XXVI.—An Account of the Wild Tribes of the
Veddahs of Ceylon: their Habits, Customs, and Superstitions.
By John Bailey, B.A., Oxon., Principal Assistant Colonial Secretary of Ceylon.
[Extracted from Transaction of the Ethnological Society, New Series, 2 (1865):278-320.]
"Wee shall, in this part, speak of the inhabitants of this
Country, with their Religion, and Customs, and other things belonging to them.
Of these Natives there be too Sorts—Wild and Tame. I will begin with the former.
For, as in these Woods, there are Wild Beasts, so Wild Men also."1
So wrote, nearly two hundred years ago, that truthful old chronicler Robert Knox; and, though he praises God he never saw one of these "wild men,'" he proceeds, nevertheless, to give us in a couple of pages, by far the best sketch of the Veddahs that has yet appeared, notwithstanding the multitude of pens that have been employed since his time, on Ceylon.
Early in 1854, I was appointed to the charge of the extensive district of Badulla, which comprises, besides the ancient Kandyan province of Guvah, that portion of the island where the most barbarous Veddah tribes are found. My tastes led me to take every opportunity of studying their habits and customs. My official position gave me the greatest possible facilities for prosecuting my inquiries.
I accumulated much information that was both curious and valuable, but my official duties prevented me from shaping my rough notes into a readable form. For years, my papers lay in my desk, half forgotten, and it is only now that a little unlooked [p.279] for leisure enables me to follow the suggestion of a friend, and to endeavour to arrange the materials which I collected with so much care and labour.
At a time when the investigation of the origin of uncivilized races is attracting so much attention in England, I trust that the results of my inquiries and observations may not be considered devoid of interest; and, in this hope, I venture to present them, such as they are, to the Ethnological Society.
The following sketch of the Veddahs is the result of personal and often-repeated investigation among the people themselves: it is founded only on direct evidence; I have admitted nothing on hearsay. Indeed, so difficult is it to elicit anything from people in such a state of barbarism, that I have accepted even the most direct testimony with caution and have only adopted it after careful cross-examination had satisfied me of its trustworthiness. I have tested again and again the truth of every statement I have made, sometimes reluctantly abandoning a link here and there which would have made my case more complete, only from a doubt of the perfect accuracy of my information.2
The facts I state are, so far as I can judge, beyond dispute, if honest and patient inquiry be of any value. The deductions I draw from them are my own, and must go for what they are worth.
I limit my observations to the wildest tribes, for it is amongst [p.280] those only who are the most barbarous, who have preserved in all essentials their isolation from other races intact, that we must expect to find the most marked peculiarities.
The term Veddah—or Weddah—in itself, indicates no particular race. It simply means "a hunter'', and is, in India, applied to aboriginal or barbarous tribes generally.3
In this sense, a great portion of the population of the eastern parts of Ceylon appears, at some period or another, to have been so called. There are still extensive districts known as "Weddirata", or the country of the Veddahs, the inhabitants of which, although they are, owing to the remoteness of their situation, less civilized than the bulk of the people of the island, are not Veddahs, but Singhalese, in kindred, religion, and customs.
It is highly probable that the people of these remote districts and of others, where Veddah descent is still claimed, are more directly derived from the race which originally stocked the island than those who inhabit such parts of it as were more accessible to the settlers from Continental India, who, in process of time superseded the aborigines.4
But the people distinguished in Ceylon, by the name of Veddahs—wholly distinct, as I have said, even from those who, though now Singhalese, yet describe themselves as descended from Veddah ancestors, are to be found in the districts of Batti- [p.281] caloa and Badulla. The largest Veddah population is in the former district, and these are they of whom Tennent principally writes, but they are by no means the wildest specimens of the race. They have not maintained so complete an isolation from other races as those I am about to describe, and consequently are not worthy of the same attention.5
It is the "Wilder Sort" of Veddahs, as Knox calls them, of whom I desire to place on record an accurate description, before they quite pass away and are forgotten.
They roam about through the park-like district of Nilgala, which presents, of its kind, perhaps the loveliest scenery in this beautiful island, and wander among the forests of Bintenne—that "Land of Bintan all covered with mighty woods and filled with abundance of deer'', where Knox tells us these dreaded "Wild Men'' dwelt.
It would be difficult to conceive more barbarous types of the human race than they present. Yet there are degrees even in their barbarism, for those of Nilgala are wilder than their brethren of Bintenne. They are fewer in number, and more diminutive in stature. They are distributed through their lovely country in small septs, or families, occupying generally caves in the rocks, though some have little bark huts. They depend almost solely on hunting for their support,6 and hold little communication even with each other.
Few in number as they are,—they did not exceed seventy-two persons in 1858,—still no other human beings are to be found for many miles round their habitations, and this seclusion has caused them to retain peculiarities which are fast disappearing, or have already disappeared from among even the wildest of Bintenne.7
There, there are both wild and settled Veddahs. Of the latter [p.282] I shall say nothing, for they have long associated, although they have not yet intermarried, with the neighbouring Singhalese. The former resemble those of Nilgala. If they are less wild, it is but a shade less wild, almost too slight to be called more civilized. They, in like manner, are distributed in small tribes or families. They live in huts formed of boughs and bark, not so much from any advance in civilization, as from the dearth of rock caves, which abound in Nilgala; but they, too, become Troglodytes in wet weather. They cultivate small patches of chena,8 but their chief source of livelihood is the produce of the chase, and honey; and they move about from forest to forest, guided by the blossoming of the flowers, in search of bees and game. Their number in 1856 was 364, but some of these even were much more wild than others.
