The Veddahs are Sri Lanka’s indigenous community of people with a past dating back thousands of years

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.
It is truly a privilege that we can, to this day, observe and immerse ourselves in the Veddah culture of Sri Lanka which has survived thousands of years. As Sri Lankans it is our duty to conserve it, so that future generations too can experience this incredible forgotten heritage.
There are a total of 360 words in the Veddah language which is a spoken language and not a written language like English or Sinhala. It is passed down through the generations by word of mouth.
The Veddah traditions and customs are ones closely linked with nature and the forest which they called home.
The Veddah diet consisted of yams, roots, leaves, berries, wild meat and honey that they found in the forest.
Preparing Kurakkan Roti, the staple food of the Veddahs
Present day Veddahs cook Kurakkan (Finger Millet) and prepare Roti and Thalapa which is their main fare today.

Otara Gunewardene

Founder Embark and Otara Foundation.

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