Ancient Sinhalese rulers had a right to a share of agricultural income, a right which embraced the produce of the land as well as irrigation rates and was generally paid in kind. In effect, there was a land tax; but the term used (bojika-, bojiya-, or bojaka-pati) was more than mere land tax and connotes a tax on income corresponding to bhaga in Indian law books. By the fourteenth century, if not earlier, there had been a fundamental change. Rather than a tithe from each class of land in the village, the king received the whole of the produce of certain fields, the muttettu, which were cultivated gratis by the villagers who possessed other fields either in return for this service or in recognition of the king's suzreignty. This meant that there were no intermediaries farming (renting) the right to collect the tithe. It also meant that the villager held his paddy fields on an individual and hereditary (paraveny) basis. There was, however, no concept of freehold ownership. Authority was political. One could not distinguish private rights from political allegiance. Landholders combined rights in land with duties to the king. Service was attached to the land and was obligatory to any transferee. In some cases, this service was rendered to the king's chiefs and nominees or to the temples, for the kings distributed largesse in the form of lands and the services attached to them; these were known as nindagam, viharegam or devalegam as distinct from the king's villages, the gabadagam; such recipients were more like feudal overlords than farmers of the revenue. In other cases, villagers of certain castes performed certain specified services for the king, for other castes (usually higher castes) in their village, or for neighboring villages, and in return enjoyed certain fields. It was a system of service tenure that was girded and threaded by the caste system.

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