Both Nilgala and Bintenne Veddahs regard, for each tribe, particular tracts of country as their own, and are, as Knox tells us, careful not to trespass over each other's bounds, and they observe the custom, still prevalent among Bandyans, which entitles the lord of the soil to a portion of the game killed upon it.9
In my description of the wild Veddahs of Nilgala, and those of Bintenne, it is well to bear in mind that, though they are not fifty miles apart, there is no communication whatever between them. No individual Veddah of the one district ever saw one of the other. They are entirely distinct; but distinct only in geographical position. They have inherited the same customs, superstitions, names, and dialect.10
In appearance, the Veddahs differ materially from the Singhalese. They are smaller in every respect, and rather darker, or, more properly, more dusky in complexion. They are short, slightly built, yet very active. Though far from being muscular, their limbs are firmly knit together, and they are athletic and capable of enduring great fatigue. Though spare, they are generally in very fair condition, and look more healthy than many of the Singhalese in the adjoining districts.11
The tallest Veddah I ever saw, a man so towering above his [p.283] fellows, that, till I measured him, I believed him to be not merely comparatively a tall man, was only five feet three inches in height. He was a Veddah of Bintenne, and much more civilized in his life than the rest of the wild tribes there. The shortest man I have measured was four feet one inch. I should say that of men, the ordinary height is from four feet six to five feet one inch, and of women from four feet four to four feet eight inches.12
Their features are tolerably regular. The eyes are good, and often full. The nose is generally well shaped, though inclining to be flat; the nostrils wide. The mouth sometimes large, and the lips firm, but rather thick. The beard is short and scant. The hair of the head which is not curly falls in rusty, tangled masses about the face, making the head appear out of all proportion to the lean body, and this leads those who are not close observers to describe the Veddahs as large-headed. Tennent notices this and remarks how perfectly the description of the Besedae, in the tract De moribus Brachmanorum, applies to the Veddahs of the present day. "Pigmies'' indeed they are, "stunted and with unshorn dishevelled locks''—but the term [Greek] is not appropriate to them; for in point of fact, their heads are remarkably small.13 One of their skulls, sent to England by me some years ago, through my friend Mr. Thwaites, the able Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens of Ceylon, to be submitted to the Society, was pronounced to be, in general capacity, smaller than the smallest negro, native Australian, or Esquimaux.14 But their wild shaggy hair gives such an appearance of undue size to the head that it might well mislead the travellers from Thebes in the fifth and Tennent in the nineteenth century.
When quite in repose, the features of the Veddahs wear a vacant and melancholy expression, which is almost painful to look upon. In speaking to them, I have observed, in some, considerable shrewd- [p.284] ness; in others, that perplexed manner common in people of weak intellect. The women appear sharper and quicker than the men, unless it be that they have less mauvais honte, and acquit themselves better before company, but they are the most ordinary specimens of the sex I ever saw.15
The Veddahs bear a very striking resemblance to each other—both in feature and expression. And this is especially remarkable among those of Nilgala, who have preserved their ancient customs more completely than their brethren of Bintenne, who live in a less secluded country, have been able to do.
Their clothing—so to speak—is the most scanty conceivable. A scrap of dirty cloth, scarcely larger than the paper on which I write, supported in front by a string round the waist, being a complete Veddah suit for male or female; for the rag that does duty for crinoline, is scarcely less diminutive than that which represents the male garments.16 Indeed, almost the only difference in the costume of the men and women is, that the latter have their ears pierced, and wear in the lobes round studs of ivory.
Neither sex is remarkable for personal cleanliness, and with their rugged unkempt locks half obscuring their features, the Veddahs certainly realize all one's preconceived notions of the most barbarous savages.
Knox's picture of "a Vadda, or Wild Man'' is a fancy portrait, and decidedly flattering. They do not "tye their hair on their crowns in a bunch", nor do they indulge in nearly so much drapery or beard as is worn by that stout well-to-do-looking gentleman, who is placidly smoking an imaginary pipe, for smoking is a luxury at which the Veddahs have not yet arrived. The contrast between Knox's idea of the wild men, and their actual appearance, is amusing.
When brought in from their forests to be "looked at," they huddle themselves together like a herd of wild and timid animals driven into a comer from which there is no escape. Attract their attention by a present of rice or cloth, and in an instant they become like eager children, scrambling for a new toy,—forget the presence of strangers, and intent only on what is before them, jostle each other, clamouring for a fair division of the spoil, and complaining loudly against those of their companions whom they suspect of having got more than their share of the good things.
But it is not fair to judge of them when so utterly out of their [p.286] element as they are in the midst of a civilized crowd. They are different beings at ease in their own forests. I have travelled by night with Veddahs for my guides over the plains and through the forests of Bintenne, and have been struck with their altered demeanour. In their own hunting grounds, they are no longer the scared and cowering creatures I have described. They are "at home" and seem to assert their freedom. Bows in hand, their axes hanging from their shoulders, they stride noiselessly along, with head erect, and independent air as though they were every one's equal, and had none to fear.
As their chief pursuit is hunting, whether for game or honey, their constant weapons, without which they never stir, are a bow, two or three arrows, and a very small axe (for cutting honey-combs out of trunks of trees), shaped with a hollow in the lower part of the blade to enable it to hang conveniently upon the shoulder. They also carry a larger axe, stuck into the waist-string at their back.
The bow is long, from five feet-eight to about six feet six inches in length, rudely made of tough elastic wood17—a bow, which a muscular Englishman would bend with an effort, long practice has taught the slightly-built Veddah to string with ease; and I have seen a boy use a bow which caused me some exertion to bend. The strings, which are exceedingly strong, are twisted of different kinds of bark and fibres.18 The arrows, which are about a yard long, are headed with a sharp iron blade, often nearly six inches long and an inch wide, about the formation of which they are still as "curious'' as when Knox wrote of them, and if a blade be given them, they will now, as they did then, grind or beat it out to the shape and thinness they most approve.19
The method in which "they bespeak their arrows to be made," and their mode of barter generally, which Tennent believes still to exist among them, have long been exploded.20 They are not [p.286] now, nor hare they been for very long, so shy as to be prevented from bartering freely enough with the Singhalese, although, unless for the purpose of barter, they avoid intercourse with strangers. Their wants, however, are so few, that they rarely emerge from their forests.
