Alcoholism and Social Evils in 19th century Sri Lanka: Some Insights from Contemporary Sinhala Poetry

Ven. Dr. Olaganvatte Candasiri


A campaign to outspread the use of alcohol was considered by colonial rulers as a way of enrichment, and they strove to popularise it in every possible manner. This approach resulted in an increased demand for alcohol from workers, while the profit from these ventures enriched a sector of the indigenous population. ‘Fleecing the last penny’ seemed to be the foundation, on which the colonials based their economic policy. As was traditional amongst the colonial elite, alcohol and beer were served at celebratory functions. Some groups in the society and social workers opposed to the increased use of alcohol amongst the population and objected via public protests, but the government considered this as a source of increased revenue. Popularising alcohol would steadily lead to disastrous social consequences. Aim of the present study is to find whether a directlink prevailed between heavy drinking and violence. To realize this objective, this research study utilisedprimary and secondary sources from original booklets written on the subject obtained from Sri Lankan Museum Library, National Archives in Sri Lanka, and London British library. Data analysis and other collected information revealed a direct link between the increased use of alcohol and violence, which led to a radical change in the society.

Key words: Alcohol, Violence, Printing, Poet

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