|COLONIAL HISTORIES AND VÄDDA PRIMITIVISM:
An Unorthodox Reading of Kandy Period Texts1
Professor Gananath Obeyesekere
Let me start by saying that this lecture is a by-product of my current field-work in
the somewhat remote parts of Vellassa and Bintänna. I am working in this region
because it is little known anthropologically and historically and I have always felt that
a study of the small village shrines and ritual practices of this area might help us
understand the manner in which the Vadda worship of dead ancestors, known as nä yakku
(yakku having no negative connotation) is articulated with the Sinhala Buddhist belief in
selected ancestral heroes who have been subsequently deified in what is sometimes known as
the band_ra cult, generally constituting a conglomerate of twelve major gods
known as dolaha deviyo. In addition, this was the region which saw in
1917-18 the first major resistance against British colonial rule and hence Vellassa has
special significance in our historical annals. A large part of the Vellassa and
adjoining regions, for example the Monaragala district and the region south of tea country
of Namunukala, were known traditionally as vädi rata or even as mah_ vädi
rata. However, there are no longer any Vaddas in the vädi rata;
the residents there claim to be Sinhala Buddhists. Hence one of the issues that I am
investigating is whatever happened to the Vaddas? In some of the remoter areas of
this region informants will volunteer opinions to say that they were Vaddas before they
became Sinhala; and they have a plethora of myths that relate to their origins in the
Vijaya-Kuveni marriage and many others. I am sure Dr. Mendis would have been
delighted with this information because he was one of the first historians to critically
reflect on the early myths of the Mahavamsa and examine their historical
salience. Hence let me start off with the Vijaya myth, which most of you know, and
which records the origin of the Vaddas and vindicates their connection as well as
separated-ness from the Sinhalas.
Vijaya, as we know from the Mah_vamsa but not from the older Dipavamsa,
married the demoness Kuveni who helped him to vanquish her own kinfolk, the yakkhas.
Vijaya later abandoned her for a legitimate union with a princess from Madurai in
the Tamil country. Kuveni herself was killed by her kinfolk; but her two children
fled to the hills near the fastnesses of the god Saman and it is from them that the Vaddas
were descended. As for the Sinhalas they are a product of the union between the
Vijaya and his followers and the women of the Tamil country which of course means,
according to the Mah_Vamsa, that the Sinhalas are a product of a genetic
intermixture between a possibly north or eastern Indian group of men who landed in Sri
Lanka and Tamil women from Madurai, an interconnection that continued, with ups and downs,
right through history.
After the origin myth of Vaddas and Sinhalas the Mahavamsa is singularly
silent about the former who seem to disappear from Pali chronicles. And therefore I
shall begin my account with the history which deals with these forgotten and misunderstood
peoples of our history, the so-called "aboriginal" peoples living nowadays in
rather poor conditions in the area of Bintanna and Maha Oya. But surely these people
had a past, a history if you want to call it that. There are no "peoples
without history" but only peoples whose histories have been forgotten or ignored or
simply impossible to reconstruct because of the few records they left behind. I
therefore want to practice what I call a "restorative" analysis wherein I
resurrect the Vadda voices from the past, to depict their presence in history and the
complexity of their life-ways prior to their final and sad dispersal, and perhaps the
extermination of some of them, during the fateful rebellion against the British in
1817-18, and the less fateful but nevertheless harsh confrontation with agricultural
development in the Mahavmäli zone. It is unfortunate that we know the Vaddas only
from their remnants in the Maha Oya-Bintanne area and that is because as a thoroughly
colonized nation we have absorbed the colonial view of the primitive Vadda that in turn
has set an indelible stamp on our knowledge of them. Hence I want to initially deal
with what Friedrich Nietzsche would call the "genealogy" of the primitive Vadda.
Mr. Charles Stevens meets some Veddahs and conciliates them.
The Graphic, November 26, 1887.
Surprised by a wild elephant during the exhumation of the body of a dead Veddah.
The Graphic, November 26, 1887.
PART ONE: A GENEALOGY OF VADDA PRIMITIVISM
The most important Western representation of the Vadda that set the stamp for later
characterizations comes from Robert Knox who for the first time in 1681 typologized the
Vadda as the "wild man."2
Of these there be two sorts, Wild and Tame. ... For as in these Woods there are Wild
Beasts, so Wild Men also. The Land of Bintan is all covered with mighty Woods,
filled with abundance of Deer. In this Land are many of these wild men: they call
themselves Vaddahs, dwelling near no other Inhabitants. They speak the Chingulayes
[Sinhala's] Language. ... They never till the ground for Corn, their Food being only
Knox has a wonderful picture captioned as "A Vaddah or Wild Man" with his bow
and arrow and dagger, smoking a huge pipe and wearing a thick loin cloth. He then
goes on to describe the tame Vaddas who owe service obligations to the king, especially
tusks, honey and wax and deer's flesh which they bring to the gabadage or royal
store-house. In Knox the fundamental distinction is between wild and tame based, we
now know, on a primordial European distinction between nature and culture, the wild ones
living in a state of nature without the benefits of culture.4 Hence, says
Knox, they are also called Ramba-Vaddahs or hairy Vaddas who, as children of
nature, "never shew themselves."5 He had fleeting glimpses of
them when he was running away from the Kandyan kingdom, but he could not possibly have had
a close look. Consequently, Knox's representation the wild Vadda must be seen as a
product of his fertile imagination as he conveyed it to the engraver of his text.
But what is the significance of the caption "Wild Man"? I suggest that
Knox invented this portrait of the wild man because that is something his late 17th
century English public expected to hear.
Neither Knox nor the later scholarly endeavors on the so-callled primitive peoples can
be understood outside the larger European context of the fascination with the "wild
man." Richard Bernheimer in his book, Wild Men in the Middle Ages has
beautifully documented this European obsession. Hayden White, and more recently
Roger Batra, has recently reexamined this topic.6 And Margaret Hodgen has
demonstrated that after the so-called voyages of discovery, the human monsters and wild
men of the European middle-ages was being foisted on the savage, on occasion providing a
rationale for the extermination of native peoples. When Columbus traveled into the
new world of the Carribean, he did not find any monstrous beings. Yet he had
hesitant references to Amazonians, to a tribe without hair and, in another interesting
European representation of wildness, to tailed men or homo caudatus in a remote
part of Cuba.7 These ideas sometimes affected physical perception: thus
in 1560 the Spanish thought they saw giant men in Patagonia which is the land of
"patagones" or "big feet."8 As late as 1765 the
English circumnavigator Byron claimed to have seen giants in Patagonia. It was
Wallis and Carteret who a few years later disabused the English public regarding
Patagonian giants.9 The popular ideas of the wild man also affected
science and other forms of literature. For example, the great Linneaus in his System
of Nature not only classified the world's fauna and flora but also typologized humans
into homo sapiens and homo monstrosus, and among the former were wild
men. Even religious reformers like John Wesley were influenced by similar notions of
savages as wild men, not fully human.10
The image of the Vadda as the wild man continued into colonial texts both Portuguese
and Dutch, though the former did indicate that while Vaddas were no doubt hunters, if not
gatherers, they were also fierce warriors. These colonial texts generally resulted
in a narrowing of the Vaddas as primitive peoples. Early anthropology enshrined this
view of the Vadda in 1881 in one of the first standard texts by Sir Edward Tylor: "In
the forests of Ceylon are found the Veddas or 'hunters', shy wild men who build bough
huts, and live on game and wild honey."11 Parallel with the cultural
typification of the Vadda as primitive went a physical typification by very distinguished
physical anthropologists such as the Doctors F. and P. Sarasin and Rudolf Virchow, who in
grand style measured their scalps, took body measurements, characterized the shape of
their noses and hair and systematically defined the Vadda in physical terms.12
The wild Vadda was now given identifying physical features through what one
feminist scholar has felicitously labeled the "calipers of the patriarchs."
It was now possible to talk confidently of the Vaddoid type in contrast to the
Sinhala (without seriously examining whether there were Sinhalas who shared these
features). These physical anthropologists and early colonial historians were the
first to define the Vaddas as "aborigines," though their studies were totally
demolished by one of the most discerning of colonial historians, Henry Parker, who wrote
sympathetically about Vaddas. Though respectful of Virchow and others, Parker says
that the wild Vaddas he knew had hair "no more frizzly than that of ordinary
Sinhalese. ... [It] is tied in a knot at the back of the head, exactly like that of all
Sinhalese. ... There is nothing in the figure (except the smaller height), the features,
or the ordinary coiffure, and very little in the average colour of the skin, to
distinguish the Vadda from many low-caste Kandians found in the northern and north-west
Sinhalese districts.13 Some colonial historians thought that Vaddas wore
leafy garments to cover their nudity which is a detail intrinsic to the European
conception of the wild man.14 Vaddas were never nude; and in any case
branches were hardly a sensible way to cover ones nudity. Again it was Parker who
showed that when Kandyan Sinhalas and Vanniyars stalked animals they used to disguise
themselves by wearing such twigs or branches round their waists, as the Vaddas also
Perhaps as a result of early psuedo-scientific studies the Vaddas achieved a kind of
popular notoriety. Many Europeans wanted to see the Vadda as a specimen of the wild
man, or a copy of the primitive Australian aborigine, from the comfort of the Government
Rest (Guest) House, for it was widely believed, on the flimsiest evidence, that the Vaddas
were culturally, genetically and physiologically related to the Australian aborigines.
