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 Post subject: Crimes and Punishments of ancient Sri Lanka
 Post Posted: Sun Aug 05, 2007 3:38 pm 
Paying for crimes in ancient Lanka

The punishment included the cutting off of hands, feet, ears, nose, public whipping or blinding. Some offenders were banished away from society. Treason was considered one of the greatest crimes and the penalty for treason was death. As severe punishments were meted out to those who broke the rules, crime was at a minimum in ancient Sri Lanka.

By Andrew Scott
@LBN / Sunday, August 05, 2007


In ancient Sri Lanka the power of the king reigned supreme. Robert Knox, referring to the king’s power stated: “As to the manner of his government, it is tyrannical and arbitrary in the highest degree. For he ruleth absolute and after his own will and pleasure, his own head being his only counsellor.”

As much as in modern times, the penalties and punishments meted out to criminals varied in proportion to the gravity of the offences. The punishment included the cutting off of hands, feet, ears, nose, public whipping or blinding. Some offenders were banished away from society.

Taken as a whole, the punishments of that era were very severe compared to those applicable now. Treason was considered one of the greatest crimes and the penalty for treason was death. Committing adultery with the queen, was also considered a form of treason.
However, having illicit intercourse with the king’s concubines was not thought of as treason.

The ancient practice of huniyam (black magic) against the king was considered treason and punishable by death.

The punishment for the manufacture or retention of false coins was banishment or confinement in a prison. Any offence against religion was punishable with whipping.

Murder was punished with death. However, if a person killed another under sudden provocation, he was either banished from his village or was whipped.

A husband who killed any person who committed adultery with his wife was not charged for murder. Parents who killed their children were imprisoned and subject to severe corporal punishment including the mutilation of parts of the body.

According to D’Oyly, suicides were very frequent during the Kandyan period. Cases of maiming were considered serious offences and such offences were tried by the king himself. Cases of assault were aplenty and such cases were tried by the Kandyan chiefs and the penalty for assault was a fine. The fine for spilling of blood was called Lay Dadaya.

Rapists were fined or imprisoned. Public prostitution was prohibited by royal order and those who indulged in it were either whipped in public or parts of their bodies mutilated.

Though theft was rare due to the heavy penalties and the social stigma attached to thieving, those guilty of theft of property belonging to the king or the state were always punished with death. Generally, such offenders were taken along the streets of Kandy and then impaled either at Gannoruwa or Bahirawakanda.

During the ancient times, animals, especially elephants, were strictly protected. The elephant was considered the property of the state and its slaughter was a serious offence.

As severe punishments were meted out to those who broke the rules, crime was at a minimum in ancient Sri Lanka. Perhaps some of the punishments of the old days will not be out of place to control crime in modern Sri Lanka as well.


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