James Cordiner.

A description of Ceylon online

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DESC RI PTI ON



CEYLON, ^



^ CORTAIMIKO . .

AN ACCOUNT OF fafi COUNTRY, INHABITANTS, - -j
NATURAL PRODUCTIONS; /



NARRATIVES OF A TOUR ROUND THE ISLAND IN 1800^ THE

CAMPAIGN IN CANDY IN 1803, AND A JOURNEY

TO RAMISSERAM IN 1804.



XLLUtTRATID IT



Ctoent^^fibe CngiaMngsi fxm, ^^jj^iml 3DtatofosiL



By the Reverend JAMES CORDINER, A.M.

I.ATB CHAPLAIN TO THE OABBI80N OF COLUMBO.



IN TWO VOLUMES.
VOL. IL



LONDON:

PBINTBD yOR L0K6MAN, HURST^ REES^ AND ORME^ PATERNOSTER ROW;

AND A. BROWN^ ABERDEEN.

1807.



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• V



T, Batlcjr^ Printer, Bolt CMrt.
Flttt Street, Londoa.



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CONTENTS OF VOLUME 11.



PART FIRST.
DESCRIPTION OF CEYLON.



CHAPTER XV.

Journey to Ramisseram — Voyage from Columbo to Aripo - ^
Stage from that to Manaar — Ramisseram Pagodas —
Choultries — Dancing girls — Swamy coaclies — Tandaram
— Adam's bridge 1

CHAPTER XVI.

Pearl fishery — Country about Aripo — The Governors house
^•^Condautchy.—Ej^amination of the Pearl Banks — Pearl
oyster — Commencement of the fishery — Mode of divings-
Washing of the oysters — Sifting — Sorting — and drilling
of the pearls — Speculations — Nature of the pearl — Re-
view of former and later fisheries— Jugglers — Female
tumbler — Conjurers « .... 36



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ir CONTENTS.

CHAPTER XVII.

Journey of William Orr^ Esq. from Tengalle to Batticaloe—
Directions for steering into the bay of Tengalle-^Sitiui''
turn of the well — Ravages committed by elephants and
other wild animals — Ijm state of cultivation — Ruinous
condition of the Tanks — Decrease of population — Leways
or natural Salt Pans — Manner of collecting the salt —
Hints for improving and facilitating the process — Wild
country — Curious rocks 79

CHAPTER XVIII.

Journey of Thomas Christie^ Esq. from Trincomallee to Bat^
ticaloe^ and from that to Matura — Tamblegam Pagoda —
Lake ofCandelye — Maha-^villa-gapga — Wild Cinnamon —
Dyke at Callar — Pagoda at Tricoil — Female dancers - ^
Ogandamally rock — Hambangtotte 127

CHAPTER XIX.

Extract from " A Journal of a Tour round Ceylon^' by
Thomas Anthony Reeder^ Esq. late Surgeon of his Ma -
jestys 51st regiment of foot^ and Acting Inspector of
hospitals in the island. <^ From Batticaloe to TengaUeJ' 145



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COKTBKTS. ' V

PART SECOND.
CANDIAN WARFARE.

A NARRATIVE OF THE CAMPAI6K IN 180S.

CHAPTER I.

Ptge

Various communications mth the government of Candy pre^
vioiis to the war — Causes of the campaign in 1803 —
March of two divisions of Bfitish troops from Columboy
and TrimomaUee to Candy 155

CHAPTER IL

Arrival of prince Mootto Sawmy in Candy— Articles of con-
vention between him and the British government — Expe -
dition from Candy to Hangaramketty — Return of part
of the troops to Columbo — Subsequent mortality — Conr-
ference between the governor and adigaar at Dambadenia 184

CHAPTER III.

Sickness and distress in Candy — Massacre of the British
troops — Retreat of Captain Madge from fort Macdowall
— Relief of Dambadenia 203

CHAPTER IV.

Descents of the Candians on the British territories — Result of
the attack meditated against Columbo^ — Various skir-
mishes 221



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VI CONTENTS.

