Ceylon (1908)

"The book of Ceylon; being a guide to its railway system and an account of its varied attractions for the visitor and tourist", by Henry W Cave, Cassell and Company, London (1908)

Made available by the Internet Archive.
Link: http://www.archive.org/details/bookofceylonbein00cave
Source: Library of the University of California, Los Angeles Edited by R Sivaramakrishnan. Posted to IRFCA on: August 24, 2008.

A truly wonderful guidebook, very much after my heart and railway-oriented, but pertains to Ceylon. I only wish such books existed on India, at least on parts of it. We have Murray's Guidebook, but it is nowhere as exhaustive as this one.

Written by a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a member of the Royal Asiatic Society, it lists every station on the Ceylon Government Railway as in 1908, gives brief descriptions of the stations themselves and deals in details about what was around. Also lavishly illustrated with photographs, many of them bearing on the railways. Of course, the narrow gauge Kelani Valley line gets its share of treatment. What else would one want? I have not been out of India, but could savour every bit of what our neighbour was like, that too a century ago. As it is a huge tome, I am yet to read much of it.

It was only in 1914 that Ceylon Government Railway reached Talaimannar to start the daily steamer ferry service across the Palk Strait to Dhanushkodi to connect with SIR trains. But, from this book, we learn that weekly ferry service operated even earlier from Kankesanturai (or Point Pedro it is not stated clearly from where) across the Palk Strait to Rameswaram Island:

p. 638:

At the extreme north of the Gulf of Manaar is the very narrow strait known as Paumben Passage. Here Ceylon is almost joined to India by a curious line of rocks and islands. It will be seen from our map that the mainland of the continent sends forth a promontory which almost reaches the sacred island of Rameseram. From this a ridge of rocks, known as Adam's Bridge, extends to Manaar, an island of sand-drifts cut off from the coast of Ceylon only by fordable shallows. Whether Ceylon was ever actually joined to India either by nature or artifice is a matter of conjecture ......

p. 639

...We are not disinclined to accept the theory that Paumben Passage was once blocked by an artificial causeway, over which millions of pilgrims came to visit the sacred Rameseram. The passage only fifty years ago was so shallow that no ships could pass through, but was about that time deepened sufficiently for vessels of ten to twelve feet draft... the steamers of the Ceylon Steamship Company pass through the Paumben Passage weekly, and obligingly anchor to allow passengers an opportunity of visiting the island...

p. 640

...Manaar is scarcely worth a visit. It represents a dreary aspect in comparison with the rest of Ceylon, notwithstanding that in earlier times it was regarded as a place of considerable commercial importance from its proximity to India and the yield of its pearl fisheries...

The original source material used on this page is believed to be out of copyright, and/or these extracts are believed to be fall within the scope of fair use under copyright law. Material selection and editing by R Sivaramakrishnan, 2008.