The Wanniyala-Aetto, or "forest people" are more commonly known as Veddas or Veddahs.
The original language of the Veddas is the Vedda language. Today it is used primarily by the interior Veddas. Communities, such as Coast Veddas and Anuradhapura Veddas, that do not identify themselves strictly as Veddas also use Vedda language in part for communication during hunting and or for religious chants. When a systematic field study was conducted in 1959 it was determined that the language was confined to the older generation of Veddas from Dambana. In 1990s self-identifying Veddas knew few words and phrases in the Vedda language, but there were individuals who knew the language comprehensively. Initially there was considerable debate amongst linguists as to whether Vedda is a dialect of Sinhalese or an independent language. Later studies indicate that it diverged from its parent stock in the 10th century and became a Creole and a stable independent language by the 13 century, under the influence of Sinhalese.
The parent Vedda language(s) is of unknown genetic origins, while Sinhalese is of the Indo-Aryan branch of Indo-European languages. Phonologically it is distinguished from Sinhalese by the higher frequency of palatal sounds C and J. The effect is also heightened by the addition of inanimate suffixes. Morphologically Vedda language word class is divided into nouns, verbs and invariables with unique gender distinctions in animate nouns. Per its Creole tradition, it has reduced and simplified many forms of Sinhalese such as second person pronouns and denotations of negative meanings. Instead borrowing new words from Sinhalese Vedda created combinations of words from a limited lexical stock. Vedda also maintains many archaic Sinhalese terms prior to the 10th to 12th centuries, as a relict of its close contact with Sinhalese. Vedda also retains a number of unique words that cannot be derived from Sinhalese. Conversely, Sinhalese has also borrowed from the original Vedda language, words and grammatical structures, differentiating it from its related Indo-Aryan languages. Vedda has exerted a substratum influence in the formation of Sinhalese.
Animism is the original religion of Veddas. The Sinhalized interior Veddas follow a mix of animism and nominal Buddhism whereas the Tamilized east coast Veddas follow a mix of animism and nominal Hinduism, known as folk Hinduism amongst anthropologists.
The Vedda marriage ceremony is a very simple affair. The ritual consists of the bride tying a bark rope (diya lanuva) of her own twisting, around the waist of the bridegroom. This is the essence of the Vedda marriage and is symbolic of the bride's acceptance of the man as her mate and life partner. Although marriage between cross-cousins was the norm until recently, this has changed significantly, with Vedda women even contracting marriages with their Sinhalese and Moor neighbours.
In Vedda society, woman is in many respects man's equal. She is entitled to similar inheritance. Monogamy is the general rule, though a widow would be frequently married by her husband's brother as a means of support and consolation (widow inheritance).
Well-known by: their cult of the dead
One of the most distinctive features of Vedda religion is the worship of dead ancestors: these are termed "nae yaku" among the Sinhala-speaking Veddas. There are also peculiar deities that are unique to Veddas. One of them is "Kande Yakka".
Veddas along with the
Island's Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim communities venerate the temple complex situated at Kataragama, showing the syncretism that has evolved over 2,000 years of coexistence and assimilation. Kataragama is supposed to be the site at which the Hindu god Skanda or Murugan in Tamil met and married a local tribal girl, Valli, who in is believed to have been a Vedda. Sri Lanka
There are a number of other shrines across the island, not as famous as Kataragama that are as sacred to the Veddas as well as to other communities.
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