The Seligmanns noted in their classic work on the Vaddas:
The Veddas have long been regarded as a curiosity in Ceylon and excite almost as much
interest as the ruined cities, hence Europeans go to the nearest Rest House on the main
road and have the Danigala Veddas brought to them. Naturally the Veddas felt
uncomfortable and shy at first, but when they found that they had only to look gruff and
grunt replies in order to receive presents they were quite clever enough to keep up the
pose. In this they were aided by the always agreeable villagers ever ready to give
the white man exactly what he wanted. The white man appeared to be immensely anxious
to see a true Vedda, a wild man of the woods, clad only in a scanty loin cloth, carrying
his bow and arrows on which he depended for his subsistence, simple and untrained, indeed,
little removed from the very animals he hunted.16
Naturally the European curiosity was satisfied by the Nilgala headrnen who brought
Vaddas properly attired as wild men to show them to the European. The Vaddas of
Dambana were also easily accessible from the Government Rest House at Alutnuvara.
The Seligmanns somewhat unfairly called them "show Veddas" because they
"have been sent for so often by white visitors that they have learnt certain tricks,
which they show directly they see a European."17 Village Vaddas were
also not exempt from these performances of what I would call "self-
primitivization." Parker notes that photos of village Vaddas were exhibited in
Kandy to "represent men with wild unkempt frizzly locks; but I have never seen
anything of the kind in their own districts, and it is probable that the heads of those
who have been so portrayed have been 'made up' specially to increase their wild
appearance," a fact confirmed, says Parker, by their Sinhala neighbors.18
Both the Danigala and Dambana Vaddas were no longer exclusively hunters; they had
for a long time taken to hena or swidden cultivation, even keeping cattle, and lived in
close contact with neighboring Sinhalas. In the early part of the 20th century a few
continued to use bows and arrows; others had shotguns, while yet others borrowed guns from
the Sinhala.19 A picture that appeared in the New York Times sometime ago
by Viveca Stegborn, a Vadda rights activist, showing Vaddas of Maha Oya carrying bows and
arrows and in a stalking posture must very likely have been posed to convey the idea of
"indigenous people" living close to nature and now being threatened by
extermination - a hugely successful ploy as far as the UN committee on the rights of
indigenous people were concerned. Today's Vaddas, unlike their predecessors, are
abysmally poor archers; I can vouch that for a fact from our personal knowledge of them in
It seems the Vaddas of Dambana and Danigala (no longer a Vadda enclave) had taken over
the persona of the wild man expected of them by the European. Theirs was a mimesis
of savageness: half naked, carrying a bow and arrow and displaying its uses, gruff,
morose, distant and glum. Some colonial observers even said that the Vaddas did not
have a language; others that the Vaddas did not laugh. All this was simply a
phenomenon of Vaddas acting the wild man role, but done so well as to fool Europeans; and
I am sure that Vaddas, like good actors, enjoyed playing that role. Thus the Vadda
as a "wild man" was being created for the European by the not-so-wild Vaddas.
Soon this image was being perpetuated for those Sinhala middle class people who, in
their own mimesis of colonialism, have imbibed much of the Vadda mythology created by the
European. I have seen Dambana Vaddas during the 1950s and 1960s line the road to
Mahiyangana carrying their bows and arrows waiting to perform their act of wildness, at
which they were now past-masters. They also demonstrated to the awed Sinhalas the
nature of their strange language, now known as vädi basava or "Vadda
language," helping thereby to further distance Vadda from Sinhala. Today both
Sinhala and foreign tourists line up to take photographs of the present Vadda chief, a
lone symbol of a vanishing primitive "tribe," along with fellow
"aborigines" or _div_si in his own no-longer-very-primitive environment.
The first modern work on the ethnography of the Vaddas was that of the Seligmanns in
their classic study The Veddas published in 1911 based on actual fieldwork.
Yet, although they made acute observations on Vadda religion the Seligmanns too
were paradoxically caught in the dilemma of representing the "true,"
"pure," or "genuine" Vadda.20 For them "show
Vaddas" were phony Vaddas whereas true Vaddas displayed unique physical and cultural
characteristics. Right through this important book the Seligmanns are concerned with
"pure Vaddas," some of whom are "purer" than others, pure and purer
being defined in terms of three criteria, namely, physical appearance, blood and cultural
integrity. Thus the Seligmanns have a three-fold classification: Vaddas, Village
Vaddas and Coast Vaddas, and only the first are the true Vaddas. The coast Vaddas
are the least interesting because "they have much Tamil blood in their veins, and
though often taller than pure Veddas, some still retain an appearance which suggests their
Vedda origin."21 The Seligrnanns give short shrift to village Vaddas
in general and are especially harsh on those, like the Malgode Vaddas of Sorabora, who
have "dropped their old Vedda customs so entirely that the local Sinhalese no longer
look upon them as true village Veddas."22 Finally the Seligmanns are
totally dismissive of those Vaddas who are "half-bred" and
"degenerate" and "will soon be entirely lost among the Sinhalese."23
Given their interest in the "real" Vadda, one would have thought that the
Seligmanns would be able to deal with them at length, but there weren't many left.
The Danigala Vaddas were physically pure but culturally Sinhala; and the Kovil Vannamai
were "badly off and in varying conditions of ill health and malnutrition."
The Seligmanns report that "after visiting so many decaying or degenerate communities
a refreshing state of affairs was found at Sitala Vanniya." This was the only
group that represented both physical and cultural integrity but unfortunately for the
Seligmanns there were only four families left!24 It seems that the
Seligmanns' construction of Vadda culture and society was based on these four families
supplemented by imaginative reconstructions of "genuine" Vadda culture from the
other groups they visited. They could not for a moment recognize that those
not-so-pure, play-acting Vaddas who lived by pastoralism, swidden (hena) cultivation and
hunting might have important information on their own life-ways than those poverty-sticken
hunting and cave dwelling Vaddas they studied for their ever-elusive purity of blood and
PART TWO: VADDA HETEROGENITY AND HISTORIC COMPLEXITY
This picture of Vadda primitivism is not entirely false and it is no doubt the case
that small groups of hunters, both Vadda and Sinhala, did live in the conditions depicted
by colonial historians. Yet the popular idea of the Vaddas as a homogenous primitive
group of hunters and gatherers living in Bintanna, a heavily forested area when the
Seligmanns did field work, would have been dispelled if they ventured into the
Anuradhapura district. We now know from James Brow's pioneer study Vedda
Villages of Anuradhapura (1978) that here were different kinds of Vaddas, living in
about sixty communities, practising agriculture, just like their Sinhala neighbors.
They were also formally Buddhist and yet their self-identification was not Sinhala but
Vadda and interestingly they thought that their professional identity was that of
"hunter," even though hunting was no longer their main occupation.25
The best place to reexaniine Vadda primitivism is Bintanne which Knox and everyone else
believed was the habitat of the wild Vaddas. In early British times Bintanne was a
desolate place and the famous stupa at Mahiyangana was in disrepair. But let us go
back into the corridors of time and memory and have another look at Bintanne in the early
17th century when it was mostly known as Bintanne-Alutnuvara in both indigenous and Dutch
colonial texts. When the two names are conjoined, the term does not refer to a
wilderness region but to the important city of Alutnuvara. The term Bintanna means
"the plains" or "the flat country" and is etymologically equivalent to
Mahiyangana. But why, one might ask, the name Alutnuvara?
Alutnuvara means "the new city" and is an alternative capital of the kings
when the "the old city" of Kandy was threatened by the Portuguese and later the
Dutch. The Kandyan kings had several such alternative residences such as
Diyatilaka-nuvara, now known as Hanguranketa, and Nilambe near Galaha but the major
alternative capital was Alutnuvara.26 Dutch accounts from around 1602
show it as a place where "the old Emperors used to hold court as it is a beautiful
city where there are many large streets, beautiful buildings and wonderful pagodas or
heathen temples and among others there is one whose base is 130 paces round,
extraordinarily beautiful, very tall .... In it is also a beautiful and large palace of
the Emperor full of beautiful buildings within. Here the best galleys and sampans of
the Emperors are made. Here are also many shops but no market, stone monasteries and
a great many bamboo [bark?] houses which stretch for a mile or two in distance along the
river.27 Another says it is "one of the most beautiful cities of the
entire island where everything that one thinks of can be obtained." Then, as
well as now, Bintanna-Alutnuvara was a place where Vaddas met Sinhala Buddhists, but
Vaddas were probably the dominant population here. Because it was an alternate
capital Alutnuvara was a way station for embassies from the east coast ports, especially
Batticaloa and Trincomalee, traveling to Kandy. Hence another account from such a
Dutch embassy gives a vivid description of the temple rituals and processions including
bare-breasted women dancers whom I suspect were Vadda women associated with the Saman
devale and honoring their own deities housed therein. "The most beautiful
maidens, ere the procession goes out and comes in again, perform many wondrous feats with
dancing; they are all with naked bodies bare above, the arms, hands and ears half adorned
with gold and precious stones; below they have handsome embroidered clothes."28
The Saman devale at Ratnapura had a tradition of dancing women which was
first recorded by the Portuguese historian Femao de Queyroz in 1630; from his castigation
of the "profanity of heathenism" and "that shameful practice" one
might justifiably infer that the dancers were bare-breasted (which is nothing unusual
because in everyday life women at that time were bare-breasted anyway.)29
When the need arose the kings sent their families to Bintanna-Alutnuvara to be guarded
by the Vaddas of that region because of their fierce loyalty. Rajasinha II, one of
the greatest of the Kandyan kings, was born here, as attested both by Knox and also in the
last book of the Mah_vamsa.30 It is not likely that the Vaddas,
at least those who served the king, were the shirtless savages of the European and
bourgeois imagination. There is at least some confirmation of well-dressed Vaddas
from de Queyroz writing in 1688:
Though these people are so wild, in no other has the King of Candea greater confidence,
for in men left to their own nature, where shrewdness grows there grows malice. The
Bedas of Vilacem [Vellassa] have in their keeping the treasure of that King, for which he
chooses twelve of these men, and as a distinction he given them twelve ear-rings of silver
and canes with ornaments of silver with garments different from the others, that they may
be known and respected; and they come by night to speak with the King on what concerns his
service. In the straits of war, as on the occasions when the Portuguese entered
Candea, the Kings entrust to them their wives, and they have made for them houses in their
fashion in these jungles and woods, very clean and with many flowers; and as they have
little elegance, they must have done it on the instruction of the same Kings. For a
space of twelve leagues of inaccessible thickets from Vilacem to the first Chain of
mountains of Baticalou, they must have built about fifty houses, on thwart the other,
where our arms neither reached nor were able to cause any damage, because of the careful
watch they kept, and because of the incredible ruggedness of those places, sought for and
varied on purpose.31
It seems that twelve was the standard number for such groupings; a Dutch account of
1762 mentions "two Adigar brothers [visting Kirinde in Ruhuna] together with a few
minor Kandyan chiefs ... were escorted by twelve Vaddas and fourteen other bowmen
composing the bodyguard of the Adigars."32 And other accounts
substantiated Queyroz's view that Vaddas had easy access to the king and familiarly
referred to him as "cross-cousin" or massina:
Once a year the Vedas send two deputies with honey and little presents to the king.
