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Title: The Pearl of India

Author: Maturin M. Ballou

Release Date: April 8, 2010 [EBook #31923]

Language: English


Produced by Sankar Viswanathan, Julia Miller, and the
Online Distributed Proofreading Team at
(This file was produced from images generously made
available by The Internet Archive/American Libraries.)






From India and the Golden Chersonese,
And utmost Indian Isle Taprobanes.










Copyright, 1894, By MATURIN M. BALLOU.


That many readers evince a growing satisfaction in contemplating foreign lands through the eyes of experienced travelers, the favor shown to previous books by the author of these pages abundantly testifies. Mutual profit is therefore the outcome of such a work; both the author and reader are gratified.

It is a pleasure to depict scenes which have afforded so much gratification to the writer, for enjoyment is redoubled by being shared,—"joy was born a twin." The undersigned has often been asked both personally and by letter, "Of all the places you have seen and written about, which do you consider of the most interest, and which do you recommend me to visit?" This is a very difficult question to answer, because individual tastes differ so widely. It is safe to say no point presents more varied attractions to the observant traveler, more thoroughly and picturesquely exhibits equatorial life, or addresses itself more directly to the delicate appreciation of the artist, botanist, antiquarian, general scientist, and sportsman, than does Ceylon, gem of the Orient. There are few attractive places in the East which are so accessible, or which may be said to offer more reasonable assurance of safety and good health to the stranger, than this fabled isle of Arabian story. The climate is equable and most delightful; though the temperature is exceptionally high, it is, in fact, perpetual summer, varied only by the rains of the monsoon months of May and June, October and November. The tropical heat near the coast is trying to northern visitors, but one can always find a refuge, within a day's journey, up in the hills of the central province, where it is so cool at most seasons of the year as to render a fire necessary after sunset. In the matter of expense, this route is as economical as the average of land and sea travel in any direction. The cost of living in Ceylon is quite as moderate as in Southern Europe, and now that the island is so generally traversed by railways and excellent government roads, there is very little hardship to be encountered in visiting its remotest districts.

