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said. The larger group (Fig. No. 59) consists of six holes, of which the dimensions in inches are as follows:
The smaller group (Fig. No. 60) consists of only two holes in an east and west line, of which one is 9 inches wide at the top, 3 near the bottom, and 6 inches deep; and the other is 64 inches wide at the top, 2 at the bottom, and 3 inches deep.
At Wellangolla, in the North-western Province, two holes are cut in a sloping rock over which passes a track leading to some caves that were made over to Buddhist monks, apparently in the second century B.C. An inscription cut over one of them in two lines, in the earliest characters, with the bent, runs :-(1) Supaḍu... lene sagasa, (2) Asiya Nagasa gapati Anurudi kulasa ca dine. 'The Very Pale' cave of the Community; given by Asiya Nāga, and by the family of the (female) householder Anuruddhi.' Three brick fragments at it average 2-8 inches in thickness, and one is 9 inches in breadth, Bt. being thus 25.2 square inches. If the length was six times the thickness, this being the usual proportion in pre-Christian bricks, it would be 16-8 inches, making the con tents 423 cubic inches. The dimensions thus point to preChristian times, and possibly the second century B.C., as the period when the bricks were made. There is also a small stone flower altar 2 feet 6 inches square, but its age is uncertain.
The holes (Fig. No. 61) lie in a north and south line, which is not parallel either to the adjoining edge of the rock or to the path; their centres are 4 feet 4 inches apart. Hole No. 18 is 6 inches wide at the top, I inch at the bottom, and 2 inches deep; and hole No. 19 measures 6 inches in width at the top, and ends in a point at the bottom; it is 8 inches deep. Holes ending in an actual point are very rare, and I have examined only one other hole which was of this type.
Near the Wellangolla holes a long inscription has been cut on the rock by the great king Jeṭṭha-Tisa, son of the great king Mahā-Sēna,'1 recording grants made to the monks. JeṭṭhaTissa reigned from 332 to 341 A.D., and the holes may have been cut by the person who chiselled his inscription, if they were not made when the caves were being prepared for the monks. At Rūgama tank, in the Eastern Province, there are three holes in a triangle, cut in the rock at the flood-escape (Fig. No. 62). At hole No. 20 the rock is broken away at the mouth; below this it is 5 inches wide, and it has a total depth of 10 inches. Hole No. 21 is the pointed hole referred to above. It is also worn at the mouth, and is 6 inches wide below this part, and 9 inches deep. Hole No. 22 is 12 inches wide to the outer part of the curve at its mouth, and is 5 inches deep, with a flat bottom, a very unusual feature.
On a rock close to the cave called 'Great Beautiful,' in the Eastern Province, at which an inscription was left by the great chieftain of the second century B.C., Nandimitta, there is one hole 6 inches wide at the top, and 64 inches deep, with a well-rounded bottom. It may have been cut at the same time as the inscription, or, as there was a monastery near it, at a somewhat later date.
Two holes are cut in a north and south line below 153 steps chiselled out of the steep sloping face of an immense rock called Tumbullē Waehaera-gala, in the North-central Province. They are cup-shaped, one being 2 inches deep, 4 inches wide at the top, and 2 inches at the bottom, while the other is 3 inches deep and 6 inches wide at the top.
There are monastic ruins on the rock and part of a dedicatory inscription over a cave near its base, in letters probably of the second century B.C., by Sumana Tisagota, Sumana of the Tissa clan' (?). Bricks at this cave measure 15.70 inches by 8.80 inches by 2.75 inches, Bt. being 24.2 and the contents 380 cubic inches. They apparently are of a late pre-Christian date, or an early date in the first century after Christ. An inscription by a 'Tisa Maharaja,' near the cave, belongs to the second or 1 No. 102 of Dr. E. Müller's Ancient Inscriptions in Ceylon. 2 See The Earliest Inscriptions, No. 47.
third century A.D. The steps and the holes may have been cut at the same time as this inscription, if they were not made by the person who prepared the cave for the monks.
