Ceylon, an island in the Indian ocean, belonging to Great Britain, between 50 and GO m. from the S. extremity of Hindostan. It is separated from the mainland by the gulf of Manaar and Palk strait. Its limits extend between lat. 5° 55' and 9° 51'. N., and lon. 79° 52' and 81° 55' E. It is oval, nearly pear-shaped, extending in length N. and S.; is 266 m. long; greatest breadth 140 1/2 m., average breadth about 100 m.; area, 24,705 sq. m.; pop. in 1871, 2,405,287. On the N. W. its shores are low and sandy, and a succession of bold rocks, stretching across the gulf of Manaar, together with the holy island of Ramisseram, nearly connect it with the mainland. From its position and geological character, Ceylon appears to have been once part of the mainland. The straits which separate the island from it are navigable only for small vessels. The main western channel has been widened and deepened by the British government, and is now traversed by vessels of 300 tons, thus much facilitating the coasting trade, and materially shortening the voyages between the Malabar and Coromandel coasts. The W. and S. coasts are low, much indented, and lined with cocoanut and other palms. Numerous small harbors are found along this shore.
The E. coast, from Matura to Trincomalee, is an arid but bold and precipitous shore. On these sides the line of coast is of varying depth, from 30 to 80 m., surrounding the mountain ranges which form the centre of the island. The N. shore is a vast arid and sandy plain, teeming with swamps and jungle. The pearl oyster banks are on the W. coast, and when the fisheries are opened, vast but temporary towns are suddenly formed and as suddenly abandoned, by pearl fishers and speculators in pearls. The island possesses two excellent harbors, Trincomalee on the N. E. and Point de Galleon the S. coast. Colombo, the capital, on the W. coast, has but an open roadstead; and Point de Galle is the principal port of the island. There are several smaller harbors, suitable for coasting vessels. The roads of Colombo afford safe but stormy anchorage; hut at particular seasons, especially June and October, communication with the shore is difficult and hazardous. Other harbors are Batticaloa, Matura, and Caltura on the E. and S., and Negambo, Chilaro, Calpentyn, Manaar, and Point Pedro on the W. and N. W. coasts.
There are numerous small islets along the coasts, and two considerable peninsulas, Jaffnapatam on the N. W. and Calpentyn on the W. - The mountain ranges of Ceylon rise in the centre of the southern or broader part of the island. The general direction of the chief ranges is from X. to S.; but several ranges branch off in various directions. Several peaks or summits rise to a great height. Pedrotal-lagalla, an abrupt peak, the highest on the island, is 8,280 ft. high, and Adam's peak, 7,420. The greater part of the fertile and highly cultivated hillside country ranges between 2.000 and 4,000 ft. high. The plain of Newera Ellia, the sanatarium of the island, is at an elevation of G,210 ft. Candy, the capital of the central province, and former capital of the independent kingdom, is 1,078 ft. above the sea. Adam's peak is the most remarkable summit on the island. It is resorted to by Mohammedan and Buddhist pilgrims, being one of their holy places. (See Adam's Peak.) - The island has numerous small rivers and brooks, but no considerable streams. Few are navigable for more than a few miles from their mouths. The chief is the Mahavelli Gunga. which rises in the southern highlands, flows N., and empties into the bay of Trincomalee; it is nearly 200 m. long.
The next, the Kalani Gunga, has its source at the foot of Adam's peak, and falls into the sea near Colombo. There arc no lakes of importance in the interior, but several extensive lagoons on the E. coast. Some of these are connected by canals and natural streams, and are used for purposes of commerce. Artificial lakes, the relics of native undertakings of former days, are found. One is still in good condition, and serves to irrigate a large district between Candy and Trincomalee. It is 20 m. in circumference, and its waters are imprisoned in the valley which contains them by a vast embankment 60 ft. wide at top. Another, now in ruins, appears to have been kept in bounds by a wall of masonry 12 m. long and 160 ft. thick. These collections of water were formed by damming the natural outlets of the mountain streams at the mouths of extensive valleys. They were of great service to the country when more densely populated and thoroughly cultivated than now. - A belt of gray and black sandstone and coral formations nearly encompasses the island. The rocks of the interior are mostly primitive, consisting of granite, gneiss, large veins of quartz, etc. limestone occurs only in Jaffnapatam and the northern districts. The surface soil is mostly sandy.
