Soldier on the March- Ancient Armies


From the occasional references in the histories, to the  weapons of the ancient Sinhalese, it can be gathered that the Sword and the Bow were the ordinary arms of the people, and were often carried by the chiefs and sovereigns, at any rate when they were engaged on warlike expeditions. When the Javelin or short throwing-Spear is added the list of primitive weapons mentioned separately by these authorities is nearly exhausted. Yet there is very good reason for believing that they possessed other arms even in early times, and the five weapons of war, which according to clough’s Dictionary were the Sword, Spear, Bow, battle-axe, and Shield, are once alluded to collectively in the Mahavansa.

Prince Wijaya, who became the first sovereign, is represented as being armed with both a sword and a bow when he landed in Ceylon (Mah., I, p. 32). A sword of state was also included among the presents sent by the Indian Emperor Asoka to Devanam-piya Tissa in the third century B.C., and we are told that this king carried a bow when hunting Sambar deer (Mah., I, p. 50).

In the second century BC., Phussadeva, one of the champions or generals of Duttha-Gamini, is described as being an extraordinarily expert archer, who shot , by a flash of lightning, or through a horse-hair, or a cart filled with sand, as well as through hides a hundred-fold thick ; through an Asoka plank eight inches, an Udumbara plank sixteen inches thick, as well as a plate of iron, too, and a plate of brass four inches thick , on land his arrow would fly the distance of eight usabhas and through water one usabha, (Mah. I, p. 92).An Usabha is 140 cubits, or about 204 feet.

In his fight with his brother Tissa, Duttha-Gamini is mentioned as using a javelin while on horse-back; Prince Tissa, who was mounted on an elephant, wore armour on this occasion, that is, in the first half of the second century B.C. (Mah., I,p. 94). In Duttha-Gamini’s battle with Elara the Tamil king, the Chiefs on both sides, who fought on foot, had swords and shields, while the two kings, who were on elephants, were armed with javelins( Mah,I, p. 99). In his battle with Elalra’s nephew Bhalluka, the same king, who was on an elephant, is described as guarding his mouth with the handle of his sword when Bhalluka threw a javelin at him. One of Duttha-Gamini’s chiefs, who was seated behind the king on the elephant, also carried a javelin, but later on it is termed an arrow (Mah., I, p. 100, 101). The chief was Pussadeva, this arrow  which killed Bhalluka awho commanded the army was covered with Kahapanas [Mahavansa- According to Arthasastra- he who kills a General is rewarded with 50,000 Kahapanas.]

An engraving on stone at Dakkinastupa Anuradhapura, showing an object been covered with coins in the shape of Silver Kahapanas of King Dutugemunu's period.

An engraving on stone at Dakkinastupa Anuradhapura, showing an object been covered with coins in the shape of Silver Kahapanas of King Dutugemunu’s period.

King Watta-Gemini is stated to have been armed with a bow while awaiting an opportunity to regain the throne, at the beginning of the first century BC. With the exception of the State Sword carried by an official who was termed the Sword Bearer, and who ranked as one of the Great Officers of State, as in India,  weapons are not again mentioned in the history until the twelfth century A.D., when we find Prince Parakrama-Bahu I described as being armed with a sword and shield; an attendant also bore an umbrella for him, and the General opposed to him was similarly provided with one. When the house occupied by the Prince was surrounded by the enemy at night, he is said to have wrapped himself in his blanket, and to have fought with his sword (Mah., II, p. 137). Also when he escaped from Polonaruwa at night he carried a shield and a sword with which he killed a bear that attacked him in the path (Mah., II, 143).He armed some of his men with swords, lances, darts, and other weapons of war, and we learn that one party of them also had clubs (Mah., II,p. 151). In these wars we read for the first time of chariots used in battle in Ceylon ; and the leader of the enemy’s troops went to battle in one instead of riding on an elephant according to the custom of earlier times (p. 187). The men wore armour that could not be pierced through’ Questions of King Milinda, p. 171 what this was is evident from references to coats of mail of buffalo hides(p.207), and coats wrought of iron and skins of deer to keep the sharp-pointed arrows from piercing them(p.231). Other kinds of protective covering were also employed, and some of the enemy were clad in ten kinds of armour (p. 165) .’Showers of arrows’ are mentioned; and stones without number hurled from engines flew about on every side (p. 186). In one fight ‘burning  javelins bound with chains’ are referred to. In the account of the Sinhalese invasion of Southern India during this king’s reign only swords and arrows are mentioned. When Ceylon was invaded by Malays in 1251 A.D., it is stated that poisoned arrows were used by the invaders; they were ‘shot quickly from engines’ (p. 282), which must have been cross-bows. But the Sinhalese, who were skilful marksmen, broke them in pieces with their sharp broad arrows’- like Rama in his wonderful battles with the Rakshasas. There is no indication of the use of poisoned arrows by the Sinhalese, nor are crossbows ever mentioned in the histories as employed by them, although they were used in captain Robert Knox’s time (seventeenth century). They were known in India in early times, and are mentioned in The Questions of King Milinda, p. 159 They do not appear in early Indian carvings. It is possible that the ‘engines’ by means of which stones were thrown were merely enlarged stone-bows with two strings, of the type now made by children. The desultory fighting of the Sinhalese would not permit them to carry about with them such elaborate stone-throwing appliances as those figured by Sir R. Payne-Gallawey in his work on The Projectile- Throwing Engines of the Ancients.