At Nagadarana-gama, in the North-central Province, Mr. Bell met with one of these holes surrounded by two concentric circles cut in the rock. His account of it is as follows:'Here, too, is one of the unexplained incisions in concentric circles not infrequently met with; the outer ring 3 feet in diameter by I inch in depth, the middle 2 feet 3 inches and 3 inches deep, whilst the central hole is cylindrical, I foot in diameter and depth.'1 This is evidently of a different type from the holes above described.
In his Annual Report for 1891, p. 7, he mentioned a similar hole, a foot deep, at Tamara-gala. A circle 2 feet in diameter was cut round it, and outside that another 13 feet 6 inches in diameter, shallowly cut.'
There are many other rocks in the North-central and Northwestern Provinces where holes similar to those I have described are cut, and in some instances single holes are found. The Vaeddas informed me that they have seen groups consisting of seven and even ten holes of this kind on rocks in the southern part of the Eastern Province. I have observed a group of, I think, seven such holes arranged in an extended line on a long low rock in the North-central Province, at the side of a path leading to a wihāra. At that time I recorded no particulars of these holes, though I often met with them on rocks in the jungle. In the case of the row of seven holes, I was informed that these were utilised at festivals as lamps for illuminating the path, oil being poured into them on water, and a floating wick fixed on it, resting on four cross-sticks, in the manner often employed for hanging coconut-oil lamps.
However much the holes of this description vary in size they are always exactly circular in cross section, with the upper edges carefully rounded. The sides and bottom are always beautifully smoothed and in some instances almost polished. No chisel mark can be seen on any of them, and it is evident that the smoothness is due to much friction, 1 Arch. Survey. Annual Report for 1892, p. 8.
which must have been caused in the case of the deeper holes, if not in all, by turning round inside them a stone or iron implement of a special shape, or by constant rubbing. There is nothing to indicate if the smoothness was originally given to them by the men who cut them, or is due to long use of them for some purpose or other. The latter is the probable cause of it. At each group of holes there is usually at least one small one; but in some groups there are no deep holes.
With the exception of the single group now occasionally employed as lamps I have never met with any villagers who could even suggest any use for the larger holes just described. Their Sinhalese name is kōwa, which commonly means 'crucible'; and a word like it, but with a slightly different spelling (kowuwa), is used in inscriptions as the name of the stone flooring slabs laid round the dāgabas at Anuradhapura. If the modern name indicates the employment of some of them as mortars for preparing medicines, this apparently can only apply to the shallower ones, and the mode of utilising the others is left unexplained, as well as their excellent finish and perfect shapes.
Although the holes are usually close to the sites of temples, I know of no purpose for which they could be required in connection with the services at them. I have been told by Vaeddas that they sometimes present offerings of food to demons in hollows on rocks, and such a use might account for some saucer-shaped holes, especially those in other countries; but it will not explain the reason for cutting the deeper holes.
Holes are sometimes cut in boulders or rocks near temples for use in pounding paddy (rice in the skin); but they are wider and of a different shape from these, being always cylindrical. Others in which money or valuables have been concealed are also cylinders, with an offset round the top into which the covering slab was inserted and cemented, earth being then sprinkled over the spot. Sockets for holding wooden or other posts are also cylindrical, or square in section.
It seems possible that some of the deeper holes may have been cut for expressing oil by hand labour for temple illumination, as an act of merit for the piously disposed, in the
manner now practised for extracting coconut oil by a' chekku,' that is, by means of a pair of bulls which turn a loaded wooden pestle in a large wooden mortar. The pieces of coconut are compressed between the pestle and the side of the hole or mortar, and the oil is gradually squeezed out of them. It is a practice of great antiquity, and notwithstanding its primitive appearance is said on the best authority to be as effective at the latest European machinery. Even this explanation does not satisfactorily account for some of the groups of holes, and especially for the rounding of their edges, although, on the whole, it is the best one that I can offer.