The soil of the cinnamon plantations near Colombo is perfectly white, and consists of pure quartz. Ores of iron, lead, tin, and manganese are found in the interior. Plumbago of excellent quality occurs. Quicksilver mines exist, and were formerly worked by the Dutch. The most valuable gems are the ruby, sapphire, amethyst, cat's-eye, and carbuncle. Cinnamon stones and garnets exist in great plenty. Iron ore is worked up by the Cingalese in a rude way, but with considerable success, the iron being equal in temper to the best Swedish. Salt, which is found in beds, is a monopoly of the government and affords a considerable revenue. - The climate of Ceylon differs little from that of the neighboring part of India; but the island is much healthier than any portion of southern India. The N. E. and S. W. monsoons mark the changes of the seasons, which occur on the seacoasts in May or June and October or November, bringing with them heavy thunder storms. The highest temperature at Colombo is about 87°; on the coffee estates it is stated at between 50° and 80°; and in the high valley of Newera Ellia, during January and February, the mercury falls as low as 31°. The prevailing diseases of the country are cholera, dysentery, and fevers.
Elephantiasis is a disease peculiar to the natives. The beriberi (hydrops asthmaticus) is another disease nearly peculiar to the island. - The zoology of Ceylon bears a general resemblance to that of the adjoining mainland. The elephants are of a less tractable species than those of India and Africa. They exist in great numbers in the interior, and commit frequent ravages upon the native fields. They are often trapped in vast kraals, into which they are driven by a great assemblage of natives. Of late years English huntsmen have killed very many of them for sport. According to Sir J. E. Ten-nent, not one elephant in a hundred is found with tusks in Ceylon. Oxen of small size and buffaloes are used as draught animals. There are four species of deer and a great variety of monkeys, as well as the jackal, squirrel, porcupine, wild boar, bear, and one species of ant-eater. Leopards are met with, but they are not numerous and seldom attack man. Of birds there are all the varieties common to the tropics. There are several species of serpents, including the venomous tic polonga, the cobra de capello, and gigantic pythons, as well as ten species of tree snakes. Crocodiles .are found in the rivers, scorpions and huge spiders in the houses, and lizards in the woods.
Fish are of many varieties, and in great abundance, some of excellent quality for eating. - The vegetable products are numerous and valuable. There are 416 known varieties of valuable woods, of which 33 are used for house, furniture, and ship building. Among these are satinwood and ebony. The cocoanut palm is altogether the most useful tree to the natives. It grows readily without cultivation, is not limited to one soil, and every part of it is made use of by the Cingalese. The fruit, when green, supplies food and drink; when dry, oil; the sap is made into toddy and arrack; the fibrous husk furnishes ropes, nets, and matting; the nutshells form household utensils; the plaited leaves serve the same purpose, and also for thatch; the dried flower stalks serve as torches, and the large leaves as fences. The trees bear from 50 to 100 nuts per annum, and often grow so near the water's edge that the waves wash their roots. There are several other varieties of palms, one of which furnishes in its wide-spreading leaves the umbrella which is a notable article of Cingalese use. The fruit of the betelnut palm is exported.
Besides native fruits, which are not numerous, various European and Indian fruits have been introduced latterly under the auspices of English planters, who have formed an agricultural society. Cinnamon, which grows wild in the forests, is cultivated to a large extent, arrives at a high state of perfection, and has long been an important article of export. Its cultivation was formerly a government monopoly, but was thrown open to the public in 1833. When growing wild, the cinnamon plant attains a height of 20 to 30 ft.; cultivated, it is not allowed to grow so thriftily, the young shoots giving the finest bark. Coffee flourishes, and has latterly been the chief article exported to Great Britain. Rice, cotton, tobacco, and pepper are also cultivated. Breadfruit grows abundantly. The sugar cane does not succeed. There are two rice harvests annually, January to March, and August to October. - The population (exclusive of Europeans) consists of four classes: the native Cingalese; Moors, who are Mohammedans of Arab descent; Veddahs, a savage, perhaps aboriginal race, inhabiting the mountain fastnesses; and the Malabars and other Hindoos, who immigrated from the neighboring continent. The religion of Buddha is the dominant native creed. There are four great political castes, and 24 minor ones.
The Cingalese are singularly mild and inoffensive in their manners, and make very poor soldiers. Their genius seems to be for agriculture and for peace. Christianity was introduced in the 0th century, but subsequently died out, and was revived by the preaching of St. Francis Xavier in the 16th century. The mission was very successful; a Jesuit college was established, and the province of Jaffna became almost wholly Christian. The Dutch banished the Catholic priests and nuns, and gave employment to no unbaptized native; thus the population connected with the Dutch Reformed church rose to 425,000; but after the cession of Ceylon to Great Britain the Dutch church soon died out. The Roman Catholic church has at present two vicariates apostolic, Colombo and Jaffnapatam, with a membership of about 140,000, and about 260 churches. Protestant missions have been established by the church of England, which has a bishop at Colombo, by the English Wesley-ans and Baptists, and by the American Congre-gationalists. The aggregate membership of these churches is about 3,000. The missionary efforts of the Catholics and Protestants induced the Buddhists to form in 1860 a society to propagate the doctrines of Gautama by itinerant preaching, the press, and colportage. Education is making great progress.
