The Vedda are a minority indigenous group of people in Sri Lanka who, among other self-identified native communities such as Coast Veddas, Anuradhapura Veddas and Bintenne Veddas, are accorded indigenous status. The Vedda minority in Sri Lanka is in threat of becoming extinct. Most speak Sinhala instead of their indigenous languages which are nearing extinction.
It has been hypothesized that the Vedda were probably the earliest inhabitants of Sri Lanka and have a direct line to the stone age man.
The original language of the Vedda’s is the Vedda language, which today is used primarily by the interior Veddas of Dambana. Communities such as Coast Veddas and Anuradhapura Veddas, who do not identify themselves strictly as Veddas, also use Vedda language for communication during hunting and or for religious chants. When a systematic field study was conducted in 1959 it was determined that the language was confined to the older generation of Veddas from Dambana. In the 1990s, self-identifying Veddas knew few words and phrases in the Vedda language, but there were individuals who knew the language comprehensively. Initially, there was considerable debate among linguists as to whether Vedda is a dialect of Sinhala or an independent language. Later studies indicate that it diverged from its parent stock in the 10th century and became a Creole and a stable independent language by the 13th century, under the influence of Sinhala.
Veddas were originally hunter-gatherers. They used bows and arrows to hunt game, harpoons and toxic plants for fishing and gathered wild plants, yams, honey, fruit and nuts. Veddas are famously known for their rich meat diet. Venison and the flesh of rabbit, turtle, tortoise, monitor lizard, wild boar and the common brown monkey are consumed with much relish. The Veddas kill only for food and do not harm young or pregnant animals. Game is commonly shared amongst the family and clan.
Some observers have said Veddas are disappearing and have lamented the decline of their distinct culture. Land acquisition for mass irrigation projects, government forest reserve restrictions, and the civil war have disrupted traditional Vedda ways of life. Between 1977 and 1983 under the Accelerated Mahaweli Development Project and colonization schemes, approximately 51,468 hectares were turned into a gigantic hydroelectric dam irrigation project. Subsequently, the creation of the Maduru Oya National Park deprived the Veddas their last hunting grounds. In 1985, the Vedda Chief Thissahamy and his delegation were obstructed from attending the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations. Dr. Wiveca Stegeborn, an anthropologist, has been studying the Vedda since 1977 and alleges that their young women are being tricked into accepting contracts to the Middle East as domestic workers when in fact they will be trafficked into prostitution or sold as sex slaves.
Cultural assimilation of Veddas with other local populations has been going on for a long time. "Vedda" has been used in Sri Lanka to mean not only hunter-gatherers but also to refer to any people who adopt an unsettled and rural way of life and thus can be a derogatory term not based on ethnic group.
Why visit Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka, a small island nation located off the southern coast of India, is a hidden gem that's often overlooked by travelers. However, this tropical paradise is a must-visit destination that offers an unforgettable experience for visitors. From its unique culture and cuisine to its UNESCO heritage sites and friendly people, here's why you should consider visiting Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka's culture is a blend of Indian, Portuguese, Dutch, and British influences. It's a rich and diverse cultural tapestry that's reflected in the country's architecture, art, music, dance, and festivals. For example, the Kandy Esala Perahera is an annual festival that takes place in the city of Kandy, where decorated elephants parade through the streets with drummers and dancers in traditional costumes. It's a spectacular display of Sri Lankan culture that's not to be missed.
Sri Lankan cuisine is a delicious fusion of spices, flavors, and textures. The food is typically spicy, but not overwhelmingly so. There is the staple rice and curry and some must-try dishes that include hoppers, a type of pancake made from rice flour and coconut milk, and kottu roti, a popular street food that consists of chopped up roti, vegetables, and meat or egg. For those with a sweet tooth, Sri Lanka's desserts are also a treat, with dishes such as watalappan, a coconut custard, and bibikkan, a spiced cake made with coconut and treacle.
Sri Lanka is home to eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, each of which is a testament to the country's rich history and culture. These sites include the ancient city of Anuradhapura, the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, and the Golden Temple of Dambulla, all of which are stunning examples of ancient Sri Lankan architecture and art. The sites also offer visitors a glimpse into the country's Buddhist heritage, which has played a significant role in shaping Sri Lanka's culture and society.
Sri Lankan people are known for their warmth, hospitality, and kindness. From the tuk-tuk drivers to the street vendors, locals are always ready to help visitors navigate the country and make the most of their stay. Sri Lankans are also proud of their culture and history, and they are always happy to share it with visitors. Engaging with locals can be an incredibly rewarding experience, as it allows visitors to gain a deeper understanding of Sri Lankan culture and way of life.
Sri Lanka is a unique and beautiful country that offers a wealth of experiences for visitors. From its rich culture and delicious cuisine to its UNESCO heritage sites and friendly people, there's something for everyone, so why not add this stunning destination to your travel bucket list? You won't be disappointed.
Pete is a Sri Lankan born Australian with over 40 years experience in hospitality. Pete has a deep love and understanding of the culture, cuisine and hospitality industries of both countries - knowledge which he weaves into his culinary tours.