Veddah Or Wanniyala-Aetto: People of the Forest



The Veddas or Wanniyala-aetto are an aboriginal population of Sri Lanka of Munda origins. They are the descendants of the neolithic communities who lived on the island of the Indian Ocean about 18,000 years ago. The Wanniyala-Aetto live in the rainforest to the east of the central mountain range of Sri Lanka. Its predecessors were able to adapt thanks to the diversity and richness of the island, with an area that in Spain would be between those of Aragon and Castilla la Mancha, or in Colombia would be comparable to the Antioch.

Yakkhas is the name they receive in the Mahavamsa, an ancient Sinhalese chronicle. Human remains from 18,000 years ago have been found in Sri Lanka that show genetic continuity with the Wanniyala-Aetto. Originally the Wanniyala-Aetto were hunter-gatherers. They used bows and arrows in the hunt, collected the wild plants and honey. Then many Wanniyala-Aetto also practiced traveling horticulture. They created fields in the jungle with the method of felling and burning, called chena in Sri Lanka. On the east coast they still practice fishing.

They lived in caves and rock shelters, wore bark clothes, hunted deer, wild boar and other animals and birds with bows and arrows, harvested wild plants and harvested honey. One of the most particular techniques is the conservation of meat in wild honey deposited in the hollows of the crevices of the trees.

Today only a small part of them retains the original culture and traditions. The Veddas are mostly found in the south-east of the country, particularly in the Uva district and the district of Anuradhapura, in the Center-North province. Another distinct group is located in the eastern coast of Sri Lanka, mainly between Batticaloa and Trincomalee. The main veḍḍa clans are Morane Waruge, Unapane Waruge, Nabudan Waruge, Aumbela Waruge, Uru Waruge and Tala Waruge.

Physically they have common traits with the Dravidian populations inhabiting the jungle of southern India, as well as with the oldest populations of Southeast Asia.

The Veddas living within the country follow a form of religion that mixes animism. One of the remarkable features of Veddas of religion is the worship of dead ancestors, who are called Nae Yaku. There are also the peculiar deity of Veddas, including Kande Yakka.

They worshiped the Nae Yakka (relative spirit), followed by rituals called Kiri Koraha , which are still in vogue among the Veddas of Rathugala, Pollebedda Dambana and between Henanigala Veddas in the Mahaweli area.

According to tradition, the god Kataragama married a girl from a local tribe, Valli, who is said to be a Vedda. Among the Veddas, the marriage ritual is very simple. The woman ties a man's wrist with a rope obtained from the bark of the trees, originally woven by the woman herself. This gesture is the essence of the ceremony and the symbolic acceptance of the man who is his fellow woman for life.

In Vedda society monogamous marriage is the rule, even if divorce is practiced especially at the beginning of married life to tend endogamic origin.

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