They have the reputation of being expert with bow and arrow, and as it is only the larger game, such as elk, deer, etc., which they pursue, it is very probable that with their remarkable power of creeping stealthily through the jungle, they may be able to come upon their prey unawares and do execution. But they are miserable shots at a mark. I never saw more than two decent hits made at several small "archery meetings,'' which I have, from time to time, got up for my own amusement and their pecuniary advantage. And with regard to the latter, I must confess that I never saw that contempt for money which Tennent supposes is still existing.21
The practice of drawing the bow with the feet to which Tennent also alludes as still in use, has so long ceased, that in all my inquiries—and I was very particular on this point—I could not find a single Veddah who ever witnessed it, but it is undoubted that such a mode of archery once existed, as is traditional among them.22
They have dogs perfectly trained to follow up and pull down the wounded deer. These they value highly; but they are of no distinct breed and do not differ from the ordinary country dogs. But it would appear that at a time when hunting was of more importance to them than it is now, the dog was more valued. Knox tells us, that dogs were given "for portions with their daughters in marriage;"23 and Percival relates, that "before the last war broke out between us and Holland, a Dutch officer sold a couple of Weddah dogs at Surat, for 400 rix dollars, about £30."24
But dogs are still prized by the Veddah. Of all his possessions, he
his bow, which is placed under his head when he sleeps; and next in his
estimation is the dog who guards it, sleeping always at his master's head. "What would you do," I asked a Veddah once, "if your bow were stolen?" "No one
could steal it,'' he replied; "the dog would not let him." "But if any one
killed your dog." His answer was significant. He clutched his axe, and made a
motion as though he would cut down the man who did so.
And this was no idle threat. In 1849, a Bintenne Veddah deliberately knocked a man's brains out, for having, as he believed, killed two of his dogs by magic.25 He never attempted to deny what he had done. "It is true," he said at the coroner's inquest, "I killed him, and I did so because he had killed, by witchcraft, the two dogs I had reared and hunted with for my support." He added, as quite a secondary justification, that the murdered man had also practised his magic arts on himself. He detailed, with great minuteness, how he lay wait for him, and how, while he, with his wife and child, was resting in the shade, he watched his opportunity, and felled him with a club: and—strong evidence of the proverbial truthfulness of the Veddahs—he described how, by his influence (he was the head man of one of the small tribes), he intimidated the widow and father of his victim, and so kept the murder secret for some days.
None but the woman saw the deed; and had falsehood been the normal characteristic of the Veddahs, as I fear it is with too many of their more civilized compatriots, he would probably have escaped punishment. He was tried and convicted of murder, but the sentence of death was commuted to several years imprisonment. It was hoped that, having received some instructions in goal, he might carry back with him some little civilization to his own people.
But imprisonment was to him a greater punishment than death. He pined away in confinement, and was released to save his life. I have often seen him in Bintenne. Civilization has not done much for him. He differs from his brethren only in having acquired a taste for jewelry, for he wears with apparent pride, a tawdry brass chain round his waist.
The Veddahs eat the flesh of elk,26 deer, monkeys, pigs, the iguano, and pengolin—all flesh, indeed, but that of oxen, elephants, [p.288] bears, leopards, and jackals; and all birds, except the wild or domestic fowl. They will not touch lizards, bats, or snakes.27
They can assign no reason for their abstinence from the flesh of those beasts and birds which I have enumerated, but their objection to beef and fowls, though quite unexplained is decidedly the most marked, so much so that during my inquiries, I found that they spontaneously expressed their antipathy, though it required cross-examination to elicit the &ct that they also avoid the other kinds of flesh.
They do not scruple to eat animals which have died a natural death, and have (in common with the Kandyans) a decided preference for their game "high"—if so mild a term can describe the exceedingly advanced condition, in which venison should be to suit the palate of a Veddah (or Kandyan) epicure.
They are fond of fish, which they catch by mixing with the water the juice of particular fruits and barks of trees, which stupify them. A similar practice is common among the Singhalese.
Their arrows procure for them the flesh of the animals they eat, and I can find no trace of pit-falls or traps being in use among them. In Bintenne, some of them employ the hunting buffalo to enable them to approach their game unseen.28 Their dogs track out the wounded animals, and are also trained to catch the iguano,
Tennent is wrong in saying that they procure birds with the bow. They are not good enough shots for that. They catch them with bird-lime, made from the juice of the bo-tree (ficus religiosa)—and also watch them to their nests, and take them at night. Their skill as marksmen is most indifferent, and they never exercise it at small objects.
The most choice food, in their estimation, is, of land animals, the flesh of the pengolin, or of the iguano; and, of fish, the eel. Though they eat no part of the elephant, yet he is the object of their pursuit, both for their own protection and on account of the ivory, so valuable to them as an article of barter. They will steal up to an elephant, and, as he is in the act of stepping for- [p.289] ward, shoot their long-bladed arrows in the soft fleshy part under the forearm, and so disable him.29
They have a great dread of meeting elephants at night, and have charms to protect them from them—not only to turn them from their path, but to render innoxious the bear, the leopard, and the wild boar. And I must here record, that they are the only charms I have entire faith in.
I never shall forget the first time one of these Veddah charms was recited for my edification. It was midnight; I was in the heart of a dense and gloomy forest, twenty miles from any habitation. The moon had not quite risen, and the stems of the trees and the gigantic pendent creepers were flickering in the uncertain light cast by the torches, which my Veddah guides, gliding through the forest, bore before ma I was chatting to an intelligent Veddah by my side and then learnt for the first time, that they had charms, having been till then, like Tennent, ignorant of the fact.30 I begged him to recite one—and, in an instant, the forest re-echoed with such unearthly yells, that I felt he would be a bold bear indeed, whose heart did not die within him, and whose legs did not carry him far out of hearing of the repeated and discordant "behegang! wirooowee! wiroowah!'' which formed the burden of the charm. Of its perfect efficacy, my friend had no doubt; nor indeed had I, but he was rather huffed when I suggested that the mere noise may have had something to do with its success.31
Honey, and the grub in the comb, before it becomes the bee, are both staple food with the Veddahs, and their acuteness in discovering hives, when bee-hunting, is very remarkable. I have seen a Veddah stealing through the forest, suddenly stop—listen for an instant with uplifted hand—dart off into the jungle and return in an incredibly short space of time with a fresh honey-comb; while I have been in vain endeavouring [p.290] to catch the hum of bees, which so instantaneously struck his ear. Their forest life naturally quickens their powers both of seeing and hearing, and renders them, in these respects, fax superior to those whose more civilized lives do not compel them to rely on those faculties for their daily food.
They take honey in the manner common to the Singhalese. The bee-hunter enlarges with his small axe the hole in the tree at which the bee enters, and putting his mouth to the aperture, blows into it. This has generally the effect of making the bees fly out; or, at least, of making them vacate the comb, and retire into the innermost recesses of the hollow tree, when the honey can be taken with the hand. If this do not succeed, however, a second puff, after the bee-hunter has chewed some aromatic substance, has the desired effect.