When they arrive at the gate of the palace, they send word to his majesty that his
cousins wish to see him. They are immediately introduced. They then kneel, get
up, and inquire of the king, rather familiarly, about his health. The king receives
them well, takes their presents, gives them others, and orders that certain marks of
respect be shown them on their retiring form the palace.33
Lest you imagine that well-dressed Vadda soldiers were an exclusive Kandyan period
phenomenon let me refer you to their regiment in the army of Parakramabahu 1 (1 153-1186):
"He [the king] trained many thousands of hunters [vy_dha, that is, Vaddas] and made
them skilled in the use of their weapons, and gave them swords, black clothes and the
PART 3: THE SPREAD AND DISPERSAL OF VADDA LINEAGES
I now want to demonstrate the presence of Vaddas in virtually every part of the nation
after the 16th century during the period of the Kotte, Kandy and Gampola kings. I
will use what I call "intermediate texts," mostly palm leaf manuscripts from
this period written in simple Sinhala by local intellectuals and sometimes ordinary
literate citizens rather than the classic histories written by monks. I will
initially deal with ritual texts from such post harvest ceremonies like the kohomb_
kank_riya. Then 1 will use the following intermediate texts: kadaimpot or
"boundary books" that demarcate the boundaries of the island and also of regions
and districts;35 vamsa kath_ especially a short text known as vadi vamsaya
and a much longer one, vanni rajavaliya; then I will sample a fascinating and
enormously prolific genre known as vitti pot, or "stories about episodes or
events;" and finally, I shall briefly refer to a few lekam rniti or
land-tenure registers. Especially famous ones like the sabaragamuva hi lekam
mitiya are well-known to scholars though few have used thern.36
Incidentally, all of these intermediate texts give us invaluable information on the
migration of different kinds of people to Sri Lanka mostly from southern India (not
necessarily Tamil Nadu) but also from Southeast Asia. We are in the process of
transcribing a few of these texts and I will only present a sampling from the ones I am
An adventure while gathering honey - Leap or Starve.
The Graphic, November 26, 1887.
The Veddah with his axe encounters and defeats bruin.
The Graphic, Nov ember 26, 1887
1. My first example is a ritual text known as vaddan andagahima, or
"roll-call of the Vaddas," sung during the well-known ritual of the kohomba
kankariya which suggests that the Vadda territory was practically coterminous with
that of the Kandyan Sinhalas. In two texts of vaddan andagdhima, one edited
by Charles Godakumbura and the other by Mudiyanse Disanayake, over ninety Vadda villages
are mentioned. The Vaddas of Bintanna are not included, presumably because they were
unknown to the composers of these texts37' No reference is made to Vaddas
living in Sri Lanka's Sabaragamuva province either, which according to the Mahavamsa
account was where Kuveni's children went. Some of the Vadda areas are familiar to
those living in and around the modern city of Kandy such as Asgiriya, Bogambara and
Hantana while others are well known to many of us: Batalagala, Gomiriya, Maturata,
Hunnasgiriya, Lower Dumbara, Kotmale, Nuvara Eliya, Kehelgamuva and Uragala.
Needless to say these are all Sinhala (and estate Tamil) areas today. These lists
are by no means exhaustive: but they are almost always from the area around Kandy, the
North Central Province, the Dumbara and Kotmale valleys and Uva. Lest die-hard
empiricists think that the evidence from the kohomb_ kank_riya is of little value
I might add that the kingdom of Kandy itself was founded by Vikramabahu (c. 1474-1511) in
what was known as "Katupulle bada Senkandha naine Srivardhanapura" a
highfaluting name for what was earlier called the village of Katupulla and ruled by a
Vadda chief known as Katupulle Vadda. Equally interesting is the fact that the
Kandyan kings had a kind of police force known as katupulle atto which I am sure
was constituted by the Vaddas of that name.38
2. My second sampling is from the matale kadaimpota ("the book of
boundaries of the Matale district"), and I will use Abeywardene's edition. For
us Matale would be unthinkable as a habitat for Vaddas because its present inhabitants are
mostly Sinhala, followed by later immigrants into the region, Muslims and estate Tarnils.
Yet the matale kadaimpota written around the mid 17th century presents an
entirely different picture. In this account the king of Matale, Vijayapala, the
older brother of Rajasinha II, summoned Niyarepola Alahakon Mohottala, and asked him to
name the denizens (lit. men and animals) of Matale and the reply was: "Lord, there
are only three [noble] houses in the rata of Matale" and when the king asked what
these houses were, "Lord, there is Kulatunga Mudiyanse of Udupihilla, Vanigasekere
Mudiyanse of Aluvihara, Candrasekere Mudiyanse of Dumbukola [Dambullal], [and then also]
Gamage Vadda and Hampat Vadda of Hulangamuva, and when the king asked who are there in the
lands beyond (epita rata), Lord on the other side of the steep waters (hela kandura) of
Biridevela, there is Kannila Vadda guarding (hira kara hitiya) at Kanangamuva,
and He'rat Banda guarding at Nikakotuva, and Maha Tampala Vadda guarding at Palapatvala,
Domba Vadda guarding at Dombavela gama, Valli Vadda (a female?) guarding at Vallivela,
Mahakavudalla Vadda guarding at Kavudupalalla, Naiyiran Vadda [some texts Nayida] guarding
at Narangamuva, Imiya Vadda guarding at Nalanda, Dippitiya Mahage [a female] guarding an
area of nine gavuvas in length and breath in the district known as Nagapattalama, and
Makara Vadda and Konduruva employed in the watch of the boundary (kadaima),
Mahakanda Vadda guarding the Kandapalla [today's Kandapalla korale], Hempiti Mahage
guarding Galevela, Baju Mahage guarding the Udasiya Pattuva of Udugoda Korale, Minimutu
Mahage guarding the [same] Pallesiya Pattuva, Devakirti Mahage guarding Melpitiya
The text then goes on to mention that outside of these vadi vasagam (some
versions say vddi vamsa), there are the many Brahmins who had arrived long ago
with the sacred bo tree and are now settled in this district.
Parker mentions a related document from the same period which gives the same list but
adds a few more: The Vadda chief of Hulangomuva, Yahimpat Vadda, and Kadukara of Bibile
(in the Matale district).40 Other versions of this text also have extra
information. These are special lists and do not indicate the true extent of the Vadda
presence in this district because they mention only Vaddas guarding the frontier. We
get a glimpse of the larger picture from Archibald Lawrie's A Gazetteer of the Central
Province written in the 1890s41." He lists about thirty more villages
which were Sinhala when he made his inquiries but, according to local traditions, were
once peopled with Vaddas. Let me briefly refer to a few:
1. Ambanpola: in Asgiriya Pallesiya Pattuva, Matale South, the name of which is derived
from Ambanpala Vadda. "The inhabitants are descended from Konara Vedda and
Dahaneka Vedda, descendants of Ambanpala."42 Even in Lawrie's time
only the tradition of the founders remained because his notes suggest that the village was
occupied by Kandyan upper castes.43
2. Ambitiyava [Embitiyawa]: in Asgiri Udasiya Pattu, Matale South; the vasama
or headrnan's division includes Dorakumbura, Matalepitiya, and Naldeniya villages.
"The tradition is that it derives its name from Embi, a Vedda woman, who was the
3. Galagama: Asgiriya Pallesiya Pattuva, Matale South, in Yatavatta vasama.
Lawrie recorded a long and fascinating history, most importantly that the village
was founded by "the daughter of King Wira Parakrama Bahu [c. late 15th century], of
Nevugala Nuwara, alias, Galagama Nuwara, who was married to a Vedda king of the
city of Opaigala."
4. Pottota-vela: in Gaugala Udasiya Pattu, Matale East, now a small village of farmers
but which was "first settled by a Vedda named Huwan-kumaraya ["noble
prince"], who covered his house with bark ."45 The name of the
founder suggests a high status Vadda.46
5. Puvakpitiya: in Gangala Udasiya Pattu, Matale East, which in Lawrie's time included
Vellalas, aristocratic families and castes of Pannayo, Weavers, Washers and Smiths.
Yet, "the original settler was a Vedda named Hapu Ratnekala. He first planted
arecanut trees [in this area?]."47 The name of the village Puvakpitiya
means "field of arecanut trees."
6. Madavala: in Gampahasiya Pattuva, Matale South which has a tradition that "a
Vedda named Herat Bandara formed this village," which once again implies a Vadda with
a Sinhala type name.48
7. Udugama: in Gampahasiya pattuva, Matale South. The vasama includes
the following villages: Udugama, Ellepola, Madagama and Golahenvatta. "Herat Bandara,
son of the Vedda King of Opaigala, was the original settler." Thus the Vadda king's
son is a Bandara (a Kandyan aristocrat) and settled in a Sinhala area; or the Sinhala area
was also originally Vadda. In Lawrie's time it was a multicaste village including
Vellalas and Mudaliperuva; perhaps the latter were descendants of Herat Bandara.49
The royal Vaddas of Opaigala are mentioned in other intermediate texts also.
