Art of Sri Lanka
Vadda man
Art of Sri Lanka
Vadda man
Art of Sri Lanka
Vadda man
Art of Sri Lanka
Vadda man

Vadda of Sri Lanka

The term Vadda must have derived form the Pali and Sanskrit word Vyadha meaning hunter or huntsman.

According to Wilhelm Geiger Vaddas of Sri Lanka were an aboriginal tribe perhaps related to the ancient tribes of south India. They were inhabitating the island long before the coming of Aryans an had spread all over the island and later confined only to Vadi rata or Maha Vadi rata consisting of areas from Hunnasgiriya hills and lowlands spreading through Mahiyanganaya, Alutnuwara, Vellassa, Bintenne, Digamadulla, Vasgamuwa, Dimbilagala, Manampitiya, Nilagala, Toppigala, Panama, Dambana etc. up to the sea in the east. They spoke a non Aryan language a small number of words of which survive up to the present day. With the coming of Aryans gradually they learnt a number of Aryans words and with time words of their own dialect became rare owing to the spread of education and encroachment of civilisation over the areas occupied by them.

Pre Aryans of India must have had some relation to the Veda of Ceylon because some of the religious belief of the pre Aryans such as worship of trees and tree spirits could be traced to the religious beliefs of Veddas. According to another view, Vaddas cannot be called aborigines in the strict sense of the them for their physical features reveal a blended character, mixture of Negrito, Australoid and Mediterram ethnic groups. There is some resembles between the modern Vaddas and the jungle tribes of South India.

On the other hand stone implements found near caves occupied by Vaddas of Sri Lanka belonging to the latter part of the stone stages knives, cutters, arrow heads, crystal blades, axes etc. had been used by the primitive people till very recently in Australia and Malaya. In any case there could have been migration from time to time form South India, earlier groups being driven to the inhospitable forested hilly areas. Thus the present days Vaddas must have been a racially mixed type could be easily recognised by mix shy manner, small and long heads with curly hair, dark, thin in stature and with broad nose.

According to Mahawansa, the two children of Kuveni by Vijaya had fled to the central hills close to Samanala or Adam’s peak after their mother was slain by her kinsfolk. Descendants of these two lived in the central hill region and came to be known as Pulindas, a designation of barbarous tribes, were most probably meant for Vaddas or Sabaras or Savaras.

Life of a primitive hunter depended more on the supply of food he could gather and thus he had to spend more time on hunting, fishing and gathering of food as fruits, edible nuts, and roots, yam etc while hunting was done by males gathering of food items from the nearby forest was done by women. Vaddas usually lived near caves and in open spaces depending on the weather. They often chose a cave near a stream because the wild animals come there especially during the dry season to quench their thirst. Also, in every isolated hill over the plains Vaddas madder their homes as caves associated with these provided shelters for them.

Among Vaddas these is no caste system. There were number of clans called Varige or Raha with each living their own customs and rules. The term Varige is a common word among Sinhala villagers too for when they refer to mix won people they say ape Varige aya (those belonging to our clan). Vaddas want to preserve their customs and rules to the latter, which had come down from their ancestors. Every member of the clan is responsible to uphold these names of some. clans are Morana, Bandara, Rugama, Unpani, Nobudana, uru etc there were sub groups too, very often named after the mother or the place inhabited. It is said that the Bandara clan was accepted as the chief clan and members of this Varige had been appointed as chiefs of forested areas by the kings.

This clan organisation was totemistic nature. Some of the clan names represent animals as the wild boar, peacock, lion, hyena etc. or based on trees rocks, ridge etc. Mahawansa refers to the prevalent of totemistic tribe before the coming of the Aryans. These people must have left the more fertile plains in the face of advancing bands of newcomers and made their habitant in thick jungles and in hospitable areas. Of these people we know only the modern day Vaddas much less in numbers occupying eastern lowlands. As the time went on, they got mixed up with permanent settlers of the area. Mostly Tamils in the east and gradually lost their identity. There is no evidence at all of some ancient Vadda groups for they may have disappeared long ago.

It is said that the Sinhala king Parakramabahu I recruited Vaddas to the army and had train them in methods of warfare suited to the life they were accustomed to.

Though the Vaddas lived in the forest and depended on flora and fauna for their existence they were careful to preserve them.

Find out admirable characteristics of Vadda of Sri Lanka

There were rules to observe which helped to protect and preserve the fauna of the areas. Vadda never killed a pregnant animal or one just after delivery. They were careful about the size of the animal, which depended on the amount of meat they need. As such they never killed an animal like Sambhur to feed 3 or 4 people and were careful not to kill a mating one or one quenching his/her thirst. They had to shift their habitats from time to time with the movement of wild animals. Normally they did not want extra meat to be preserved in bee – honey or roasting for they found it difficult to protect or carry them. They substituted the meat with different kinds of yams. It is said that after a full meat the Vadda used to dance round the fire singing dancing and tapping their naked bellies and this could still be seen amongst the primitive tribes in the forests of Amazon, Congo, East India etc.

Tropical man required very little clothing. As such their dress was only a span cloth and they used to be a strong cord around the waist. If cloth is not available inner part of a tree crushed cleaned watered dried was sufficient. Men sometimes seem to have worn leaves, not probably when hunting to chase the animal and also to avoid the scent of the humans reaching the animal. Women wore a breast band and a short cloth prepared with the inner back of a tree. It is said that the Sinhala king Parakramabahu VI and Rajasinghe II gifted the Vaddas leather for the span cloth from the royal treasury, only to those who won the royal favours.

It is said that the Vaddas never committed adultery, and as a results their married lives were devoid of any unwelcome mishap. Respect shown generally to older females, to the mother and to the mother-in-law is praiseworthy. The Vadda normally marry their cousins and only if they are not available within the Varige. They look elsewhere. Happiest times in the lives of a Vadda couples they say is the number of days they spend in the forest going hunting and gathering food and enjoying the martial bliss. It is always a habit for the wife to accompany her husband when young girls do not roam about in the forest alone for they fear harassment from outsiders most often from Chena cultivation and Muslim traders.

Few caves of Vaddas contain paintings and engravings. There had been rock paintings and rough representations of animals and some signs have been preserved in areas as Uva, Central and Eastern provinces and also in Kegalle and Ratnapura districts. According to R. L spittle there were several pictures drawn using the finger as the paintbrush. There were a number of crude drawings depicting a group of people going to be on elephants and leopards with bows and arrows in their hands. These have been vanished with time not only the drawings but also the Vaddas who lived in these areas. Vaddas inhabitating areas such as Toppigala, Manampitiya, Horiwela, etc. had got intermingled mostly with the Tamils and even the places names had been changed into Tamil and has … names of Vaddas and cultural features had disappeared due to this merging with Tamils cultivators etc in the eastern lowlands up to the sea.

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