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N the last thirty years our acquaintance with the interior
of Ceylon, a country four-fifths of the size of Ireland, has made great advances. The researches of members of various Government Departments have extended throughout the whole island, until it may now be said that there is no part of it which has not been investigated.
During this period, however, little new information regarding it has been published in England otherwise than in the Journals of various Societies, with the exception of some excellent studies of its natural history; a work by Professor Rhys Davids on the Ancient Coins and Measures; and two books prepared for the Government, one by Mr. Smither, the former Government Architect, containing an architectural description of the dāgabas at Anuradhapura, and the other, by Dr. Edward Müller, giving a first account of the ancient inscriptions.
Evidently the time has arrived when part of the other recently obtained knowledge of the country should be presented to the world. My employment in the Irrigation Department from the middle of 1873 to the end of 1904 having given me opportunities of acquiring some information of the interior of the island, I have therefore prepared the present work, which describes some phases of the early civilisation, beginning with the history, life, and religion of the aborigines, and ending, as regards local matters, with the village games. Although the subjects included in it are dealt with in a disconnected manner, it will be seen that they advance from the primitive stages to more recent times.
The character of such a work must naturally render it more useful to students of the subjects treated of than attractive to the general public. For this reason it has been my en
deavour as far as possible to furnish accurate and detailed information rather than generalities among which the student might search in vain for the particulars he requires. I may be permitted to express a hope that my critics will deal leniently with the errors which must be inseparable from such a publication.
In transliterations I have followed Dr. E. Müller in indicating by a the vowel which appears as e in publications of the Ceylon Government. The form accepted by me, when pronounced as a diphthong as in the Oxford Dictionary, both gives the sound of the letter and is historically accurate, the letter having been in most cases derived from an ancient a.
The consonant which is often expressed by v has been represented by either v or w, so as to be in general agreement with its local sound. In Ceylon it is a w, and any one who pronounced it otherwise in nearly all words would make himself ridiculous. In the case of Pali words, especially the names of places and books, I have used only the letter v, in order to avoid confusion through being in disagreement with other works. I adhere in general to the Pali forms of names.
I have to express my obligations to the Secretary of State for the Colonies for his readily granted authorisation to reproduce some of Mr. Smither's drawings of the dāgabas; and to my friends Mr. H. T. S. Ward, the recent Director of Irrigation, and Mr. H. C. P. Bell, the Archæological Commissioner, the former for permission to copy and utilise the drawings of irrigation works in his office, and the latter for allowing me to include in this work a description of some early coins in the possession of the Ceylon Government, without which the account of the first local coinage would have been incomplete.
In the various chapters in which it has been utilised I have acknowledged the information furnished by several kind friends in Ceylon, and by Mr. C. H. Read of the British Museum and Dr. C. G. Seligmann, to all of whom it is a small return to tender my grateful thanks.
Messrs. H. B. Andris and Co. of Kandy were so good as to bring about the publication of a Sinhalese work on the Ko
homba Yakā in order that it might be available for me, and to the kindness of Mr. H. W. Codrington, of the Civil Service, I am indebted for native accounts of this deity compiled in various provinces. To my friend the late Dr. Paul Goldschmidt I owe my interest in the early inscriptions.
With regard to the scales of the drawings, which are usually expressed in fractions, the denominator divided by twelve gives the number of feet equal to one inch.
Through an inadvertence the word Vyadha appears in some places as Vyāda.