enclosing the whole with moistened earth, the young parasite, after undergoing its transformations, gnaws its way into light, and emerges a four-winged fly.[2]

1: It belongs to the genus Pelopoeus, P. Spinoloe, St. Fargeau. The Ampulex compressa, which drags about the larvæ of cockroaches into which it has implanted its eggs, belongs to the same family.

2: Mr. E. L. Layard has given an interesting account of this Mason wasp in the Annals and Magazine of Nat. History for May, 1853.

"I have frequently," he says, "selected one of these flies for observation, and have seen their labours extend over a period of a fortnight or twenty days; sometimes only half a cell was completed in a day, at others as much as two. I never saw more than twenty cells in one nest, seldom indeed that number, and whence the caterpillars were procured was always to me a mystery. I have seen thirty or forty brought in of a species which I knew to be very rare in the perfect state, and which I had sought for in vain, although I knew on what plant they fed.

"Then again how are they disabled by the wasp, and yet not injured so as to cause their immediate death? Die they all do, at least all that I have ever tried to rear, after taking them from the nest.

"The perfected fly never effects its egress from the closed aperture, through which the caterpillars were inserted, and when cells are placed end to end, as they are in many instances, the outward end of each is always selected. I cannot detect any difference in the thickness in the crust of the cell to cause this uniformity of practice. It is often as much as half an inch through, of great hardness, and as far as I can see impervious to air and light. How then does the enclosed fly always select the right end, and with what secretion is it supplied to decompose this mortar?"

Wasps.—Of the wasps, one formidable species (Sphex ferruginea of St. Fargeau), which is common to India and most of the eastern islands, is regarded with the utmost dread by the unclad natives, who fly precipitately on finding themselves in the vicinity[1] of its nests, which are of such ample dimensions, that when suspended from a branch, they often measure upwards of six feet in length.[2]

1: In ought to be remembered in travelling in the forests of Ceylon that sal volatile applied immediately is a specific for the sting of a wasp.

2: At the January (1839) meeting of the Entomological Society, Mr. Whitehouse exhibited portions of a wasps' nest from Ceylon, between seven and eight feet long and two feet in diameter, and showed that the construction of the cells was perfectly analogous to those of the hive bee, and that when connected each has a tendency to assume a circular outline. In one specimen where there were three cells united the outer part was circular, whilst the portions common to the three formed straight walls. From this Singhalese nest Mr. Whitehouse demonstrated that the wasps at the commencement of their comb proceed slowly, forming the bases of several together, whereby they assume the hexagonal shape, whereas, if constructed separately, he thought each single cell would be circular. See Proc. Ent. Soc. vol. iii. p. xvi.

Bees.—Bees of several species and genera, some divested of stings, and some in size scarcely exceeding a house-fly, deposit their honey in hollow trees, or suspend their combs from a branch; and the spoils of their industry form one of the chief resources of the uncivilised Veddahs, who collect the wax in their upland forests, to be bartered for arrow points and clothes in the lowlands.[1] I have never heard of an instance of persons being attacked by the bees of Ceylon, and hence the natives assert, that those most productive of honey are destitute of stings.

1: A gentleman connected with the department of the Surveyor-General writes to me that he measured a honey-comb which he found fastened to the overhanging branch of a small tree in the forest near Adam's Peak, and found it nine links of his chain or about six feet in length and a foot in breadth where it was attached to the branch, but tapering towards the other extremity. "It was a single comb with a layer of cells on either side, but so weighty that the branch broke by the strain."

The Carpenter Bee.—The operations of one of the most interesting of the tribe, the Carpenter bee,[1] I have watched with admiration from the window of the Colonial Secretary's official residence at Kandy. So soon as the day grew warm, these active creatures were at work perforating the wooden columns which supported the verandah. They poised themselves on their shining purple wings, as they made the first lodgment in the wood, enlivening the work with an uninterrupted hum of delight, which was audible to a considerable distance. When the excavation had proceeded so far as that the insect could descend into it, the music was suspended, but renewed from time to time, as the little creature came to the orifice to throw out the chips, to rest, or to enjoy the fresh air. By degrees, a mound of saw-dust was formed at the base of the pillar, consisting of particles abraded by the mandibles of the bee; and these, when the hollow was completed to the depth of several inches, were partially replaced in the excavation after being agglutinated to form partitions between the eggs, as they are deposited within.

1: Xylocopa tenuiscapa, Westw.; X. latipes, Drury.

Ants.—As to ants, I apprehend that, notwithstanding their numbers and familiarity, information is very imperfect relative to the varieties and habits of these marvellous insects in Ceylon.[1] In point of multitude it is scarcely an exaggeration to apply to them the figure of "the sands of the sea." They are everywhere; in the earth, in the houses, and in the trees; they are to be seen in every room and cupboard, and almost on every plant in the jungle. To some of the latter they are, perhaps, attracted by the sweet juices secreted by the aphides and coccidæ; and such is the passion of the ants for sugar, and their wonderful faculty of discovering it, that the smallest particle of a substance containing it, though placed in the least conspicuous position, is quickly covered with them, where not a single one may have been visible a moment before. But it is not sweet substances alone that they attack; no animal or vegetable matter comes amiss to them; no aperture appears too small to admit them; it is necessary to place everything which it may be desirable to keep free from their invasion, under the closest cover, or on tables with cups of water under every foot. As scavengers, they are invaluable; and as ants never sleep, but work without cessation, during the night as well as by day, every particle of decaying vegetable or putrid animal matter is removed with inconceivable speed and certainty. In collecting shells, I have been able to turn this propensity to good account; by placing them within their reach, the ants in a few days will remove every vestige of the mollusc from the innermost and otherwise inaccessible whorls; thus avoiding all risk of injuring the enamel by any mechanical process.

1: Mr. Jerdan, in a series of papers in the thirteenth volume of the Annals of Natural History, has described forty-seven species of ants in Southern India. But M. Nietner has recently forwarded to the Berlin Museum upwards of seventy species taken by him in Ceylon, chiefly in the western province and the vicinity of Colombo, Of these many are identical with those noted by Mr. Jerdan as belonging to the Indian continent. One (probably Drepanognathus saltator of Jerdan) is described by M. Nietner as "moving by jumps of several inches at a spring."

But the assaults of the ants are not confined to dead animals alone, they attack equally such small insects as they can overcome, or find disabled by accidents or wounds; and it is not unusual to see some hundreds of them surrounding a maimed beetle, or a bruised cockroach, and hurrying it along in spite of its struggles. I have, on more than one occasion, seen a contest between them and one of the viscous ophidians, Coecilia glutinosa[1], a reptile resembling an enormous earthworm, common in the Kandyan hills, of an inch in diameter, and nearly two feet in length. It would seem as if the whole community had been summoned and turned out for such a prodigious effort; they surrounded their victim literally in tens of thousands, inflicting wounds on all parts, and forcing it along towards their nest in spite of resistance. In one instance to which I was a witness, the conflict lasted for the latter part of a day, but towards evening the Cæcilia was completely exhausted, and in the morning it had totally disappeared, having been carried away either whole or piecemeal by its assailants.

1: See ante, Pt, 1. ch. iii. p. 201

The species I here allude to, is a very small ant, called the Koombiya in Ceylon. There is a still more minute description, which frequents the caraffes and toilet vessels, and is evidently a distinct species. A third, probably the Formica nidificans of Jerdan, is black, of the same size as that last mentioned, and, from its colour, called the Kalu koombiya by the natives. In the houses its propensities and habits are the same as the others; but I have observed that it frequents the trees more profusely, forming small paper cells for its young, like miniature wasps' nests, in which it deposits its eggs, suspending them from the leaf of a plant.

The most formidable of all is the great red ant or Dimiya.[1] It is particularly abundant in gardens, and on fruit trees; it constructs its dwellings by glueing the leaves of such species as are suitable from their shape and pliancy into hollow balls, which it lines with a kind of transparent paper, like that manufactured by the wasp. I have watched them at the interesting operation of forming their dwellings;—a line of ants standing on the edge of one leaf bring another into contact with it, and hold both together with their mandibles till their companions within attach them firmly by means of their adhesive paper, the assistants outside moving along as the work proceeds. If it be necessary to draw closer a leaf too distant to be laid hold of by the immediate workers, they form a chain by depending one from the other till the object is reached, when it is at length brought into contact, and made fast by cement.

1: Formica smaragdina, Fab.

Like all their race, these ants are in perpetual motion, forming lines on the ground along which they pass, in continual procession to and from the trees on which they reside. They are the most irritable of the whole order in Ceylon, biting with such intense ferocity as to render it difficult for the unclad natives to collect the fruit from, the mango trees, which the red ants especially frequent. They drop from the branches upon travellers in the jungle, attacking them with venom and fury, and inflicting intolerable pain both upon animals and man. On examining the structure of the head through a microscope, I found that the mandibles, instead of merely meeting in contact, are so hooked as to cross each other at the points, whilst the inner line is sharply serrated throughout its entire length; thus occasioning the intense pain of their bite, as compared with that of the ordinary ant.

To check the ravages of the coffee bug (Lecanium coffeoe, Walker), which for some years past has devastated some of the plantations in Ceylon, the experiment was made of introducing the red ants, who feed greedily on the Coccus. But the remedy threatened to be attended with some inconvenience, for the Malabar Coolies, with bare and oiled skins, were so frequently and fiercely assaulted by the ants as to endanger their stay on the estates.

