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Posts Tagged ‘Ceylon’


Sunday, March 20th, 2011

Ceylon, the terrestrial Paradise

Sri Lanka Holidays is proud to present you all with gleanings off the book written by a Portuguese Captain named Joao Rebeiro during the colonial era in Sri Lanka, then called Ceylon, titled “The Historic Tragedy of the Island of Ceilao” dedicated to his most Serene Majesty Dom Pedro the Second of Portugal. The classic historical narration was first published in Lisbon on the 8th January 1685. Captain Rebeiro lamented on the loss of coastal belts of Sri Lanka to the Dutch. The book was translated from Portuguese to English by Dr. Paul E. Peiris (a Sri Lankan, then called Ceylonese) in 1947 at Colombo, the emporium of Sri Lanka Holidays.


I should wish all who have traveled over the world or have read of its greatness, to tell me if they have seen or heard of any part which produces the treasures which as we have shown, are to be found in this Island [1]? If we take the whole of Africa, we would not find there more than a little gold obtained by purchase, together with some amber and Ivory.

America produces gold, silver, pearls, emeralds, some amber and numerous drugs; but we ought to remember that so vast is the extent of the country, that it is named the New World, and that it stretches from Pole to Pole, including numerous kingdoms and provinces, and that the majority of them lack most of the articles we have described. These which have some, have not got the others.

Brazil produces sugar and tobacco; in Arabia there is incense, myrrh, dates and horses; in Persia, silk and some drugs, while pearls are found in the Gulf; in Gusarate, cloth and drugs; in Canara, rice and pepper; in Malavar, pepper, cardamom, and ginger; in the Xoromandel Coast, cloth; in the Kingdom of Carnate which is subject to Golconda, diamonds; in Bengala and throughout the Kingdom of the Mogor, cloth, rice, sugar and wax. There are also numerous provinces which have some products and not others. In pegu are found rubies and lacre; in Sumathra gold, copper, tin, benzoin and pepper; in Champa, ebony, calamba and aguila; in Borneo, camphor, diamonds and pepper; in Siam, benzoin and drugs; in China, gold, silk, musk, and drugs; in Japao [2], silver and copper; in the Malucas, cloves; in Banda, nutmegs and mace; in Timor and Solor, sandal.

The products of each kingdom of Europe are well-known, but they are more the result of cultivation than the gift of nature; accordingly we do not refer to them.

We see that several of the lands which we have named include numerous large kingdoms, and they cannot fail to have a reputation for great wealth. What then should we say about an Island, the greatest length of which is not more than seventy two leagues [3], and which produces the five commodities we have described, in such store?

Its cinnamon [4] is the best in the world; its gems [5] are in such abundance, and only diamonds and emeralds are wanting; its elephants [6] are the most prized of any within our discoveries, its pepper [7] is the finest in the East, the pearls [8] and seed pearls of its waters are considered very excellent. I do not speak of the numerous other drugs which the Island produces, and of which we take no account. Some amber is found on the coast.

Methinks that those who declared that this Island is the terrestrial Paradise, did so not in consequence of its fertility or the profusion of every kind of dainty to support life, nor for the blandness or healthfulness of its climate, nor for the footprints two palms long [9] which the Gentiles have fabricated to attract veneration to the spot; but because while its extent is so limited, it produces such an abundance of riches. Unquote


Footnotes by Sri Lanka Holidays bunpeiris
[1] Island of Sri Lanka was then called Ceilao by the Portuguese.
[2] Japan was then called Japao by the Portuguese
[3] Distance between the two furthest points (northernmost point in Sri Lanka, Point Pedro and southernmost point of Dondra Head or Devi Nuwara -Sinhala: City of the Gods) in north-south axis: 432 km; the distance between furthest points in the west-east axis is 224 km. Area of the island: 65625 sq. km.

[4] Even today Ceylon Cinnamon is the finest cinnamon in the world. Moreover, Sri Lanka is the main exporter of cinnamon in the world. Sri Lanka, since the ancient times has been an Island famous for a spectacular range of tropical spices. Even today, Sri Lanka spices are not only grown in the wild but also systematically cultivated. During your Sri Lanka Holidays, you will be visiting a spice garden at Matale on our way to Kandy from Golden Dambulla Rock Cave Temple at Dambulla.

[5] Sri Lanka has been legendary for its gems since the biblical times. Ratnapura (Sinhala: city of gems) located in a valley on the banks of a major river called Kalu Ganga, has been unearthing almost every variety of gems ranging from precious stones to semi precious stones. The most vigorously marketed gem of Sri Lanka is Ceylon Sapphire. Ratnapura of Sri Lanka Holidays also unearths chrysoberyl cat’s eye, ruby, garnet, perodot, topaz, tourmaline, alexandrite, spinal and zircon. During your Sri Lanka Holidays Ratnapura primitive gem mine (large-scale mechanized mining isn’t allowed in Sri Lanka in view of possible environmental hazards), gem markets, gem merchants, gem shops and gem museums too can be visited. Sri Lanka is one of the major gem exporters of the world.

[6] Sri Lanka Holidays Afford all tourists the opportunity to sight herds of elephants at close range in its numerous wildlife parks. The popular of wildlife parks called Minneriya National Park, Kaudulla National Park and Wasgomua National Park are located within an hour’s drive from the transportation and accommodation hub of Habarana. The location of Habarana makes it the ideal base to explore the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa (UNESCO World Heritage Sites) within the Cultural triangle of Sri Lanka Holidays. Uda Walve National Park and Gal Oya National Park too afford the opportunity to view large herds of elephants. So are Ruhuna Yala National Park, Willpattu National Park and Maduru Oya National Park.

[7] Following the arrival of Portuguese in Sri Lanka in the year 1505, the seaport of Cochin in India, which had been famous for Black Pepper (such was the value of the spice then, it was called Malabar Gold), was pushed down into a secondary source of Black pepper.

[8] Sri Lanka had been famous for its sea pearls during its colonial era. Such was the scale of ripping Sri Lanka of its pearls by the Portuguese, Dutch and the English for nearly 500 years (since 1505 to1948), today Sri Lanka is no longer a major source of natural sea pearls.

[9] This is a reference to Sri Pada (Sinhala: resplendent footprint of Buddha) Adam’s Peak (2,243 metres) also called Samanala Kanda (Sinhala: butterfly mountain). Sri Lanka Holidays Sri Pada night ascent (illuminated all the way up to the summit) trekking pilgrimage season begins in December and last till April in the following year. The night ascent has been the traditional trekking mode in view of the spectacular phenomenon of light and shadow of the mountain on the summit at the crack of dawn. The longer route (southern route) to the base of the Sri Pada Adam’s Peak begins at the valley of Ratnapura and the shorter route (northern route) begins at a higher elevation at the Central Highlands city of Hatton, home to vast plantations of Ceylon Tea.

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