The Veddha
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The Veddha

The hunters of the jungle

The hunters of the jungle

The Veddha are a minority group of indigenous people in danger of extinction which name means "the one who uses bows and arrows". This tribe traditionally lives for centuries by hunting and gathering in the forests of Sri Lanka.
Snapshot

Snapshot

  • Region is Southern Asia

  • Climate here is Tropical

  • The challenge here is Intense

  • This trip has been rated 5 by other travelers

Life

Life

The Veddhas were originally hunter-gatherers. They use bows and arrows to hunt, harpoons and toxic plants for fishing. They also collect wild plants, yams, honey, fruits, and nuts. Many jungle-based Veddhas farm using slash-and-burn, while communities on the east coast primarily fish. Veddhas are known for their rich meat diet that includes venison, rabbit, tortoise, tortoise, monitor lizard, wild boar and the common brown monkey. They only kill for food only and do not harm young or pregnant animals. They fish using poisons like cactus milk.
Home

Home

The Veddha used to inhabit the south-central jungles of Sri Lanka, in the area known today as Mahiyangana. The Coast Veddhas live in small villages consisting of a cluster of compounds with two or three simple huts made of plaited palm. The Anuradhapura Veddhas live in wattle-and-daub houses with floors of earth. Some of them today have received government-subsidized housing made of brick and plaster with concrete floors and tin roofs.

Culture

Social Structure

Social relations within Veddha villages are ruled by kinship. Apart from hierarchies of age and gender, social relations are generally egalitarian. Caste also plays a role in regulating interaction between Veddas and their Tamil and Sinhalese neighbors, at least in the Anuradhapura and coastal regions.

Religion

The original religion of Veddha is animism. The Sinhalized interior Veddahs follow a mix of animism and Buddhism; whereas the Tamilized east coast Veddha follow a mix of animism and nominal Hinduism, which is known as folk Hinduism among anthropologists.

Traditions

Veddha marriage is a simple ceremony. The bride ties a bark rope around the waist of the groom and they dance in front of family and friends. Ritual dances, accompanied by chanting, music, and possession by spirits, are central to Veddha ceremonial life. These include the arrow dance, the hunting dance, the Na Yakku ceremonies, and the invocation
of various Gods.

Language

Veddha people today speak Sinhala or Tamil, depending on the region.

Art

Veddha people have not a defined art and crafts tradition, so there is little folk art in the communities. In the past, they used to make their own weapons, but they have now come to rely on trade for metal arrowheads and axes.

Celebrations

The Bintenne Veddha engage in many ceremonial dances in which a specialized practitioner gets possessed by a god or demon. These dances are always a part of an exorcism or an attempt to get information from the spirit summoned.

The Coast Veddha observe the Hindu festival calendar, but their most important rituals are locally organized possession ceremonies.
Further knowledge

Further knowledge

Do you have a Buddha Tattoo? Hide it! Sri Lanka has a zero tolerance for tourists with Buddha tattoos. There have been cases in the past wherein tourists with Buddha tattoos have been arrested and deported.




Cover photo iStock.com/Milan Chudoba

Head of Veddha tribe
iStock.com/hadynyah

Veddha Man @srilankaexpeditions

Young Veddha
iStock.com/hadynyah

Veddha Man @srilankaexpeditions

Elefants in Sri Lanka
iStock.com/ShantiHesse