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British Ceylon

Last modified: 2009-12-18 by ian macdonald
Keywords: sri lanka | ceylon | elephant (proper) | temple |
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[Ceylon Colonial Badge] image by Martin Grieve, 28 December 2008
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Description of the Badge

The round shaped badge depicts a brown elephant facing hoist on green ground in front of a pinkish Buddhist temple on a dark blue background. The badge has a yellow-fimbriated red ring bearing 16 yellow four pointed stars and 16 yellow small balls
Nozomi Kariyasu, 16 May 2000

The building in the badge is called a Dagoba; a tope or dome shaped monumental structure containing relics of Bhudda or of some Bhuddist saint.
Glen Hodgins, 18 May 2000

In a dispatch dated 17 August 1870, the Governor Sir Hercules Robinson sent a drawing of the badge to the Colonial Office and wrote,

The design which has been prepared by Mr. Smithers of the Public Works Department appears to my Executive Council to be more suitable than the arms of the colony as represented in the Public Seal of the Island of which an impression is annexed. But if the latter device shall be preferred there will be no objection on the part of this Government to its adoption.
(CO 54/457)

The seal was a particularly non-descript coastal scene on which the Island was called, not Ceylon, but Taprobane. Usually the Colonial Office were insistent that the flag badges should be based upon the seal as laid down in the Order in Council of 14 September 1869, but in this case agreed with the governor.
David Prothero, 18 May 2000

The nearest I have come to being able to trace the origin of this badge is the Dutch (VOC) arms for Ceylon, (which is an elephant standing between 2 rows of coconut/palm trees, with three bundles of cinnamon in the foreground). I far as I can tell, it was these Dutch arms which set the precedent of linking the elephant and palm tree with Ceylon in European heraldry. Afterwards, circa 1860, the Ceylon Government Railway (CGR) adopted an elephant, palm tree, and dagoba (i.e., Buddhist religious dome-shaped edifice) as the main charge in their arms, which are still employed by the CGR today. From these CGR arms, I put it to you that it was only a short mental hop to the badge
Glen Hodgins, 4 June 2000

Government Ensign

[Government Ensign] image by Martin Grieve, 28 December 2008

The badge was used in the fly of the Blue Ensign flown by government owned or chartered vessels from c1875 to 1948
David Prothero, 18 May 2000

Governor's Flag

[Government Ensign] image by Martin Grieve, 28 December 2008

The badge wsa used surrounded by a garland in the centre of the Union Jack flown from the masthead by the governor when afloat from c1875 to 1948, and additionally, from Government House (sunrise to sunset) from 1941 to 1948
David Prothero, 18 May 2000

Colonial police flag

[Colonial Police] image by António Martins

The Colonial Police in Ceylon used a Blue Ensign, plain except for the word POLICE in white letters in the fly. It was unauthorised and its use was discontinued in about 1930.
Glen Hodgins, 18 May 2000

19th Century Personal Flags

XIX Century Sri Lankan personal flags (Sinhala struggle for independence)
During the British Ceylon era 1815–1948 Gongalegoda Banda alias Peliyagoda David's full name was Wansapurna Deva David, had a personal flag seen here in this post stamp: Also the Buddhist Priests and the leaders of the Nobility who were antagonised by the administration of the British who were ruling this land during this era wished the elimination of the British rule from their areas even by means of a rebellion. As such the Sinhalese people launched revolts against the British rule on numerous occasions notably in 1817, 1822 and 1834. One such National Independence struggle launched in 1848 was due to the the imposition of series of unjustifiable taxes such as the cart, boat, stamp, gun, tax, personal, road and the dog taxes by Lord Torrington who was the Governor during the British occupation of the country. The ultimate motive of this national struggle was the establishment of an independent sovereign state in Sri Lanka breaking off the yoke of imperialism.

Besides the late hero Gongalegoda Banda, Puran Appu of Moratuwa alias Francisku Femando (flag used here:, Dingirala of Hanguranketha and Dines played leading roles in this national independence struggle of 1848. After making sojourns in to the Kandyan territories with the king elect Gongalegoda Banda from 6th July, 1848, these leaders reached the premises of the historic Temple in Dambulla on the 26th of July, 1848, and there the late hero was crowned the King of the Kandyan Kingdom by the most Venerable Girannegama Indrajothi Thero, the Chief incumbent of the above with the blessings of thousands of people gathered. He was crowned King by the name of "Sri Wickrema Siddipathi".

As a result of the failure of this armed national struggle due to various reasons, which was indeed the last major revolt launched by the Sinhalese people, the late hero Gongalegoda Banda and others were captured by the British. The British shot dead a number of leaders including the Ven. Kadahapola Thero sending shock waves across the entire country, banished the late hero Gongalegoda Banda to Malacca, where he died on 1st December, 1849.
Esteban Rivera, 25 October 2009

The battle flag of Sri Lanka

The battle flag of Sri Lanka, captured by the British from Vaduga king Sri Wikrama Rajasinghe’s army. It displays the kettle drum which was beaten before battles and the five weapons (panchaudha). The flag is seen here:

In the past, a medallion with panchaudha symbols used to be tied on Karava infants for protection. The practice still survives in rural Sri Lanka and has been now adopted by other communities as well.
Esteban Rivera, 25 October 2009