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pretty sharply the massive elbow beside me to test its truth, when the priest raised a cry of horror at my temerity, and seizing my arm, would have put me from the sacred edifice ; I, of course at once apologized for my want of thought, as I was far from intending to wound his feelings, and I soon found that a few rupees, added to my explanation, made matters perfectly satisfactory. I had the pleasure of assuring myself by my profanation, however, that the image actually is of stone, and that there is no deception about the matter. Besides these two statues—the colossal one of Buddha, and the smaller one of Vishnu, there are four others of the Maghadie prophet, of about the natural size, and of the kind so common in all the wihares of the island.
Leaving the Maha-Deva-Devale, and proceeding to the westward, the visitor ascends a few steps, and finds himself in front of the Maha Wihare or Great Temple, by far the largest of the five. In front of the Maha Wihare, or as Major Forbes calls it, the Maha raja Wihare, the temple of the great king, and near the small wall that borders the steep side of the mountain, rises the Bo-tree, from beneath which a view of the exterior of the second, third, fourth and fifth caves may be obtained. The accompanying sketch, imperfect as it is, may afford some idea of their appearance. To the right the first temple stretches in a line with the second, but hid by intervening trees; and to the extreme left are seen the two smaller and more recently excavated caves, forming an angle with the others. The projecting inclosure to the left, of which two walls are seen, represents the tank, which it will be perceived is laid down in the ground plan. Immediately above both entrances to the Maha Wihare, marks of the wedges with which the rock was split are very apparent--evidences of the labour employed in the construction of the caves.
On the massive doors and small windows of the Maha Wihare being opened, the visitor sees before him a large spacious apartment, the floor of which, that is, the rock beneath him, is quite level, whilst the roof gradually descends from the entrance to the further side, being twentyone feet high near the front wall and only four at the opposite quarter. Immediately in front of him (supposing him standing at the door) he
a line of statues representing Buddha, either in the standing or sitting posture--some plain, others ornamented with an arch like canopy surrounding his figure. On his right hand the same line conti
nues uninterrupted, making a right angle with the former one, but on the left, where a similar line also extends, his view is intercepted by a well proportioned dagobah, the top of which touches the roof above. The sketch beneath may give some idea of its proportions.
The Maha Wihare is upwards of one hundred and seventy feet long by seventy-five feet broad, and contains within its spacions dimensions forty-six images of the prophet god, none of them being smaller, and the majority much larger than life. Besides these, which stretch in the manner described round the cave forming three sides of a parallelogram, there are also statues of Walagambohu and Kirti Nissanga, the two great benefactors to the caves--the former the excavator of the first and second caves (the Maha-Deva-Devale and the Maha Wihare), the latter the embellisher of the “great temple," and the excavator of the third. Kirti Nissanga appears also to have been the restorer of the first two caves to their original condition after they had been pillaged and defaced by the Malabars. In one corner of the Maha Wihare there is a depression in the floor of the cave, about two feet deep, into which water is continually dropping from the rock above. This water is considered sacred, and is used only for sacred purposes. A few young cocoanut trees in jars are placed around it, which present a yellowish, sickly appearance from the want of light.
One can hardly walk through the spacious cavity of the Maha Wihare without feeling involuntary awe at his situation. The great size of the cave itself, the strange echoing of his footsteps, number of gloomy and shadowy statues with which he is surrounded, the gentle dropping of the water in the distant corner, the noiseless tread of the yellow-robed priest who attends him, with the death-like stillness that pervades all around, are calculated to impress upon him a kind of religious or superstitious awe of which he may in vain endeavour to divest himself.
The entire of the roof of the Maha Wihare is covered with cloth, on which are represented countless images of Buddhu with a few attempts at historical painting. The latter I consider much poorer than Major Forbes' description* led me to expect.
I could not perceive any superiority in them to the various Ceylonese paintings I have seen in other parts of the island. In painting, the ancient Ceylonese seem to have been very imperfect, and although we occasionally find a correct
* Vol. I. page 371.
outline or a well proportioned figure, we seldom see a group represented without some absurdities that violate all our notions of congruity. I had formerly considered the Ceylonese attempts at painting as about equal to their musical performances, and I saw nothing at Dambool to make me alter my opinion. We see there kings praying at the Ruanwelle dagobah in Anuradhapura, (which was originally 270 feet high, and stood on a square mass of building 2000 feet in circumference,) whose bodies are represented as being larger than the dagobah itself, and whose towering crests overtop the building before which they bow. Again, in an attempt to delineate the landing of Wijeya, we have a ship sailing on an ocean filled with fish as large and larger than the vessel itself, and into whose enormous mouths, had the animals but held them open, the luckless adventurer with all his crew might have passed unwittingly until he should find out the difference between a fish's stomach, and the throne which he doubtless dreamt of in Ceylon. Nor is the attempt to delineate the combat between Dutu-Gaimono and Ellala, the Malabar invader, which occurred in the second century before Christ, much more successful as a work of art—the dart which the usurper hurls at his aspiring adversary being in proportion to the monarch’s body what the maintop-mast of a vessel of 500 tons would be to one of us. But if these paintings are ridiculous in an artistic point of view, they are, on the other hand, extremely valuable as confirmations of the ancient history of Ceylon. If such an invader as Wijeya never landed on its shores, whence came the record of his expedition contained in the Mahawanso, the Poojavalli, the Neekasanga, the Raja Ratnacari, and the Rajavali, or if these be all fictitious whence came the paintings on the rock of Dambool, with the tradition connecting the name of Wijeya with it. And so of all the rest. Yet though the proofs of the truth of that history are scattered all around us in the island, more especially in the region round Dambool and Anuradhapura, there are those in the island itself who laugh at these tales, as old wives' fables," and there are pretended savans in England who would reject them also, because they never heard of them before, and therefore will not take the trouble to investigate them.