M. M. B.

CONTENTS. CHAPTER I. Introductory.—Coming from the Eastward.—Interesting Ocean Phenomena.—Denizens of the Sea.—Bird Travelers.—Delusive Mirage.—A Thrilling Adventure.—Prompt Seamanship.—A Struggle for Life.—Dust of the Sea.—A Dangerous Wreck.—Night Watches.—Sighting the Island of Ceylon.—Adam's Peak, among the Clouds.—A Beautiful Shore.—Steamers and Sailing Ships.—Curious Native Boats.—Singhalese Pedlers.—A Catamaran.—Tempting of Providence.—An Author's Position     1 CHAPTER II. A Classic Island.—Topographical Position.—Maldive Islands.—Lands rising out of the Sea.—Size of Ceylon.—Latitude and Longitude.—A Link of a Powerful Chain.—Important British Station.—"Mountain of the Holy Foot."—Remarkable Mountain View.—Queer Speculations.—Insect Life in the Island.—Acknowledged Gem of the Orient.—Wild Elephants.—In Olden Times.—Far-Reaching Historic Connections.—Arboreal and Floral Beauties.—Perennial Vegetation.—The Feathered Tribe     19 CHAPTER III. The Wearisome Tropics.—Waterspouts.—Climatic Conditions.—Length of Days.—A Land Rich in Prehistoric Monuments.—History and Fable.—Last King of Ceylon.—Ancient Ruins.—Aged Cave-Temples.—Gigantic Stone Statue of Buddha.—French Vandals—A Native Chronicle.—Once the Seat of a Great Empire.—System of Irrigation.—Mysterious Disappearance of a Nation.—Ruins of a Vast City.—Departed Glory.—The Brazen Palace.—Asiatic Extravagance.—Ruined Monument     44 CHAPTER IV. Oriental Dagobas.—Ancient City of Pollonarua.—Laid out like our Modern Capitals.—Unexplored Ruins.—Elaborate Stone Carvings.—Colossal Stone Figure.—The "Buried Cities."—The Singhalese not a Progressive People.—Modern History of Ceylon.—Captured by the English.—The "Resplendent Island."—Commercial Prosperity.—Increasing Foreign Population.—Under English Rule.—Native Soldiers.—Christian Sects and Churches.—Roman Catholic Church.—Expulsion of the Jesuits     71 CHAPTER V. Food of the People.—Rice Cultivation.—Vast Artificial Lakes.—The Stone Tanks of Aden.—Parched Australia.—Coffee Culture.—Severe Reverses among Planters.—Tea Culture.—Cinchona Plantations.—Heavy Exportation of Tea.—Cacao Culture.—A Coffee Plantation described.—Domesticated Snakes.—The Cinnamon-Tree.—Cinnamon Gardens a Disappointment.—Picturesque Dwellings.—Forest Lands.—The Ceylon Jungle.—Native Cabinet Woods.—Night in a Tropical Forest.—Rhododendrons     89 CHAPTER VI. Arboreal King of the Forest.—The Palm Family.—Over-Generous Nature and her Liberal Provisions.—Product of the Cocoanut-Tree.—The Wide-Spreading Banian.—Excellent Public Roads.—Aquatic Birds and Plants.—Native Fruit Trees.—The Mangosteen.—Spice-Bearing Trees.—Treatment of Women.—Singhalese Rural Life.—Physical Character of Tamil Men.—Tree Climbing.—Native Children.—Numerical Relation of the Sexes.—Caste as respected in Ceylon.—Tattooing the Human Body     112 CHAPTER VII. Experiences between Colombo and Point de Galle.—Dangers of Encountering Reptiles.—Marvelous Ant Houses.—Insect Architects.—Curious Bird's Nests.—Flamingoes at Rest.—Variety of the Crane Family.—Wild Pea-Fowls.—Buddha's Prohibition.—Peculiar Wood-Notes.—Mingling of Fruit and Timber Trees.—Fatal Parasitic Vines.—Stillness of the Forest.—Superstitions of the Natives.—Snake Bites.—Railway Facilities     131 CHAPTER VIII. Colombo, Capital of Ceylon.—Harbor Facilities.—The Breakwater.—Exposed to Epidemics.—Experiences on Landing.—Hump-Backed Cattle.—Grand Oriental Hotel.—Singhalese Waiters.—Galle Face Hotel.—An Unusual Scene.—Number of Inhabitants.—Black Town the Native Quarters.—Domestic Scenes.—Monkeys.—Evil Odors.—Humble Homes.—The Banana-Tree.—Native Temples and Priestly Customs.—Vegetables and Fruits.—Woman's Instinct.—Street Scenes in the Pettah.—Fish Market     144 CHAPTER IX. The English Part of Colombo.—Army Reserves.—Ceylon an Independent Colony.—"A Paternal Despotism."—Educational Facilities.—Buddhism versus Christianity.—Public Buildings.—The Museum.—Domestic Dwellings.—Suburb of Colpetty.—The Lake of Colombo.—A Popular Driveway.—A Sunset Scene.—Excursion to the Kalani Temple.—The Jinrikisha.—Current Diseases.—Native Jugglers.—Hypnotism.—Houdin, the French Magician, astonishes the Natives.—The Thieving Crows     166 CHAPTER X. Birds on the Rampage.—Familiar Nuisances.—Silver-Spoon Thieves.—Doctrine of Metempsychosis.—Various Nationalities forming the Population.—Common Languages.—Tamils are the Wage-Earners.—The Singhalese Proper are Agriculturists.—Queer Belief in Demons.—Propitiation!—The Veddahs.—Attacking Wild Elephants.—Serpent Worship.—Polyandry.—Native Singhalese Women.—Dress of Both Sexes.—Streets of Colombo on a Gala Day.—An English Four-in-Hand.—Mount Lavonia     186 CHAPTER XI. The Ancient Capital of Kandy.—An Artificial Lake.—The Great River of Ceylon.—Site of the Capital of the Central Province.—On the Way from Colombo to Kandy.—The Tiny Musk-Deer.—The Wild Boar.—Native Cabins.—From the Railway Car Windows.—The Lotus.—Destructive White Ants and their Enemies.—Wild Animals.—The Mother of Twins.—A Little Waif.—A Zigzag Railway.—An Expensive Road to build.—"Sensation Rock" with an Evil History.—Grand Alpine Scenery     206 CHAPTER XII. Historical Kandy.—Importance of Good Roads.—Native Population.—Temple of Buddha's Tooth.—The Old Palace.—Governor's House.—Great Resort of Pilgrims.—Interior of the Temple.—The Humbug of Relics.—Priests of the Yellow Robe.—A Sacred Bo-Tree.—Diabolical Services in the Ancient Temple.—Regular Heathen Powwow.—Singhalese Music.—Emulating Midnight Tomcats.—Chronic Beggary.—The Old Parisian Woman with Wooden Legs.—A Buddhist Rock-Temple     225 CHAPTER XIII. Ceylon the Mecca of Buddhism.—The Drives about Kandy.—Fruit of the Cashew.—Domestic Prison of Arabi Pasha.—"Egypt for the Egyptians."—Hillside Bungalows.—Kandy Hotels at a Discount.—The Famous Botanical Garden of Ceylon.—India-Rubber-Trees, Bamboos, and Flying Foxes.—Dangerous Reptiles in the Garden.—The Boa Constrictor.—Success of Peruvian-Bark Raising.—Vicious Land Leeches.—The Burrowing and Tormenting Tick.—Where Sugar comes from in Ceylon     241 CHAPTER XIV. Fifty Miles into Central Ceylon.—Gorgeous Scenic Effects.—Gampola.—The Singhalese Saratoga.—A Grand Waterfall.—Haunts of the Wild Elephants.—Something about these Huge Beasts.—European Hunters restricted.—An Indian Experience.—Elephants as Farm Laborers in Place of Oxen.—Tame Elephants as Decoys.—Elephant Taming.—Highest Mountain on the Island.—Pilgrims who ascend Adam's Peak.—Nuera-Ellia as a Sanitarium.—A Hill Garden     258 CHAPTER XV. Port of Trincomalee.—A Remarkable Harbor.—How to get there.—Nelson's Eulogium.—Curious and Beautiful Shells.—Pearl Oysters.—Process of Pearl Fishing.—What are Pearls and which are most valued?—Profit to Government.—A Remarkable Pearl.—Tippo Sahib and Cleopatra.—The Singhalese not Sailors.—Ancient Ruins,—Hot Springs near Trincomalee.—"Temple of a Thousand Columns."—Valuable Supply of Ship Timber.—Salt Manufactures.—Tenacity of Life in the Shark     272 CHAPTER XVI. Point de Galle.—An Ancient Port, now mostly deserted.—Dangerous Harbor.—Environs of the City a Tropical Garden.—Paradise of Ferns and Orchids.—Neptune's Gardens.—Tides of the Ocean.—Severe Penalties.—Floating Islands of Seaweed.—Fable, like History, repeats itself.—Chewing the Betelnut.—An Asiatic Habit.—All Nations seek Some Stimulant.—Soil near Galle.—Cinnamon Stones.—Diamonds.—Workers in Tortoise-Shell.—Millions of Fruitful Palms.—Sanitary Conditions of Galle     292 CHAPTER XVII. Dondra Head.—"The City of the Gods."—A Vast Temple.—A Statue of Solid Gold.—A Famous Rock-Temple.—Buddhist Monastery.—Caltura and its Distilleries.—Edible Bird's Nests.—Basket-Making.—The Kaluganga.—Cinnamon Gardens.—"The City of Gems."—A Magnificent Ruby.—The True Cat's-Eye.—Vast Riches hidden in the Mountains.—Plumbago Mining.—Iron Ore.—Kaolin.—Gem Cutting.—Native Swindlers.—Demoralizing Effect of Gem Digging     307 CHAPTER XVIII. Circumnavigating the Island.—Batticaloa, Capital of the Eastern Province.—Rice Culture.—Fish Shooting.—Point Pedro.—Jaffna.—Northern Province.—Oriental Bazaars.—Milk ignored.—The Clear Sea and White, Sandy Bottom.—American Missionaries.—A Medical Bureau.—Self-Respect a Lost Virtue.—Snake-Temples.—Ramisseram.—Adam's Bridge.—A Huge Hindu Temple.—Island of Manaar.—Aripo.—The Port of Negombo.—Tamil Coolies.—Homeward Bound.—A Farewell View     323