CHAPTER V.

Page

Extracts from the general Medical Report of the troops
serving in Ceylon^ for the month of April 1803 . . . 262

^ CHAPTER VI.

Embassy from Columbo to the court of Candy in the year
1800 287

CHAPTER VII.

Knox's Account of the King and government of Candy in
the year 1681— TAc King's great officers and governors
of provinces — Military strength^ and mode of warfare 324



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PART FIRST.

DESCRIPTION OF CEYLON.



CHAPTER XV.

JOURNEY TO RAMISSERAM — VOYAGE FROM COLUMBO TO ARIPO —
STAGE FROM THAT TO M AN AAR— RAMISSERAM PAGODAS CHOUL-
TRIES — DANCING GIRLS — SWAMY COACHES — PANDARAM — ADAM's
BRIDGE.

Early in the year 1804,^ having a prospect of soon leaving
Ceylon, I was induced to embrace the only opportunity, which
would probably ever be afforded me, <Jf visiting the celebrated
Pearl Fishery in the gulph of Manaar. Trifling as must be an
unpolished narrative of such a ramble/ it may not be unac*
ceptable, when the public, from higher testimony than that of
the writer, can place full dependance on its veracity .^

On Tuesday the seventh of February, at sun-rise, we sailed
from Columbo, on board the gov^nment brig Alexander,
bound for Aripo. The land wind, which blew when we weighed
anchor, continued until ten o'clock A. M. after which it be-
came calm. The sea breeze set in gradually about noon, and
favoured us until seven P. M. when it veered towards the
north, and we dropped our anchor in six fathoms water,, a

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2 JOURNEY TO RAMISSERAM.

little to the north of Negombo. At twelve o'clock at night we
got under weigh with the land wind> and, at day-break, found
ourselves off Chilauw, Adam's Peak bearing south east, and a
long chain of mountains m view, stretching to the northward,
over the most northerly of which the sun rose.

During this part of the voyage we saw a great number of
porpoises sporting in the water, and turning round like a ,
wheel: likewise shoals of smaller fishes, making the appear-
ance of ripplings on the water. Swarms of flies constantly
attended us, gliding backward and forward on the water, at
the same time keeping an exact pace with the motion of the
vessel. The bottom of the sea was seen distinctly, in nine and
a half fathoms water, to the northward of Chilauw, shewing
common sand, small black rocks, stones, and white shells.
The weather was extremely fine, the sea smooth, and the
breezes gentle. The land wind continued until ten o'clock
A. M. immediately after which the sea breeze commenced.
It served us until a little after sun-set, (about six o'clock P.M.)
when we anchored, in five and a half fathoms water, off that
part of the peninsula of Calpenteen known by the name of
Navary. A light breeze came off the land about ten o'clock
P. M. when we again weighed anchor, but the wind was so
faint that we made but little way during the night, and at
eight o'clock A. M. [9th February] we were perfectly be-
calmed; and the vessel, ud longer under command, turned her
head towards the shore. A heavy fog hung over the land at
day-break, which the sun, as he rose, dispersed upon the sea.



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JOURNEY TO RAMISSEIIAM. 3

Two large turtles and one shark came very near the ship; and
we saw several dolphins and flying fishes which they were pur-
suing. The water opposite to the extreme point of Calpenteen
is very deep, and appears of a dark blue colour. No bottom
could be found at fifty fathoms. The peninsula of Calpenteen
js very low, and its soil is sandy. In many parts of it there ^
is no produce but low brush wood : in others, groves of cocoa*
nut trees appear. The main land frequently rises gently over
it: but very high grounds are not to be seen, there being no
mountains on this side of the island. About twenty minutes
past ten o'clock A. M. the sea breeze commenced close to the
shore, whilst our vessel was surrounded by a dead calm. The
first of the wind reached us about eleven o'clock, and gradu-
ally freshened until we made five miles an hour. Had the
bottom of the vessel been sheathed with copper, she would
have cut the water much faster. The breeae lasted until half
past six P. M. and, on its decline, we anchored in a quarter
less than three fathoms water, upwards of two leagues from the
shore. This day a green paroquet lighted on one of the sails
of our vessel.