Taking the honey of the bambera (apis Indica), a large and very venomous bee, is a much more serious affair. This bee hives on very lofty trees, or in clefts of precipitous rocks. If on a tree, the hunter ties tendrils to it, and armed with a bundle of blazing faggots, climbs to the vicinity of the comb and smokes the bees out, being often severely stung during the operation. If in a cleft of rock, he will, if he cannot otherwise approach it, lower himself with ropes made of creepers, and take the honey by the same process.
To the Veddahs, honey is not only favourite food, but valuable as an object of barter, for the Kandyans prize it greatly for medicinal purposes. They use it, too, as Knox tells us, for preserving flesh. "They cut a hollow tree and put honey in it, and then fill it with flesh, and stop it with clay, which lyes for a reserve to eat in time of want."32 And when they are short of food, they mix honey with decayed wood, and so eat it. It satisfies their craving more readily than plain honey. Davy properly describes the practice, as "not so much for nourishment as to distend the empty stomach and to allay the distressing feelings of emptiness and the pains of hunger." It is curious that Tennent should have entirely omitted all allusion to this remarkable custom. "Romba" is the term used by the Veddahs, for this decayed wood, and the practice I have described may have given rise to the epithet, which Knox applies to the "wild sort" called "Ramba Veddahs,'' who, he says, "never shew themselves"—but no "sort" is so called now, nor is the name remembered.33
They are very rude in their cookery, often burning the flesh in the fire, which
they produce by rubbing together two pieces of the wood of the vellan tree (Pterospermum
A hole is scooped in one piece with an arrow-blade, and the other, which is
pointed, is inserted into it, and twirled rapidly round between the hands till
They are fond of betel, when they can get it; but in lieu of the compound which goes by this name, they have the following substitutes. Instead of the betel leaf, they eat the astringent bark of the demette tree (Omelina Asiatica, L.), or the leaves of an aromatic plant called the madurutala (Ocimum sanctum—or O. canuyn, L.) For areka nut, they chew the bark of the mora tree (Nephelium longanum, Camb.), the oupaloo or wellan connitta tree; and calcined snail shells, or the bark of the areloo tree (Terminalia chebula, Fetz.), supplies the place of lime or chunam, which forms so important an ingredient in a prepared quid of betel. They do not smoke, and are very temperate, drinking water only.
I need not say that they are very simple and primitive in their habits. The "wilder sort" have had too little communication with the Singhalese to have acquired the vices of civilization. The few necessaries of life which the forest does not supply, such as steel and iron for their arrow-heads and axes, and the very scanty clothing which they wear, they obtain by barter, their wax and honey, elk flesh, and ivory, being eagerly sought after by the neighbouring Singhalese, or "the ubiquitous Moors.''
They are very harmless, too; though, according to Knox, were much dreaded once. Even yet there are traditions that they kidnapped children, ran off with young girls, way-laid travellers, and attacked the tavalams or bullock-caravans. But now, at any rate, they are as peaceful as it is possible to be. They are proverbially truthful and honest. They are fond of their children, who early become useful to them; the boys soon are familiar with the use of the bow, while the girls, armed with a pointed stick, add to the family larder at a very tender age, by killing the iguano, and digging for wild yams.
Their constancy to their wives is a very remarkable trait in their character in a country where conjugal fidelity is certainly not classed as the highest of domestic virtues. Infidelity, whether in the husband or the wife, appears to be unknown, and I was [p.292] very careful in my inquiries on the subject Had it existed, the neighbouring Singhalese would have had no hesitation in accusing them of it, but I could not obtain a trace of it. Tennent's remarks on this subject are wholly inapplicable to the wild Veddahs of Bintenne or Nilgala, though they may apply to those Veddahs of whom he writes.34
They never marry out of their race, and, with the very smallest cause, the men are exceedingly jealous of their most unattractive wives. They are very careful to keep them apart from their companions. Their huts contain but one family each, and when they live in caves, each dwelling-place is carefully screened off. There are as many as seventeen separate huts and caves among the seventy-two Veddahs of Nilgala; hardly more than four individuals to each habitation.
Polyandry is unknown among them. The practice is alluded to with genuine disgust. I asked a Veddah once, what the consequence would be if one of their women were to live with two husbands, and the unaffected vehemence with which he raised his axe, and said, "a blow would settle it," shewed conclusively to my mind, the natural repugnance with which they regard this national custom of their Kandyan neighbours. Their abstinence from a practice, which, till 1859, was recognized by the laws of the land, is remarkable. So sensitive are they on these subjects, that I know an instance of a Veddah—and he was by no means one of the wildest—drawing his knife, and being with difficulty restrained from using it, at a remark made in jest which he considered a reflection on the honour of their women.35
It is notorious that the Kandyans have no scruples with regard to divorce. Among them, husbands desert their wives, and wives their husbands, for any or no reason. Sickness is perhaps the most common cause. The heartless desertion of a sick wife is, I think, the worst trait in the Kandyan character, and the cool and unconcerned manner in which they themselves allude to it, shows that it is as common as it is cruel.36
But the Veddahs have not yet arrived at such a pitch of civilization. Divorce is
unknown among them. They are kind and constant to their wives, and few of their
Kandyan neighbours could say as I have heard a Veddah say, "Death alone
separates husband and wife." The idea of such constancy was quite too much for
one of the bystanders, an intelligent Kandyan chief, on one occasion when I was
talking on these subjects to some Veddahs. "Oh, sir," he exclaimed,
apologetically, "they are just like Wanderoos."37
He was perfectly scandalized at the utter barbarism of living with only one
wife, and never parting till separated by death.38
Tennent says they have no marriage rites; this is true; but I am surprised that no one should have told him of what very nearly approaches a marriage ceremony, and one which is curious in itself, and so far as I know, unlike any custom among other barbarous tribes. The bachelor Veddah, who meditates matrimony, himself selects the lady of his choice, wisely preferring his own judgment to that of others; and providing himself with the greatest "delicacies of the season'', for example, a pot of honey and a dried iguano, proceeds to her father's hut and states the object of his visit. There being no objection to the proposed alliance, the father calls his daughter, who comes forth with a thin cord of her own twisting in her hand. She ties this round the bridegroom's waist, and they are man and wife. The man always wears this string. Nothing would induce him to part with it. When it wears out it is the wife's duty to twist a new one and [p.294] bind it round him. Many a more civilized wife would rejoice if she could forge new fetters for her husband as binding as these. The utility of the string is simply to keep in its place the scanty rag which constitutes the Veddah costume.39 Married or single he must wear one; but when he is married he substitutes for his batchelor's string one of the lady's twisting, and besides its use, it is emblematic of the marriage tie; for as he never parts with it, so he clings to his wife through life.40
