The Colonial Influence on Sri Lankan Society and on Hill Country

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1.0 Colonial ere and hill country.

1.1 The colonial influence and its impacts on Sri Lankan society.

The traditional Sri Lankan society was mainly based on Buddhism as the religion, agriculture as the main occupancy and the caste oriented ruling system. The kingship pattern administration system was dominated the land and throne was definitely entitled to a Buddhist. The Buddhist monk was very important in the ruling system through the king. People chosen very simple and humble life pattern and the society were mainly disciplined by Buddhist philosophy. Basically, traditional Sri Lankan society was peaceful, generous and just due to long term influence of Buddhism.

The basic and probably the only economic activity of the common masses were paddy and other grain cultivation. Other than that they had only very few needs due to their very simple life pattern and they were very easy to satisfy with very limited resources in the country. That type of living pattern can be identified as self-sufficient economical system.

Social structure had a strong order with the feudal system prevailing in dominant manner. All the lands were mainly belongs to the king and the king gave them according to his favor. The lands can be divided accordingly to their ownership and the duty towards the king. The basic types were as given below.

1. "Ninda Gam" - The lands donated by the king to his government servants. The harvest belongs to the owners and can be changed the ownership according to the family.

2. "Gabada Gam" - The lands separated for kings use and the people who cultivate on those lands should give portion to the palace. Also people should do duties to the king and to the palace.

3. "Vihara Gam" - The lands given to the Buddhist temples by the king and there people who had to cultivate on them and also the harvest should divide in to two.

4. "Devala Gam" - The lands given to devala by the king.

It is clear that the possession of the lands goes to the king and land was the foundation of the king right to the service and contribution of the people and vise versa.

"Although the Ceylon littoral had since the early 16th century been successfully by Portuguese, Dutch and British. The kandyan kingdom maintained its independence under the kings from Wimaladarmasuriya 1 (reg-AD 1591-1604) to the disposition of Sri Wikrama Rajasinghe by British in 1815"

(Prof. Nimal De Silva- Architect journal-1990)

The Kandyan period was rich with powerful kings like Rajasinghe ii who succeeded overthrowing the Portuguese with the help of the Dutch. The administration system was very powerful that the influence of it on the common masses was very great.

As historians shows the Portuguese was the first Europeans who came to the Srilanka as early as 1505 and consequently were succeeded by Dutch. Both of above invaders were able to capture the maritime provinces of Sri Lanka and they were established their own governments. The Portuguese introduced roman catholism and Dutch the adopted their judicial administration system which is still remain in Srilanka as Roman-Dutch law. The hill country subjected to significant changes during the British period. The vast influence of British administration spread over the entire society because they established their authority allover the land. They were totally succeeded in creating a westernized value system. Catholism was treated as the state religion and the Buddhism was overpowered by the catholism. The Sinhalese were forced to embrace catholism by offering special privileges to those who did so. English education spread through out the country and people were taught to think as British and to respect their values. The British were successfully created a category of Sinhalese in very aspect of life built in complexion.

1.2 Colonial influence on architecture of hill country.

The colonial had very closed attachment with hill country and people of hill country. It is because they identified the climate of the hill country was so familiar to the climate of their country. So they began to choose hill country to spend their restful days and that created number of affairs with local woman on hill country. These types of closer attachments causes to the significant changes in socio-cultural and economic background of the hill country.

1.2.1 Socio-culture and economic background of the colonial period in Hill country.

A social difference had begun to arise between Sinhalese of low country and hill country. Kandyan had a sense of pride natured by the fact that they had retained their political independence and they begun to look at the low country Sinhalese who had fallen prey of christianism and other western influences, with doubtful eye. That causes to divide Sinhalese in to two culturally different categories. According to the historians after the invading of the Kandyan kingdom in 1815AD the British deliberately attempted to decrease the power of Sinhalese headmen's, in order to destroy the organizing power of Sinhalese. As a trap they identified the gap between up country and low country. Then the British were strengthened the gap and destroyed the harmony of the Srilankan society. The British identified the need of a reform in the existing administration system in order to restore and maintain their law and order over the Island on a long term. Two incidents that promoted these reforms where the 1797-98 insurrection in maritime Provinces and 1817-18 rebellion of Kandyan province. According to the history, more basic changes took place in the 1830s mostly due to the reform initiated by the Colebrook Cameron commission which visited the country in 1829-30. They learn towards western forms of administration based on money economy and free enterprise, instead of the feudalist system that was prevailing. After the recommendation of the Colebrook Cameron commission most of the government monopolies was given up and steps were taken to sell the governments lands known as 'Gabada Gama". They were sold in auction and it permitted in individuals to initiate the process of land purchase. Freehold right of land extended significantly.