The above quoted notices comprise practically all that is to be learnt in the histories regarding the weapons of the ancient Sinhalese Among the insignia carried by the deities of the Dewalas, the temples devoted to some Indian gods, and the godlings (Devata), demons, and deified chiefs of the Sinhalese  an additional list of the ancient weapons can be compiled, and in them doubtless the traditional forms of some of them have been preserved. They include the Sword both straight and curved, the trident, the Billhook, the Kris , the Iron Club, and a weapon called Itiya a variety of Assegai .

The list is still incomplete there can be no doubt that Battle-axes were used in war in addition to the common Kandian Knife, and a Dagger.


The Sword, Kaduwa, is almost the sole weapon represented in ancient carvings in Ceylon, and even that is only occasionally met with. The earliest representation of one was  discovered by me in the excavations at Tissa, engraved on a fragment of pottery which probably  dated from pre-Christian times. The illustration (fig 161) shows that if had a long handle with a substantial – cross-hilt no other guard ; and a broad and slightly curved  blade  wider at a short distance from the end  than near the hilt. It would be a formidable cutting weapon.no161

Others illustrated on a very small scale in reliefs on a pillar at the Jetavana Dagaba at Anuradhapura (Fig. 87), and in some places in the hands  of armed men who were represented  springing out of the open mouths of nondescript monsters called Makaras, are all  straight edged, some what short pointed weapons, apparently with cross-hilts or guards. The men who hold them in  the latter examples carry a small circular buckler in their left hands.

Some interesting panels are carved in the sides of the stone pillars that support the elongated porch (Dig-ge) of the Waraka Wihera, the oldest cave  temple, according to tradition at the Ridi Wihara the Silver Monastery in the Kurunegala district. In the panels, which are at the base of each pillar, a dance of soldiers is represented, one figure being in each panel. Some of them  carry swords and shields the only type of the former being the straight pointed sword with and without a straight cross  hilt,  but in either case having no guard( Fig 170).170

The Temple itself was founded in pre-Christian  and the name Paramuka Abaya lene’ ‘the- cave of the Chief Abhaya,’ in the earliest chracters of the second or third century BC., with the bent  ra the  cup shaped  ma inscribed in another cave there which now contains the principal temple, the Rajata lena Wihara, the Silver Cave Wihara in which a heap of silver is recorded in the Mahavansa as having been found in the time of, Duttha Gamini (161-137 BC)  The same inscriptioin repeted in another part of the cave, the second word in it being written Abayi.

That this inscription gives the original name of this wihara is confirmed by another in characters of about the first century AD on the top of the same rock[ The Facsimiles of this and that preceding inscription are to be seen in Fig 153 . It runs:-

‘(A)ba dagaya ran(e) bidi Karatiradataha tube

The Abhaya relic-house having been broken during war was (re-)established bv Karatiradatta.  Another  cave ‘shelter under the same rock is inscribed in  pre-Christian letters

Bata Puta Devaha lene sagasa

The cave of Deva,son(of)Bhatiya; to the community’

There are also latter inscriptions at this place recording work done at the wihera and grants made to it. One that was left by a person called ‘Bujaka Utaya‘ ‘ the landed proprietor Uttiya,, is in letters of the second or third century AD. Another is by  ‘Meka—Aba’, in letters resembling those used by Jettha-Tissa, son-of Maha-Sen ; it may thus belong to Megha- vanna-Abhaya II (304-322AD). It is clear that extensive improvements were carried out at that time; the inscription  ends

Laka  kahavana di (Aba) ka.lena maha patima karawaya savasa tanata lit(i)

Having given  100,000  Kahapanas he caused the great statue (of Buddha) at Abaya cave to be made. Written at the tom-tom beating place’.

