Tripin 2019 - page 66

island’s predominantly Tamil population have
rebuilt the walls that surround their homes.
Archeological remains from the island indicate
that Delft was formerly inhabited by groups
of invading foreign travelers such as the
Portuguese and Dutch. Several ruins from
their days on the island still remain, a reminder
of its past and a precursor to the island’s
greatest mystery; the Delft horses.
As Sunela Jayewardene points out in her book,
the “Line of Lanka”, there are many different
accounts on the origins of these horses.
Where did they originally hail from? When did
they arrive on Delft? Who was responsible for
their introduction to the island? According to
Jayewardene, to this day there is no proper
explanation. Accounts from the past speculate
various theories such as Delft being the
breeding ground for horses in the South East
Asia region during Dutch rule. Some say it
was instead that it was the Portuguese that
introduced horses to Sri Lanka, yet without
an official DNA test to trace the origin of
the horses there is no definitive answer; thus
remaining a mystery.
Islanders estimate the population of horses on
the island to number close to 600. With plenty
of healthy offspring they continue to conquer
the harsh environment of Delft. In 1672, Philip
Baldeus visited the island, and observed that
“these horses that were brought into the Delft,
which, multiplying in time, produced a certain
kind of horse that is very small but hardy
and fit to travel on stony and rocky ground”,
an account that proves the adaptability of
these horses.
Much like the delft ponies, another foreigner
has become an iconic part of the islands
history. A baobab tree that can fit a few
people in it’s hollowed out trunk, reported
to have been planted by Arab merchants
in the 7th century. Other attractions on
Delft worth visiting include an old maritime
marker for ships, a “growing rock”, a giant
footprint known as Shiva’s or Adam’s
footprint depending on who you ask, a
pigeon house used by colonists to house
their messenger pigeons and a small fort.
With peace returning to the North and
the island of Sri Lanka becoming more
traversed by local and international tourists
alike, Delft too has slowly become a stop
for the more adventurous traveler. In recent
years, a few shops that sell products for
the arriving visitors have popped up and
the number of vehicles on the island has
increased; yet the slow, harsh and isolated
life of the islanders who reside behind their
corals walls continues.
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