« PreviousContinue »
tracts of land lower down in the valleys, that were found to be suitable for the cultivation of rice, the only culture for which the water was utilised.
In addition to the benefit which the country in general derived from the works, a considerable part of the produce of the irrigated lands was devoted in many instances, after the introduction of Buddhism, to the maintenance of the Buddhist monks. Thus it soon came to be thought an act of great religious merit to construct such reservoirs, and the continuance of the practice by all the pious monarchs of the island was then assured. These were the larger works, such as private enterprise could not attempt to undertake.
In the meantime, the formation of minor works at the villages, by the combined labour of the inhabitants, was doubtless encouraged, until in the end such village tanks' were
1 Moral Suasion, when applied by the district chiefs, must have been an exceedingly effective instrument. Those who possess an intimate acquaintance with the village life of the East will easily understand that in early times the life of the villager who ventured to set his inclinations in opposition to the will of the chiefs would become an extremely uncomfortable one-as is often the case even now. At the present day, in Ceylon it is not necessary that the chief or headman should take any active steps against the recalcitrant person in order to bring this about. In every village there are at least two parties, often bitterly opposed to each other; usually they consist of the friends and followers of the local headman for the time being, and the adherents to the ex-headman. When a villager is once known to have incurred the displeasure of the local chief, and more especially if he be a man who has played an unpopular rôle in the village for any reason, his enemies proceed to take advantage of the opportunities which this affords them to annoy him. His cattle are stolen, sometimes his corn-stack is burnt down in the night, or his house robbed during his absence. When he appeals to the headman for assistance in apprehending the culprits he is informed that they will be arrested on his discovering them and producing some proof of their guilt; and there the matter often ends, as the headman is not interested in it, and takes no steps to find out the wrong-doers. In many instances false charges are trumped up against the objectionable person, or false or doubtful claims instituted over his lands, which he often has the greatest difficulty in rebutting, there commonly being some weak points in his own proofs of his ownership. If resort be not made to these extreme measures there are many other ways of inflicting petty annoyances on him the cumulative effect of which almost renders his life a burden to him.
established at practically every little settlement in the drier districts of the island.
The first irrigation works made in Ceylon obviously would be these village tanks, containing sheets of water that covered from two or three acres to one hundred acres or more, the size depending on the amount of the water-supply, the requirements of the village, and the formation of the ground. At first, only the simplest works of the smaller class, with very low embankments, would be undertaken; but when a better knowledge of the art of raising such banks of earth to hold back greater depths of water was acquired, schemes of a more comprehensive character would be attempted, until at last no reservoir was looked upon as too great to be constructed, and the lengths of the embankments extended for any distance up to a maximum of nine miles, while their heights in a few instances rose to more than fifty feet.
The histories, which were compiled by monks who, especially in early times, were chiefly interested in recording the erection of Buddhistic edifices, and the other religious acts of the various monarchs of Ceylon, contain no reference to the formation of the communal village tanks, and too few notices of the construction of even the larger class of works, some of the most important of which are never mentioned in them, at any rate under names that can be recognised at the present day. In such cases we have nothing to mark the age of the works that cannot be identified in the histories, except the evidence obtainable from the dimensions of the bricks that were commonly used either in some part of them, or in Buddhist monasteries which depended for their existence on the water-supply afforded by the works, and the presence of a considerable population which that ensured. Notwithstanding the possibility of error in fixing the age of a work by such data, the general trustworthiness of these contemporary records is so unmistakable that in the absence of other evidence I shall make full use of them in determining the probable dates of some of the works.
The first notice of the construction of a reservoir in Ceylon is found in the Mahavansa (i, p. 37), where it is stated that
Prince Anuradha, the brother-in-law of the second king, Paṇḍuwāsa Dēva, made one on the southern side of the capital, Anuradhapura. This was early in the fourth century B.C. It has not been identified, and we may assume that it was merely a small work intended for the use of the village at which the prince resided.