The ants which burrow in the ground in Ceylon are generally, but not invariably, black, and some of them are of considerable size. One species, about the third of an inch in length, is abundant in the hills, and especially about the roots of trees, where they pile up the earth in circular heaps round the entrance to their nests, and in doing this I have observed a singular illustration of their instinct. To carry up each particle of sand by itself would be an endless waste of labour, and to carry two or more loose ones securely would be to them embarrassing, if not impossible; they therefore overcome the difficulty by glueing together with their saliva so much earth or sand as is sufficient for a burden, and each one may be seen hurrying up from below with his load, carrying it to the top of the circular heap outside, and throwing it over, whilst it is so strongly attached as to roll to the bottom without breaking asunder.

The ants I have been here describing are inoffensive, differing in this particular from the Dimiya and another of similar size and ferocity, which is called by the Singhalese Kaddiya; and they have a legend illustrative of their alarm for the bites of the latter, to the effect that the cobra de capello invested the Kaddiya with her own venom in admiration of the singular courage displayed by these little creatures.[1]

1: KNOX'S Historical Relation of Ceylon, pt i. ch vi. p. 23.

LEPIDOPTERA. Butterflies.—Butterflies in the interior of the island are comparatively rare, and, contrary to the ordinary belief, they are seldom to be seen in the sunshine, They frequent the neighbourhood of the jungle, and especially the vicinity of the rivers and waterfalls, living mainly in the shade of the moist foliage, and returning to it in haste after the shortest flights, as if their slender bodies were speedily dried up and exhausted by the exposure to the intense heat.

Among the largest and most gaudy of the Ceylon Lepidoptera is the great black and yellow butterfly (Ornithoptera darsius, Gray); the upper wings, of which measure six inches across, are of deep velvet black, the lower, ornamented by large particles of satiny yellow, through which the sunlight passes, and few insects can compare with it in beauty, as it hovers over the flowers of the heliotrope, which furnish the favourite food of the perfect fly, although the caterpillar feeds on the aristolochia and the betel leaf and suspends its chrysalis from its drooping tendrils.

Next in size as to expanse of wing, though often exceeding it in breadth, is the black and blue Papilio Polymnestor, which darts rapidly through the air, alighting on the ruddy flowers of the hibiscus, or the dark green foliage of the citrus, on which it deposits its eggs. The larvæ of this species are green with white bands, and have a hump on the fourth or fifth segment. From this hump the caterpillar, on being irritated, protrudes a singular horn of an orange colour, bifurcate at the extremity, and covered with a pungent mucilaginous secretion. This is evidently intended as a weapon of defence against the attack of the ichneumon flies, that deposit their eggs in its soft body, for when the grub is pricked, either by the ovipositor of the ichneumon, or by any other sharp instrument, the horn is at once protruded, and struck upon the offending object with unerring aim.

Amongst the more common of the larger butterflies is the P. Hector, with gorgeous crimson spots set in the black velvet of the inferior wings; these, when fresh, are shot with a purple blush, equalling in splendour the azure of the European "Emperor."

Another butterfly, but belonging to a widely different group, is the "sylph" (Hestia Jasonia), called by the Europeans by the various names of Floater, Spectre, and Silver-paper-fly, as indicative of its graceful flight. It is found only in the deep shade of the damp forest, frequenting the vicinity of pools of water and cascades, about which it sails heedless of the spray, the moisture of which may even be beneficial in preserving the elasticity of its thin and delicate wings, that bend and undulate in the act of flight.

The Lycoenidoe[1], a particularly attractive group, abound near the enclosures of cultivated grounds, and amongst the low shrubs edging the patenas, flitting from flower to flower, inspecting each in turn, and as if attracted by their beauty, in the full blaze of sun-light; and shunning exposure less sedulously than the other diurnals. Some of the more robust kinds[2] are magnificent in the bright light, from the splendour of their metallic blues and glowing purples, but they yield in elegance of form and variety to their tinier and more delicately-coloured congeners.

1: Lycana polyommatus, &c.

2: Amblypodia pseudocentaurus, &c.

Short as is the eastern twilight, it has its own peculiar forms, and the naturalist marks with interest the small, but strong, Hesperiidoe,[1] hurrying, by abrupt and jerking flights, to the scented blossoms of the champac or the sweet night-blowing moon-flower; and, when darkness gathers around, we can hear, though hardly distinguish amid the gloom, the humming of the powerful wings of innumerable hawk moths, which hover with their long proboscides inserted into the starry petals of the periwinkle.

1: Pamphila hesperia, &c.

Conspicuous amidst these nocturnal moths is the richly-coloured Acherontia Satanas, one of the Singhalese representatives of our Death's head moth, which utters a sharp and stridulous cry when seized. This sound has been variously conjectured to be produced by the friction of its thorax against the abdomen, and Reaumur believed it to be caused by rubbing the palpi against the tongue. I have never been able to observe either motion, and Mr. E. L. Layard is of opinion that the sound is emitted from two apertures concealed by tufts of wiry bristles thrown out from each side of the inferior portion of the thorax.[1]

1: There is another variety of the same moth in Ceylon which closely resembles it in its markings, but I have never detected in it the utterance of this curious cry. It is smaller than the A. Satanas, and, like it, often enters dwellings at night, attracted by the lights; but I have not found its larvæ, although that of the other species is common on several widely different plants.

Moths.—Among the strictly nocturnal Lepidoptera are some gigantic species. Of these the cinnamon-eating Atlas, often attains the dimensions of nearly a foot in the stretch of its superior wings. It is very common in the gardens about Colombo, and its size, and the transparent talc-like spots in its wings cannot fail to strike even the most careless saunterer. But little inferior to it in size is the famed Tusseh silk moth[1], which feeds on the country almond (Terminalia catappa) and the palma Christi or Castor-oil plant; it is easily distinguishable from the Atlas, which has a triangular wing, whilst its [wing] is falcated, and the transparent spots are covered with a curious thread-like division drawn across them.

1: Antheroea mylitta, Drury.

Towards the northern portions of the island this valuable species entirely displaces the other, owing to the fact that the almond and palma Christi abound there. The latter plant springs up spontaneously on every manure-heap or neglected spot of ground; and might be cultivated, as in India, with great advantage, the leaf to be used as food for the caterpillar, the stalk as fodder for cattle, and the seed for the expression of castor-oil. The Dutch took advantage of this facility, and gave every encouragement to the cultivation of silk at Jaffna[1], but it never attained such a development as to become an article of commercial importance. Ceylon now cultivates no silkworms whatever, notwithstanding this abundance of the favourite food of one species; and the rich silken robes sometimes worn by the Buddhist priesthood are still imported from China and the continent of India.

1: The Portuguese had made the attempt previous to the arrival of the Dutch, and a strip of land on the banks of the Kalany river near Colombo, still bears the name of Orta Seda, the silk garden. The attempt of the Dutch to introduce the true silkworm, the Bombyx mori, took place under the governorship of Ryklof Van Goens, who, on handing over the administration to his successor in A.D. 1663, thus apprises him of the initiation of the experiment:—"At Jaffna Palace a trial has been undertaken to feed silkworms, and to ascertain whether silk may be reared at that station. I have planted a quantity of mulberry trees, which grow well there, and they ought to be planted in other directions."—VALENTYN, chap. xiii. The growth of the mulberry trees is noticed the year after in a report to the governor-general of India, but the subject afterwards ceased to be attended to.

In addition to the Atlas moth and the Mylitta, there are many other Bombycidoe in Ceylon; and, though the silk of some of them, were it susceptible of being unwound from the cocoon, would not bear a comparison with that of the Bombyx mori, or even of the Tusseh moth, it might still prove to be valuable when carded and spun. If the European residents in the colony would rear the larvæ of these Lepidoptera, and make drawings of their various changes, they would render a possible service to commerce, and a certain one to entomological knowledge.

The Wood-carrying Moth.—There is another family of insects, the singular habits of which will not fail to attract the traveller in the cultivated tracts of Ceylon—these are moths of the genus Oiketicus,[1] of which the females are devoid of wings, and some possess no articulated feet; the larvæ construct for themselves cases, which they suspend to a branch frequently of the pomegranate,[2] surrounding them with the stems of leaves, and thorns or pieces of twigs bound together by threads, till the whole presents the appearance of a bundle of rods about an inch and a half long; and, from the resemblance of this to a Roman fasces, one African species has obtained the name of "Lictor." The German entomologists denominated the group Sack-träger, the Singhalese call them Dalmea kattea or "billets of firewood," and regard the inmates as human beings, who, as a punishment for stealing wood in some former stage of existence, have been condemned to undergo a metempsychosis under the form of these insects.

1: Eumeta, Wlk.

2: The singular instincts of a species of Thecla, Dipsas Isocrates, Fab., in connection with the fruit of the pomegranate, were fully described by Mr. Westwood, in a paper read before the Entomological Society of London in 1835.

The male, at the close of the pupal rest, escapes from one end of this singular covering, but the female makes it her dwelling for life; moving about with it at pleasure, and entrenching herself within it, when alarmed, by drawing together the purse-like aperture at the open end. Of these remarkable creatures there are five ascertained species in Ceylon. Psyche Doubledaii, Westw.; Metisa plana, Walker; Eumeta Cramerii, Westw.; E. Templetonii, Westw.; and Cryptothelea consorta, Temp.