As we were now very nearly in the latitude of Aripo, we
did not get under weigh until four o'clock in the morning of
the tenth, when we stood to the northward with the land wind:
our soundings gradually deepened, and at ten A. M. we had
a full view of Aripo, three or four leagues distant. But having
run down too much latitude, and finding our soundings de-
crease to two fathoms and a haif^ we thought it prudent, once



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4 JOURNEY TO RAMISSlBRAM.

more, to let go our anchor, as there is a reef of rocks in the
neighbourhood, with the situation of which we were not suffi-
ciently acquainted. No boat came to us from the shore, and
in the afternoon our own boat was sent to Aripo, with a re-
quest that boats might be dispatched to land us, our baggage,
and the stores belonging to thfe governor. None, however,
arrived until next morning, when a fleet of Negombo fishing
boats surrounded the vessel, these being the only conveyances
at that time ready to assist us: and they had come on specu-
lation, to gain what they could by catching fish, and selling
them for the refreshment of the adventurers at the pearl
market; In each of these boats we landed as many articles as
it would contain, but their construction did not admit of their
transporting much baggage at one time; being merely canoes
hollowed out of a single tree, and trimmed with out-riggers,
exactly according to the fashion of those already described as
used at Columbo. The brig got under weigh again about
noon on the 11th, and stood a little nearer to the shore, steer-
ing south west towards the bay of Condaatchy, the rendezvous
of the boats employed in the pearl fishery. The numerous
shoals which lie in this direction made our commander afr^d
to approach too near the land. Accordingly at two o'clock
P. M. we anchored, in a quarter less than three fathoms water,
about five miles from the govemor's house at Aripo. About
four o'clock my fellow passenger, George Laughton, Esq. in*
spector of pearl banks, and I, landed in one of the fishing
boats. On our arrival we met his Excellency the Honourable



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JOURNEY TO RAMISSERAM. 5

Frederic North> and suite, who had performed the journey over
land, and reached Aripo two hours before us.

Some days afterwards, preparations not being in sufficient
readiness for the commencement of the fishery, Thomas Christie,
Esq. the superintendant general of hospitals in Ceylon, pro-
posed to me that he and I should amuse ourselves in the in-
termediate time, by paying a visit to the sacred island of
Ramisseram. Accordingly we set out from Aripo at half past
five o'clock A. M. on the 14th of February. After travelling
twenty minutes, we reached a river of considerable depth and
breadth, where there was no boat. Our bearers, however,
forded it, tucking up their clothes, and resting the body, in-
stead of the poles, of the palanquin upon their shoulders, to
prevent its immersion in the water. The country had been
lately covered with one general inundation, the remains of
which were then visible; and we had to cross several ravines,
which, at that time, bore the appearance of rivulets. The
first part of the road is cut through thick jungle, composed of
veiy beautiful shrubs, amongst which are conspicuous a white
conTolvulus, a rich yellojv flower resembling laburnum, a bush
of a delicate texture like moss, the euphorbium trigonum,
and the cock-spur thorn, a species of acacia in fiill blossom,
• having an orange-coloured round flower. The remainder of
the road winds through meadow grounds, and an extensive
plain of barren sand. This is almost the only portion of
Ceylon which wears an aspect of sterility. The country is
perfectly flat all the way, and so seldom presents clumps of



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a JOUENEY TO RAMISSERAM.

large trees, that the appearance of the palm groves of Manaar
afforded our weary eyes a very seasonable refreshment. The
island of Manaar is all low ground^ composed of shells and
sand, .apparently worked up by the waves. The arm of the
sea which separates it from Ceylon is, at high water, from two
to three miles in breadtli; but, at ebb tide, it sinks into a very
narrow channel, which flows between the two shores like a
river. At that time it may be crossed at a ford, or bar of
sand, where the depth of water does not exceed two feet and
a half. We arrived at this channel whilst the tide flowed^
twenty minutes past eight A. M. and it took us nearly one
hour to cross over, the sheet of water being then upwards of
two miles broad. The palanquin bearers waded, supportiisg*
their loads the greater part of the passage, and only went into
a boat when they came to the deepest part of the strait, which
winds close to the fort of Manaar.