Introductory.—Coming from the Eastward.—Interesting Ocean Phenomena.—Denizens of the Sea.—Bird Travelers.—Delusive Mirage.—A Thrilling Adventure.—Prompt Seamanship.—A Struggle for Life.—Dust of the Sea.—A Dangerous Wreck.—Night Watches.—Sighting the Island of Ceylon.—Adam's Peak, among the Clouds.—A Beautiful Shore.—Steamers and Sailing Ships.—Curious Native Boats.—Singhalese Pedlers.—A Catamaran.—Tempting of Providence.—An Author's Position.

After a pleasant sojourn in China and Japan, with Ceylon as his objective point, the author came westward by way of the Malacca Straits, crossing the Indian Ocean on a line of about the eighth degree of north latitude. It is a lonely expanse of water, in traversing which plenty of time was found for meditation. The equatorial rains, though brief, were at times so profuse during the voyage as to suggest the possibility of a second universal flood, and also the advantage which might accrue from being web-footed; but the air was mostly soft and balmy, the nights were gloriously serene and bright. The transparency of the atmosphere magnified to dazzling proportions the constellations which looked down so serenely upon us, while the moon seemed to have taken a position vastly nearer to the earth than is its wont at the north. The phosphorescent waves tossed glowing gems, like fire-opals, about the ship's hull, while setting our long wake ablaze with flashing light, and producing a Milky Way as luminous as that above in the blue ether. All phosphorescent matter requires friction to infuse it with light, and so the thoroughly impregnated waters were churned into liquid fire by our vigorous and swift-revolving propeller. What millions upon millions of animalcules, and these again multiplied, must contribute to produce this aquatic illumination. During the day, large turtles, schools of dolphins, flying-fish, occasional water snakes, together with whole shoals of jelly-fish, were encountered on the widespread tropical sea. At times, myriads of the fairy-like nautilus floated past in gossamer frames, while in savage contrast, voracious man-eating sharks followed the ship close upon either quarter, in eager watchfulness for human prey. How terribly significant is the upright dorsal fin of this creature, seen just above the surface of the water, indicating the hideous, slate-colored body which glides swiftly and stealthily below!

Hovering over and about the tall masts upon untiring pinions, a score of white-winged, graceful marine birds persistently kept us company day after day. They joined the ship off the coast of Sumatra, as we left the entrance to the Malacca Straits, introducing themselves at first with noisy vehemence and piercing cries, as if to assert their presence and purpose, a proceeding which was not again repeated. What became of these handsome feathered creatures at night we never knew, and it was found that the oldest seaman was equally ignorant. If they slept upon the waves, they

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