As the porch  which the panels were carved is an evident addition to the original cave temple at which it was erected (the Waraka, not of the Abaya cave); the work at it may belong to the same period as this  inscription.

Some of the long straight swords carved in these panels follow the type of lndian weapons represented in the Amaravati carvings (late second century AD) which however had no cross-hilts. The one in the illustration tapers from hilt to point, like a dagger; another has a blade with parallel sides and a short point.163

In the older temple paintings straight swords are depicted with hilts of  a shape not now seen. One which l sketched has a cross-hilt in the form of a crescent with the points turned forward ; in another the crescent is reversed (Fig 163). A straight sword without across Hilt or guard is represented in the Dambulla Cave temple ; the painting was executed in the middle of the seventeenth century and is supposed by the monks in charge of the temple to reproduce the former work done in the time of Nissanka-Malla (1198-1297 AD).162

Below an inscription of the ninth or tenth century, cut on the face of a pillar at Wilgama wihara near Bibile in the Uva province, a sword of a somewhat different type is carved it ( Fig 162); it has a cross-hilt which ends in a curl on one side, and is a very long narrow straight weapon, twice as wide towards the point as it is near the hilt. The blade is contracted sharply up to the point which is extremely short.164

In no case, so far as I am aware it the small modern curved one-edge a Sabre termed as Katstana (Fig 164) found in any Sinhalese carvings. In the temple paintings of the contest between Buddha- and the demons ,which however , are all ,comparatively  recent restorations, very rarely  in their present state, belonging to an earlier date than the seventeenth century, this is the favourite  type of the artists practically differing in no way from the Kandian ceremonials sabres worn by the Chiefs of the present time . These have curved hilts made of buffalo horn, ending in a lion  head and inlaid with brass, silver , or gold, with usually some work of the same kind fixed or in laid on the lower part of the blade. All have guards, and there is a half a cross hilt  on the opposite side.165

I give also drawings of two swords in my possession, from villages in the interior of the North-western Province, The smaller one (Fig 165)  is two edged and without guard or cross-hilt ; it appears to  be specimen of the short straight Indian type of early post-Christian times. The   other (Fig 166) which is one-edged except  that the point and is curved and has a guard, is a much longer weapon; most probably it is copied from European  hangers, if it is not actually of European  manufacture. Both these weapons have pommels. The only Scabbards that I have seen made of two wooden plates held together by bands of silver or brass( fig 181)- Captain Robert Knox says of those  used by the better class. ‘The Scabbard most covered with silver bravely en-graven).181a


I have seen no Daggers that appeared to be of an early type, But Bell has illustrated one carved in outline on a rock at Anuradhapura (Archaeological Survey Third Progress  Report  Plate VIII). One of peculiar shape in the British Museum  is doubtless of late date (Fig 179).179

Although the Kandian Knife Pihi-Kaetta must always have been utilized as an ornamental appendage and as an instrument of daily use rather than as a war like  weapon  its employment in the latter capacity on suitable occasions  cannot be doubted. When we read of murders committed by ’plunging a weapon ‘  into the victims we may be certain that the Knife was resorted to in many a fight with the enemy. It does not appear in any carvings. Its shape varies considerably.179 172 173 174 175 176 177 178

The largest type (Fig. No. 172) follows the curve of the short Southern Indian sword (see Fig.No.158), and has a wide blade ; others are much narrower and straighter. The better sorts of knives had carved ivory hafts inlaid with brass, silver, or gold; a thin narrow plate of the same material, with raised conventional decorations, which were usually meanders or simple four-pointed stars, was also attached to each side of the lower part of the blade, the surface of which was sunk at the spot to receive it. some had carved handles of rock-crystal, a custom which appears to have been common in former times, since it has caused a general expression ‘Stone-handled knife ‘ (Gal-mita piha) to be applied to all weapons of the same shape, whatever material be used in the shaft. Common knives of course had wooden handles (Fig. No. 177). The usual forms are shown in the  illustrations (Figs. 172-179).179

All appear to have had thin wooden sheaths formed of , two hollowed  strips tied or pegged together near the point, and bound by a thin plate of brass or silver at the mouth.