There were in 1870 about 900 schools in the colony, attended by 30,000 pupils, of whom about 1,500 were girls. The schools are partly free public sehools supported by the government, and partly church schools established by the missionary societies, and aided by money grants from the governments. The most important government institutions are the Colombo academy, consisting of an upper and lower school, and a normal training school in the same city. - Ceylon is what is known as a crown colony, the English sovereign possessing, through the governor, direct control of the colonial legislation. It is divided into six provinces, which, with their population in 1871, are as follows: Western province, 776,930; Central, 494,626; Southern. 399,452; Northern, 340,169; Northwestern, 27(3,033; Eastern, 118,077. The government is administered by a governor (in 1873 William Henry Gregory, appointed in December, 1871), with an executive council of 5 and a legislative council of 15 members. All questions relating to the revenue of the island must receive the sanction of the governor before they can be debated in the legislative council.
In 1871 the revenue was £1,121,070; expenditure, £1,064,184. The public debt was £700,000. - The pearl fishery was long a source of annual income to inhabitants and government. After lying untouched from 1837 to 1855, the banks, which are situated off the western parts of the coast, have again yielded profitable returns. Pice is the staple grain. The cultivation of coffee dates only from 1834; the average production is from 6 to 9 cwt. per acre. In 1870 there were exported 921,-506 cwt. of plantation, and 132,524 cwt. of native coffee. The yield of cinnamon varies, according to the mode of cultivation, from 50 to 500 lbs. per acre; in 1870 there were exported 20,716 bales, of 100 lbs. each. The planting of the cocoanut palm, for the sake of the oil, has within a few years been successfully carried on by Europeans; in 1870, 13,566 cwt. of oil were exported. From Great Britain are imported cotton manufactures, hardware, glassware, metals, tools, beer, wine, etc.; from India, especially grain. The arrivals of vessels in the ports of Ceylon in 1868 were 3,257, of 614,947 tons; clearances, 3,182 vessels, of 631,-647 tons.
The value of exports in 1871 was £3,804,000 (to the United Kingdom, £2,633,-000), and of imports £4,634,000 (from the United Kingdom, £1,462,000). Both imports and exports have enormously increased since 1850, in which year the imports were only £1,488,000, and the exports £1,246,000. The increase of imports has been most considerable in grain; that of exports, in coffee. The banking business is conducted by branches of the Oriental bank of London and the Mercantile bank of Bombay, the former establishment possessing the privilege of issuing notes of 10s and upward. The foreign trade of Ceylon is carried on mainly by European firms, the native houses confining their transactions to British India, and the small native dealers, called clutters, to their connections with Madras and Bombay merchants. Great exertions are made for improving the public roads; in 1868 more than £230,000 were expended on them. Colombo and Candy have been since October, 1867, connected by railway, and nearly all the important places of the island by telegraph. - Ceylon was known to the Greeks and Romans under the name of Taprobane. Pliny relates that Onesicritus, a captain of Alexander the Great, first circumnavigated it, and thus discovered it to be an island.
Before this it was supposed to stretch indefinitely south. Se-rendib was a former name of the island. Zey-lan, of which Ceylon is a corruption, is said to be from zinbal, Hindostanee for lions. The Cingalese annals profess to contain a historical record of events for 24 centuries back. These, and the extensive ruins of ancient cities (see Pollanarrua), show that it was thickly settled by a people of energy and civilization, even at that remote period. An Indian conqueror is said to have introduced caste about 550 B. 0. The island was visited by traders at an early period, by Marco Polo in the 13th and by Sir John Mandeville in the 14th century. Dom Lorenzo Almeida, a Portuguese, visited it in 1505, and was hired by an annual payment of cinnamon to defend its shores against Arabian pirates, He found it divided into seven separate kingdoms. Through Almeida the Portuguese obtained footing upon the island, and held it for 150 years. Capt. Knox, an Englishman, fell into the hands of the Candians in the 17th century, and in 1081 published an interesting account of his 20 years' captivity.
In 1656 the Dutch expelled the Portuguese. In 1795-0 the British expelled the Dutch. The island at first belonged to the East India company, and was a part of the Madras presidency, but in 1802 reverted to the British crown. In 1815 the Candians, whose territory occupied the entire interior of the island, and who were independent of foreign rule, called upon the British to depose their tyrannous prince, thus offering a convenient opportunity for the annexation of this valuable territory. In 1817 an extensive rebellion was successfully put down. In 1843 and 1848 there were minor attempts at rebellion. - See Sir Samuel W. Baker's "Rifle and Hound in Ceylon" (London, 1853), and "Eight Years' Wanderings in Ceylon" (1855); Sir James Emerson Tennent's "Ceylon, an Account of the Island, Physical, Historical, and Topographical" (6th ed., 1804), and "Natural History of Ceylon" (1861); and Ransonnet, "Ceylon" (1808). (See Cingalese Language.)