In the meantime, rapid development took place in the physical infrastructure of the country. The Colombo-Kandy highway was completed by 1832 and the road network became one of the most significant and economically considerable features. This network was sonly supplemented with the postal and telegraph services. Colombo-Kandy railway was completed by the year 1867 and subsequently encompassed a mileage of 713 by the year 1924. Fairly later in 1880 the Colombo harbor was developed.

These reform and development provided a vast range of economical and employment opportunities in Sri Lanka. Some of the important capital investment and economic entrepreneurs used their wealth to give their children a good English education in the best school of the country and higher education abroad. Srilankan who finished the school education were absorbed to the administration system as clerks, civil servants and etc: these Srilankans were very happy with these jobs because they provide them good living standard, socially acceptability and secured future. The new middle-classes of the Srilankan society emerged out of them. The newly emerged classes consolidated their status with the assistance of the British government. In that sense they were very thankful to British rulers. They were heartlessly condemned every thing dealing with Srilankan traditional culture. They chosen catholism to Buddhism as a more modern religion; spoke only in English and eagerly followed anything linked with British in order to highlight them selves as westernized caliber of local over the traditional Srilankan society.

1.3 History of plantation industry.

The Arabs were introduced the coffee plant to Srilankan and Southern India at first time, afterward Srilankans begun to grew the coffee widely in the gardens and was also planted around the temples. During the Portuguese captured the Srilanka from 1505 to 1655 no attempt was made to cultivate the plant. As historians mentioned in their documents the Dutch were started to cultivate certain crops such as cinnamon and coffee at 1740. How ever the first coffee plantation was unfortunately started in the tropical low country about 10 miles away from the Galle, on land closer to Baddegamuwa on Gindura River.

Because of the tropical climate the first attempt was unsuccessful. There after they came to the Kandy district in hill country, as the climate looks more suitable for the coffee cultivation. According to the historians the first coffee plant was placed by Sir Edward Banns in 1823 under the British government. Meanwhile the Ceylone became the world's largest coffee producer.

There were some major reasons had identified as the reasons for the achievement of the coffee industry.

1. Coffee cultivation very popular among Europeans.

2. The sudden failure in coffee production in West Indies islands.

The coffee industry in Srilanka had reached its highest peak in 1868 according to the history. Then there was a sudden fall occurred in coffee industry because of the disease call "hamileia vatatrix". As it spread through all over the Ceylon coffee plantations then started Rubber cultivation at Rathnapura, Galle and Kalutara districts.

There after the Rubber became the prominent commercial crop in ceylone at 1890. As a result of the industrial revolution the rubber industry became succeeded. Also the traditional coconut cultivation was developed in well managed manner. Even though the coffee destroyed by the disease there were lot of planters remain and they tried to replant the tea. Then the tea became a good way of investing money lost in coffee cultivation. Many of the coffee planters became tea planters and by the mid 1890s the "tea camellia was became prominent crop in Ceylon. According to the history James Taylor was the first tea planter acreage of tea, by the seeds brought from Assam. The historians says that he was the first commercial scale tea planter in Srilanka. Thus began the tea industry in Srilanka.


James Taylor


Tea plantation

1.4 Climate weather and yield of tea.

The yield potential of any crop is set by the climate and its day to day variation, which we call as weather. The most important feature in the weather is as follows,

1. Annual rainfall

2. Temperature variation

3. Wind velocity

4. Humidity

Also the nature of the soil is another important factor for any crop.

1. Rainfall

The hill country receives more than 2500mm rainfall spread over the year. Tea is grown on the hillsides of tropical and subtropical countries. The crop needs 2000mm-5400mm during the year.


Annual rainfall

2. Temperature

The hill country has a cool misty climate during the year. This occurs because of the height above from the mean sea level. In this region the temperature varies from 15.6C minimum to 27C maximum. There is a liner relationship between shoot extension rate and mean temperature. This type of cold climate is favorable for tea cultivation.


Annual temperature variation

3. Soil condition

When considering the soil condition in hill country we can see it is red-yellow podzolic and reddish brown laterite which is suited for tea cultivation. Tea is growing in wide range of soil types and there for it does not mean is that there are certain soil characteristics which must be met by any particular soil where tea is to be grown.

Soil condition requires for tea cultivation

SOIL (General chemical properties)

Ph soil water


Organic matter


Total N


C\N ratio


Available P(ppm)


Mean annual rainfall and lowest-highest mean month temperature on tea growing areas of hill country.









Annual rainfall



Temperature range( C )



Mean temperature