The Kris , Kriciya (c pronounced as ch),is shown by its name to be borrowed from Malaya. It is rarely seen, and does not often appear in the wihara paintings ; but it is represented at the Dambulla wihara, where it is held as a dagger. The fact that a broken blade which appeared to belong to this weapon, with at least three bends, was discovered in the Tissa excavations, in the lowest pottery stratum, proves that it had been introduced into the island in very early times. unfortunately I preserved no drawing of the blade, which is now in the Colombo Museum.


The Itiya is the true Sinhalese form of a weapon of this type. It is a narrow-bladed short stabbing,Spear or Assegai, but it is also held like a sword. It is described as having a thin blade eighteen inches long, with bends resembling those of the Kris, and two cutting edges. It is found in the Dewalas, and appears in the temple paintings among the arms carried by the demons in their contest with Buddha. The illustration (Fig. 187) is taken from one of these drawings. In a large statue of Kali, at Anuradhapura, this goddess grasps it like a sword, and holds it erect. It has three bends in this carving, more developed transversely than those of the kris.

The Javelin or short Throwing-Spear, Visi-hella, also does not appear in the carvings. it seems to have been  employed chiefly by soldiers who rode on elephants, and perhaps also by those who defended city walls and forts. I give an illustration (Fig.191) of a blade of very early date found in the Tissa excavations; it is the only early one that I have seen. I also include a modern one in my possession with a very Iarge blade and thick handle, notched at the end, which its owner called an ‘ arrow’ (Fig. 186) ; such a weapon would-probably be used as a Pike and not as a Javelin.186

This weapon, or perhaps a short spear, is represented on some of the early oblong coins, on which it has a length equal to the height of the personage who holds it. A similar weapon is placed at the side of the standing deity on some of the coins of Wijaya-Bahu ; this has a very narrow elongated blade and a decorated shaft.

The Spear, Hella, is mentioned by Mr. Bell in his Annual Report for 1896, p. 7 ) as being represented in a panel at Welana Damana, in the North-central province, in which a fight of armed men is carved. He does not describe it. I know of only one other instance in which it appears in a stone carving in Ceylon; this is one of the panels at the Ridi wihara, where a soldier carries one with which he is about to attack an enemy. I did not sketch it; it is of an early type, without  the side wings at the base of the blade which are seen in later weapons.

The shape of the blade has undergone great changes in Ceylon. In the earliest specimens, obtained from my excavations at Tissa, and apparently pre-Christian, it is thick and nearly straight, one being about two inches wide and seven and a half Long, with a somewhat broad rounded point ; this form has a half-socket at the base, formed by widening out the stem and turning over the two wing thus formed until they nearly met(fig. 188 and 189).190

Next we have a very large thin spear head of broad , but unfortunately broken. The blade was nearly two and a half inches wide and it appears to have been about seven and a half inches long.

A later interesting  type (Figs 185 and 201) has a strong very  narrow, lengthen head, from six to eight and a quarter inches long, the transverse section of which is a cross with the angle filled up; this is sharp only at tip. It is fitted to he handle or shaft by means of four nails or rivets which passed through  two hollowed halves of the split stem that fit on each side of the woodwork of the shaft.185201 3

A fourth form (Fig 197) is of along narrow leaf shape with  straight sides, like an enlarged arrow-head. It has no socket and the stem been lengthened and pointed is driven into the end of the shaft, which is prevented from splitting by an iron ring which fits over it at tire end as in(Fig 186)


This was also reduced in length to 3 ½  inches and widened at the base to make a fifth type. (Fig. 200), which is often introduced in the wihara painting of the contest of Buddha with Mara and his d186emons. It is now commonly employed for keeping in check the wild elephants at Elephant Kraals when they attempt to break through the palisades of the Enclosure into which they are driven. In this form there is a round socket at the end of the stem, into which the shaft is driven, being held in place by a nail ‘

Another type of Spear head was narrow and elongated with waved edge. Some had no socket to receive the shaft. There is an example in the British Museum, and drawings of it are to be seen in the wiharas (Figs Nos. 183 and 193).183

Although the winged spear-head of recent times seems to be copied from from weapons carried by the early Europe and invaders it  s certainly of much more ancient date. On the side of the crown of a wooden statue  which is supposed to be that of Duttha-Gamini,at the Nikawaewa Cave wihara, there are carved relief (Fig.217) which evidently represent spears winged  heads  like those  now in use, as well as others resembling the fourth and fifth types just described[ An Amulet- Atharva Veda]. I have already mentioned that these sculptures possibly date from the eleventh century A.D.217