All the other tribes of minute Lepidoptera have abundant representatives in Ceylon; some of them most attractive from the great beauty of their markings and colouring. The curious little split-winged moth (Pterophorus) is frequently seen in the cinnamon gardens and the vicinity of the fort, resting in the noonday heat in the cool grass shaded by the coco-nut topes. Three species have been captured, all characterised by the same singular feature of having the wings fan-like, separated nearly their entire length into detached sections resembling feathers in the pinions of a bird expanded for flight.

HOMOPTERA. Cicada.—Of the Homoptera, the one which will most frequently arrest attention is the cicada, which, resting high up on the bark of a tree, makes the forest re-echo with a long-sustained noise so curiously resembling that of a cutler's wheel that the creature which produces it has acquired the highly-appropriate name of the "knife-grinder."

HEMIPTERA. Bugs.—On the shrubs in his compound the newly-arrived traveller will be attracted by an insect of a pale green hue and delicately-thin configuration, which, resting from its recent flight, composes its scanty wings, and moves languidly along the leaf. But experience will teach him to limit his examination to a respectful view of its attitudes; it is one of a numerous family of bugs, (some of them most attractive[1] in their colouring,) which are inoffensive if unmolested, but if touched or irritated, exhale an odour that, once perceived, is never after forgotten.

1: Such as Cantuo ocellatus, Leptopelis Marginalis, Callidea Stockerius, &c. &c. Of the aquatic species, the gigantic Belostoma Indicum cannot escape notice, attaining a size of nearly three inches.

APHANIPTERA. Fleas.—Fleas are equally numerous, and may be seen in myriads in the dust of the streets or skipping in the sunbeams which fall on the clay floors of the cottages. The dogs, to escape them, select for their sleeping places spots where a wood fire has been previously kindled; and here prone on the white ashes, their stomachs close to the earth, and their hind legs extended behind, they repose in comparative coolness, and bid defiance to their persecutors.

DIPTERA. Mosquitoes.—But of all the insect pests that beset an unseasoned European the most provoking by far are the truculent mosquitoes.[1] Even in the midst of endurance from their onslaughts one cannot but be amused by the ingenuity of their movements; as if aware of the risk incident to an open assault, a favourite mode of attack is, when concealed by a table, to assail the ankles through the meshes of the blocking, or the knees which are ineffectually protected by a fold of Russian duck. When you are reading, a mosquito will rarely settle on that portion of your hand which is within range of your eyes, but cunningly stealing by the underside of the book fastens on the wrist or finger, and noiselessly inserts his proboscis there. I have tested the classical expedient recorded by Herodotus, who states that the fishermen inhabiting the fens of Egypt cover their beds with their nets, knowing that the mosquitoes, although they bite through linen robes, will not venture though a net.[2] But, notwithstanding the opinion of Spence,[3] that nets with meshes an inch square will effectually exclude them, I have been satisfied by painful experience that (if the theory is not altogether fallacious) at least the modern mosquitoes of Ceylon are uninfluenced by the same considerations which restrained those of the Nile under the successors of Cambyses.

1: Culex laniger? Wied. In Kandy Mr. Thwaites finds C. fuscanus, C. circumvolens, &c., and one with a most formidable hooked proboscis, to which he has assigned the appropriate name C. Regius.

2: HERODOTUS, Euterpe, xcv.

3: KIRBY and SPENCE'S Entomology, letter iv.

List of Ceylon Insects.

For the following list of the insects of the island, and the remarks prefixed to it, I am indebted to Mr. F. Walker, by whom it has been prepared after a careful inspection of the collections made by Dr. Templeton, Mr. E.L. Layard, and others; as well as those in the British Museum and in the Museum of the East India Company.

"A short notice of the aspect of the Island will afford the best means of accounting, in some degree, for its entomological Fauna: first, as it is an island, and has a mountainous central region, the tropical character of its productions, as in most other cases, rather diminishes, and somewhat approaches that of higher latitudes.

"The coast-region of Ceylon, and fully one-third of its northern part, have a much drier atmosphere than that of the rest of its surface; and their climate and vegetation are nearly similar to those of the Carnatic, with which this island may have been connected at no very remote period.[1] But if, on the contrary, the land in Ceylon is gradually rising, the difference of its Fauna from that of Central Hindostan is less remarkable. The peninsula of the Dekkan might then be conjectured to have been nearly or wholly separated from the central part of Hindostan, and confined to the range of mountains along the eastern coast; the insect-fauna of which is as yet almost unknown, but will probably be found to have more resemblance to that of Ceylon than to the insects of northern and western India—just as the insect-fauna of Malaya appears more to resemble the similar productions of Australasia than those of the more northern continent.

1: On the subject of this conjecture see ante, Vol. I. Pt. I, ch. i. p. 7.

"Mr. Layard's collection was partly formed in the dry northern province of Ceylon; and among them more Hindostan insects are to be observed than among those collected by Dr. Templeton, and found wholly in the district between Colombo and Kandy. According to this view the faunas of the Neilgherry Mountains, of Central Ceylon, of the peninsula of Malacca, and of Australasia would be found to form one group;—while those of Northern Ceylon, of the western Dekkan, and of the level parts of Central Hindostan would form another of more recent origin. The insect-fauna of the Carnatic is also probably similar to that of the lowlands of Ceylon; but it is still unexplored. The regions of Hindostan in which species have been chiefly collected, such as Bengal, Silhet, and the Punjaub, are at the distance of from 1,300 to 1,600 miles from Ceylon, and therefore the insects of the latter are fully as different from those of the above regions as they are from those of Australasia, to which Ceylon is as near in point of distance, and agrees more with regard to latitude.

"Dr. Hagen has remarked that he believes the fauna of the mountains of Ceylon to be quite different from that of the plains and of the shores. The south and west districts have a very moist climate, and as their vegetation is like that of Malabar, their insect-fauna will probably also resemble that of the latter region.

"The insects mentioned in the following list are thus distributed:—


"The recorded species of Cicindelidoe inhabit the plains or the coast country of Ceylon, and several of them are also found in Hindostan.

"Many of the species of Carabidoe and of Staphylinidoe, especially those collected by Mr. Thwaites, near Kandy, and by M. Nietner at Colombo, have much resemblance to the insects of these two families in North Europe; in the Scydmoenidoe, Ptiliadoe, Phalacridoe, Nitidulidoe, Colydiadoe, and Lathridiadoe the northern form is still more striking, and strongly contrasts with the tropical forms of the gigantic Copridoe, Buprestidoe, and Cerambycidoe, and with the Elateridoe, Lampyridoe, Tenebrionidoe, Helopidoe, Meloidoe, Curculionidoe, Prionidoe, Cerambycidoe, Lamiidoe, and Endomychidoe.

"The Copridoe, Dynastidoe, Melolonthidoe, Cetoniadoe, and Passalidoe are well represented on the plains and on the coast, and the species are mostly of a tropical character.

"The Hydrophilidoe have a more northern aspect, as is generally the case with aquatic species.

"The order Strepsiptera is here considered as belonging to the Mordellidoe, and is represented by the genus Myrmecolax, which is peculiar, as yet, to Ceylon.

"In the Curculionidoe the single species of Apion will recall to mind the great abundance of that genus in North Europe.

"The Prionidoe and the two following families have been investigated by Mr. Pascoe, and the Hispidoe, with the five following families, by Mr. Baly; these two gentlemen are well acquainted with the above tribes of beetles, and kindly supplied me with the names of the Ceylon species.


"These insects in Ceylon have mostly a tropical aspect. The Physapoda, which will probably be soon incorporated with them, are likely to be numerous, though only one species has as yet been noticed.


"The list here given is chiefly taken from the catalogue published by Dr. Hagen, and containing descriptions of the species named by him or by M. Nietner. They were found in the most elevated parts of the island, near Rambodde, and Dr. Hagen informs me that not less than 500 species have been noticed in Ceylon, but that they are not yet recorded, with the exception of the species here enumerated. It has been remarked that the Trichoptera and other aquatic Neuroptera are less local than the land species, owing to the more equable temperature of the habitation of their larvæ, and on account of their being often conveyed along the whole length of rivers. The species of Psocus in the list are far more numerous than those yet observed in any other country, with the exception of Europe.


"In this order the Formicidoe and the Poneridoe are very numerous, as they are in other damp and woody tropical countries. Seventy species of ants have been observed, but as yet few of them have been named. The various other families of aculeate Hymenoptera are doubtless more abundant than the species recorded indicate, and it may be safely reckoned that the parasitic Hymenoptera in Ceylon far exceed one thousand species in number, though they are yet only known by means of about two dozen kinds collected at Kandy by Mr. Thwaites.


"The fauna of Ceylon is much better known in this order than in any other of the insect tribes, but as yet the Lepidoptera alone in their class afford materials for a comparison of the productions of Ceylon with those of Hindostan and of Australasia; 932 species have been collected by Dr. Templeton and by Mr. Layard in the central, western, and northern parts of the island. All the families, from the Papilionidoe to the Tineidoe, abound, and numerous species and several genera appear, as yet, to be peculiar to the island. As Ceylon is situate at the entrance to the eastern regions, the list in this volume will suitably precede the descriptive catalogues of the heterocerous Lepidoptera of Hindostan, Java, Borneo, and of other parts of Australasia, which are being prepared for publication. In some of the heterocerous families several species are common to Ceylon and to Australasia, and in various cases the faunas of Ceylon and of Australasia seem to be more similar than those of Ceylon and of Hindostan. The long intercourse between those two regions may have been the means of conveying some species from one to the other. Among the Pyralites, Hymenia recurvalis inhabits also the West Indies, South America, West Africa, Hindostan, China, Australasia, Australia, and New Zealand; and its food-plant is probably some vegetable which is cultivated in all those regions; so also Desmia afflictalis is found in Sierra Leone, Ceylon, and China.


