Page images

who were called out by the local chiefs in case of war were doubtless a more or less undisciplined horde, armed with a miscellaneous collection of weapons, such as bows, pikes, billhooks, wooden clubs, and stone-bows.

In the Maha Ummagga Jātaka (No. 546) we have a vivid picture of some of the regular troops of early times. Culani, King of Mithila, is represented as being clothed in jewelled armour. He held an arrow in his hand as his symbol of authority (like the Vaeddas of Ceylon) while he made a spirited address to his army, and issued his orders from the back of his elephant for the capture of his enemy in the battle that I was about to commence :

"Send the tusked elephants, mighty, sixty years old, let them trample down the city which Vedeha has nobly built. Let the arrows fly this way and that way, sped by the bow, arrows like the teeth of calves, sharp-pointed, piercing the very bones. Let heroes come forth in armour clad, with weapons finely decorated, bold and heroic, ready to face an elephant. Spears bathed in oil, their points glittering like fire, stand gleaming like the constellation of a hundred stars. At the onset of such heroes, with mighty weapons, clad in mail and armour, who never run away, how shall Vedeha escape, even if he fly like a bird? My thirty and nine thousand warriors, all picked men, whose like I never saw, all my mighty host." He referred to the "golden trappings and blood-red girths' and the "mailed heroes with banners waving, skilled in the use of sword and shield, grasping the hilt, accomplished soldiers."


In addition to the Kandian Knife which has been described, other kinds were used for household work. One of these of which an early example was obtained at Tissa, has a straight blade cut off diagonally at the end from the cutting edge to the back. This form was and still is employed for cutting up vegetables and fish, the stem being fixed in a sloping position

in a piece of board on which the person using the knife squats, so that the edge of the blade is upward. Another form also found at Tissa has a curved blade with a concave cutting edge. I give an illustration (Fig. 182) of what appears to have been a different kind of knife that was used in ancient times; it was cut in outline on the steps leading up the Mihintale hill, evidently by the masons who laid them, and it may thus belong to the first century A.D.

The Billhook, Kaetta, has doubtless always been one of the most necessary tools of the inhabitants of Ceylon, and its antiquity is proved by its being the emblem of the earliest deity, the God of the Rock. The fact that it is not employed by the wildest Vaeddas is probably merely due to their not requiring such an article in their hunting life; the Vaeddas who lead a more settled existence always make use of it for cutting down jungle. Without it or some similar tool it would have been quite impossible to reclaim land that was thickly overspread, like practically the whole of Ceylon, with a dense and often thorny undergrowth.

For general use it has only one shape among the Kandians, with a concave cutting edge (Fig. 221), but in the mountainous tracts a form (Fig. 220) with a returned point not made elsewhere is found useful in thorny jungle and stony ground, as it enables the branches to be dragged out by it after being cut, while small shoots can be removed by an upward cut near their base, thus avoiding damage to the tool by striking stones. The emblem of the God of the Rock differs from the ordinary Billhook in common use, and approaches the shape of the sickle (see Frontispiece).

The Billhook is represented in wihāra paintings among the arms carried by the demons in the Mara Contest, and it must therefore be included as a warlike weapon, though probably not one with which the regular troops were armed.

The Kandian Billhook has no socket; the stem is lengthened to a blunt chisel point, and is driven into the split end of the handle, a broad band of iron with a thicker ring below it being first fitted on the end of the shaft to prevent further splitting. The handles vary in length from 18 inches to 6

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

feet, the latter dimension prevailing where very thorny jungle is found, so as to permit the user to stand clear of the thorns while cutting. The short-handled tools have small blades for use with one hand only.

The Sickle, Dae-Kaetta, has two forms, a long-bladed one, nearly straight towards the point, for reaping paddy and cutting grass (Fig. 237), and a diminutive one of similar shape which is only used for cutting off the heads of millet and other grains grown in the temporary clearings called Hēna, or by Tamils Chēna, this reaping being invariably performed among the Kandians by the women alone. It is evident that its use must date back to the earliest times, and it is mentioned at least twice in the Rig Veda (i, 58, 4, and x, 101, 3). No example of pre-Christian date has been found in Ceylon; but Mr. Bell obtained later ones at Sigiriya, Anuradhapura, and Polannaruwa, from which the illustration was obtained by Mr. F. Lewis for me.

The Axe, Porawa, has been proved by the experience of the Vaeddas to be the most indispensable of all tools in Ceylon. Though the Billhook is suitable for cutting down interlaced bushes even when large, it is quite useless for felling any but the smallest trees. Nothing but the Axe could ever enable the first settlers to overcome the high forest that doubtless covered the whole country in pre-historic times.

At the present day the Kandian Axe has usually only one shape as a tool. The blade is almost straight along the upper edge, rising slightly near the cutting edge, and commonly curved downwards along the lower edge, so that at the end the blade is considerably wider than at the stem (see Fig. 223, of one dug up at Anuradhapura by Mr. Burrows). Of this kind there is a large and a small form; both have a socket hole through the stem. Axes slightly varying from this type were found in the excavations at Anuradhapura by Mr. S. Burrows (Fig. 224).

I have been assured by a Kandian smith of one of the villages of the interior that in its correct shape the blade of the true Kandian Axe should be quite straight on both the upper and lower edges, and a modern one of this form is illustrated

(Fig. 222). In this, the upper edge stands out from the shaft at a right angle, and the cutting edge has a slight convex


At Tissa, two examples of an earlier and different type were met with, in which the edges of the blade are nearly straight, but slightly narrower at the cutting end than in the middle. They bear a close resemblance to a form of polished' Celt' of the Neolithic age. They are much greater and heavier than the largest axes now made in the island, one (Fig. 225) being 8 inches long, 3 inches broad at its widest part and threequarters of an inch thick there, while the other is 2 inches wide. The cutting edge is straight, and they have no socket; the stem must have passed through the handle, which would be prevented from splitting by being wrapped diagonally at it with cross strips of hide or bark cord, or possibly be fitted with two diagonal iron rings such as those used for fixing the primitive Kandian hammer to its handle. Such an axe is illustrated in General Maisey's work on Sanchi, Plate XIII. These large axes were made by welding together several thinner plates of iron or steel until the required thickness was obtained.

The Adze, Waeya, has not been found among the ancient tools, I think, although it must have been known and used in Ceylon in pre-Christian times. The earliest type may have resembled the African tool, which is without a socket and is almost a straight axe turned sideways, with a cutting edge wider than the stem.

The Digging Hoe, Udaella, commonly called by Europeans a 'Mamoty,' from the Tamil word Man-veṭṭci, Earth-cutter, is also a tool of early date, but no example of it was obtained at Tissa. The only ancient ones that I have seen were found by Mr. S. Burrows at Anuradhapura; their age is uncertain, but probably they belong to some time earlier than the eleventh century A.D. Through the kindness of my friend Mr. F. Lewis I am able to give an illustration (Fig. 238) of a type which was discovered by Mr. Bell at Sigiriya and Polannaruwa. Another found by him had a much longer stem and a rather narrow blade. According to my recollection, the Anuradhapura tool

« PreviousContinue »