I have spoken of the monogamy and conjugal fidelity of the Veddahs as favourably contrasting with the opposite practices among the Kandyans. But there was an ancient custom amongst them which has scarcely yet become extinct, a custom most revolting to every civilized mind. It is that which sanctions the marriage of a man with his younger sister. To marry an elder sister or aunt would, in their estimation, be incestuous, a connection in every respect as revolting to them as it would be to us—as much out of the question and inadmissible as the marriage with the younger sister was proper and natural It was, in fact, the proper marriage, as much so as the marriage between the father's sister's son and the mother's brother's daughter is the most proper that a Kandyan can contract.41
How far this practice has become obsolete it is hard to say. Amongst the Veddahs of Bintenne it has certainly ceased, and they now regard it with disgust.42 Still it has not very long died out, for many amongst them have seen the children of such marriages, and even cited some by name to me. But I question if it has yet disappeared from amongst the wilder Veddahs of Nilgala. For some time I believed that it was invariably practised there, and [p.295] it is only because, after repeated and careful inquiry, I cannot establish the fact of such a marriage now actually existing, that I am inclined to consider that it is becoming obsolete. But I should be almost justified as describing it as an existing custom, for many of the young men are the offspring of such connections. The practice is spoken of by them in the present tense, and alluded to as a matter of course, without the smallest repugnance.43
Amongst the Bintenne Veddahs, then, it may be said to have been, for perhaps two generations or so, extinct. Amongst those of Nilgala it is, at most, only becoming so. And it has, undoubtedly, been the custom among both from time immemorial Utterly revolting as it is to us, we must remember that with them it was a custom sanctioned by the practice of ages. It is not the consequence of a "poor community,'' nor the growth of mere barbarism. If it were, the elder sister would be equally sought after; if it were, polygamy in all its forms would be found among them. There would, in fact, be no restraint.44
I have before described the short stature of the Veddahs—their weak and vacant expression, their striking resemblance to each other, characteristics much more marked upon the Veddahs of Nilgala than those of Bintenne. The practice I have just noticed is quite sufficient to account for these.
It might naturally be supposed that such marriages would produce, besides a stunted growth, insanity, idiocy, and epilepsy. But I find few traces of these maladies. Madness rarely occurs, idiocy still less frequently; though dogged stupidity is not at all uncommon amongst them.45 But in other respects the injurious effects of this custom would seem to be plainly discernible. The [p.296] race is rapidly becoming extinct; large families are all but unknown, and longevity is very rare. I have been at some pains to obtain reliable data to elucidate these points. Out of seventy-two Veddahs in Nilgala, fifty were adults, twenty-two children. In one small sept, or family, there were nine adults and one child; in another, one child and eight adults; and so on. In Bintenne, out of three hundred and eight Veddahs, a hundred and seventy-five were adults, a hundred and thirty-three children. Here the disproportion is not so marked; but in one of the smaller tribes, more isolated than the rest, there were twenty adults and but four children.
The paucity of children, I think, must be ascribed to the degeneracy produced by such close intermarriages, for I have never heard a suspicion of infanticide existing among them.46 Out of fifty adults in Nilgala, only one appeared to have numbered seventy years, and but eight to have exceeded fifty. In Bintenne, of a hundred and seventy-five adults, two only seemed to have reached their seventieth, and but fourteen to have exceeded their fiftieth year. Such statistics seem to show the practical results of such connections. The Nilgala Veddahs, who still maintain an almost total isolation from other people, are rapidly disappearing.47 The Veddahs of Bintenne, who have abandoned the pernicious custom which I have described, and still intermarry among themselves, are becoming extinct, though more gradually.
The Veddahs have no ceremonies at the birth of a child, nor when the name is given; and though, in Bintenne, they have long buried and mourned their dead, those of Nilgala have only commenced, in this generation, to do either.
Till very recently the dead man was left where he died. The survivors covered the body with leaves, put a heavy stone upon its chest, and sought some other cave, leaving that in which the death occurred to the spirit of the deceased. They still desert the scene of the death, and the bones, constantly found in good preservation in the caves of Nilgala, prove how recently the practice of leaving the body unburied has been abandoned.
Tennent says, truly, that they have "no system of caste among [p.297] themselves; but, singular to say, this degraded race is still regarded by the Singhalese as of most honourable extraction, and is recognized by them as belonging to one of the highest castes;"48 and he relates a legend, in which he says this belief originates; a legend, however, at which, he tells us, the Veddahs themselves smile, and of which they profess their ignorance.
As I shall afterwards show, I do not think this legend, which is confessedly not a Veddah tradition, has anything to do with the consideration with which, so far as their caste goes, the Singhalese regard them. Were there no better reason, the fact that the legend is by no means universal among the Singhalese residing in their vicinity, would probably be sufficient reason to reject it.
But Tennent has not been correctly informed with regard to their own belief regarding their own origin. For strange as it appears, they claim to be of royal descent. Beyond this vague assertion they profess to know nothing. They do not attempt to trace their descent from any particular king. They know nothing of their history. This is their one tradition; and though the neighbouring Singhalese, on whom they affect to look down, smile at their claim to such an illustrious origin, they do "regard them as of most honourable extraction,'' and in reply to any inquiry respecting it, only repeat the Veddah version of their royal lineage. It is said, too, that in the time of the native government the Veddahs always spoke of the king as "hoora,'' or "cousin."49
The Veddahs have no particular name by which they distinguish themselves, which would aid us in speculating on their origin. They simply call themselves "Weddah,'' and are so called, while they speak of the ordinary natives of the country as "Singhalese.'' The term "Habara,'' or "wild, barbarous,'' is applied to Veddahs, in books, and also "Vannacharakiya," which means "a hunter."