Finally, consider that, according to Lawric, virtually all of Laggala Pallesiya Pattu
consisting of 155 square miles was originally Vadda and especially the villages of
Hanvalla, Kelanvela, Ranamure, Galgedivela, Maraka, Himbiliyakada, Oggomuva, and
Uduvelvela. During the course of my own field work in the late 1950s and early 60s the
tradition was that many of the villages of Laggala Udasiya Pattu were also once Vadda.
Consider the implications of this information. The Vaddas mentioned above have
names which suggest a variety of social backgrounds: you have Vaddas that have lineage
names like Gamage associated with members of the ordinary farmer (govigama) caste
in many parts of the Sinhala country. There are names that might well be unique to Vaddas
of this region because they are not recognizably Sinhala ones, for example, Imiya Vadda,
Makara, Hampat, Konduruva. One Vadda, Herat Banda, has a straightforward Sinhala
name; and in Lawrie's list there are two Vaddas named Herat Bandara which normally one
would think were simply Sinhalas of "good families." Three Vaddas have the
word "Maha" or chief or a similar term attached to their names suggesting
persons of great importance, such as Huwan Kumaraya, "Noble Prince." Then
there is Kadukara ("sword-weilding Vadda") of Bibile whose name suggests
expertise in swordsmanship - an interesting finding because Seligmann says that Vaddas
simply did not have swords (even though Vadda derived rituals I have witnessed have sword
dances). Most fascinating are the five Vadda "Mahages", that is, women who are
heads of presumably Vadda villages and also engaged like their male counterparts as guards
at watch posts, contradicting all of the latter day information of Vadda women as shy
creatures kept under strict protection by their menfolk. The tradition of female
Vadda chiefs is indirectly confirmed by Lawrie who mentions a Vadda woman Ambi as the
founder of Arnbitiyava village. Now for the final thrust: Lawrie refers to a Vadda
King of Opaigala who married the daughter of a Sinhala king, Vira Parakrama Bahu, a
strategic alliance between two kings. His son was significantly named Herat Bandara in
Sinhala style and he founded the village of Udugama and was perhaps the ancestor of
distinguished Kandyan aristocrats, the Udugamas and Ellepolas. It therefore seems,
that as far as the Vaddas of Matale are concerned, they were as internally differentiated
as the Sinhalas though they probably did not have anything approximating the latter's
caste system; and some were clearly already adopting high status Sinhala narnes.50
What about occupational and economic differentiation in Lawrie's list? The term Vadda
comes from vy_dha to pierce, that is to hunt, but it is wrong to think that this
was their exclusive occupation. Lawrie provides some hints that Vaddas were also
agriculturalists as, for example, the founder of a village who was the first to cultivate
arecanuts. Other reports hint at agriculture as this note by Lawrie indicates:
"The tradition is that a Vedda of Weragama in Bintenna shot an elk, which after
receiving the wound ran as far as the swamp of Iriyagolla and fell down there. The
Vedda followed in the track of the elk and secured it. The Vedda, seeing the mira
was capable of being asweddumized [that is, brought under cultivation], mentioned it to
the King of Sitawaka, who said, 'Thou had'st better asweddumize and settle there.'
He did so."51 Here is a therne 1 shall take up later, that of
Sinhala kings of this period engaged in opening lands for agricultural development, in
this case aided by a Vadda. I would think that the Vaddas who had Sinhala names like Herat
Bandara would have also practiced agriculture in addition to hunting as much as the
Sinhalas of this area belonging to the farmer caste practised hunting in addition to
agriculture during that very period.
3. My third example is from a text known as the vddi vamsaya ("the Vadda
dynasty") and deals with an event in the kingdom of Gampola. The text says that
in the Vadipattuva of Migahagoda a daughter of a Vadda named Na Hami married Didiya Tulane
Mativalagedera Srimattu. She had ten sons and one daughter, Sangiti. The sons
were under the employ of King Vira Parakkan of Gampola (also known as Kundapola, the
latter a Tamil gotra name, probably a minor raja of Tamil origins living as a Sinhala
king.) The Vadda sons were all employed by the king as warriors. The following
heroic deeds were performed on behalf of the king by these Vaddas:
1 . When the king's elephant went mad and attacked and killed people the king ordered
it to be killed and his tusks brought to him. This was done by the first son, Kala
hami and the pleased king delimited a special area and gave him the village of
2. The second son informed the king of a treasure trove in Kalatota village; the king
gave him Paranavela village in recognition of his services.
3. The third son found a picture or statue of a king where there bee hive; he collected
the honey and the picture and was given Daliya village.
4. The fourth son Rusi Hami killed a homed sambhur and brought it to the king who gave
him Verigama village.
5 . The fifth Vilahami informed the king that there was silver in Hindagoda gala and
the king gave him Halanagama.
6. The sixth Nimalahami with his sister Sangiti's husband and his brother (that is, his
two massinas) straightened a tree that had fallen across the palace and they were given
7. While out hunting in the Digana forest the seventh found a rock with a peacock
engraved on it indicating a treasure. The pleased king gave Maha-ala gama.
8. Because the king had an enemy known as Nayaka Bandara he ordered his enemy's head
chopped off and brought to him which the eighth son obligingly did and he was given
9. The king's dakum pandura (gifts offered to the king by his subjects) 9 was
being stealthily robbed by Kapuru Bandara who rode a mima (or miva, buffalo).
His head was also given to the king by the last two sons Tika Hami and Bala Hami
who were given Galgoda gama.
The details and boundaries or sima of these villages are given. The ten
brothers collectively went to the king with dakum panduru of lots of bolu mas
(the back cut) of several sambhur deer. They said they wanted a palantiya,
that is, a new honorable sumame or v_sagama name. The king asked the king
of the Vaddas (vaddi raj_) to find ten women from any group as brides for the ten
Vaddas. The Vidda king procured for them ten women with such lineage names as Mudiyanse,
Nayide, Rajapaksa, Karasinha, Abeysinha and lesser vasagamas such as Deva kula, Dura and
Sudu Hakuru. These Vaddas then were given a new palantiya name: Pendi Duraya (which
nowadays might suggest low status but certainly was not the case in Kandyan times).
I leave you to assess the significance of this text but it does indicate I think a process
where one Vadda family breaks away from a larger lineage and is given a new name and caste
status. Vadi vamsaya illustrates another feature of these types of texts: the
focus is on some special service performed for the king but this ignores the larger
context. More likely these were warriors in the service of the king and the titles
and honors recognize this fact but the literary convention is to mention one outstanding
4. The fourth example is from the vanniye kadaim pota ("the boundary book
for the Vanni"), the disputed area very much in the news today. It deals with
an event (vitti) in the life of Panikki Vadda, an elephant catcher for King
Bhuveneka Bahu of Sitavaka (circa mid 1511 century), and living in Eriyava, near Galgamuva
in the Kurunagala district. He was obviously an important person for his adventures are
repeated in four other intermediate texts, including the vanni r_j_valiya and a
verse ballad. When Panikki Vadda captured a tusker for the king, the latter granted
him lordship of the four Vanni districts or pattus, namely, Puttalam Pattu,
Munessaram Pattu, Demala Pattu, and the Wanni Hat Pattu, and honored him with the title
"Bandara Mudiyanse."52 One of his assistants is named as Dippitigama
Liyana Vadda Lekam (also known as Nikapitigama Liyana Vadda) no doubt a scribe who was
part of this chief's entourage. Other texts indicate that the latter was granted the
chieftain-ship when Panikki Vadda died. Panikki Vadda had twelve chiefs under his
command called panikki r_las and this text, as well as another vitti pota,
gives a list of these panikki r _las, the soldiers in their command (which
numerically were not many) and detailed descriptions of the lands they were given for
services rendered to the king. As with the Matale Vaddas these villages are now
Kandyan Sinhalas. It can be assumed that the descendants of these distinguished
Vaddas became Bandara Vaddas and then merged with the Sinhala Bandara aristocracy.
Panikki Vadda himself was deified at his death and he is still propitiated in rituals over
a vast area of Bintanna- Vellassa that I am familiar with from my fieldwork.
5. I will briefly draw your attention to the final example from land-tenure registers
or lekam miti. I haven't begun to study these yet in any detail but I have read
two texts of these land tenure registers from Pata and Uda Dumbara from 1798 and 1819.
These give lists of families of Vaddas living in this region with documentation of
the nature of their houses, the lands they cultivate, the cattle they own and the names of
members of their families. In Udispattuva, also in Dumbara, there are references to
36 families of Vaddas living in nine villages, presumably alongside Sinhala castes.
Similar lekam miti for Maturata korale mentions 25 families of dada vadi
durayi ("hunter-vaddas of the dura caste[?]". I doubt that it is
possible to identify any of these families as Vadda today.