This form of spear-head has two curved wings (Tattu) at the base of the blade, each being in shape half a crescent. It might thus be described as a form of Trident with an enlarged and lengthened central prong. In modern spears the blade of such weapons has a rounded point, and is slightly hollowed on each side. The central prong is almost always straight (Figs. 195 and 202), but two specimens in the British Museum are waved along the edges (Fig. 194). Usually the central parts of the blade and the wings are decorated by being in laid with brass or silver. The blade is fixed to the shaft by means of the split stem, like the third form described. The shafts of these spears and those of the third typed are a-ways covered with lac, with which handsome designs are formed, like those on bows.


The Trident, Patistana, is undoubtedly an ancient weapon, and it is represented on some of the early oblong coins of Ceylon. I have not found it in any local reliefs, but it is depicted in the paintings in wiharas (Figs. 192 and 196.Shown above). Miniature tridents are included among the insignia kept in the dewalas, and of course they are seen in temple representations of Siva, of whom it is the special symbol . I have observed one example carved in stone in an ancient temple of Ganesa, where it was set up on an altar, the central prong, which evidently was considered to be a Lingam, and had that shape, being black with the oil poured over it.

The Bident has fallen into complete disuse in Ceylon, but according to the evidence of the oblong coins it must have been a common weapon in the island in early times. It is also carved in the reliefs from Amaravati which are preserved  in the British museum [slab No77]. The only local stone curving of one  with which I am acquainted is a slab of earlier date than the twelfth century, found at the Giant’s Tank, where it appears at the side of a rude figure cut in low relief (Fig. 218).218


Although the Bow, Dunna, and Arrow,  Iya or Igaha, were the most important weapons of the ancient Sinhalese, as well as in Vedic times,  I have not met with a single illustration of them in Sinhalese stone carvings; but Mr. Bell found in the panel at Welana Damana,in the North-central Province, to which allusion has been already made, four men armed with them and engaged in a fight with a giant who carried a sword and shield, aided by a kneeling spearman. They are always depicted in the representations of the Mara contest in the wiheras, and I have seen them carried many years ago by Sinhalese hunting parties, as well as by the Vaeddas and Wanniyas.

The correct length for a bow is commonly considered to be a few inches more than the height of the man who carries it. According to this, its length would be about 5 feet 6 inches; but some are- much longer, and two in the British Museum are about 7 feet 6 inches and 8 feet long. According to Dr.Davy the usual length in the early part of last century was 9 feet, but no bows that I have seen were  his size. The expression Maha Dunna, ‘ Large Bow,’ as a fixed measure r Rig Veda, vi, 75, z., As Account of Interior of Ceylon, p. 244, foot-note of length, possibly the nine feet of Dr. Davy, shows that some were   more than the average length. The Maha Bharata mentions one four cubits long      (adi Parva, 191,2o).204

The    strongest bows (Fig. 204) are made from a large thorny creeper termed the Ma weval (caramus rudentum); these are much thicker than the bows made from other kinds of wood (Fig. 203),or the strong tough ribs  of leaves of the Talipot palm which are sometime used. Common bows have plain and rather rough surfaces, and are undecorated. Talipat leaf (Fig 295) are slightly flattened on the outer side ; all the rest are of a circular section throughout. The better kinds .are highly decorated, being covered with effective patterns in stick lac of various colours, chiefly red, yellow and black, and in early designs also green. 201 3

They have no notches ; the string, – Dunu-diya or Dunu-lanuwa, made of the inner bark of trees or the fibres of the Niyanda plant (sansievera zeylanica), is merely tied permanently at one end and looped over the other when the bow is about to-be used.  The Arrows are from about 3 feet to 4 feet in length, and have shafts  half an inch thick; they vary greatly in the size of their steel heads          ( Itale)  , which are from  2 ½ up to almost 18 inches in length, the usual size being 4 or 5 inches. All the more modern heads are practically  of one type (Fis. 208), a thin narrow-leaf shape, supposed to represent a leaf of growing rice; they have  instinct rounded butts, with a narrow stem or tang which is driven into the shaft, and   hey are invariably  un-barbed. The sides of the blade are usually nearly parallel in the central part; the tip is more or less  rounded, and the sides converge to it in straight lines (Figs. 206,208 and,209).211 206 207 207 BM 209

