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FIG. 5. Vibhisana as King of Ceylon, his Wife Amman, and
To face p. 7
there; and then, assisted by an immense army of monkeys and bears, proceeded to attack and kill Rāvana in Ceylon, after the demon king had carried off his wife Sītā to Lankāpura. He then returned to Oudh with Sītā. According to the Rājāvaliya, one of the Sinhalese historical works, the date of this event was 1844 years before Gōtama Buddha entered on his mission, that is, about 2370 B.C.
Although he had promised to do it, Rāma did not exterminate the Rakshasas. Vibhisana, the younger brother of Rāvana, a good and devout worshipper of Vishnu, who had joined Rama's forces in the war against the Rakshasas, was appointed the sovereign of the survivors in Ceylon, in the place of Rāvana; and there the story ends so far as it concerns Ceylon. The Rakshasas also vanish from history, with the exception of an occasional appearance of a fever- or ophthalmia-causing demon who is termed
Rakshasa in the Sinhalese chronicles. They are found, however, in early times and down to the present day in the folkstories of the villagers, both in India and Ceylon. In Ceylon they have degenerated into mere man-eating ogres of the European Jack-and-the-Beanstalk type,1 who are much more powerful than the Yakshas-according to one story four Yakshas took to
FIG. 6. A Modern Rakshasa. (After a Native Painting.)
1 The reader may remember the striking description of one in the Third Voyage of Sindbad the Seaman :-' A huge creature in the likeness of a man, black of colour, tall and big of bulk, as he were a great date-tree, with eyes like coals of fire and eye-teeth like boar's tusks and a vast big gape like the mouth of a well. Moreover, he had long loose lips like camels', hanging down upon his breast, and ears like two Jarms [a kind of barge] falling over his shoulder-blades and the nails of his hands were like the claws of a lion.'-Arabian Nights, Lady Burton's Ed., iii, p. 485.
flight when opposed by one Rakshasa-but are outwitted by clever girls and men. The Rig-Veda had already termed
Although there is nothing in this legend of the Rāmāyana to indicate that the composer of even the last section possessed more than the slightest knowledge of Ceylon, most of the geographical outlines referring to the island are accurately pourtrayed. He knew that Ceylon was an island near the southern coast of India, and tied to it, as it were, by a chain of islands or sandbanks. He was aware that the country was
about 100 leagues in length-the actual distance is about 266 miles and that there are mountains in the southern part of it. He had also learnt that on the side of the ancient highway leading from the end of Mannar to the southern districts, the traveller passed a hill termed Arishtha, the Ariṭṭha of the Pali histories of Ceylon, now called Ritigala, near the foot of which the high road certainly ran in historic times. The name Suvēla, which is also mentioned as that of a hill, cannot be identified as such, but may be a reference to the land round the town called Uruvēla. In the northern
1 The earliest Sinhalese history, the Dipavansa, p. 196, says that it is 32 yōjanas; at 8 miles per yōjana this is 272 miles.
part of the Kandian hill-country there are also three very conspicuous peaks on one of the higher mountains, when viewed from the northern low country, from which the idea of the mountain Trikūța may have been derived.
It is evident that before this knowledge of the interior of Ceylon could be available in India, the island must have been thoroughly explored by intelligent travellers. This could only be done in a settled and peaceable country such as we find under the Sinhalese kings, and there is no probability that it was ever feasible at an earlier period. As European scholars now agree, the whole account of the invasion of Ceylon by Rāma must therefore have been invented during historic times, and it thus becomes simply and purely a poetic fiction, an improvement of the original story without any basis whatever in fact. Even such a slight foundation for it as the spread of the Hindu religion, or Aryan civilisation, among the tribes of the south must be swept away so far as Ceylon is concerned, since the descendants of the original inhabitants of the island, the Vaeddas of the interior, have never adopted the worship of the Hindu gods, nor, until historic times, the civilisation of the Aryans.
We now come to the Sinhalese annals, and here we soon begin to feel our feet on firmer ground.1 Of these histories, the two most important ones are written in the Pāli language -the Dipavansa and the Mahāvansa. The former, which ends with the death of King Mahā-Sēna (277-304 A.D.), and appears to have been completed not later than the beginning of the fifth century A.D., and possibly nearly a century earlier, is believed by its translator, Dr. H. Oldenberg, to consist chiefly of extracts from histories or chronicles of much earlier date.
The Mahavansa was written at various times, and has been continued to the end of the eighteenth century. My references will be to the English translation made for the Ceylon Government by the late Mr. L. C. Wijesinhe. There is no doubt that the author of the first part of it was a Buddhist
1 The Rt. Rev. Dr. Caldwell termed the writers on the whole, the most truthful and accurate of oriental annalists.' (Dravidian Gram
mar, Introduction, p. 121.)