The last of a disappearing race, they are a people who date back well beyond the arrival of the Kings from India in the 5th Century BC. They are the indigenous people of Sri Lanka. Archaeological and anthropological studies have revealed that they date as far back as the stone-age.
Over the years the Veddahs began to conform to their colonizers, and adapt the customs and practices of the Sinhalese and the Tamil settlers such as subsistence farming.
The remaining Veddahs live in reservations in the jungles of Sri Lanka and still practice some of their traditional ways of life such as honey gathering and hunting which they are permitted to carry out.
Majority of the Veddahs live in the South Central jungles of Mahiyanganaya. Others are scattered in regions nearby such as Rathugala which is close to Gal Oya National Park. Some Veddahs live along the East Coast of Vakarai and have adopted most of the customs and language of the Tamil people in the area.
The Veddhas are a Paleo community and live off the hunting and gathering they carry out in the jungles and wilds they live in. One of their staple food is wild honey, which they collect by climbing trees where the beehives are, and using smoke from burning dried leaves to ward off the bees. The honey is used to preserve the meat they hunt. In the modern age, they also carry out basic subsistence farming to supplement their hunting, such as corn and millet.
The traditional tool for hunting is bow and arrow which is used with great skill and precision, along with the hand axe which every Veddah uses for protection against dangerous animals in the jungle such as the Sloth Bear who is well documented to attack and maul people walking in the forest.
Ancient song and dance is still practised today and passed on to their younger generations as oral traditions. They are people with a close connection to nature, and their ritualistic songs communicate with the elements. They have their own language, which is different from the widely-spoken Sinhalese, and it is passed down from generation to generation.
If you would like to visit these enigmatic people, a very special experience can be arranged in either Mahiyanganya, in the region of Dambana or at Rathugala in the region of Gal Oya, where both of these tribes welcome visitors to see their way of life. A walk in the jungle with the Veddahs will reveal the incredible harmony between man and nature, and the nature of these communities and experience firsthand their ways of life.
Unique experiences can also be arranged to venture deeper into the jungle with the trip in search of wild bees honey, or an exclusive private dinner with the Veddah-chief where you can converse with him on the history of his people, their ways of life and philosophy of life, and the challenges of preserving them in the modern world.
The real treasure of Sri Lanka is its people, and the Veddahs are part of a vibrant kaleidoscope of communities which make Sri Lanka an island like no other.