The British Museum has one of a slightly different shape (Fis. 207), with a blade wider near the stem, like those of the Veddas. A  similar form is seen in some Wihara paintings (Figs. 210,214 211) and the arrow heads  of this type are clearly  indicated in two mason’s marks of the twelfth century (Figs.212 and, 213), the date being determined by the shapes-of letters  cut by other masons on adjoining stones. I have already given a reference in the Mahavansa to the broad. arrows  of the Sinhalese in the  twelfth century.  The arrows have usually four feathers of the pea-hen’s wing, but sometimes only three. As I possess one with six  feathers it is clear that the number varied according to the owner’s fancy. Hard gum or lac is occasionally placed, as a protection from fraying, over the fine string which is used for tying them on the shaft. The shaft is slightly narrowed between the notch and the feathers (Fig. 214) ; in this respect it differs from the Vaedda shaft.

I have not seen a crescent-headed arrow, such as Rama and his brother are described as  using against the Rakshasas ; it is an extremely ancient form of the weapon, and is mentioned in the Rig Veda (vi, 75,5) as ‘ the shaft with venom smeared, tipped with deer-horn, with iron mouth.’ It is, however, of far greater age than Vedic times, and long and most beautifully chipped flint specimens, some of the finest examples of chipped flint work ever executed, having a wide v-shaped cutting edge, with extremely fine and regular serrations, of pre-dynastic date, that is, dating from prior to 4500 B.C., have been obtained in Egypt, and are to be seen in the British Museum.

The illustration of a Yaksha given already (Fig. 9), which is copied from a painting of uncertain date in a vihara of the North-western Province, shows the manner of holding the arrow and string, which is drawn by the first and second fingers, one being on each side of the arrow. The same figure also contains an illustration of a form of Quiver, Hi-kopuva, which this instance holds seven arrows. It is slung at the side, but the usual position may have been on the back, as in early Indian reliefs.

The stone-Bow, Gal-dunna, of village youths is merely a weak bow with two strings, which half-way from the tips have some cross net-work or are attached to the ends of a small piece of hide used for holding the stone. The strings are kept apart by means of short sticks fixed transversely between them, one being near each end. Small birds are sometimes killed with this bow. A more powerful weapon of this type may have been used in early fighting, but it appears never to be delineated in the wihara  paintings



The Axe, Porawa  is met within four forms, of which two were Battle-axes, while the others were employed only as tools. One of the former kind’s,the Keteriya(Figs.198.and 119) is still carried by villagers in the interior for protection against bears, and possibly also against demons, since the axe was a powerful amulet even in Vedic times. It has a narrow stem ,and a blade which ends in a broad crescent, the convex curve of which is the cutting edge. The handle passes through a socket made in the stem which in some cases projects slightly as a small hammer-head, termed a konde, on the opposite side of the handle. This weapon occurs once in the hand of a soldier in a panel at Ridi Wihdra; it has there a wide blade which extend s up to the handle without diminution of the breadth. It is also included in wihara paintings of the Mara contest, as a weapon carried by some of the demons . Although its shape is of  great antiquity and its use was widespread it is not mentioned in the histories, nor is it carried by the Vaeddas. It was used in pre-dynastic times in Egypt.  At Sanchi  in India, it is represented at the north gateway of the central and earliest dagaba  which dates from the third century BC as being without a socket, the pointed stem of the blade evidently passing through a hole bored in the handle.  [General Maisey. Sanchi and its Remains ,Plates V and XXXIX].199

The Broad Axe is apparently the true fighting Axe of Ceylon, as its name Yuddha Porawa,. ‘Battle Axe’, shows. As used in the island it was a much heavier weapon than the last  and had a straight cutting edge. It is not once referred to in the histories, and I have not seen an example ; but it is very clearly carved in the panels at Ridi-Wihera  where two of the soldiers are armed with this formidable weapon (Fig No. 171). According to these reliefs it had no socket ; but as no diagonal lashings are shown this may be only due to a  mistake of the carver. The Indian Axe carried by attendant s in the Amaravati  is of an entirely different type, with an extremely long blade, rather narrow at the stem; towards the cutting edge, which is straight, it widens out considerably to an equal extent at the upper and lower edges, which are slightly curved. In the Badami carvings it is the Keteriya of Ceylon which  is represented, and this lot is shown in the modern figure of Parasu-Rema, ‘ Rema of the Axe’,one of the Avataras of Visnu, in Sir George Birdwood’s – Industrial Arts of India.171