I want to make it clear that the Vaddas were everywhere in this island, and
not only in the places listed by me earlier. Thus the Parevi Sandesaya
written in the mid-15th century refers to daughters of Vaddas in the area below the
Sumanakuta Peak (Samanalakanda, Sri Pada) where, according to the Vijaya myth, the son and
daughter of Kuveni originally settled down .53 This is in the present- day
Sabaragamuva province; the etymology of that word means "the country of the sabaras"
or "hunters" and identical with the etymology of Vadda. It is therefore
not surprising to find plenty of references to place names in Sabaragamuva that indicate
previous Vadda presence: vddi pangu ("Vadda land share"), vddi
kumbura ("Vadda rice fields"), vadivatta ("Vadda
gardens") and vadd_gala ("Vadda rock") where a Sinhala village is
now located. The Paravi Sandesaya also mentions groups of Vadda men and
women in the area south of Colombo, around Potupitiya and Kalutara.54 There
were a lot more in this same general area as late as 1805 because one British observer
reported having seen "[Vadda] tribes who inhabit the west and southwest quarters of
the island between Adam's Peak and the Raygam and Pasdan cories [korales] ... and
are much less wild and ferocious than those who live in the forests of Bintan."55
One of the most interesting place names on the border of Sabaragamuva and the Southern
Province ("Ruhuna" in the old political geography) is known as habarakada,
"the gateway of the sabaras (hunters)." In the 1960s, when I did
fieldwork in this area, the tradition was strong that this was where Vaddas and Sinhalas
met to barter and trade. I also have ritual texts that postdated the 15th century which
say that it is a bad omen if you see a Vadda coming from the direction of Rubuna, the
southemmost province of Sri Lanka. Finally, the evidence of the Seligmanns and more
recently the work by Jon Dart suggest that Tamil-speaking Vaddas were found in parts of
the Vanni and the Northern Province, a presence marked in some Dutch maps of Sri Lanka.56
PART THREE: VADDAS AND THE RESISTANCE (1817-18)
Vadda loyalty to the Kandyan king is seen with extreme clarity and detail when the
Sinhalas and Vaddas of Vellassa and Viyaluya began their revolt against the British in
1817 and which soon spread all over the Kandyan provinces in the most serious challenge to
British rule ever mounted in Sri Lanka .57 The rebellion itself began over
local issues related to the district of Vellassa in and around the region near the modern
town of Bibile.58 The Muslim traders who were loyal to the British lived
in three villages in this area but they were as always under the control of Sinhala
chiefs. When Governor Brownrigg in a tactical move to control local chiefs gave the
Muslims their own chief or Muhandiram the Sinhala nobility in the area harassed them. This
anti-Muslim movement later lead to resistance against British rule itself when there
emerged a claimant to the throne, Dorai Svami, who was believed to be in the direct line
of descent from the Nayakkar kings. He wore the robe of a Buddhist monk and
proclaimed himself king in the Kataragama dev_le, demanding the sword and regalia
left by the deposed king and when these were granted he toured the area of Vellassa in
royal style.59 At Pubbare he was received as royalty and he exchanged his robe
"for a white and a colored cloth, a fine shawl, and a red turban embroidered with
gold which Kivulegedera [a Vadda chief] produced."60 Soon the
notorious D'Oyly, the government resident in Kandy and master spy for the British, found
that Dorai Svami was in Kokagala, the sacred peak for the Vaddas in the Bintanna area,
under the protection of Kivulegedera Mohottala. "There the Prince proclaimed
that Kataragama Deviyo had given him the Kingdom which foreigners had seized, and that he
was the third in line in descent from Raja Sinha, imprecating on himself the God's
vengeance if what he stated was untrue."61 The Rate Rala of Maha
Badulugama prostrated himself before the Prince and swore allegiance while Kivulegedera
Mohottala was proclaimed Disava of Valapana, the area west of his own division of
Who was Kivulegedera? He belonged to a distinguished line of Bandara Vaddas and he was
also a Mohottala, that is, an important Kandyan official. Kivulegedera itself is a
village in Viyaluya, a district adjacent to both Vellassa and Valapane. It is one of
the most beautiful villages I have seen in the dry zone, ringed by mountains on one side
and fed by a perennial stream (kivula). What is striking from the point of
view of this paper is that throughout the rebellion the Prince sought refuge in this wild
country under the protection of the Vaddas and was escorted by them. During the
height of the rebellion when D'Oyly sent his stooge, Udugama Unnanse, a Buddhist monk and
spy for the British, to seek the Prince, the latter not only gave this monk permission to
visit him but he even "furnished him with an escort of Vaddo." The
claimant's palace itself was a makeshift affair but it was still considered a temporary
capital or a "gamanm_lig_va" or "circuit palace" with much of the
symbolic meanings attached to the "city" of the king.
The next phase in the British search for Dorai Svami was when D'Oyly ordered John
Sylvester Wilson, the Resident of Badulla and a thoroughly decent colonial officer, to
seek information about him. Wilson dispatched a party of Muslirns who proceeded to
Dankumbura in Bintanna only to learn that the "stranger," as the claimant to the
throne was called, was eight miles north in Keheulla with an armed guard of two hundred
Vaddas. But the British force was confronted at Bakinigaha by a large force of
Sinhalas who captured the Muslim chief. He was taken to the Prince and sentenced to
death. When Wilson was informed of this disaster he himself went into this area and
once again had to deal with armed Sinhala villagers under local chiefs. Wilson tried
to negotiate with them but they would have none of it. He sent his force back and
retired into the stream nearby in order to defecate. There he was killed by Sinhala
arrows: a not very-glorious way of dying, a not-very-glorious way of killing. Yet,
who shot Douglas Sylvester Wilson is as much of a point of honor for Sinhala people in
this area just as who killed Captain Cook was for Hawaiians.62 To this day
various Sinhala families in Vellassa vie with each other for that somewhat dubious honor.63
A week after Wilson's death the Prince "assumed the name Viravikrama Sri Kirti and
appointed the Household officials whom court etiquette rendered necessary."64
Simon Sawers, D'Oyly's trusted second in command, was sent to Badulla on 27 October,
1817 to oversee matters. The well-known Kandyan chief Kappitipola Nilarne was also
sent by D'Oyly to Badulla and another chief Dulvava was sent to Valapane, the region which
was given to Kivulegedera by the Prince. Kivulegedera's people chased Dulvava away
and tore his banner to shreds and destroyed the mail station that connected this region
The British strategy was to isolate the region and this was done by the infamous Major
Macdonald who with four detachments moved from Badulla, Kandy and Bintanna and met on the
31st at Haunsanvella, near the place of Wilson's death. He engaged in a massive
destruction of villages and their crops. There was only one casualty on the British
side, a man who was shot when Kivulegedara's house in Viyaluva was being burnt down.65
As Pieris rightly pointed out scorched earth tactics, though well-known in Europe and
practiced in colonial warfare, were unthinkable for Kandyans for whom destroying crops
were almost acts of sacrilege. On November 1 st Molligoda and Millava joined the
British troops under Macdonald and marched from Bintanna with no opposition, "crowds
appearing before the Adikar to claim protection from him." Yet the Prince eluded
capture. In a proclamation dated 1 November 1817, Brownrigg urged the punishment of those
"acting, aiding, or in any manner assisting in the rebellion which now exists in the
Provinces of Oowa, Walapona, Wellassa and Bintanna ... according to Martial Law either by
death or otherwise, as to them shall seem right and expedient."66
Kappitipola's fate was different from Dulvava's. He left Badulla as an emissary
of the British to deal with the situation in Vellassa but he was captured by Vaddas at
Alupota, a Muslim village, on November 1, 1817. According to one local history I
gathered in the field it was again Kivulegedera who headed the Vaddas. Apparently
Kappitipola was effectively surrounded by a force of Sinhalas and Vaddas and they refused
to let him leave. The details of the negotiations between Kappitipola and those who
captured him are not clear; what is clear is that Kappitipola, from being the agent of the
British government, now became the leader of the rebellion. With Kappitipoia's
involvement the rebellion ceased to be a local one and became a national movement in 1818.
For our purposes I want to deal with the arrival of Dorai Svami with Kappitipola near
Alutvela (where a temporary palace was erected). Dorai Svami appeared in full
panoply just as was the case with any Sinhala monarch. Paul E. Pieris has a vivid
description of this event but let me refer to his discussion of the ceremonial role of the
Vaddas in this formal portrayal of the official structure of the Kandyan state.
"The royal parasol, headdresses, and other insignia were brought out and arranged
after which a hundred and fifty armed Vaddo came swifly and silently out of the woods and
took up their station. The horanava sounded again and a procession emerged with
the arms of the Gods . ... ... The Chiefs now ranged themselves according to precedence,
and out of the forest the King [Dorai Svami] appeared covered in white draperies from head
to foot and guarded by a hundred Vaddo, crossing the threshold of the building at eight paya
[Sinhala "hours"] before dark, which was probably the auspicious nakata,
while the Vaddo stationed themselves around it. Five paya later the Chiefs
assembled again before the Sarasvati Mandapa and on the Prince showing himself at a window
prostrated themselves in homage before him."67
The details of the suppression of the rebellion are not germane for the present
argument except to mention the extraordinary show of force and brutality by which it was
crushed. As late as 1896 the British judge Archibald Lawrie could give some details on the
ruined temples and devales in the Central Province during this fateful period and write
about the event itself: "The story of the English rule in the Kandyan country during
1817 and 1818 cannot be related without shame. In 1819 hardly a member of the leading
families, the heads of the people, remained alive; those whom the sword and the gun had
spared, cholera and smallpox and privations had slain by hundreds."68
The pax britannica that followed the rebellion was erected on this
Kivulegedera himself, along with the other leaders, was captured and executed while
large numbers of lesser leaders were deported, sometimes without trial, to Mauritius, the
penal colony of the time. After his death he was deified as Kivulegedera Punci Alut Deviyo
("the younger new god of Kivulegedera"). According to Paul E. Pieris,
Kivulegedera Mohottala was the last and seventh of a distinguished line of deified Bandara
Vaddas.69 Both this deity and his father, also a deity, are to this day
propitiated in communal rituals among the Sinhalas and Vaddas in the Bintanna, Vellassa
and Viyaluya region. However, few today seem to think that Kivulegedera was a Vadda
at all; he has been transformed into a fully Sinhalized hero of the resistance.
PART THREE: HUNTING VERSUS AGRICULTURE, STRUCTURE AND HISTORY
In the course of my field work it struck me that those Sinhalas who live, or used to
live, in the same ecological zone with the Vaddas practised similar rituals because they
shared a similar form of life. The Vaddas, however, did not subscribe to Buddhism;
the movement from Vadda to Sinhala is part of a larger movement in Sri Lankan history
whereby those who were identified as "hunters" moved towards rice cultivation.