"About fifty species were observed by Dr. Templeton, but most of those here recorded were collected by Mr. Thwaites at Kandy, and have a great likeness to North European species.

"The mosquitoes are very annoying on account of their numbers, as might be expected from the moisture and heat of the climate. Culex laniger is the coast species, and the other kinds here mentioned are from Kandy. Humboldt observed that in some parts of South America each stream had its peculiar mosquitoes, and it yet remains to be seen whether the gnats in Ceylon are also thus restricted in their habitation. The genera Sciara, Cecidomyia, and Simulium, which abound so exceedingly in temperate countries, have each one representative species in the collection made by Mr. Thwaites. Thus an almost new field remains for the Entomologist in the study of the yet unknown Singhalese Diptera, which must be very numerous.


"The species of this order in the list are too few and too similar to those of Hindustan to need any particular mention. Lecanium coffeoe may be noticed, on account of its infesting the coffee plant, as its name indicates, and the ravages of other species of the genus will be remembered, from the fact that one of them, in other regions, has put a stop to the cultivation of the orange as an article of commerce.

"In conclusion, it may be observed that the species of insects in Ceylon may be estimated as exceeding 10,000 in number, of which about 2,000 are enumerated in this volume.


"Four or five species of spiders, of which the specimens cannot be satisfactorily described; one Ixodes and one Chelifer have been forwarded to England from Ceylon by Mr. Thwaites."

NOTE.—The asterisk prefixed denotes the species discovered in Ceylon since Sir J.E. Tennent's departure from the Island in 1849.

ORDER, Coleoptera, Linn.

Order Orthoptera, Linn.

Order, Physapoda, Dum.

Order, Neuroptera, Linn.

Order, Hymenoptera, Linn.

Order, Lepidoptera, Linn.

Order Diptera, Linn.

Order Hemiptera, Linn.

Order Homoptara, Latr.



With a few striking exceptions, the true spiders of Ceylon resemble in oeconomy and appearance those we are accustomed to see at home. They frequent the houses, the gardens, the rocks and the stems of trees, and along the sunny paths, where the forest meets the open country, the Epeira and her congeners, the true net-weaving spiders, extend their lacework, the grace of their designs being even less attractive than the beauty of the creatures that elaborate them.

Those that live in the woods select with singular sagacity the bridle-paths and narrow passages for expanding their nets; no doubt perceiving that the larger insects frequent these openings for facility of movement through the jungle; and that the smaller ones are carried towards them by the currents of air. These nets are stretched across the path from four to eight feet above the ground, hung from projecting shoots, and attached, if possible, to thorny shrubs; and sometimes exhibit the most remarkable scenes of carnage and destruction. I have taken down a ball as large as a man's head consisting of successive layers rolled together, in the heart of which was the den of the family, whilst the envelope was formed, sheet after sheet, by coils of the old web filled with the wings and limbs of insects of all descriptions, from the largest moths and butterflies to mosquitoes and minute coleoptera. Each layer appeared to have been originally suspended across the passage to intercept the expected prey; and, as it became surcharged with carcases, it was loosened, tossed over by the wind or its own weight, and wrapped round the nucleus in the centre, the spider replacing it by a fresh sheet, to be in turn detached and added to the mass within.

Walckenaer has described a species of large size, under the name of Olios Taprobanius, which is very common and conspicuous from the fiery hue of the under surface, the remainder being covered with gray hair so short and fine that the body seems almost denuded. It spins a moderate-sized web, hung vertically between two sets of strong lines, stretched one above the other athwart the pathways. Some of the spider-cords thus carried horizontally from tree to tree at a considerable height from the ground are so strong as to cause a painful check across the face when moving quickly against them; and more than once in riding I have had my hat lifted off my head by a single thread.[1]

1: Over the country generally are scattered species of Gasteracantha, remarkable for their firm shell-covered bodies, with projecting knobs arranged in pairs. In habit these anomalous-looking Epeiridæ appear to differ in no respect from the rest of the family, waylaying their prey in similar situations and in the same manner.

Another very singular subgenus, met with in Ceylon, is distinguished by the abdomen being dilated behind, and armed with two long spines, arching obliquely backwards. These abnormal kinds are not so handsomely coloured as the smaller species of typical form.

Separated by marked peculiarities of structure, as well as of instinct, from the spiders which live in the open air, and busy themselves in providing food during the day, the Mygale fasciata is not only sluggish in its habits, but disgusting in its form and dimensions. Its colour is a gloomy brown, interrupted by irregular blotches and faint bands (whence its trivial name); it is sparingly sprinkled with hairs, and its limbs, when expanded, stretch over an area of six to eight inches in diameter. It is familiar to Europeans in Ceylon, who have given it the name, and ascribed to it the fabulous propensities, of the Tarentula.[1]

1: Species of the true Tarentulæ are not uncommon in Ceylon; they are all of very small size, and perfectly harmless.

By day it remains concealed in its den, whence it issues at night to feed on larvæ and worms, devouring cockroaches[1] and their pupæ, and attacking the millepeds, gryllotalpæ, and other fleshy insects. The Mygale is found abundantly in the northern and eastern parts of the island, and occasionally in dark unfrequented apartments in the western province; but its inclinations are solitary, and it shuns the busy traffic of towns.

1: Mr. EDGAR L. LAYARD has described the encounter between a Mygale and a cockroach, which he witnessed in the madua of a temple at Alittane, between Anarajapoora and Dambool. When about a yard apart, each discerned the other and stood still, the spider with his legs slightly bent and his body raised, the cockroach confronting him and directing his antennæ with a restless undulation towards his enemy. The spider, by stealthy movements, approached to within a few inches and paused, both parties eyeing each other intently: then suddenly a rush, a scuffle, and both fell to the ground, when the blatta's wings closed, the spider seized it under the throat with his claws, and dragging it into a corner, the action of his jaws was distinctly audible. Next morning Mr. Layard found the soft parts of the body had been eaten, nothing but the head, thorax, and elytra remaining.—Ann. & Mag. Nat. Hist. May, 1853.

Ticks.—Ticks are to be classed among the intolerable nuisances to the Ceylon traveller. They live in immense numbers in the jungle[1], and attaching themselves to the plants by the two forelegs, lie in wait to catch at unwary animals as they pass. A shower of these diminutive vermin will sometimes drop from a branch, if unluckily shaken, and disperse themselves over the body, each fastening on the neck, the ears, and eyelids, and inserting a barbed proboscis. They burrow, with their heads pressed as far as practicable under the skin, causing a sensation of smarting, as if particles of red hot sand had been scattered over the flesh. If torn from their hold, the suckers remain behind and form an ulcer. The only safe expedient is to tolerate the agony of their penetration till a drop of coco-nut oil or the juice of a lime can be applied, when these little furies drop off without further ill consequences. One very large species, dappled with grey, attaches itself to the buffaloes.

1: Dr. HOOKER, in his Himalayan Journal, vol. 1. p. 279, in speaking of the multitude of these creatures in the mountains of Nepal, wonders what they find to feed on, as in these humid forests in which they literally swarmed, there was neither pathway nor animal life. In Ceylon they abound everywhere in the plains on the low brushwood; and in the very driest seasons they are quite as numerous as at other times. In the mountain zone, which is more humid, they are less prevalent. Dogs are tormented by them; and they display something closely allied to cunning in always fastening on an animal in those parts where they cannot be torn off by his paws; on his eyebrows, the tips of his ears, and the back of his neck. With a corresponding instinct I have always observed in the gambols of the Pariah dogs, that they invariably commence their attentions by mutually gnawing each other's ears and necks, as if in pursuit of ticks from places from which each is unable to expel them for himself. Horses have a similar instinct; and when they meet, they apply their teeth to the roots of the ears of their companions, to the neck and the crown of the head. The buffaloes and oxen are relieved of ticks by the crows which rest on their backs as they browse, and free them from these pests. In the low country the same acceptable office is performed by the "cattle-keeper heron" (Ardea bubuleus), which is "sure to be found in attendance on them while grazing; and the animals seem to know their benefactors, and stand quietly, while the birds peck their tormentors from their flanks."—Mag. Nat. Hist. p. 111, 1844.

Mites.—The Trombidium tinctorum of Hermann is found about Aripo, and generally over the northern provinces,—where after a shower of rain or heavy night's dew, they appear in countless myriads. It is about half an inch long, like a tuft of crimson velvet, and imparts its colouring matter readily to any fluid in which it may be immersed. It feeds on vegetable juices, and is perfectly innocuous. Its European representative, similarly tinted, and found in garden mould, is commonly called the "Little red pillion."

MYRIAPODS.—The certainty with which an accidental pressure or unguarded touch is resented and retorted by a bite, makes the centipede, when it has taken up its temporary abode within a sleeve or the fold of a dress, by far the most unwelcome of all the Singhalese assailants. The great size, too (little short of a foot in length), to which it sometimes attains, renders it formidable; and, apart from the apprehension of unpleasant consequences from a wound, one shudders at the bare idea of such hideous creatures crawling over the skin, beneath the innermost folds of one's garments.