This little island, and the adjacent low country, had been,
for neprly three months, extremely unhealthy from lying so
long under water; and a great prop6a*lion of the inhabitants
had died of a fever, of exactly the same description as the
jungle, or hill fever of India. It earned off six or seven per-
sons every day at Manaar, and nearly as many in each of the
villages around it. The people of this isle, from its low situa-
tion, are, in general, sickly one month in the year, but, this
season, the disease had been rendered more than commonly
severe, by an unusual continuance of rain. Aripo suffered
great mortality from the same cause. A flux attacked many



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JOURNEY TO RAMISSERABT. 7

of the patients while labouring under the fever, and in-
creased the malignity of the disorder. The inhabitants did
not expect the climate to become healthy until after the
setting in of the south west monsoon^ which commences in
April.

In the neighbourhood of Manaar a Chanque fishery is
carried on, and proves a valuable article of revenue to go-
vernment. The shells are &ihed up by divers in about two
fathoms depth of water, but not after die same manner as the
pearl oysters. When the weather is calm, the chanques are
seen, from a boat, moving in the bottom of the sea; and the
diver often follows a single one with his eye for a considerable
space, when he is always sure of being conducted to a richly
covered bank, where he can fish with advantage. These shells^
which are of a spiral form, are chiefly exported to Bengal,
where they are sawed into rings of various sizes, and worn on
the arms, legs, fingers and toes of the Hindoos, both male and
female. They are, likewise, used entire to sound as a horn at
funerals, and are employed for other purposes in religious
ceremonies. A chanque opening to the right hand is highly
valued by the natives of India, and, being rarely found, always
sells for its weight in gold.

We saw here, amongst the grass, large quantities of the
Chaia root, which is used as a red dye, and exported to the
coast of Coromandel. The plant grows wild, and the privilege
of digging it is farmed out by government for, one thousand
pounds sterling per annum, by which means it has become so
expensive an article, that the natives of Manaar, who formerly



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8 .JOURN£Y TO BAMISSERAM.

used it in dying their cloths^ cannot now afford to purchase it.
The gathering of it without a Ucense is, of course, prohibited.
The root is small, fine, and white; but when bruised, and
mixed with calcined shells, the juice becomes red. The leaves
are small like those of thyme, the flowers white and diminutive,
of the form of a violet; and the plant vegetates in close adhe-
sion to the ground.

In the evening we walked a few miles through a part of
the island entirely uncultivated, but abounding in a variety of
beautiful plants and flowers. The soil is merely loose sand,
and the palmyra-trees, its most valuable production, do not
look flourishing. They appear to have thriven well in favour-
able seasons, but in others to have been interrupted in their
growth, the stems, in some places, being contracted for the
height of a few feet, and, in others, swelled out to the usual size.

Here grows a curious thorn of the genus of Acacia or
Mimosa. The branches extend horizontally, beginning about
the middle of the trunk; and becoming gradually shorter, like
those of the yew, frona the lowest to the highest, give the tree
a conical form, from which pecuharity it has been called the
umbrella tree. The leaves are extremely small and pinnated,
the flowers white and globular; and the branches are covered
with slender white thorns, about an inch and a half in length,
sharp pointed, and of an equal thickness throughout. - This
thom is entirely different from that which resembles a cock's
spur, which grows in pairs, is broad at the base, and gradually
tapers towards the point.