As Knox has told us, they speak the Singhalese language; but they do so with an accent and intonation so strange, that it sounds like some foreign tongue. It seems, as it were, "broken Singhalese," such as a man would speak to whom the language was an acquired one, so much does their pronunciation differ from that of their Kandyan neighbours. Although the identity between the Veddah dialect and Singhalese is evident, when they are compared with each other, it would require a very quick and accurate ear, indeed, to detect the similarity between them when both are spoken.
As may be supposed, the vocabulary of such a barbarous race is very limited. It
only contains such phrases as are required to describe the most striking objects
of nature, and. those which enter into the daily life of the people themselves.
So rude and primitive is their dialect that the most ordinary objects and
actions of life are described by quaint periphrasis. As, for example, to walk is
"to beat (the ground) with hammers''; a child is "a bud"; the grains of
rice are "round things"; an elephant is not inappropriately termed "a beast
like a mountain''; while the fallow deer of the island (Axis maculata) are,
with the strictest accuracy, called ''spotted animals"; and wild boars, "long-snouted
They use none of the honorifics so profusely common in Singhalese, the pronoun "to" "thou" being alone used, whether they are addressing each other, or those whose position would entitle them to outward respect They can neither read nor write, nor can I trace the faintest vestige of their ever having possessed any literature, in the lowest sense in which that word can be used.51 They count with difficulty on their fingers, and so little notion have they of time, that it is difficult to make them understand that they are to keep an engagement at a more remote period than the next day.
I have compared the scant and unsatisfactory collection of words, which I have been able to make, with almost all the vocabularies of the aboriginal tribes of India, published in the Asiatic Society's Journal, and though in some of them I have found isolated instances of striking resemblance, these are probably merely accidental. The subject is one which requires further investigation: and a careful examination of the dialect, by any one competent to perform the task, would be interesting, although I question if it would elicit more than we at present know of the origin of the Veddahs.
I append to this paper, as a specimen of their patois, a list of some of their words, distinguishing between those which probably [p.299] differ from the Singhalese, and those which, though Singhalese, are, in the sense here used, peculiar to the Veddahs. It has been suggested to me that some of the former are derived directly from the Sanskrit, but as I am incompetent to judge of the accuracy of these suggestions, I do not venture to give the conjectural derivations which I have received.
I have, myself, noted down, and caused to be noted down from dictation, several Veddah charms, which are not, I am informed, known to the Singhalese, though in some there is a certain resemblance to chains in use by the latter. Whether corrupted during the many ages in which they have been unintelligently repeated, or whether they are in a form of Singhalese now obsolete, or both, they are not easily translated. They are charms used in illness, and for protection against elephants, leopards, bears, and wild boars.
The Veddahs are at present chiefly known by names similar to those in use among the neighbouring Singhalese, and it is curious to observe how oddly they are jumbled together. In one family are to be found names which would only be appropriate to Kandyans of the highest caste, and names which could only be borne by the lowest. Some of their names, too, belong to Hindoos, and not to Singhalese. Some are not proper names at all; while, most strange of all, others, though utterly unknown in Ceylon, either to Tamils or Singhalese, are in common use in Bengal, and refer directly to Hindoo deities, or personages mentioned in the Puranas.
The names of the preceding generation appear to have differed in a very marked manner from the Singhalese names by which the Veddahs now are for the most part known; and those in the list appended to this paper are chiefly the names of the fathers and mothers of the present Veddahs. Most of these I was able, by the kindness of Colonel Vincent Eyre, C.B., RA., to submit to the inspection of Professor Lees, of Bengal, and they are pronounced by him to have a decided Sanskrit affinity.
It is a singular and significant fact, that not only are many of their names unknown in Ceylon, but their meaning is utterly unintelligible to the Veddahs themselves, among whom they were family designations which have descended to them from father to son for ages.
It is strange that so many have written of the Veddahs, and have been contented with information at once scanty and inaccurate. Davy believed that they had no names.52 Tennent affirms that they have no charms—"no instinct of worship"—and doubts [p.300] if they have even any language. "Some," he says, "are so degraded that it has appeared doubtful whether they possess any language whatever; and not only is their dialect incomprehensible to a Singhalese, but even their communications with each other are made by signs, grimaces, and guttural sounds, which bear little or no resemblance to distinct words or systematized language."53 I can only say that I have been repeatedly among the very wildest of the race—indeed the "wretched outcasts,'' here so summarily deprived of the power of speech, are those whom I have been endeavouring to describe, and I never knew one of them at a loss for words sufficiently intelligible to convey his meaning, not to his fellows only, but to the Singhalese of the neighbourhood, who are all, more or less, acquainted with the Veddah patois.
The Veddahs have no idea of a future state of rewards and punishments; for the vague vestige of a belief in retributive justice, which I have before mentioned, cannot be said to show any faith in the punishment by a Superior Power of sinners in this world.
It has been most truly said that it is a matter of almost insuperable difficulty to arrive at a proper understanding of the creed of barbarous tribes through the medium of direct questioning, and that nothing can be more vague than all their statements on this most important subject."54
It is not to be wondered at that a people so barbarous as the Veddahs are—without literature of any kind—who have lived in the depth of the forests in almost complete seclusion for centuries on centuries, should be incapable themselves of giving any definite or intelligent account of what they do believe. They are unable to express in language their ideas on subjects, which, even in their own minds, have never assumed any distinct form; and though they are ready enough to answer the questions put to them, it is no easy task so to frame them as to make their object intelligible to such rude and unlettered savages. The result of the most patient inquiry is, that the Veddahs have a vague belief in a host of undefined spirits, whose influence is rather for good than for evil. Still, vague as this belief is, not even the [p.301] wildest Veddahs are without an "instinct of worship." They believe that the air is peopled by spirits, that every rock and every tree, every forest and every hill, in short every feature of nature, has its genius loci; but these seem little else than mere nameless phantoms, whom they regard rather with mysterious awe than actual dread.