The Club , Mugura, is described as being made of iron; it s usually drawn in the wiharas (Fig 167) as a thick heavy straight weapon, and is always painted-with a grey colour  that is used to denote iron. The two Rakshasa guards in Fig 159 are armed with this weapon like those on the South Indian gopuras. Doubtless some were made of wood .167

Specimens of a simple form of Mace with a plain straight handle or staff, on which thick iron rings are fixed at one end, are to be seen occasionally .  Such a weapon is certain o be of early date. A club or mace was used n Vedic times.( Rig Veda, x, 102,9)

A curved form of Iron Club is also illustrated in two shapes wiihera paintings (Figs168 and 169). One type slightly resembles a boomerang in its curvature. As a throwing weapon of this shape is known in Southern India such a club may have been used in Ceylon informer times. In the ancient Tamil poem from which extracts were given at the end of chapter IV, Ayiyanar is described as being ‘girt with a curved club’.168 & 9


The common shield, Palisa, was of the Buckler form a , a segment of a hollow sphere, circular in outline, and having considerable convexity, and no boss. In all examples in the wihara painting, it is shown with only one looped handle in the middle, to enable it to be held by-the left hand. This type is also carved in the reliefs at the Tanjore Temple, and at other South Indian temples (see Fig. No: 158).

A very fine specimen in the possession of the late Mr Philip Templer of the Ceylon Civil Service, afterwards Administrator of St. Lucia, was made of one piece of bark. It had a large boss in the centre, with a hole in the middle apparently for fixing a spike, round which four small bel-metal disks were placed, making with it the arms of a cross; there was also a circle of round-headed studs near the border. The shield was nearly black in colour, and was decorated with figures of two soldiers in thin metal, fixed on its outer surface, on opposite sides of the boss. Each held a buckler in the Left hand and a Kastane in the right ; their sole dress was a cloth from the waist to the knees, and a skull-cap. All the metal work consisted of bell-metal (lokada) with a brassy appearance. This shield was about two feet in diameter.; it had two flexible leather handles in the middle, fixed close together, so as to be grasped by one  hand. According to the information supplied to me by villagers, many shields had a covering of tin; others probably had a covering of leather nailed on a light wooden or bark frame.170

In the Ridi Wihara panels, the shields, of which only side views are given, may possibly be elongated; and the concavity is of two peculiar types, one shield having on its outer side two straight lines converging to a point in the middle, while the other (Fig. 170), which is shown in two panels, bulges out there into a rounded outline, which perhaps indicates a large high boss. As it would have been at least as easy for the carvers to represent the simple curve of the common buckler in all cases as to cut these peculiar forms, these reliefs apparently illustrate different shapes of shields from the usual one.

In the rough carving on a stone dug up with others at the Giant’s Tank, and evidently taken there in the twelfth century AD. from some per-existing structure, a shield of another kind is delineated, nearly resembling a form that was  once used in Europe. It has a straight horizontal top, and the sides are almost parallel, and make right angles with it in the middle part,ending in the lower part, which is rounded, in arcs of circles (Fig. 218- shown above). A shield of this type is illustrated by General Maisey in his Sanchi and its Remains, Plate XXXV, Fig. No. 30.

In his Third Progress Report Mr Bell has figured another form which is cut in outline on a rock at Anuradhapura. It bears some light resemblance to the carvings of shields at Sanchi and is small and heart-shaped (Fig: 180). No helmets are drawn in the wiharas ; but in an interesting of carrying at the side of the Isurumuniya Temple at Anuradhapura-ryia (Flg. 219) a seated warrior is represented in the round, wearing a helmet which from its shape appears to be made of metal. A thick plume forms a crest on the top end hangs h the soldier’s back. The horse’s head appearing out of the rock behind him shows that the person was a cavalry soldier.