At the head of the Myriapods, and pre-eminent from a superiorly-developed organisation, stands the genus Cermatia: singular-looking objects; mounted upon slender legs, of gradually increasing length from front to rear, the hind ones in some species being amazingly prolonged, and all handsomely marked with brown annuli in concentric arches. These myriapods are harmless, excepting to woodlice, spiders, and young cockroaches, which form their ordinary prey. They are rarely to be seen; but occasionally at daybreak, after a more than usually abundant repast, they may be observed motionless, and resting with their regularly extended limbs nearly flat against the walls. On being disturbed they dart away with a surprising velocity, to conceal themselves in chinks until the return of night.



But the species to be really dreaded are the true Scolopendræ, which are active and carnivorous, living in holes in old walls and other gloomy dens. One species[1] attains to nearly the length of a foot, with corresponding breadth; it is of a dark purple colour, approaching black, with yellowish legs and antennæ, and its whole aspect repulsive and frightful. It is strong and active, and evinces an eager disposition to fight when molested. The Scolopendræ are gifted by nature with a rigid coriaceous armour, which does not yield to common pressure, or even to a moderate blow; so that they often escape the most well-deserved and well-directed attempts to destroy them, seeking refuge in retreats which effectually conceal them from sight.

1: Scolopendra crassa, Temp.

There is a smaller one[1], which frequents dwelling-houses, about one quarter the size of the preceding, of a dirty olive colour, with pale ferruginous legs. It is this species which generally inflicts the wound, when persons complain of being bitten by a scorpion; and it has a mischievous propensity for insinuating itself into the folds of dress. The bite at first does not occasion more suffering than would arise from the penetration of two coarsely-pointed needles; but after a little time the wound swells, becomes acutely painful, and if it be over a bone or any other resisting part, the sensation is so intolerable as to produce fever. The agony subsides after a few hours' duration. In some cases the bite is unattended by any particular degree of annoyance, and in these instances it is to be supposed that the contents of the poison gland had become exhausted by previous efforts, since, if much tasked, the organ requires rest to enable it to resume its accustomed functions and to secrete a supply of venom.

1: Scolopendra pullipes.

Millipeds.—In the hot dry season, and in the northern portions of the island more especially, the eye is attracted along the edges of the sandy roads by fragments of the dislocated rings of a huge species of millipede,[1] lying in short, curved tubes, the cavity admitting the tip of the little finger. When perfect the creature is two-thirds of a foot long, of a brilliant jet black, and with above a hundred yellow legs, which, when moving onward, present the appearance of a series of undulations from rear to front, bearing the animal gently forwards. This julus is harmless, and may be handled with perfect impunity. Its food consists chiefly of fruits and the roots and stems of succulent vegetables, its jaws not being framed for any more formidable purpose. Another and a very pretty species,[2] quite as black, but with a bright crimson band down the back, and the legs similarly tinted, is common in the gardens about Colombo and throughout the western province.

1: Julus ater, Temp.

2: Julus carnifex, Fab.

CRUSTACEA.—The seas around Ceylon abound with marine articulata; but a knowledge of the crustacea of the island is at present a desideratum; and with the exception of the few commoner species which frequent the shores, or are offered in the markets, we are literally without information, excepting the little that can be gleaned from already published systematic works.



In the bazaars several species of edible crabs are exposed for sale; and amongst the delicacies at the tables of Europeans, curries made from prawns and lobsters are the triumphs of the Ceylon cuisine. Of these latter the fishermen sometimes exhibit specimens[1] of extraordinary dimensions, and of a beautiful purple hue, variegated with white. Along the level shore north and south of Colombo, and in no less profusion elsewhere, the nimble little Calling Crabs[2] scamper over the moist sands, carrying aloft the enormous hand (sometimes larger than the rest of the body), which is their peculiar characteristic, and which, from its beckoning gesture, has suggested their popular name. They hurry to conceal themselves in the deep retreats which they hollow out in the banks that border the sea.

1: Palinurus ornatus, Fab.

2: Gelasimus tatragonon? Edw.; G. annulipes? Edw.; G. Dussumieri? Edw.

Sand Crabs.—In the same localities, or a little farther inland, the ocypode[1] burrows in the dry soil, making deep excavations, bringing up literally armfuls of sand; which with a spring in the air, and employing its other limbs, it jerks far from its burrows, distributing it in radii to the distance of several feet.[2] So inconvenient are the operations of these industrious pests that men are kept regularly employed at Colombo in filling up the holes formed by them on the surface of the Galle face, which is the only equestrian promenade of the capital; but so infested by these active little creatures that accidents often occur by horses stumbling in their troublesome excavations.

1: Ocypode ceratophthalmus, Pall.

2: Ann. Nat. Hist. April, 1852. Paper by Mr. EDGAR L. LAYARD.

Painted Crabs.—On the reefs which lie to the south of the harbour at Colombo, the beautiful little painted crabs,[1] distinguished by dark red markings on a yellow ground, may be seen all day long running nimbly in the spray, and ascending and descending in security the almost perpendicular sides of the rocks which are washed by the waves. Paddling Crabs,[2] with the hind pair of legs terminated by flattened plates to assist them in swimming, are brought up in the fishermen's nets. Hermit Crabs take possession of the deserted shells of the univalves, and crawl in pursuit of garbage along the moist beach. Prawns and shrimps furnish delicacies for the breakfast table; and the delicate little pea crab, Pontonia inflata,[3] recalls its Mediterranean congener,[4] which attracted the attention of Aristotle, from taking up its habitation in the shell of the living pinna.

1: Grapsus strigosus, Herbst.

2: Neptunus pelagicus, Linn,; N. sanguinolentus, Herbst, &c. &c.

3: MILNE EDW. Hist. Nat. Crust. vol. ii. p. 360.

4: Pinnotheres veterum.

ANNELIDÆ.—The marine Annelides of the island have not as yet been investigated; a cursory glance, however, amongst the stones on the beach at Trincomalie and in the pools, which afford convenient basins for examining them, would lead to the belief that the marine species are not numerous; tubicole genera, as well as some nereids, are found, but there seems to be little diversity; though it is not impossible that a closer scrutiny might be repaid by the discovery of some interesting forms.

Leeches.—Of all the plagues which beset the traveller in the rising grounds of Ceylon, the most detested are the land leeches.[1] They are not frequent in the plains, which are too hot and dry for them; but amongst the rank vegetation in the lower ranges of the hill country, which is kept damp by frequent showers, they are found in tormenting profusion. They are terrestrial, never visiting ponds or streams. In size they are about an inch in length, and as fine as a common knitting needle; but capable of distension till they equal a quill in thickness, and attain a length of nearly two inches. Their structure is so flexible that they can insinuate themselves through the meshes of the finest stocking, not only seizing on the feet and ankles, but ascending to the back and throat and fastening on the tenderest parts of the body. The coffee planters, who live amongst these pests, are obliged, in order to exclude them, to envelope their legs in "leech gaiters" made of closely woven cloth. The natives smear their bodies with oil, tobacco ashes, or lemon juice;[2] the latter serving not only to stop the flow of blood, but to expedite the healing of the wounds. In moving, the land leeches have the power of planting one extremity on the earth and raising the other perpendicularly to watch for their victim. Such is their vigilance and instinct, that on the approach of a passer-by to a spot which they infest, they may be seen amongst the grass and fallen leaves on the edge of a native path, poised erect, and preparing for their attack on man and horse. On descrying their prey they advance rapidly by semicircular strides, fixing one end firmly and arching the other forwards, till by successive advances they can lay hold of the traveller's foot, when they disengage themselves from the ground and ascend his dress in search of an aperture to enter. In these encounters the individuals in the rear of a party of travellers in the jungle invariably fare worst, as the leeches, once warned of their approach, congregate with singular celerity. Their size is so insignificant, and the wound they make is so skilfully punctured, that both are generally imperceptible, and the first intimation of their onslaught is the trickling of the blood or a chill feeling of the leech when it begins to hang heavily on the skin from being distended by its repast. Horses are driven wild by them, and stamp the ground in fury to shake them from their fetlocks, to which they hang in bloody tassels. The bare legs of the palankin bearers and coolies are a favourite resort; and, their hands being too much engaged to be spared to pull them off, the leeches hang like bunches of grapes round their ankles; and I have seen the blood literally flowing over the edge of a European's shoe from their innumerable bites. In healthy constitutions the wounds, if not irritated, generally heal, occasioning no other inconvenience than a slight inflammation and itching; but in those with a bad state of body, the punctures, if rubbed, are liable to degenerate into ulcers, which may lead to the loss of limb or of life. Both Marshall and Davy mention, that during the marches of troops in the mountains, when the Kandyans were in rebellion, in 1818, the soldiers, and especially the Madras sepoys, with the pioneers and coolies, suffered so severely from this cause that numbers of them perished.[3]



