|Not all countries in the world can lay claim to an indigenous population, however Sri Lanka has this privilege. The Veddahs of Sri Lanka are said to be the descendants of Balangoda Man who lived on the island over 30,000 years ago.
Veddah means hunter. They are also referred to as ‘Wannilaththo’ which means forest dweller. The original Veddahs were true forest dwelling hunter-gatherers who were sustained by the very forests they lived in. The Veddah way of life was a sustainable one where they took only what they needed from their environment and paid great respect to the trees, the forest and the wildlife.
In the first ever recorded reports of Veddahs from 1911, there were 12 main Veddah territories and 3 distinct groups of Veddahs: the Bintenne Veddahs, the Anuradhapura Veddahs, and the Coast Veddahs.
The lifestyle of the Veddahs has changed over time and present-day Veddahs are mostly village dwellers who are accustomed to farming, who also speak colloquial forms of either Sinhala or Tamil. However if we visit the Veddah village in Dambana, we can still witness ancient Veddah traditions and customs which have been passed down through the generations.