The date of the carving is uncertain. The peculiar arch of eyebrows is like that of the rock-cut sedent Buddha at Tantiri-malei, the bricks at which may belong to the first century after Christ, and the figure may be of the same age. The  representation of the horse’s head looking out of the rock is a feature characteristic of Phoenician sculpture. On a slab dug up at Tissa on which a cow and calf were carved in the relief , the head of a bull was represented looking out of the above the cow’s back ; and with this may also compared a lions head similarly carved in two reliefs at a building between Ruvanwaeli and Thuparma dagabas  and the elephants heads which project at the Anuradhapura dagabas. The  most ancient of these are works of the second century B.C.,a date which proves  the possibility of the early age of carving of the soldier. Metallic armour was used in India in the Vedic period and is several times mentioned in the Rig Veda. It is not unlikely, therefore, that it was employed in Ceylon in late pre-Christian or early post-Christian , by those who could afford to purchase it, or to whom it was supplied by the sovereign. The Helmet is mentioned in the Rig Veda (x, 105, 5):

There are some weapons in the British-Museum which  have not seen in Ceylon . One(Fig 215 ) is a form of Bident  having a wide crescent-shaped iron head with sharp points but no cutting edge, fitted by long socket onto the end of a shaft about , about seven feet in length, which is thicker towards the base than at the head . 215

Another (Fig. 216) has a narrow blade about sixteen inches long, fixed at it e side of a shaft or staff four feet six inches long; which passes through four projecting. sockets or rings that are welded to the back of the blade at equal distances. The blade ends in two points which are turned back against the handle. It may have been copied from weapons used by the Portuguese soldiers .216

A third weapon (Fig184) ends in a sharp-pointed had below which is a transverse spike that forms a cross with it and the round socket into which the shaft, about six feet long ,Is fitted. The shaft is decorated with coloured  lac. A similar weapon was used in Europe in the Middle Ages, and was termed a Marteau, according to M Lacombe( Boutell ,Arms and Amour).

As I could obtain no description of two ancient weapons that are said to have been employed in former times in Ceylon. I am unable to say if any of these arms are referred to under their names. One is the Baendi-wala, , which is perhaps connected with the Tamil word for a sword or saw , val, though an implement called a Benduwala is described in clough’s Dictionary as a spear or priest’s razor. By some Persons Vishnu is said to be armed with a weapon of the former name, which is shown in a rude drawing of him made on Talipat leaf for me by a’ Bali-tiyanna,’ or priest who officiates against planetary influences, as being of a meander shape with two curls.

The other is the Tomara, apparently a sort of Javelin;  in sanskrit the word means a javelin, and in Tamil a javelin or club, according to Winslow. It is stated that steel or iron filings were used in some way in their manufacture.

The Billhook is described among the articles included in the next category.

With the aid of references in Indian and Greek works to the soldiers employed in early India, we may form some idea of the armament and organisation of the military forces of Ancient Ceylon. The regular troops were probably very  far being an undisciplined body. Although the wooded nature the country did not lend itself to the free use of  chariots or cavalry, there can be no doubt that the services of both were utilised to some extent. Elephants were also employed, and there were several classes of foots soldiers.

The  chariots used in war were probably drawn by two horses, like those illustrated in the Sanchi carvings; three or four -horse chariots were, however, to be found in India,  may have been used by the richer classes in Ceylon, though  perhaps not in battle. Following the Indian fashion, some may have been decorated with leopard skins. Each  chariot carried a driver, and one or two  combatants [ Rig Veda, vi, 20,9. Ancient India as described by Megasthenes and  Arrian, by McCrindle, pp. 89, 90] who were armed with bows  and swords, and had bucklers. All the occupants, and possibly to some extent the horses, were protected by mail [The Jataka, No. 529 (Translation, Vol. v, p. 133].or leather armour. We have no representation of the appearance of these cars of Ceylon; according to the Greek description, those used in India had sitting accommodation for their occupants but at Sanchi the persons  shown in them are standing. King Maha-Naga of Tissa is described  in the Dhatuvansa as presenting Mahakala, the son of wealthy man, with  car suitable for four Persons,’Satara deneku Yedu  rathayak’. There must have been seats in such a carriage.

The carving at the lsurumuniya temple proves conclusively that in early and possibly pre-Christian times an organised force of cavalry was in existence  the men having a showy helmet with long plumes which hung down the back like those of the Greeks. Some also may have worn the ‘shining armour, or breast-plate [ The Jataka, no. 213 {Vol. ii, p. 232]that was used in lndia. Leather armour was provided for the horses[ The Jataka, no. 23 {Vol. i, p. 61], and in India a high hair plume was fixed on the head of each, between the ears, In the second or third century BC the men rode without saddles, a skin rug being perhaps employed instead ; one  at Amaravati is riding bare-back, however (Slab No-,41). In the second century A D padded saddles were clearly represented at Amaravati, and probably would be used in Ceylon.


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