1: Hæmadipsa Ceylanica, Bosc. Blainv. These pests are not, however; confined to Ceylon; they infest the lower ranges of the Himalaya. —HOOKER, vol. i. p. 107; vol. ii. p. 54. THUNBEBG, who records (Travels, vol. iv. p. 232) having seen them in Ceylon, likewise met with them in the forests and slopes of Batavia. MARSDEN (Hist. p. 311) complains of them dropping on travellers in Sumatra. KNORR, found them at Japan; and it is affirmed that they abound in islands farther to the eastward. M. GAY encountered them, in Chili.—MOQUIN-TANDON, (Hirudinèes, p. 211, 346.) It is very doubtful, however, whether all these are to be referred to one species. M. DE BLAINVILLE, under H. Ceylanica, in the Diet, de Scien. Nat. vol. xlvii. p. 271, quotes M. BOSC as authority for the kind which that naturalist describes being "rouges et tachetées;" which is scarcely applicable to the Singhalese species. It is more than probable therefore, considering the period at which M. BOSC wrote, that he obtained his information from travellers to the further east, and has connected with the habitat universally ascribed to them from old KNOX'S work (Part I. chap, vi.) a meagre description, more properly belonging to the land leech of Batavia or Japan, In all likelihood, therefore, there may be a H. Boscii, distinct from the H. Ceylanica. That which is found in Ceylon is round, a little flattened on the inferior surface, largest at the extremity, thence graclimlly tapering forward, and with the anal sucker composed of four rings, and wider in proportion than in other species. It is of a clear brown colour, with a yellow stripe the entire length of each side, and a greenish dorsal one. The body is formed of 100 rings; the eyes, of which there are five pairs, are placed in an arch on the dorsal surface; the first four pairs occupying contiguous rings (thus differing from the water-leeches, which have an unoccupied ring betwixt the third and fourth); the fifth pair are located on the seventh ring, two vacant rings intervening. To Dr. Thwaites, Director of the Botanic Garden at Peradenia, who at my request examined their structure minutely, I am indebted for the following most interesting particulars respecting them. "I have been giving a little time to the examination of the land leech. I find it to have five pairs of ocelli, the first four seated on corresponding segments, and the posterior pair on the seventh segment or ring, the fifth and sixth rings being eyeless (fig. A). The mouth is very retractile, and the aperture is shaped as in ordinary leeches. The serratures of the teeth, or rather the teeth themselves, are very beautiful. Each of the three 'teeth,' or cutting instruments, is principally muscular, the muscular body being very clearly seen. The rounded edge in which the teeth are set appears to be cartilaginous in structure; the teeth are very numerous, (fig. B); but some near the base have a curious appendage, apparently (I have not yet made this out quite satisfactorily) set upon one side. I have not yet been able to detect the anal or sexual pores. The anal sucker seems to be formed of four rings, and on each side above is a sort of crenated flesh-like appendage. The tint of the common species is yellowish-brown or snuff-coloured, streaked with black, with a yellow-greenish dorsal, and another lateral line along its whole length. There is a larger species to be found in this garden with a broad green dorsal fascia; but I have not been able to procure one although I have offered a small reward to any coolie who will bring me one." In a subsequent communication Mr. Thwaites remarks "that the dorsal longitudinal fascia is of the same width as the lateral ones, and differs only in being perhaps slightly more green; the colour of the three fasciæ varies from brownish-yellow to bright green." He likewise states "that the rings which compose the body are just 100, and the teeth 70 to 80 in each set, in a single row, except to one end, where they are in a double row."

2: The Minorite friar, ODORIC of Portenau, writing in A.D. 1320, says that the gem-finders who sought the jewels around Adam's Peak, "take lemons which they peel, anointing themselves with the juice thereof, so that the leeches may not be able to hurt them."—HAKLUYT, Voy. vol. ii. p. 58.

3: DAVY'S Ceylon, p. 104; MARSHALL'S Ceylon, p. 15.



One circumstance regarding these land leeches is remarkable and unexplained; they are helpless without moisture, and in the hills where they abound at all other times, they entirely disappear during long droughts;—yet re-appear instantaneously on the very first fall of rain; and in spots previously parched, where not one was visible an hour before; a single shower is sufficient to reproduce them in thousands, lurking beneath the decaying leaves, or striding with rapid movements across the gravel. Whence do they re-appear? Do they, too, take a "summer sleep," like the reptiles, molluscs, and tank fishes, or may they be, like the Rotifera, dried up and preserved for an indefinite period, resuming their vital activity on the mere recurrence of moisture?

Besides the medicinal leech, a species of which[1] is found in Ceylon, nearly double the size of the European one, and with a prodigious faculty of engorging blood, there is another pest in the low country, which is a source of considerable annoyance, and often of loss, to the husbandman. This is the cattle leech[2], which infests the stagnant pools, chiefly in the alluvial lands around the base of the mountain zone, to which the cattle resort by day, and the wild animals by night, to quench their thirst and to bathe. Lurking amongst the rank vegetation which fringes these deep pools, and hid by the broad leaves, or concealed among the stems and roots covered by the water, there are quantities of these pests in wait to attack the animals that approach them. Their natural food consists of the juices of lumbrici and other invertebrata; but they generally avail themselves of the opportunity afforded by the dipping of the muzzles of the animals into the water to fasten on their nostrils, and by degrees to make their way to the deeper recesses of the nasal passages, and the mucous membranes of the throat and gullet. As many as a dozen have been found attached to the epiglottis and pharynx of a bullock, producing such irritation and submucous effusion that death has eventually ensued; and so tenacious are the leeches that even after death they retain their hold for some hours.[3]



1: Hirudo sanguisorba. The paddifield leech of Ceylon, used for surgical purposes, has the dorsal surface of blackish olive, with several longitudinal striæ, more or less defined; the crenated margin yellow. The ventral surface is fulvous, bordered laterally with olive; the extreme margin yellow. The eyes are ranged as in the common medicinal leech of Europe; the four anterior ones rather larger than the others. The teeth are 140 in each series, appearing as a single row; in size diminishing gradually from one end, very close set, and about half the width of a tooth apart. When of full size, these leeches are about two inches long, but reaching to six inches when extended. Mr. Thwaites, to whom I am indebted for these particulars, adds that he saw in a tank at Colonna Corle leeches which appeared to him flatter and of a darker colour than those described above, but that he had not an opportunity of examining them particularly.

Mr. Thwaites states that there is a smaller tank leech of an olive-green colour, with some indistinct longitudinal striæ on the upper surface; the crenated margin of a pale yellowish-green; ocelli as in the paddi-field leech. Length, one inch at rest, three inches when extended.

Mr. E. LAYARD informs us, Mag. Nat. Hist. p. 225, 1853, that a bubbling spring at the village of Tonniotoo, three miles S.W. of Moeletivoe, supplies most of the leeches used in the island. Those in use at Colombo are obtained in the immediate vicinity.

2: Hæmopsis paludum. In size the cattle leech of Ceylon is somewhat larger than the medicinal leech of Europe; in colour it is of a uniform brown without bands, unless a rufous margin may be so considered. It has dark striæ. The body is somewhat rounded, flat when swimming, and composed of rather more than ninety rings. The greatest dimension is a little in advance of the anal sucker; the body thence tapers to the other extremity, which ends in an upper lip projecting considerably beyond the mouth. The eyes, ten in number, are disposed as in the common leech. The mouth is oval, the biting apparatus with difficulty seen, and the teeth not very numerous. The bite is so little acute that the moment of attachment and of division of the membrane is scarcely perceived by the sufferer from its attack.

3: Even men are not safe, when stooping to drink at a pool, from the assault of the cattle leeches. They cannot penetrate the human skin, but the delicate membrane of the mucous passages is easily ruptured by their serrated jaws. Instances have come to my knowledge of Europeans into whose nostrils they have gained admission and caused serious disturbance.







Decapoda brachyura.

Decapoda anomura.

Decapoda Macrura.








It was long affirmed by Europeans that the Singhalese annals, like those of the Hindus, were devoid of interest or value as historical material; that, as religious disquisitions, they were the ravings of fanaticism, and that myths and romances had been reduced to the semblance of national chronicles. Such was the opinion of the Portuguese writers DE BARROS and DE COUTO; and VALENTYN, who, about the year 1725, published his great work on the Dutch possessions in India, states his conviction that no reliance can be placed on such of the Singhalese books as profess to record the ancient condition of the country. These he held to be even of less authority than the traditions of the same events which had descended from father to son. On the information of learned Singhalese, drawn apparently from the Rajavali, he inserted an account of the native sovereigns, from the earliest times to the arrival of the Portuguese; but, wearied by the monotonous inanity of the story, he omitted every reign between the fifth and fifteenth centuries of the Christian era.[1]

1: VALENTYN, Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indien, &c., Landbeschryving van t' Eyland Ceylon, ch iv. p. 60.

A writer, who, under the signature of PHILALETHES, published, in 1816, A History of Ceylon from the earliest period, adopted the dictum of Valentyn, and contented himself with still further condensing the "account," which the latter had given "of the ancient Emperors and Kings" of the island. Dr. DAVY compiled that portion of his excellent narrative which has reference to the early history of Kandy, chiefly from the recitals of the most intelligent natives, borrowed, as in the case of the informants of Valentyn, from the perusal of the popular legends; and he and every other author unacquainted with the native language, who wrote on Ceylon previous to 1833, assumed without inquiry the nonexistence of historic data.[1]

1: DAVY's Ceylon, ch. x. p. 293. See also PERCIVAL'S Ceylon, p. 4.

