This is an impressionistic study of Ceylon in the yesteryears. My mployment in the Survey Department from 1910 to 1949, and other commitments thereafter, afforded me the opportunity of acquainting myself with the hinterlands and back-blocks Within Ceylon’s sea-girt bounds seldom ordinarily visited. Behind this, there lies a flood of pent up memories of curious and interesting ruins left by a remarkable civilization which has passed away and many types of rustic folk uncluttered by alien ideas or the artificiality of the urban and town dweller.
It is the fables, traditions and history of this past civilization which I have used as my backdrop in the pages Which follow. I do so, the better to focus and help the reader to understand the patriarchal characters who have piled their story on this stage beginning perhaps near on 2500 years ago.
I have spent many and many a night in the environs of the sites of ruined cities, or in far-flung Isolated village settlements both in the sprawling mass of law-country jungles and in the rifts of montane forests, sheltered by a Wellisden canvas tent or the thatched roof of a primitive circuit bungalow. On some occasions it was a rock-cave, far from habitation, which performed similar service.
In these circumstances, I had many opportunities Of coming into close contact with the cultures of the past, and of meeting the village pastoral folk, among them the aged story-teller and the temple recluse. Being in a position to converse in, and understand their language, I schooled myself from the earliest days of my roving Outdoor vocation as Opportunity offered, to study the respective characteristics, the customs, habits and beliefs of the many types Of people I met, who still were heirs Of a legacy of the past which had been handed down from generation to generation by word of mouth.
The sixty years Of travel which have built up memories, call to mind also many changes brought into being on the face Of the country and the minds Of these rustic traditional people. I have seen the upcountry mountain Zone which much earlier had been stripped Of fort-st cover and commercialized—first to grow coffee. then tea—surrender to the growing Of more tea. Even more vividly do I recall how thousands of acres of the midcountry zone sealed Off by unroaded forests, made way for rubber. Where a few decades earlier I canoed up the higher of rivers in the Kalutara district to survey the lands for rubber clearings I saw macadam roads, along which the motor Car now speeds, break trail.