Page images

be found by ascertaining what races employ this mode of mat weaving in India.

The Kinnaras make two kinds of mats in their frames. One is a very durable and flexible mat composed entirely of Niyanda fibre, and is called Hak-Kalāl; it is from two feet to two feet three inches wide, and is always ornamented by lines or patterns in dyed thread of red, yellow, and black colours. The other, called Kalal, is made of aquatic grass on a warp of Niyanda fibre. The women usually take no part in the weaving, but assist in collecting the materials and preparing them for the work. A few, however, are able to weave.

Sinhalese of other castes never weave these two kinds of mats, although all, including even the highest castes, are accustomed to make and sell other mats which are plaited on the ground without a frame, and are termed Paedura.

For the mats made on the ground three kinds of aquatic grasses are employed. These are called Haewan (Cyperus dehiscens) or Gal-laehae Pan, the best, with a soft round dark green stem, and a long grass-like flower spike; Telhiriya (Colubrina asiatica), somewhat like the last, but much less durable; and Tun-hiriya, with a tall coarse broad triangular stem, and a short head of flowers. These are all cut into regular sizes, usually about two and a half feet in length, spread out in the sun on the ground near the houses, and thoroughly dried. Narrow strips of the leaves of Dunukāēya (Pandanus foetidus), Indi (Phænix zeylanica, the Wild Date), and Palmira and Talipat Palms are also used. Mats of all but the last material are termed Paedura; Kandian mats made of wider strips of Talipat leaves are called Māgal, and are much larger than the others, and only used for covering floors and lining the walls of temporary buildings.

In making all these Kandian mats the women alone undertake the whole labour, which is performed in the verandas of their houses. The weaver commences the work at the near right-hand corner, and holds the strands down with the feet, squatting close to the ground. Patterns, each having a distinctive name, are often plaited in such mats, with strands .dyed red, yellow, and black. Many of them are survivals of

very early designs, each family preserving and handing down to the next generation its own special set of designs, which the young girls learn by long practice under their mothers' tuition.

The water-tight plaited flat-bottomed baskets prepared in the Jaffna district from wide strips of Palmira leaf are well known to all those who have seen Jaffnese carters feeding their bulls out of them with liquid 'poonac,' the refuse coconut after the oil has been extracted. I am not aware that Sinhalese make any baskets that will hold water.




games played by a people are usually either almost ignored by travellers and foreign residents alike, or are dismissed with a far too meagre description. Yet it must be evident that any account of a race which omits to notice its amusements cannot be considered a complete or satisfactory one. What should we think of a relation of the customs and habits and characteristics of the residents of Britain which contained hardly any reference to such games as cricket, football, golf, and tennis, or even billiards, bridge, and chess? Such a work would enable no one who was unacquainted with us to form an accurate opinion regarding an important part of our national traits. And although in the case of the Eastern races and those of inferior civilisation the games of their countries occupy a much less commanding position than with us, a knowledge of these amusements is absolutely necessary for forming a satisfactory estimate of the national characteristics.

It is often stated that the Western mind cannot comprehend the thoughts of the East. How can it be otherwise when not one European out of a hundred living in the East has more than the vaguest notion of the universal belief regarding the effect of magic and spells and the far-reaching powers of evil spirits, or the folk-lore and folk-stories, the prejudices, and the amusements of the people among whom he dwells? Without a more or less thorough knowledge of the details of these subjects it is impossible for any real acquaintance with the inner mind of a people to be attained. However humanely a country may be governed, however impartially justice may be administered, however honestly the inhabitants may be treated in all their dealings with the ruling race, the certainty will always remain that without this knowledge we must continue to

be strangers, that we must fail to comprehend their inmost thoughts and real life, and that in consequence there can never be any truly sympathetic appreciation of their ideas.

In the present chapter I have endeavoured to present a description of the ordinary games of the villagers of Ceylon, as a first step towards the construction of a bridge across the chasm that now intervenes on the way towards an understanding of the actual feelings and opinions of the people. It will be found to contain also particulars of most of the village indoor games of skill of India, Arabia, and Africa, with some of which those of Ceylon are closely allied.

Although the majority of the types of these games are of great antiquity, it has been feasible in only a few instances to furnish any information regarding their actual age, and this sometimes only in the form of a statement of their presence in the island at some early and more or less uncertain date. Perhaps some future investigator may discover further evidence of the times of their origin and of the countries in which they were invented.

There can be no doubt that some of the simpler games played in Ceylon date from immemorial ages, but the earliest local trace of any games goes back only to the second or third century B.C. In describing the games I shall proceed from the simpler ones to those which are more complex, this being probably also an arrangement that coincides, in some measure, with the order in which they were originated. They may be divided into three classes :-(1) Indoor Games; (2) Outdoor Games; and (3) Religious Games.


OTTE-IRATTE, 'Odd or Even.'

This is the simplest game of all, and certainly one of the earliest of all games. As it postulates an acquaintance with numbers to the extent of a capability of counting and of recognising the difference between odd ones and even ones, this may

« PreviousContinue »