It was not till about the year 1826 that the discovery was made and communicated to Europe, that whilst the history of India was only to be conjectured from myths and elaborated from the dates on copper grants, or fading inscriptions on rocks and columns[1], Ceylon was in possession of continuous written chronicles, rich in authentic facts, and not only presenting a connected history of the island itself, but also yielding valuable materials for elucidating that of India. At the moment when Prinsep was deciphering the mysterious Buddhist inscriptions, which are scattered over Hindustan and Western India, and when Csoma de Körös was unrolling the Buddhist records of Thibet, and Hodgson those of Nepaul, a fellow labourer of kindred genius was successfully exploring the Pali manuscripts of Ceylon, and developing results not less remarkable nor less conducive to the illustration of the early history of Southern Asia. Mr. Turnour, a civil officer of the Ceylon service[2], was then administering " /> the government of the district of Saffragam, and being resident at Ratnapoora near the foot of Adam's Peak, he was enabled to pursue his studies under the guidance of Gallé, a learned priest, through whose instrumentality he obtained from the Wihara, at Mulgiri-galla, near Tangalle (a temple founded about 130 years before the Christian era), some rare and important manuscripts, the perusal of which gave an impulse and direction to the investigations which occupied the rest of his life.

1: REINAUD, Mémoire sur l' Inde, p. 3.

2: GEORGE TURNOUR was the eldest son of the Hon. George Turnour, son of the first Earl of Winterton; his mother being Emilie, niece to the Cardinal Due de Beausset. He was born in Ceylon in 1799 and having been educated in England under the guardianship of the Right Hon. Sir Thomas Maitland, then governor of the island, he entered the Civil Service in 1818, in which he rose to the highest rank. He was distinguished equally by his abilities and his modest display of them. Interpreting in its largest sense the duty enjoined on him, as a public officer, of acquiring a knowledge of the native languages, he extended his studies, from the vernacular and written Singhalese to Pali, the great root and original of both, known only to the Buddhist priesthood, and imperfectly and even rarely amongst them. No dictionaries then existed to assist in defining the meaning of Pali terms which no teacher could be found capable of rendering into English, so that Mr. Turnour was entirely dependent on his knowledge of Singhalese as a medium for translating them. To an ordinary mind such obstructions would have proved insurmountable, aggravated as they were by discouragements arising from the assumed barrenness of the field, and the absence of all sympathy with his pursuits, on the part of those around him, who reserved their applause and encouragement till success had rendered him indifferent to either. To this apathy of the government officers, Major Forbes, who was then the resident at Matelle, formed an honourable exception; and his narrative of Eleven Years in Ceylon shows with what ardour and success he shared the tastes and cultivated the studies to which he had been directed by the genius and example of Turnour. So zealous and unobtrusive were the pursuits of the latter, that even his immediate connexions and relatives were unaware of the value and extent of his acquirements till apprised of their importance and profundity by the acclamation with which his discoveries and translations from the Pali were received by the savans of Europe. Major Forbes, in a private letter, which I have been permitted to see, speaking of the difficulty of doing justice to the literary character of Turnour, and the ability, energy, and perseverance which he exhibited in his historical investigations, says, "his Epitome of the History of Ceylon was from the first correct; I saw it seven years before it was published, and it scarcely required an alteration afterwards." Whilst engaged in his translation of the Mahawanso, TURNOUR, amongst other able papers on Buddist History and Indian Chronology in the Journal of the Bengal Asiatic Society, v. 521, vi. 299, 790, 1049, contributed a series of essays on the Pali-Buddhistical Annals, which were published in 1836, 1837, 1838.—Journ. Asiatic Soc. Bengal, vi. 501, 714, vii. 686, 789, 919. At various times he published in the same journal an account of the Tooth Relic of Ceylon, Ib. vi. 856, and notes on the inscriptions on the columns of Delhi, Allahabad, and Betiah, &c. &c.; and frequent notices of Ceylon coins and inscriptions. He had likewise planned another undertaking of signal importance, the translation into English of a Pali version of the Buddhist scriptures, an ancient copy of which he had discovered, unencumbered by the ignorant commentaries of later writers, and the fables with which they have defaced the plain and simple doctrines of the early faith. He announced his intention in the Introduction to the Mahawanso to expedite the publication, as "the least tardy means of effecting a comparison of the Pali with the Sanskrit version" (p. cx.). His correspondence with Prinsep, which I have been permitted by his family to inspect, abounds with the evidence of inchoate inquiries in which their congenial spirits had a common interest, but which were abruptly ended by the premature decease of both. Turnour, with shattered health, returned to Europe in 1842, and died at Naples on the 10th of April in the following year, The first volume of his translation of the Mahawanso, which contains thirty-eight chapters out of the hundred which form the original work, was published at Colombo in 1837; and apprehensive that scepticism might assail the authenticity of a discovery so important, he accompanied his English version with a reprint of the original Pali in Roman characters with diacritical points.

He did not live to conclude the task he had so nobly begun; he died while engaged on the second volume of his translation, and only a few chapters, executed with his characteristic accuracy, remain in manuscript in the possession of his surviving relatives. It diminishes, though in a slight degree, our regret for the interruption of his literary labours to know that the section of the Mahawanso which he left unfinished is inferior both in authority and value to the earlier portion of the work, and that being composed at a period when literature was at its lowest ebb in Ceylon, it differs little if at all from other chronicles written during the decline of the native dynasty.

It is necessary to premise, that the most renowned of the Singhalese books is the Mahawanso, a metrical chronicle, containing a dynastic history of the island for twenty-three centuries from B.C. 543 to A.D. 1758. But being written in Pali verse its existence in modern times was only known to the priests, and owing to the obscurity of its diction it had ceased to be studied by even the learned amongst them.

To relieve the obscurity of their writings, and supply the omissions, occasioned by the fetters of rhythm and the necessity of permutations and elisions, required to accommodate their phraseology to the obligations of verse; the Pali authors of antiquity were accustomed to accompany their metrical compositions with a tika or running commentary, which contained a literal version of the mystical text, and supplied illustrations of its more abstruse passages. Such a tika on the Mahawanso was generally known to have been written; but so utter was the neglect into which both it and the original text had been permitted to fall, that Turnour till 1826 had never met with an individual who had critically read the one, or more than casually heard of the existence of the other.[1] At length, amongst the books which, were procured for him by the high, priest of Saffragam, was one which proved to be this neglected commentary on the mystic and otherwise unintelligible Mahawanso; and by the assistance of this precious document he undertook, with confidence, a translation into English of the long lost chronicle, and thus vindicated the claim of Ceylon to the possession of an authentic and unrivalled record of its national history.

1: TURNOUR's Mahawanso, introduction, vol. i. p. ii.

The title "Mahawanso," which means literally the "Genealogy of the Great," properly belongs only to the first section of the work, extending from B.C. 543 to A.D. 301,[1] and containing the history of the early kings, from Wijayo to Maha Sen, with whom the Singhalese consider the "Great Dynasty" to end. The author of this portion was Mahanamo, uncle of the king Dhatu Sena, in whose reign it was compiled, between the years A.D. 459 and 477, from annals in the vernacular language then existing at Anarajapoora.[2]

1: Although the Mahawanso must be regarded as containing the earliest historical notices of Ceylon, the island, under its Sanskrit name of Lanka, occupies a prominent place in the mythical poems of the Hindus, and its conquest by Rama is the theme of the Ramayana, one of the oldest epics in existence. In the Raja-Tarangini also, an historical chronicle which may be regarded as the Mahawanso of Kashmir, very early accounts of Ceylon are contained, and the historian records that the King Megavahana, who, according to the chronology of Troyer, reigned A.D. 24, made an expedition to Ceylon for the purpose of extending Buddhism, and visited Adam's Peak, where he had an interview with the native sovereign.—Raja-Tarangini, Book iii. sl. 71-79. Ib. vol. ii. p. 364.

2: Mahawanso, ch. i. The Arabian travellers in Ceylon mention the official historiographers employed by order of the kings. See Vol. I Pt. III. ch. viii. p. 387, note.

The sovereigns who succeeded Maha Sen are distinguished as the "Sulu-wanse," the "lower race," and the story of their line occupies the continuation of this extraordinary chronicle, the second portion of which was written by order of the illustrious king Prakrama Bahu, about the year A.D. 1266, and the narrative was carried on, under subsequent sovereigns, down to the year A.D. 1758, the latest chapters having been compiled by command of the King of Kandy, Kirti-Sri, partly from Singhalese works brought back to the island from Siam (whither they had been carried at former periods by priests dispatched upon missions), and partly from native histories, which had escaped the general destruction of such records in the reign of Raja Singha I., an apostate from Buddhism, who, about the year A.D. 1590, during the period when the Portuguese were in occupation of the low country, exterminated the priests of Buddha, and transferred the care of the shrine on Adam's Peak to Hindu Fakirs.

But the Mahawanso, although the most authentic, and probably the most ancient, is by no means the only existing Singhalese chronicle. Between the 14th and 18th centuries several historians recorded passing events; and as these corroborate and supplement the narrative of the greater work, they present an uninterrupted Historical Record of the highest authenticity, comprising the events of nearly twenty-four centuries.[1]

1: In 1833 Upham published, under the title of The Sacred and Historical Books of Ceylon, translations of what professed to be authentic copies of the Mahawanso, the Rajaratnacari, and Rajavali; prepared for the use of Sir Alexander Johnston when Chief-Justice of the island. But Turnour, in the introduction to his masterly translation of the Mahawanso; has shown that Sir Alexander had been imposed upon, and that the alleged transcripts supplied to him are imperfect as regards the original text and unfaithful as translations. Of the Mahawanso in particular, Mr. Turnour says, in a private letter which I have seen, that the early part of Upham's volume "is not a translation but a compendium of several works, and the subsequent portions a mutilated abridgment." The Rajavali, which is the most valuable of these volumes, was translated for Sir Alexander Johnston by Mr. Dionysius Lambertus Pereira, who was then Interpreter-Moodliar to the Cutchery at Matura. These English versions, though discredited as independent authorities, are not without value in so far as they afford corroborative support to the genuine text of the Mahawanso, and on this account I have occasionally cited them.

