« PreviousContinue »
a half; the (other member of the enclosed 1) pair (one and a half 1); the last six for the spire; a half more for the chatta. The sage of old prescribed (these proportions) as usually practised.'
The Sinhalese names of the various parts of the dāgaba are, tun-māl pēsāwa, or pēsā-walallu, 'the three-story ornaments' or 'the ornamental bangles,' the basal platforms; gaeba,' the chamber,' the dome; hataraes kotuwa, the square enclosure,' or tee; dēvatā kotuwa, 'the godlings' enclosure,' or base of the spire; kota, the spire; sat, 'the umbrella' or chatta; kota kaeraella, the end of the spire,' the pinnacle.
According to these rules, we see that the total height of a dagaba should be three times the height of the dome, which is three-fifths of its (widest) diameter. The length of the spire is fixed at a quarter of the total height, or three-quarters of the height of the dome. The height of the basal ledges would be eleven-sixteenths of the height of the dome; that of the tee five-sixteenths of it; that of the base of the spire three-sixteenths of it; and that of the chatta one-sixteenth of it. As no chatta is now constructed its part is added to the height of the base of the spire, making it one-quarter of the height of the dome. Modern constructors do not measure these heights vertically on their drawings, but upon a sloping line extending from the centre of the top of the spire to the edge of the lowest basal platform, the outermost line of the circumference. By this means all the heights will be reduced.
Apparently these were the recognised proportions for dāgabas of all the six shapes, and they usually guide modern designers, who, however, I have been informed, commonly add one extra part to the height of their domes, which are now always of the Bell shape, thus making them four-fifths instead of three-fifths of the diameter.
When we apply these proportions to the pre-Christian works there is usually no agreement with them, excepting sometimes in the altitude of the dome.
1 These words in brackets are necessary to make up the correct number of twenty-four parts.
The chief difficulty in testing the heights lies in the uncertainty regarding the length of the ancient cubit. Dr. Davy (1816-1820) remarked that 'Carpenters and some other artists have measures of their own. The carpenter's angula [inch] is equal to the space between the second and third joint of the fore-finger; and his waḍu-riyana [carpenter's cubit] is composed of twenty-four angulas and is divided into four parts." In this case the carpenter's cubit would be about two feet long. Twenty years later Major Forbes stated that the carpenter's cubit was two feet three inches in length, but the reputed height of the Kaelaṇiya dāgaba, restored in 1779, does not support this. Captain Robert Knox, writing of the measures used in the middle of the seventeenth century, said, 'A Rian is a Cubit, which is with them from the bone on the inside of the Elbow to the tip of the fourth Finger. A Waddo rian is the Carpenter's Rule. It is as much as will reach from one Elbow to the other, the Thumbs touching one the other at the tops, and so stretching out both Elbows.' At the present day, Sinhalese artizans make these measures agree with the English scale by using a riyana of eighteen inches, subdivided into inches, and eighths of inches called nul, which are again divided into fourths; and a waḍu-riyana of three feet, that is, two riyanas.
The old Pali vocabulary, the Abhidhana-padīpika, has three words, ratana, kukku, and hattha, as synonyms which mean a cubit, or two spans, vidatthi. The vidatthi was a measure of twelve angulas or fingers; and it will be found on trial that twelve fingers' breadths thus measured by laying the hand flat, the usual method in Ceylon, exactly make up the length of the span from the end of the extended thumb to that of the little finger. In the Pali edition of the Mahāvansa both hattha and ratana are employed in stating the heights
1 An Account of the Interior of Ceylon, p. 244. I have corrected his spelling of waḍu-riyana.
2 Eleven Years in Ceylon, p. 223.
3 An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon, p. 98.
According to Winslow's Tamil Dictionary twelve fingers' breadths make one span.
of the dagabas, these words being alike translated in the Sinhalese edition by the term riyana. Thus it would seem that the cubit used in the histories is one of two spans or nearly 18 inches; but this is far from agreement with the actual heights of the dāgabas.
I found that ten men had a mean height of 5 feet 4 inches, and that their average cubit, measured as described by Knox, the method always used at the present day, was 17.88 inches.
We may obtain a measurement of the ancient cubit by means of the early bricks; the largest ones are always termed riyan-gaḍol, cubit-bricks,' an expression which indicates that their length was determined by the measure of the ancient cubit.
For ascertaining the length in this manner I have taken all bricks in my tables the volume of which exceeds 400 cubic inches, this being apparently a fairly trustworthy indication that they are pre-Christian, and I find that the length of those used at nineteen different works averages 17.56 inches, or only one-third of an inch less than the length measured on the arm. But bricks shrink considerably in drying, and we do not know whether it was the length of the brick when thus contracted, or the length of the mould in which it was formed, that represented the early cubit. If it was the latter we should require, with the ordinary clay of Ceylon, an addition of at least three-quarters of an inch, or even an inch, to the size of the burnt brick in order to arrive at the true length of the cubit. It is probable, however, that allowance for this shrinkage was made in the size of the mould; at the same ratio as in the men I measured, a cubit of 17.56 inches would be that of men who were 5 feet 3 inches high, which is very nearly the actual height of the present Kandian villagers.
Notwithstanding this contemporary evidence of the length of the early riyana used by the brickmakers, a comparison of the heights of the dagabas given by Mr. Smither with those stated in the histories, shows that another cubit must have been in use from the earliest period. Thus, in the case of the
Ruwanwaeli dāgaba the total height, if the cubit were 171 inches long, would make the top of the lowest chatta, or of the pinnacle if there was one originally, only eight feet above the tee shown in my restoration; and at the Abhayagiri the pinnacle would be inside the existing remains of the spire.
Nor is this difference between the existing and the former recorded measurements merely due to the inaccuracy of the latter. When we seek evidence of the length of the other cubit we are confronted by one striking fact. No one can take many measurements of the ancient works in Ceylon without being astonished at the frequent occasions on which these are found to be an exact number of English feet. For buildings, such sizes as 36 feet by 24 feet, or 18 feet by 12 feet, or measurements of 201 or 10 feet, are quite common. The sides of square pillars usually measure 12, or 15, or 18 inches. The culverts of ancient sluices are in most cases exactly 12, or 18, or 24, or 27 inches wide, and some are exactly 2 feet, 2 feet 6 inches, 3 feet, 3 feet 6 inches, and 4 feet high. Mr. Smither's dimensions of the dagabas are also incontestable evidence which points in the same direction.
These numerous examples indicate that the cubit of the early masons and carpenters was not that which was used by the brickmakers, but was either exactly eighteen inches long, or much more probably exactly two feet long. The recorded heights of the early dagabas when compared with the existing remains prove that it was considerably greater than eighteen inches long, and it must therefore have been of the other dimension, that is, two feet in length. The ancient cubit was always equal to twenty-four angulas; it was the mode of measuring the angula or finger' that varied. One trade, the brickmakers, and probably also the general public, employed the width of it, and apparently their cubit was 17 inches long; other trades, the builders, stonecutters, and carpenters, had a longitudinal scale, as described by Dr. Davy, and their cubit thus became two feet in length.
1 I have already stated that the outer shell of the Ruwanwaeli dāgaba is 19 feet 11 inches thick.