This applied to the Sinhalas as well as to the Vaddas. With rice cultivation,
it was possible to become more Buddhist, because one no longer needed hunting for
subsistence. Needless to say hunting, like other professions that involved killing,
was viewed as a low form of existence in Buddhist orthodoxy. The first and most
important shift in that larger movement is swidden or hena cultivation and the
raising of cattle. Swidden and cattle- raising obviously could coexist with hunting
as was the case with many Sinhalas and Vaddas living in similar zones; but they could also
coexist with rice cultivation which then becomes a three-fold occupation most consonant
with being Buddhist.
It is however a mistake to think that with rice cultivation and pastoralism there was a
suspension of hunting. Prior.to the colonial period the agricultural areas were
surrounded by large forests and people used the resources of these forests for their
livelihood, and this included hunting. Thus, in the vast area of
Bintanna-Vellassa-Viyaluya-Valapane and practically the whole of Uva people to this day
pride themselves as consumers of dada mas (game), "flesh from the
hunt." Knox mentions that Sinhalas were not meat eaters in the agricultural
areas wherein he was confined. But he simply stated an ideal. This ideal did
not entail the eating of domestic animals but even Knox was engaged in selling meat from
the hunt. Though the ideal that hunting was un-Buddhist is believed by those
Sinhalas in my fieldwork area, they nevertheless persist in eating dada mas, the
most favorite being the flesh of the deer or sambhur. The ideal of venison as the
"pure meat" is so strong that even ritual specialists (kapur_las) in
much of this area will abstain from eating fish and nieat before and during a ritual
performance, the only exception being venison. Prior to the recent enbourgeoisment
of Kataragama venison was even given to the deity as part of his adukku (ritual
meal). What happens with a greater commitment to Buddhist practice is not so much
the giving up of eating dada mas but the giving up of hunting as an acceptable
form of life. Yet, hunting continued even in the more Buddhist parts of the country
in the last century by specially gifted vedikk_rayo, "hunters with
guns." The opposition between hunting and agriculture is expressed not only in
Buddhist doctrinal and historical texts but also in many popular ritual texts which
mention deities and culture heroes who affected shifts from hunting to agriculture and
sometimes frorh hunting to pastoralism among both vaddas and Sinhalas.
The charter myth for this opposition is known to most Buddhists and is first presented
in the Mah_vamsa which relates how the Buddhist saint (arahant) Mahinda flew through the
air and landed in the mountain of Mihintale where King Devanampiyatissa (250-2 1 0 BCE)
was out hunting deer. Not only was the king converted but the place where this
archetypal wrong act occurred became a meditation site for the first monks and a center of
Buddhist worship and pilgrimage. This event in turn is based on an earlier prototypic one
of Asoka who also renounced the hunt, intrinsic to the life-style of Indian royalty, and
instead substituted it with pilgrimages to sites associated with the Buddha's life and
dispensations.70 But the fact remains that, in spite of this affirination of
the Asokan ideal, high caste Sinhalas were also consumers of dada mas in the
Kandyan provinces of that period. And although there is an "eternal recurrence"
of idealized Asokan "myth models" in Buddhist history the earlier kingly ideals
also continued to exist. Thus, one of the greatest of Buddhist kings, Parakramababu
1 (1153- 1186), adopted the ksatriya ideal of hunting: the Mah_vamsa
describes him engaged in the hunt accompanied by his chief queen and courtiers out to kill
that pure animal, the sambhur, just as Devanampiyatissa did with the deer .71 It
should also be remembered that the family and kinfolk of Parakramabahu were both Hindu and
Buddhist, practicing both Brahmanic and Buddhist rituals including he upan_yana
initiation into Hindu life, in this case whereby one became a Ksatriya. Though Buddhist
kings in general desisted from hunting, we know from the evidence of both Knox and popular
Kandyan period texts that the Vaddas performed a crucial royal duty or r_jak_riya
as providers of dada mas for the royal table.
The vast rice growing areas in ancient times embraced the great hydraulic civilizations
of the dry zones which in my view were colonized primarily by Sinhala-Buddhists with the
hunters confined to forests or brought into the production of grain and cattle
(pastoralism). After the abandonment of the old rajarata in the 14th century the
Vadda presence in the region would surely have increased, such that Knox had fleeting
glimpses of them when he was attempting to escape. But Sinhalas could as easily become
Vaddas with the decay of the agricultural civilizations just as much as Vaddas could
become Sinhalas with the development of agriculture in once-forested areas. In fact
this is what happened in the Uva-Vellassa region: the area is studded with archeological
sites of enormous significance (though almost totally neglected in archaeological
studies). By the 13th century this civilization connecting Ruhuna with the rajarata
went into decline and its agricultural base became a habitat of hunters and hena
cultivators, some of whom became Vaddas. Between the 14th and 15th centuries
profound historical changes were taking place in Sri Lanka with the formation of new
kingdoms outside the old hydraulic zones especially in the Kandyan area in the central
highlands; and also in the movement to the coastal areas with Kotte as a capital that
captured the new sea trade with Arabs and later with European powers.
The development of these once forested areas into rice cultivation paralleled the
growing outreach of Buddhism and that of the great guardian gods who were protectors of
both Buddhism and the secular realm. The poetry of this period shows not only the
paths that interconnected the low country but also the many great Buddhist temples and
shrines for the guardian gods. With the bringing of this region into rice
cultivation and subsidiary pasto ralism (such as buffalos needed for agriculture) hunting
ceased to he the prime and valued form of life. This shift is expressed in texts
such as those pertaining to the goddess Pattini who is par excellence the deity presiding
over the ritual cycle known as the gammaduva, a ritual of thanksgiving among
farmers, practiced in the rice cum cattle raising areas of today's Western, Southern and
Sabaragamuva Provinces. Side by side with this powerful movement leading to the
growth of rice cultivation, Vaddas were gradually drawn into the dominant economy.
Ipso facto they were also drawn into a hegemonic Buddhism, fostered by intermarriage with
The preceding discussion helps us to understand. the phenomenon of Bandara Vaddas and
their relation to the political order and the emerging agrarian economy. Remember
that Lawrie's list mentions two kinds of Vadda aristocrats: the one belonging to local
Vadda royalty, like the king of Opaigala and Huwan Kumaraya; the other belonging to the
Bandaras, that is, to the Kandyan aristocracy. In fact, the son of the Vadda king of
Opalgala was called Herat Bandara and founded a village. In my oral histories I have four
lineages of Bandara Vaddas who claim to have migrated from Kandy during politically
troubled times and settled in the Vellassa-Nilgala region after having married Vadda wives
of lower status. The m_tale kadaimpota as well as my own field notes show
how Vadda variges (kin groups) became converted into Mudali peruva aristocratic v_sagamas
or patrilineages, such that clan names like Tala Varige eventually became Tala Bandara and
then were further transformed into such highfaluting names as Herat Mudiyanse and
Disanayaka Mudiyanse - this name changing paralleling the movement from hunting to
agriculture and then into Buddhism. Another group called itself Konara Mudiyanse,
perhaps originally belonging to the widely dispersed lineage of the Konara Vaddas
mentioned in Lawrie's Gazetteer. All these originary Vaddas are now
Sinhala. Some of you will be surprised to know. that members of the late Professor Senaka
Bibile's family proudly claim their descent from Maha Kaira Vadda who was settled in the
Bibile area by Rajasinha 1 of Sitavaka. Thus the case of Kivulegedera Mohottala mentioned
earlier is not an isolated one; his was one of the many lineages of Bandara Vaddas
scattered throughout the Vadda country both among the wild and the tame! The preceding
examples of Bandara Vaddas show that they were honored by the Sinhala kings for services
rendered to them and incorporated into the political structure of their respective
kingdoms. According to my current thinking, the historic role of Vadda and Sinhala
Bandaras was to open up the dense forested areas of the Kandyan kingdom for rice
cultivation under the patronage of the Sinhala and Nayakkar kings.
I want to conclude this discussion by addressing the implications of the physical
omnipresence of the Vaddas, if not their demographical significance, in a tentative
manner. Let me emphasize that as far as Sri Lanka was concerned there were no
"indigenous peoples," no "aborigines," no "wild men" and
"tribes" of the Western imagination. I am as much an aborigine as Tisa
Hami and as genetically and culturally hybrid. Further, unlike in many parts of the
world colonized by Europeans, there was no forcible extermination of Vaddas by Buddhist
and Hindu rulers., Nor, until recently, when Sinhalas have mimicked colonial practice,
were the Vaddas seen as an inferior group. They were feared and respected even if they
were outside the pale of Buddhist civilization.72 There is no doubt that that
civilization was a hegemonic one but not necessarily an intolerant one, as far as the
Vaddas were concerned. The kings were Buddhist and defenders of the Buddhist faith.
But there has been no instance, as far as I know, of "internal
colonization" through violence, or a forcible absorption of Vadda conununities into
the Buddhist polity.73 The presence of Vaddas as different and yet sin-iilar to
the Sinhalas and living in close propinquity to them is recognized in several symbolic
performances in Sinhala society in the recent past. There is a short rite known as
the vadi d_ne or "the almsgiving of the Vaddas" performed during the
Sinhala post-harvest rituals of both the kohomb _ kank_- riya and the gammaduva
which recognized this separation and unity. A similar sense of exclusion and
inclusion is dramatically recognized in the wonderful enactment known as the vadi
perahara performed annually in Mahiyangana .74
Nowadays, we are accustomed to think that the main structural opposition in history is
between Sinhalas and Tamils. Yet, this appositional relationship is a historically
contingent one, that is, it depends on particular historical circumstances such that
periods of Sinhala-Tarnil opposition might be followed by alliances expressive of amity;
or both opposition and amity n-fight co-exist in the same time span; at other times
neither opposition nor amity seem to matter and both communities went on living and partly
living. By contrast, as the Mah_vamsa clearly recognizes, the opposition between
Vaddas and Sinhalas was much more stable and permanent though not a hostile one . Right
through history, even whenVaddas practised agriculture, they were depicted as a different
ethnic group, that is, as hunters. Though I cannot discuss the issue here Vaddas in
general were not Buddhists either but practised the ancestral cult of na yakku.
