“I want everyone to know that we exist here”: The Vedda community – Sri Lanka

The late physician Richard Lionel Spittel was one of the foremost experts on the Vedda community
Credit: Zinara Rathnayake >>

The Veddas were traditionally forest dwellers, who foraged, hunted and lived in close-knit groups in caves in the dense jungles of Sri Lanka. But most people haven’t heard of them. […]

While the seven families who lived in the Rathugala cave [in eastern Sri Lanka] held onto their traditions for a little longer, living in the jungle and hunting and foraging for food, they gradually mingled with Sinhalese farmers and Muslim traders from nearby towns. When food was scarce in the jungle, Gunabandilaatho’s parents cultivated grains like corn, finger millet, mung beans and black-eyed peas. ‘We slowly started losing our way of life,” he said. But now, things are slowly changing, with the Vedda community reclaiming their heritage along with renewed interest in these first people of Sri Lanka.’ […]

Although briefly halted by the pandemic, Kiribandilaaththo conducts indigenous classes for 22 Vedda children every weekend at the centre, teaching them about their way of life and their language and traditions.

We were here before King Wijaya [the first Aryan king] came. We are the oldest living inhabitants in the country – and I want everyone to know that we exist here. I want everyone to know that we have our language, and we want to take it forward. […]

Source: Gunabandilaaththo (Danigala Maha Bandaralage lineage of Vedda) quoted by Zinara Rathnayake in “Sri Lanka’s last indigenous people” (BBC Travel, 28 March 2022)
URL: https://www.bbc.com/travel/article/20220327-sri-lankas-last-indigenous-people
Date Visited: 29 March 2022

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