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JOURNEY TO BAHISSERAH. 9

The inhabitants of this place have the appearance of greater
indigence than those of any other of the British settlements in
Cejlon- The village and the fort look ruinous and deserted:
many of the buildings in the latter are unroofed, and- hastening
to decay. Barracks for one hundred soldiers, and a small hos-
pital, are still habitable. The fort and the village are separated
by a walk one quarter of a mile in length, which is shaded by
trees belonging to the species called Portia, Hibiscus Popul*
neus, or Tulip tree.

We embarked, with our palanquins and bearers, at the
wharf of Manaar, on board of a large doney, or covered boat,
at eight o'clock P. M. and did not get clear of the channel
until past ten. The vessel grounding several times on sand-
banks, occasioned this delay. We sailed until one o'clock A. M .
on the 15th, when our pilot, afraid of vfenturing out to sea in
the night, let down his anchor off* the south west angle of Ma-
naar, distinguished by the name of Talmanaar. We got under
weigh at day break, and passed the extremity of Talmanaar
about seven o'clock in the morning. Nothing was to be seen,
at this point, but low sandy ground, a thick grove of palmyra
trees, and a small herd of black cattle. The island of Ramis-
seram appeared in sight about two o'clock P.M. and, the
wind tuming foul, we landed, at four o'clock, on a projecting
sand beach, nearly four miles from the great pagoda. This is
the nearest channel of communication between Ceylon and
the continent of India: and the direct distance between the
islands of Manaar and Ramisseram appears to be about twenty

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10 JOURNEY TO RAMISSERAM.

English miles. We proceeded along the sand to the nearest
choultry, or place built for the accommodation of strangers,
which is situate about half a mile from the grand temple of
Shivven. Of this edifice we had a full view as we advanced;
but the external appearance is not remarkably grand, and at ^
distance it is impossible to form an idea of tlie minute orna-
ments and laboured workmanship, which strike the eye on a .
nearer inspection. All the architecture, which is seen without
doors, dwindles into insignificance when compared to the mag-
nificent works which form the interior of the pagoda. When
the whole structure is examined, the extent of masonic labour
there displayed is probably not surpassed in any of the most
splendid cathedrals in Europe. In the accompanying plate
the pagoda is represented at a distance, and a small choultry
in ruins occupies the foreground.

Soon after landing we met a native woman on horseback,
attended by a man servant likewise mounted, which appeared
to us an uncommon sight, and it would certainly be esteemed
a striking curiosity in Ceylon. We afterwards saw a great
number of small horses, which are there constantly used both
for conveying travellers, and transporting goods*

The choultry, where we lodged, is situate close to the
sea beach. In front of it rows of tamarind and portia trees
stretch along the shore. These are neatly encompassed by
square parapets raised two or three feet from the ground, th^
space within being filled with mould, and smoothed over with
plaster, forming comfortable terraces, where the palanquin



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JOURNEY TO RAMISSERAM. 11

bearers enjoyed refreshmenl and rest in a cool and pleasant
shade.

We walked round the walls of the temple before sun-set.
On our appearance at the east gate, we were saluted by a com-
pany of brahmins, who presented us with betel, and areca nuts
in silver vases, and a rich liquid paste in a silver bason. We,
in return, dropped into the hands of the principal door-keeper
a small sum of money, which was well received.

After we had dined, several brahmins waited upon us at
our choultry, accompanied by five well dressed dancing girls,
who entertained us with their exhibitions for upwards of an hour.
They themselves appeared to feel as much amusement in the
performance as the assembly which crowded round them:
and they would have continued their dance much longer, had
not we, according to the custom of the country, signified to
them that they had our leave to depart. An Indian, even of
superior rank, will not quit the house where he is a guest with*
out asking permission of its master: and an inferior would think
it a breach of politeness to stir, until plainly told that he is at
liberty to retire. The girls, in the course of dancing, displayed
their hands and arms in singular and various positions, and
their persons in every graceful attitude. Sometimes they placed
the thumb of the right hand upon the chin, with the fingers
spread out, and the thumb of the left hand on the little finger
of the right. Sometimes they approached and receded in the



Online LibraryJames CordinerA description of Ceylon → online text (page 1 of 24)