The record, the truth of which there can be no reason for doubting, is interesting as showing that the Sinhalese had already become acquainted with the art of making reservoirs. Considering the intimate connection existing between the first Sinhalese king and the king of Madura-Wijaya having married the latter's daughter-such a knowledge could easily have been acquired from Southern India before this date-perhaps even by the early Nagas. Wijaya must have obtained his information regarding Madura and its sovereign's family through traders who were visiting the two kingdoms; there could be no other travellers to carry news in those days. Thus there would appear to have been a regular intercourse between the two countries from an early period; it is improbable that it would spring into being simply because Wijaya had become king of Ceylon, since mere settlers from the valley of the Ganges would have no personal acquaintance with Madura, and its ruler, and its trading requirements. They can only have heard of them from traders who had been at Madura. Such persons would doubtless observe the advantages accruing from the presence of village tanks on the line of their journey-dried up as the country becomes when there is no rain-and the knowledge of them would thus be transmitted to Ceylon.
It may appear to be such a simple matter to raise a long bank of earth in order to hold back a certain quantity of rain water for bathing purposes or for watering an adjoining rice field after the rains have ceased, that any people living in hot countries where the rains are only seasonal and are followed by several almost rainless months might be expected to be struck by the idea of making these little reservoirs for themselves, without its transmission from another country; but as a matter of fact the notion of reservoir-making appears
to have been originated in only one country, and never to have been invented independently elsewhere, at any rate in the Old World. When I visited West Africa, the natives of the Gambia valley who have cultivated rice for so long a period that they have developed many special varieties of this grain, informed me that such an idea as storing water for its irrigation had never crossed their minds. They had never heard of such a practice, and had no notion regarding the manner in which such works should be constructed, even on the smallest scale. Probably this was the position in other countries.
It is most likely, therefore, that the art of reservoir construction owes its origin to the early peoples of the Euphrates valley, and that it spread westwards and south-eastwards from that centre, reaching the Dravidian districts of India possibly before the Aryan invasion of the country, and being transmitted thence to Ceylon.
The next work for storing water, of which any information is given in the histories, is of an entirely different class from the village tank of Anuradha. Possibly it was the first reservoir ever made with an embankment of an importance that must have required special acquaintance with the principles of reservoir construction. The honour of occupying this prominent position rests with either Paṇḍā-waewa 1 in the North-western Province, or Abhaya-waewa at Anuradhapura, or possibly another reservoir at that city.
In the North-western Province, near Heṭṭipola, a small village at the junction of two roads, and sixteen miles east of Chilaw, the large deserted tank called Paṇḍā-waewa is found. On its southern side and close to the end of its embankment, there is a fortified site which apparently was once that of a town of considerable size, but is now completely overgrown with forest and jungle. It is known as Paṇḍuwas Nuwara, and is locally believed to have been a city founded by Paṇḍuwāsa
1 The Sanskrit and Pāli word vāpi, the Elu or early Sinhalese words wawi and wiya, the Sinhalese waewa, and the Tamil kulam have the same meaning, and signify tank' or reservoir.'
Dēva in the first half of the fourth century B.C., and at one time his capital.
Beyond the name and the tradition, there is no evidence that he actually founded a city at this site; but this at least may be said in favour of the tradition-that it is in the highest degree unlikely that if the town was established by a later monarch he would perpetuate the memory of a much earlier ruler, in preference to his own, in bestowing a name on it.
A long and exaggerated account of the city is given in an old manuscript termed Pradhāna Nuwarawal, 'Principal Cities,' which describes other large towns of this part of the
country, such as Kurunāēgala, Yāpahuwa, and Kandy. It proves that the site possessed the same name early in the fourteenth century-when the work appears to have been compiled and that it was then believed that the city was founded by the same 'Paṇḍuwas Raja,' who, it states, also for the support of the city made a great tank.' It mentions that the original city had the honour of being con
1 It gives the day and hour, but not the year, of the death of a king called Pandita Parākrama Bāhu, and ends after mentioning the accession of his younger brother, a monk, under the name of Buja Parākrama Bahu. The former king lived at Dambadeniya, and removed thence to Kandy, which he founded.