On leaving the Maha Wihare the visitor finds little in the three remaining caves to excite his wonder or admiration. They are so inferior in size, and in the execution of the works of art which they
contain, as to excite little but contempt for them after having seen the great oue. They may be taken as emblematic of the power of the various monarchs who formed them, and of the state of Ceylon at the period of their excavation—the second formed about 100 B. C. infinitely superior to the third, which was excavated in the twelfth century after our era ; the third surpassing the fourth, which was constructed in 1750, and the fourth surpassing the fifth, which is still more recent. I shall therefore content myself with mentioning their contents, leaving the rest to your imagination.
The third is styled the passpilame or western wihare, and contains in addition to fifty images of Buddha of all sizes, a statue of Kirti Sree Rajah, who reigned about the middle of the last century—the last Ceylonese sovereign by whose exertions the caves of Dambool were embellished or enlarged. Although there is a greater number of figures in this cave than in any other, yet from its small size in comparison with the second, they do not produce any remarkable effect. The passpilame wihare is seventy-eight feet long, and varies in breadth from thirty to sixty feet. The fourth and fifth caves are called the altith or new wihares, in reference to their age, being, as I have before remarked, much more recent than any of the others. The fourth was constructed by the monarch last named, Kirti Sree; the fifth by a Kandian noble in the latter part of the last century. The first of these is forty-two feet long by thirty broad, and projects about fifteen feet in front of those formerly mentioned; it contains ten images of Buddha. The last is also about forty feet long by twenty broad, and contains a gigantic image of Buddha in the reclining posture, nearly twelve yards long. Besides this there are in the same cave eleven other statues of smaller dimensions.
Such are the five cave-temples of Dambool, lasting monuments of mistaken zeal and wasted labour-evidences of the religious devotion of those who excavated them, and evidences also of the implicit reliance once placed by the natives of Ceylon in the faith of the prophet of Maghada ; but that faith is now on the wane--nay, its light is nearly extinguished, and but a solitary pilgrim or a prying antiquarian is now found to resort to those temples where thousands formerly worshipped and where kings once prostrated themselves.
It may not be out of place if I add to these notes that about twelve
miles from Dambool, on the road to Anuradhapura, or rather to the eastern side of the road, I accidentaly met the ruins of an ancient native road, which tradition asserts once united Pollonnaruwa with a dagobah in the vicinity. A bridge of massive granite over a rivulet, now dry, first attracted my attention. It was composed of upright blocks of granite about eight feet long, supporting other horizontal blocks about four feet broad, seven feet long and a foot thick. On each side of this bridge the road might be traced for a considerable distance by its elevation above the plain around. The new road to Anuradhapura cuts through it, and on each side it presents of course merely the appearance of an ordinary mound of earth.
Some further Notice of the Species of Wild Sheep, by ED. BLYTH,
Curator of the Asiatic Society, &c. &c.
“No great while ago," writes Mr. Hodgson, (J. A. S. XV, 342,) “only two or three species of wild Sheep were recognised by men of science. But Mr. Blyth has, all at once, produced a splendid cornucopia of species, founding many of them, however, upon an inspection of the horns solely. I question the possibility of so establishing species or genera in this group; and, as a proof of the necessity of examining carefully the entire structure of the animals, I need merely refer to Mr. Blyth's signal error, already adverted to, in reference to the organization of Capra or the domestic Goat, and to an oversight equally important to be mentioned presently."
The "signal error" adverted to has not, however, been yet set right by Mr. Hodgson. It is true that I did follow my predecessors in stating that the Goats are devoid of the suborbital and interdigital pores which occur in the Sheep; and I have since stated (in XV, 154,) that the absence of the interdigital sinus affords an easy method of distinguishing a leg of goat mutton from one of mouton proprement dit. But Mr. Hodgson states (XV, 337), that “Goats have interdigital, though not lachrymary, pores; and consequently Mr. Blyth's suggested gen:'s Ammotragus is based on misconception, though accidentally true to nature, at least in my view of her, and without reference to systems.