Eventually they do become Sinhalas and Buddhists (and Hindus in the Tarnfl areas)
but, according to the texts that I mentioned earlier, this is no different from the manner
in which different migrant groups, mostly from South India, eventually become Sinhala and
Buddhist, the more passionately patriotic being the more recent arrivals.
But the question remains that even if Vaddas have been assimilated into Sinhala and
Buddhism why the drastic reduction in numbers in the 19th and 20th centuries? I am afraid
the details are not entirely clear. When the British came on the scene the so-called
wild Vaddas or those who lived mostly by hunting and gathering were confined for the most
part to the palu rata or "desolate lands," the plains of the Vanni, the
Bintanna. Many had been physically decimated by an epidemic of fever (perhaps the
flu) around 1809, according to oral histories. And after the rebellion of 1818 those
Sinhalas and Vaddas living in the vast area known as the Vadi Rata and Maha Vadi Rata died
during the resistance or fled elsewhere, some to the hills and others to the Batticaloa
district where many of them became absorbed into the Tamil communities in that area.
Coffee and later tea took over the wild country where many Vaddas lived, especially
the area of Namunukula right down to Passara. What happened to them and many others
living in the hill country is anybody's guess.
A final word: as with the relations between Tamils and Sinhalas it is obvious that the
constant genetic and cultural interchange between communities must disillusion us against
stereotying and essentializing identities constructed over a long historical period. Take
the case of the Vadda-Sinhala cultural interchanges. Vaddas have Kataragama who is a
Hindu and Buddhist deity as one of their own; and there is the great god Saman whom many
Vaddas of the Mahiyangana-Maha Oya area claim was one of their own ancestors before he
foolishly invited the Buddha to these shores. Saman is also the younger brother of
their own mother goddess Maha Lokuvo or Maha Kiriamma, and yet he is also a major deity of
the Sinhalas. The great Vadda gods were, until very recent times, also propitiated
by the Sinhalas who at best would substitute the word'deviyo' (god) for Yaka. Thus Kande
Yaka becomes Kande Deviyo. I have showed in another paper that the mortuary rites in
the practical religion of Buddhists are very likely derived from Vadda ideation.75 These
cultural interchanges facilitated movement from Vadda to Buddhist paralleling the movement
from hunting to agriculture, as well as the other way around. This form of hybridity does
not abolish the distinction between Vadda and Buddhist; only that at a particular
historical conjuncture, the distinction becomes fuzzy such that Buddhist infortnants
living in what was historically Vadda country even now proudly affirm their Vadda
ancestry. But this affirmation of hybridity is not that of our postmodem situation
where one can self-consciously affirm one's fragmented and hybridized identity. The
Sri Lankan historical conjuncture is but a phase in a larger movement from Vadda to
Buddhist, accelerated in our own times where the dominance and new hegernonic intolerance
of Buddhism cannot be gainsaid, quite unlike in the past where Buddhists also could become
Vaddas. In this situation I think it is the role of the analyst to excavate the past
and hold up to critical reflection the hybrid nature, not just of Vaddas and Sinhalas, but
of our human condition in general. In the current political situation in Sri Lanka
where identities are congealed and sometimes fanatically affirmed I think it our scholarly
duty to point out the historically contingent bases on which such fixed conceptions are
grounded, even if many remain indifferent to what we say and turn a blind eye on such
- 1. I want to acknowledge the help of my research assistants, Mr. H G Daya Sisira and Ms.
Aparna Fernando. I am also indebted to Dr. Wimalaratne, Director of the Sri Lankan
archives for the help he extended to us; and to Ms. Ramani Hettiaracchi who first pointed
out to me the palm leaf manuscripts lying mostly unused in the University of Peradeniya
library. The Vadivamsaya, which I mention in this paper, is from that collection.
I am also grateful for the Wenner Gren Foundation for sponsoring my Vellassa field
project and the International Centre for Ethnic Studies in Colombo for supporting my study
of "intermediate texts."
- I also want to apologize for being unable to systematically employ diacriticals in this
- 2. Robert Knox, An Historical Relation of the Island of Ceylon, Glasgow: James
MacLehose and Sons, 1911 .
- 3. Ibid., 98.
- 4. Ibid., pp. 98-99; James Brow, Vedda Villages of Anuradhapura, Seattle: The
University of Washington Press, 1978, p.13.
- 5. Ibid., p.101. Ramba is derived from the Vadda word, rombio,
according to the Seligmanns and is related to the Sinhala loma,
"hairy." See C G Seligmann and Brenda Z Seligmann, The Veddas,
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 191 1, p.437. I am however not entirely
persuaded by this etymology but can offer no other explanation except that Knox had
to depict the Vadda as "hairy" since this is a characteristic feature of the
model that he employed, that of the European "wild man" of the middle ages.
"Ramba" in Sinhala means "banana" and the smooth peeled bark of
this tree is also called "ramba," as in "ramba torana." A more
hairless example could scarcely be found! See endnote 6.
- 6. Richard Bernheimer, Wild Men in the Middle Ages, Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1952. Bernheimer has a neat summary of the wild man on the basis
of his depictions in art, literature and sculpture:
- It is a hairy man curiously compounded of human and animal traits, without however
sinking to the level of an ape. It exhibits upon its naked anatomy a growth of fur,
leaving bare only its face, feet, and hands, at times its knees and elbows, or the breasts
of the female of the species. Frequently the creature is shown wielding a heavy club
or mace, or the trunk of a tree; and, since its body is usually naked except for a shaggy
covering, it may hide its nudity under a strand of twisted foliage worn around the loins.
- This literature has been recently reviewed in two important essays by Hayden White:
"The forms of wildness: archaelogy of an idea" and "The noble savage theme
as fetish" in Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism, Baltimore:
Johns Hopkins Press, 1978, pp. 156-182, 183-96. See also: Mary Campbell, The Witness
and the Other World, Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1988. Roger
Batra in Wild Men in the Looking Glass, Ann Arbor: Michigan University Press,
1994, has reexamined this topic, though I am not persuaded by his thesis that the European
experiences in the Americas lead to the erosion of the idea of the "wild man."
- 7. Margaret Hodgen, Early Anthropology in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth
Centuries, - Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press, 1964, pp. 1 8- 1 9.
- 8. Helen Wallis, "The Patagonian Giants," Appendix iii, Byron's Journal and
His Circumnavigation 1744-66, ed., R.E. Gallagher Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
for the Hakluyt Society, 1964, p.185.
- 9. R.E. Gallagher, Byron's Journal, p. 186.
- 10. Wesley thought that the American Indians possessed no religion, laws or conceptions
of civil society and murdered their fathers, mothers and children. Asians and even
savage Europeans were not exempt: "What say you to thousands of Laplanders, Samoiedes
and Greenlanders, all of whom live in the high northern latitudes? Are they sheep or oxen?
Add to these the myriad of human savages, that are freezing in the snows of Siberia ... To
compare them with horses or any of our domestic animals would be doing them too much
honour." Cited in Margaret Hodgen, Early Anthropology, pp. 366-67.
- 11. E B Tylor, Anthropology: An Introduction to the Study of Man, London:
Macmillan and Co., 1881, p. 164.
- 12. For a good discussion of these issues, see James Brow, Vedda Villages,
chapter 1, "The Ethnological Context", pp. 3-39.
- 13. Henry Parker, Ancient Ceylon: An Account of the Aborigines and of Part of the
Early Civilization, London: Luzac and Co., 1909, p. 44.
- 14. See endnote 6.
- 15. Ibid., pp. 38-39.
- 16. Seligmann and Seligmann, The Veddas, p. 39.
- 17. Ibid., p. 49.
- 18. Ibid., p. 44.
- 19. Ibid., p. 52.
- 20. This criticism has been powerfully made by James Brow in Vedda Villages;
and more recently in the articles by John Dart, C R de Silva and K N O Dharmadasa in their
respective articles in The Vanishing Aborigines, editors, K N O Dharmadasa and S
W R de A Samarasinghe, New Delhi: Vikas, 1990.
- 21. Seligmann and Seligmann, The Veddas, p. 29.
- 22. Ibid., p. 53.
- 23. Ibid., p. 45.
- 24. Ibid., pp. 37-44.
- 25. For details see Janies Brow Vedda Villages of Anuradhapura, pp. 3-39.
- 26. See also Valentijn in Francois Valentijn's Description of Ceylon,
translated and edited by Sinnappah Arasaratnam (London: The Hakluyt Society, 1978), pp.
- 27. In Sinnappah Arasaratnam, Francois Valentijn, p. 153. There is a puzzle
pertaining to the shipbuilding industry in these Dutch accounts. Donald Ferguson who
translated "The Visit of Spilbergen to Ceylon in May, 1602" in JRAS,
CB, vol., XXX, has a footnote on p. 398 where he says that these were "purely State
and pleasure boats for local use, as they would not have gone farther down the
Mahaweliganga, and certainly not upwards." Yet we do not know whether the river was
not navigable downstream at that time. In fact the author of the Dutch text (p. 371)
says that the king of Matecalo builds ships in the bay. Maybe there is a connection
here. Alternatively, it is possible that the Dutch mistook the nature of the
shipbuilding. It might have seen a sima, an area where Buddhist ordinations
took place because ordinations were sometimes held in "ships." This
hypothesis seems plausible when we consider that this was a place full of monasteries.