Such appears to be the form which the superstitions of every savage tribe naturally assume,—the necessity for a belief in something more than human, imparting to the commonest objects a supernatural character. But besides this vague spirit-worship, they have a more definite superstition, in which there is more of system. This is the belief in the guardianship of the spirits of the dead. Every near relative becomes a spirit after death, who watches over the welfare of those who are left behind. These, which include their ancestors and their children, they term their "nehya yakoon," kindred spirits. They describe them as "ever watchful, coming to them in sickness, visiting them in dreams, giving them flesh when hunting." In short in every calamity, in every want they call on them for aid; and it is curious that the shades of their departed children, "bilindoo yakkoon," or infant spirits, as they call them, are those which they appear most frequently to invoke.55
It is a pretty belief, and contrasts favourably with the superstitions of the Kandyans, who have spirits enough in their system, but almost all thoroughly malignant, and needing constant propitiation. But the Veddah spirit-world is singularly free from evil. I can find only one absolutely malignant spirit in it whom they really fear;56 though, like all savages, they have an undefined awe of the nameless spirits whom they believe to haunt the darkness. The shades of their ancestors and of their children seem to be purely benevolent. The ceremonies with which they invoke them are few as they are simple. The most common is the following. An arrow is fixed upright in the ground, and the Veddah dances slowly round it, chanting this invocation, which is almost musical in its rhythm.
"Mâ miya, mâ miy, mâ deyâ,
Topang kojihetti mittigan yandâ'h!"
"My departed one, my departed one, my God!
Where art thou wandering?"57
The spirit of the dead is here simply called upon, without even the object for
which it is invoked being mentioned. And this invocation appears to be used on
all occasions when the intervention of the guardian spirits is required, in
sickness, preparatory to hunting, etc.58
Sometimes, in the latter case, a portion of the flesh of the game is promised as a votive offering, in the event of the chase being successful; and they believe that the spirits will appear to them in dreams and tell them where to hunt.
Sometimes they cook food and place it in the dry bed of a river, or some other secluded spot, and then call on their deceased ancestors by name. ''Come, and partake of this! Give us maintenance as you did when living! Come, wheresoever you may be; on a tree, on a rock, in the forest, come!" And they dance round the food, half chanting, half shouting, the invocation.59
They have no knowledge of a Supreme Being. "Is he on a rock? On a white ant-hill? On a tree? I never saw a God!" was the only reply I received to repeated questions.60 They have [p.303] no idols, offer no sacrifices, and pour no libations. They cannot be said to have any temples, for the few sticks sometimes erected, with a branch thrown over them, are, I imagine, simply to protect their votive offerings.
They have no system of medicine, though they will accept medicine when given. In cases of sickness they sprinkle water on the patient, invoking their deceased ancestors to heal him. Sometimes they simply utter the name of spirits as they dance round the sick man. Sometimes a garland of flowers is offered to the spirit who has afflicted him.61 They believe in the efficacy of what are called devil dances, but are ignorant of the art of a Kattadia, or devil dancer. I can find no trace of metempsychosis, so universal amongst Buddhists.
I have now described what is the actual religious belief, if it can be so called, of the Veddahs; and it was only by dint of often repeated visits among them, and very careful inquiry, that I succeeded in obtaining the particulars I have recorded.
But, that at some period of their history they had some knowledge of a more "systematized" faith, their charms and invocations, some of their customs, and the very names they bear, seem conclusively to prove.
Such testimony is invaluable. For neither the inquirer, whose zeal may induce him to jump too hastily at conclusions, nor the people themselves, can distort it, or give it a strained interpretation. But this evidence all points to something long past, to a faith once, at least, familiar to them, but now forgotten. At the least, it indicates a former contact with civilization, and proves that they have a history more full of incident than would belong to a race which was always as barbarous as it is now.62
In their charms the sun and moon are frequently invoked, although in their daily life neither luminary is respected.63
Almost omnivorous, I have before remarked their scrupulous abstinence from the
flesh of cows and fowls, though they can assign no reason for it. Now, though
good Buddhists as well as Hindus reject the flesh of cows, yet since the
Veddahs have never associated with their Buddhist neighbours, they cannot have
acquired this prejudice from them.
And though all over the south-east part of Ceylon, where even the superstitious awe of Skanda extends, the cock, the device on his banner, is to a certain degree respected; yet, since the Veddahs care no more for Skanda than they do for all the other gods in the Hindu Pantheon—the very names of whom, as gods, are unknown to them, they would not respect his sacred cock.64 In [p.305] fact, neither scruple is now a religious one with them. Their aversion to beef and fowls is an hereditary prejudice, now become a custom amongst them.
The names borne by many of them are the designations of Hindu gods and goddesses. It seems clear then, that these Hindu customs and prejudices—these Hindu names, which we find still lingering amongst a people which does not profess that faith, and for twenty centuries have been far removed from those who do, indicate either that the Veddahs once professed it, or lived in the closest intercourse with those who did.65
The complicated and artificial ceremonial of that religion has naturally died away during the long ages of isolation in which the Veddahs have lived; the vestiges of its former existence among them have been preserved only in some of its strongest prejudices, and in the names derived from the Hindu mythology which have descended as customary family designations to the Veddahs of the present day.66
But what is Hindu is, so to speak, the dead part of their
religious belie£ What is in daily practice, bears the closest resemblance to the
Nat worship of the aboriginal tribes of India.67
I have, in the preceding pages, faithfully recorded the habits, customs, and superstitions of the "wilder sort'' of the Veddahs. To have discussed the "tamer sort," or those who, for a considerable period, have maintained intercourse with the Singhalese or people of the country, would have been a mere waste of time; or to have considered them in connection with their more barbarous brethren would have been to have fallen into the very error, which has marred the exceedingly interesting notice of the aboriginal race of Ceylon, which Tennent has given us. It would have been like weaving a woof of bleached and unbleached threads, so intermingled and complicated that a clear perception of either were impossible. I have confined myself, therefore, exclusively to the most barbarous specimens of the race, for wild as the wildest of the Batticalao district are, they are less barbarous than these.
I now propose to consider the evidence I have collected, with a view to fixing the ethnical origin of these Veddahs. I have shewn that the term "Veddah" has no distinctive signification—that it may be, and is applied to barbarous races generally, who depend on hunting for their support, and hence, to the wild tribes in India, who are supposed to be the aborigines of the country.