From the data furnished by these, and from corroborative sources,[1] Turnour, in addition to many elaborate contributions drawn from the recesses of Pali learning in elucidation of the chronology of India, was enabled to prepare an Epitome of the History of Ceylon, in which he has exhibited the succession and genealogy of one hundred and sixty-five kings, who filled the throne during 2341 years, extending from the invasion of the island from Bengal, by Wijayo, in the year B.C. 543 to its conquest by the British in 1798. In this work, after infinite labour, he has succeeded in condensing the events of each reign, commemorating the founders of the chief cities, and noting the erection of the great temples and Buddhist monuments, and the construction of some of those gigantic reservoirs and works for irrigation, which, though in ruins, arrest the traveller in astonishment at their stupendous dimensions. He thus effectually demonstrated the misconceptions of those who previously believed the literature of Ceylon to be destitute of historic materials.[2]

1: Besides the Mahawanso, Rajaratnacari, and Rajavali, the other native chronicles relied on by Turnour in compiling his epitome were the Pujavali, composed in the thirteenth century, the Neekaasangraha, written A.D. 1347, and the Account of the Embassy to Siam in the reign of Raja Singha II., A.D. 1739-47, by WILBAAGEDERE MUDIANSE.

2: By the help of TURNOUR'S translation of the Mahawanso and the versions of the Rajaratnacari and Rajavali, published by Upham, two authors have since expanded the Epitome of the former into something like a connected narrative, and those who wish to pursue the investigation of the early story of the island, will find facilities in the History of Ceylon, published by KNIGHTON in 1845, and in the first volume of Ceylon and its Dependencies, by PRIDHAM, London, 1849. To facilitate reference I have appended a Chronological List of Singhalese Sovereigns, compiled from the historical epitome of Turnour. See Note B. at the end of this chapter.

Besides evidence of a less definite character, there is one remarkable coincidence which affords grounds for confidence in the faithfulness of the purely historic portion of the Singhalese chronicles; due allowance being made for that exaggeration of style which is apparently inseparable from oriental recital. The circumstance alluded to is the mention in the Mahawanso of the Chandragupta[1], so often alluded to by the Sanskrit writers, who, as Sir William Jones was the first to discover, is identical with Sandracottus or Sandracoptus, the King of the Prasii, to whose court, on the banks of the Ganges, Megasthenes was accredited as an ambassador from Seleucus Nicator, about 323 years before Christ. Along with a multitude of facts relating to Ceylon, the Mahawanso contains a chronologically connected history of Buddhism in India from B.C. 590 to B.C. 307, a period signalized in classical story by the Indian expedition of Alexander the Great, and by the Embassy of Megasthenes to Palibothra,—events which in their results form the great link connecting the histories of the West and East, but which have been omitted or perverted in the scanty and perplexed annals of the Hindus, because they tended to the exaltation of Buddhism, a religion loathed by the Brahmans.

1: The era and identity of Sandracottus and Chandragupta have been accurately traced in MAX MÜLLER'S History of Sanskrit Literature, p. 298, &c.

The Prasii, or people of Megadha, occupy a prominent place in the history of Ceylon, inasmuch as Gotama Buddha, the great founder of the faith of its people, was a prince of that country, and Mahindo, who finally established the Buddhist religion amongst them, was the great-grandson of Chandagutto, a prince whose name thus recorded in the Mahawanso[1] (notwithstanding a chronological discrepancy of about sixty years), may with little difficulty be identified with the "Chandragupta" of the Hindu Purána, and the "Sandracottus" of Megasthenes.

1: Mahawanso, ch. v. p. 21. See also WILSON'S Notes to the Vishnu Purána, p. 468.

This is one out of the many coincidences which demonstrate the authenticity of the ancient annals of Ceylon; and from sources so venerable, and materials so abundant, I propose to select a few of the leading events, sufficient to illustrate the origin, and explain the influence of institutions and customs which exist at the present day in Ceylon, and which, from time immemorial, have characterised the inhabitants of the island.



So far as I am aware, no map has ever been produced, exhibiting the comparative geography of Ceylon, and placing its modern names in juxtaposition with their Sanskrit and Pali.


according to
The Sanscrit Pali & Singhalese Authorities.
NB The modern Names are given in Italics.
Sir J. Emerson Tennet



N.B. The names of subordinate or cotemporary Princes are printed in Italics.

Names and Relationship of each succeeding Sovereign. Capital. Accession
1. Wejaya, founder of the Wejayan dynasty Tamananeuera 543
2. Upatissa 1st, minister—regent   Upatissaneuera 505
3. Panduwása, paternal nephew of Wejaya ditto 504
Ráma Rámagona
Rohuna Rohuna
Diggaina Diggámadulla
Urawelli Mahawelligama
Anurádha Anurádhapoora
Wijitta Wijittapoora
these six are brothers-in-law
4. Abhaya, son of Paduwása, dethroned Upatissaneuera 474
Interregnum 454
5. Pandukábhaya, maternal grandson of Panduwása Anurádhapoora 437
6. Mutasiwa, paternal grandson ditto 367
7. Devenipiatissa, second son ditto 307
Mahanága, brother Mágama
Yatálatissa, son Kellania
Gotábhaya, son Mágama
Kellani-tissa, not specified Kellania
Káwan-tissa, son of Gotábhaya Mágama
8. Uttiya, fourth son of Mutasiwa Anurádhapoora 267
9. Mahasiwa, fifth son of Mutasiwa ditto 257
10. Suratissa, sixth son of Mutasiwa put to death ditto 247
11. Séna and Guttika, foreign usurpers—put to death ditto 237
12. Aséla, ninth son of Mutasiwa—deposed ditto 215
13. Elála, foreign usurper—killed in battle ditto 205
14. Dutugaimunu, son of Káwantissa ditto 161
15. Saidaitissa, brother ditto 137
16. Tuhl or Thullathanaka, younger son—deposed ditto 119
17. Laiminitissa 1st or Lajjitissa, elder brother ditto 119
18. Kalunna or Khallátanága, brother—put to death ditto 109
19. Walagambáhu 1st or Wattagamini, brother—deposed ditto 104
20. Five foreign usurpers—successively deposed and put to death
Pulahattha ditto 103
Báyiha ditto 100
Panayamárá ditto 98
Peliyamárá ditto 91
Dáthiya ditto 90
21. Walagambáhu 1st, reconquered the kingdom ditto 88
22. Mahadailitissa or Mahachula, son ditto 76
23. Chora Nága, son—put to death ditto 62
24. Kudá Tissa, son—poisoned by his wife ditto 50
25. Anulá, widow ditto 47
26. Makalantissa or Kallakanni Tissa, second son of Kudátissa ditto 41
27. Bátiyatissa 1st or Bátikábhaya, son ditto 19
28. Maha Dailiya Mána or Dáthika, brother Anurádhapoora 9
29. Addagaimunu or Amanda Gámini, son—put to death ditto 21
30. Kinibirridaila or Kanijáni Tissa, brother ditto 30
31. Kudá Abhá or Chulábhaya, son ditto 33
32. Singhawallí or Síwalli, sister—put to death ditto 34
Interregnum 35
33. Elluná or Ha Nága, maternal nephew of Addagaimunu ditto 38
34. Sanda Muhuna or Chanda Mukha Siwa, son ditto 44
35. Yasa Silo or Yatálakatissa, brother—put to death ditto 52
36. Subha, usurper—put to death ditto 60
37. Wahapp or Wasahba, descendant of Laiminitissa ditto 66
38. Waknais or Wanka Násica, son ditto 110
39. Gajábáhu 1st or Gámini, son ditto 113
40. Mahalumáná or Mallaka Nága, maternal cousin ditto 125
41. Bátiya Tissa 2nd or Bhátika Tissa, son ditto 131
42. Chula Tissa or Kanittbatissa, brother ditto 155
43. Kuhuna or Chudda Nága, son—murdered ditto 173
44. Kudanáma or Kuda Nága, nephew—deposed ditto 183
45. Kuda Siriná or Siri Nága 1st, brother-in-law ditto 184
46. Waiwahairatissa or Wairatissa, son—murdered ditto 209
47. Abhá Sen or Abhá Tissa, brother ditto 231
48. Siri Nága 2nd, son ditto 239
49. Weja Indu or Wejaya 2nd, son—put to death ditto 241
50. Sangatissa 1st, descendant of Laiminitissa—poisoned ditto 242
51. Dahama Sirisanga Bo or Sirisanga Bodhi 1st, do do.—deposed ditto 245
52. Golu Abhá, Gothábhaya or Megha warna Abhay, do. do. ditto 248
53. Makalan Detu Tissa 1st, son ditto 261
54. Maha Sen, brother ditto 275
55. Kitsiri Maiwan 1st or Kirtisri Megha warna, son ditto 302
56. Detu Tissa 2nd, brother ditto 330
57. Bujas or Budha Dása, son ditto 339
58. Upatissa 2nd, son ditto 368
59. Maha Náma, brother ditto 410
60. Senghot or Sotthi Sena, son—poisoned ditto 432
61. Laimini Tissa 2nd or Chatagáhaka, descendant of Laiminitissa ditto 432
62. Mitta Sena or Karalsora, not specified—put to death ditto 433
63. Pándu} ditto 434
Párinda Kuda