The precedent for such sima comes from the reign of Parakrama Bahu I:
"Every year he brought the Great Community to the river bank, made them take up their
abode in a garden there while he with his dignitaries paid them respect. Then after
firmly anchoring ships in the stream he had a charming rnandapa of beautiful proportions
erected on them. Then when he had given to the bhikkhus costly robes and all kinds
of articles of use, the wise Prince made them hold the ceremony of admission into the
Order." Wilhelm Geiger, Culavamsa, (Colombo: Department of Information,
- 28. For more fascinating details see, Donald Ferguson, "The Visit of
- 29. Father Fernao De Queyroz, The Temporal and Spiritual Conquest of Ceylon,
vol., 1, trans., S G Perera, Colombo: Government Printer, 1930 , p.42.
- 30. Here is Robert Knox: "Thirdly, The city [after Kandy and Nilambe] Allout-neur
on the North East to Cande. Here this King was born, here also he keeps
great store of Corn and Salt, etc, against time of War or Trouble. This is Situate
in the Countrey of Bintan, which Land, I have never been at ..... In these
woods is a sort of Wild People Inhabiting, whom we shall speak of in their place."
The editor's note says: "Raja Sinha was born (when the Portuguese invaded
Kandy, twice within six months, Sept. 1611 and March 1612) and forced his parents to flee
to Alutnuvara." Robert Knox, An Historical Relation of the Island of Ceylon
(second edition), editor, J H O Paulusz, Vol., 2, Dehiwela: Tisara Press, 1989 ,
- This is confirmed in Mahavamsa chapter 96 (Wilhelm Geiger, Culavamsa,
part II, p.232 on Senarat fleeing from the Portuguese: "Then he left the city [having
sequestered the toothrelic in a safe place in Dumbara]. Moveable goods, the sons of
the former king and the admirable Mahesi, excellent by wealth and virtue, who was
pregnant, he took carefully with him in a litter and betook himself to Mahiyangana.
While he sojourned in this town the Queen bore under a particularly favorable
constellation, a splendid son, dowered with brilliant marks."
- 31. Father Fernao de Queyroz, The Temporal and Spiritual Conquest, pp. 17- 18.
- 32. Secret Minutes of the Dutch Political Council 1762, Edited and translated,
J H O Paulusz, Colombo: Government Press, August 1954, p.101
- 33. Joseph Joinville, "Bedas or Vedas" In "On the Religion and Manners of
the People of Ceylon" Asiatic Researches, vol., 7, pp.434-35.
- 34. I chose the translation by L C Wijesinha, The Mahavamsa, part two, New
Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 1996 . Wilhelm Geiger objects to
Wijesingha's translation of sattikalambara into satti-kala-ambara,
"swords, black clothes". His translation reads: "Many thousand
Vyadhas too he brought together, (men) who understood their task and gave them what was
fitting for them: spears, drums and the like." Culavamsa, trans.,
Wilhelm Geiger, 69: 10, pp.283-84. My translation of the Sinhala translation of the Mahavamsa/Culavamsa
by Sumangala and Batuvantudave reads: "Having trained several thousand Vaddas in
[military] arts, they were given black clothes and other things they desired." The
Mahavamsa: From the thirty-seventh chapter, translated into Sinhala by H Siri
Sumangala and Don Andris de Silva Batuvantudave, fifth edition, Colombo: Vidyadarsa Press,
- 35. The pioneer work on kadaim pot was done by H A P Abeyawardana, Kadaim-pot
vimarsanaya, Colombo: Ministry of Cultural Affairs, 1978, pp.223-31, my translation.
- 36. Though scholars writing in English and professional historians have neglected these
"intermediate text' they have been sometimes taken seriously by scholars writing in
Sinhala, the most notable example being P M P Abhayasinha, Udarata Vitti.
- 37. Charles Godakumbure, Kohombakankariya [Sinhala], Colombo: Government
Press,1963, pp. 90-91; Mudiyanse Dissanayake, "AVadda connection seen in the dance
traditions of upcountry [Kandyan] rituals" [Sinhala] in, Cyril C Perera, Gunasena
Vitana and Ratnasiri Arungalia, eds., A Critical Review of the Work of A V
Suraveera, Colombo: S Godage, ? pp.414-36; and also a discerning study by the same
author, Kohomba Yak Kankariya saha Samajaya, [Kohomba Demon Ritual and Society],
Kelaniya: Shila Printing Works, 1988.
- 38. Nihal Karunaratna, Kandy Past and Present, Colombo: Ministry of Cultural
Affairs, 1999, p.6. See P M P Abhayasinha, Udarata Vitti, Colombo: M D
Gunasena, 1998, p.64
- 39. H A P Abeyawardana, Kadaim-pot vimarsanaya, Colombo: Ministry of Cultural
Affairs, 1978, pp.223-31, my translation.
- 40. H Parker, Ancient Ceylon, pp.101-02.
- 41. Archibald Campbell Lawrie, A Gazetteer of the Central Province of Ceylon
(excluding Walapane), (Colombo: Government Printer, 1896)
- 42. Ibid., p.39.
- 43. A C Lawrie has reference to Ambanpola Nilame who married into the Talgahagoda family
of aristocrats. Ambanpola Nilame himself must have been a descendant of Ambanpola
Vadda, see reference to Talgahagoda, in Vol. 2, p.810.
- 44. Ibid., p.224.
- 45. I suspect that normal houses in this area were wattle and daub and covered with
straw or grasses (iluk). However, bark houses were common in Vadda
territory of Vellassa and Bintanne at one time; perhaps Huvan-kumaraya had a regular adobe
house but roofed it in the Vadda style with bark.
- 46. A C Lawrie, Gazetteer, p.744.
- 47. Ibid., p.752.
- 48. Ibid., p.515.
- 49. Ibid., p.852.
- 50. A neat example of this shift comes from the Matale Kadaimpota which refers
to Kulatunga Mudiyanse of Udupihilla. Udupihilla, now practically a suburb of the
town of Matale, was founded by Vaddas and the present farmer castes are their descendants,
according to Lawrie, vol., 2, p.858. It seems likely that Kulatunga Mudiyanse of
Udupihilia, a Sinhala aristocrat, is a descendant of Vaddas.
- 51. Ibid., p.947.
- 52. I am using Henry Parker's translation of this text in Ancient Ceylon,
pp.101-02; see also Abeyawardana, Kadaim-pot vimarsanaya, pp.21-22.
- 53. Gananath Obeyesekere, The Cult of the Goddess Pattini, Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 1984, p.304; for other references see, pp.310-06.
- 54. See, K N O Dharmadasa, "Veddas in the history of Sri Lanka," in Vanishing
- 55. Robert Percival, An Account of the Island of Ceylon, London: C and R
Baldwin, 1805, p.284, cited in James Brow, Vedda Villages, p.13.
- 56. I refer to a map in my possession which was originally published in 1722 by
Guillaume de L'Isle (or Delisle), the younger, who was a member of the Academic Royal des
Sciences; it was reissued by the Dutch map company of Johannes Covens and Cornelius
Mortier (1721-78). The area marked in this map is just north of Trincomalee and up
to the eastern tip of the Jaffna peninsula and referred to as "pays de Bedas;"
west of this region is the "pays de Vannias - Malabares." I assume other maps
have this feature also.
- 57. The account of the rebellion is available in Paul E Pieris, Sinhale and the
Patriots, New Delhi: Nawrang, 1995 , pp.276ff, and much of the relevant
documents are found in Tennakoon Vimalananda, The Great Rebellion of 1818
(Colombo: M D Gunasena and Co., 1970). I have collected many oral narratives on this
event from Vellassa and the adjoining regions but for present purposes I will present
- 58. Of Vellassa itself Pieris says: "Vellassa is nearly a thousand miles in extent,
and there the Prince's chief adherents were the Vaddo, who always ranked among the most
loyal and trusted servants of the King; probably they had not forgotten that they had
fought in Parakrama Bahu's armies with distinction."
- 59. The British later found out that the claimant was not Dorai Svami at all but an
ex-Buddhist monk named Vilbave. However, the British did not know this till very
late; neither did the Vaddas nor the Sinhalas who all recognized him as Dorai Svami.
In my mind whether or not Dorai Svami was Vilbave is not yet conclusively proved.
- 60. Paul E Pieris, Sinhale and the Patriots, p.188.
- 61. Ibid., p. 189.
- 62. See Gananath Obeyesekere, The Apotheosis of Captain Cook: European mythmaking in
the Pacific, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992.
- 63. Wilson had suffered greatly when his young wife died on May 24th 1817, a few months
before his own death.
- 64. Ibid., p.196.
- 65. Ibid., pp.201-02.
- 66. Ibid., p.203.
- 67. Ibid., pp.277-78.
- 68. Lawrie's Gazetteer, vol., 1, p.203
- 69. These were, according to the information given to Pieris, as follows:
- lhala Walawwe Alut Deviyo
- Pahala Walawwe Deviyo
- Dissa Bandara Deviyo
- Patabendi Alut Deviyo
- Kadavata Alut Deviyo
- Punchi Alut Bandara Deviyo.
- 70. See, John S. Strong, The Legend of King Asoka [Asokavadana],
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983), pp.119-25.
- 71. Mahavamsa, chapter 70, 32-45 in Wilhelm Geiger, Culavamsa, part 1,
- 72. For more evidence on this subject, see K N O Dharmadasa, "Veddas in the History
of Sri Lanka", in K N O Dharmadasa and S W R de A Samarasinghe, The Vanishing
- 73. I borrow the notion of 'internal colonization' from Eugen Weber who I think got it
from Franz Fanon. See Eugen Weber, Peasants Into Frenchmen, Stanford:
Stanford University Press, 1976, pp.490-96.
- 74. For details see my paper "Where have all the Vaddas gone?" in Neluka
Silva, editor, Hybrid Island, forthcoming.
- 75. See endnote 73