It has always been assumed, that the Veddahs of Ceylon are the descendants of the race which originally peopled the island, or, at any rate, of that which inhabited it prior to its conquest and colonization by Wijaya and his followers.68 Of this, there can be [p.307] little doubt; and if additional proof were needed, I may add the curious fact, that there is probably at this moment—there certainly was in 1855—in use among the Veddahs, one at least of the few Yakkho names, mentioned in the Mahawanso. For in the name, Pusamittya—unknown among the Singhalese—we have no difficulty in recognizing the designation of that Yakkho princess, whose wedding festivities afforded to Kuweni a fitting opportunity for the execution of her treacherous scheme for the establishment of Wijaya's power, by the slaughter of her own countrymen.69
Tennent argues that the aborigines of Ceylon were probably a branch of the same stock which colonized the Dekkan, both on account of the similarity of the demon worship, said to be practised by them, with the superstitions found among the wild tribes, who undoubtedly represent the aboriginal race of the Peninsula; and on account of the affinity of Singhalese with the group of languages still in use in the Dekkan, a fact fully and clearly established by the labours of Mr. Ellis of Madras.
Though the results of my own careful and personal inquiries into the customs and superstitions of the Veddahs, do not disclose actual demon worship, they establish, I think, their identity with those of many of the hill tribes of India, and fully justify the assumption of the common origin of the people. It is true, that the customs of all barbarous races must closely resemble each other, being alike derived in so many instances from the objects of nature, common to all whose home is the forest and the mountain.
But in the worship of their departed ancestors, and the spirits of the dead, the belief in the nameless genii of the rocks and rivers, of the hills and trees and forests; the invocation of the sun and moon; the absence of idolatry; the abhorrence of polygamy; the absence of divorce, or separation; the equality of rank; the value attached to the bow, arrow, and hunting-dog; the offerings to the God of the chase, and the charms to protect them from wild beasts, the Veddahs of Ceylon and many of the [p.308] wild tribes of India are identical: the points of resemblance are too close to be mere fortuitous coincidences.70
The Veddahs, then, are descended from Yakkhos, or aborigines of Ceylon, who were
of the same stock, i.e. Tamulian, as the aborigines of the Dekkan—a race not Brahminical in faith, nor
Sanscrit in speech.71 But if, as Tennent believes, the Veddahs are a mere remnant
of this ancient race, which fled before the advance of Wijaya and his followers,
never blending with the invaders, as the bulk of the aboriginal population
undoubtedly did, we should find among them now—for they have never to this
day mixed with the people of the country—only such characteristics as
would belong to the savage tribes to which they are allied, and as would be
indicative of a state of barbarism, from which they had never emerged.
Assuredly, we should not find marked traces of the Brahminical faith—direct allusions to the Hindu gods and well-known personages in the Puranas—names still in use in Bengal, but unknown in Ceylon, neither Tamil nor Singhalese, but Sanscrit, the language of the Aryans.
All this seems to prove that at some period of their history they were in close and intimate communication with the Sanscrit-speaking Brahminical race of Bengal. Yet we know they are the descendants of the rude Tamulian aborigines.
Whence came these Hindu customs and these Hindu names? Not from contact with, or contiguity to, Hindu races; for the surrounding people, in whose neighbourhood they have lived for centuries, are Buddhist; and there is not even a trace of Buddhism to be found among them.
Whence arose that obstinate love of isolation which has kept them aloof even from those of undoubted Veddah descent? Why do these naked savages affect to look down upon the civilized Singhalese? And, lastly, whence did they derive that remarkable custom which sanctioned the marriage of a man with his younger sister—that strange tradition that they are the descendants of kings?
A glance at the early history of Ceylon will, I think, throw a [p.310] light on this part of the subject The following is abbreviated from the Mahawanso:—
The King of Wangu72 had a beautiful daughter, of whom it was predicted that she should wed a lion, which accordingly came to pass. By her lion-husband she had twins^ a son and daughter, named, from their paternal origin, Siha-bahov and Siha-si-wali. The son, when he was sixteen, began to weary of the paternal den, and contrived one day, when his father was out hunting, to escape from it, with his mother on one shoulder, and his sister on the other. The bereaved lion was inconsolable ; he neither ate nor drank, and laid waste the country round, in testimony of his grief. The "government" of Wangu (the king appears to have been dead) offered a reward for his death; and Siha-bahov, more patriotic than dutiful, or more mercenary than either, had the satisfaction of presenting the head of his father to the subjects of his grandfather, whose "virtuous ministers, exulting in the exploit, with one accord made him king;" but he preferred the "land of his nativity, the forests of Lala," where he founded the city of Siha-pura, and, marrying his sister, Siha-si-wali, he reigned as king of that country. His wife brought him twins sixteen times! The eldest of the family was Wijaya.
Wijaya appears to have led rather a "fast life," and turned out "a very
lawless character," so much so that the people complained to his father. At
last, they clamoured for his execution; and the king, first compelling him and
each of his seven hundred companions to have half the beard and head shaved, put
them on boardship, and turned them adrift without oars or sails.
They drifted to Ceylon, and landed, B.C. 543, on the north-west coast, near Putlaw, where marrying Kuweni, a Yakkho chieftainess, he acquired, by her means, a footing in the island. She betrayed into his hands her own countrymen, the chief of whom he put to death, and, founding the city of Tamana Nuwera,73 he assumed the title of king. Having made use of Kuweni to establish his power, he, with a heartlessness worthy of modem times, deserted her for a more advantageous alliance. The repudiated wife protested against being forced to seek a refuge among her own countrymen, but she had served Wijaya's purpose, and he left her to her fate. In despair, she, with the son and daughter [p.311] she had borne him, Jiwahalto and Disala, sought a home in Lankdpura, that city of her own people which she had betrayed into the hands of Wijaya.74
But her treachery had not been forgotten; she was instantly put to death, and her children were only saved from a similar fate by the intervention of their maternal uncle, Kumaro, with whom they escaped to "the neighbourhood of the Sumanta mountain, " i.e., the country near Adam's peak, and "the elder having grown up married his sister," according to the custom of his father's royal race—a custom afterwards recognized in the Singhalese royal families,75 "and settled there, becoming numerous by their sons and daughters, under the protection of the king they resided there, retaining the attributes of the Yakkho," that is relapsing from the more civilized habits of the Hindu invaders, with whom on their father's side they were so closely allied, into the wild life of their maternal ancestors, the untamed aborigines of the island.76
There, then, amidst the mountains, far removed from the scene of their mother's treachery, brief triumph and death—the children of Wijaya the Indian conqueror and Kuweni the native chieftainess found a refuge, separated from their mother's justly incensed people by upwards of a hundred miles of dense forest, and beyond the reach of their father's followers, now estranged from them, if not hostile too.
There they founded a wild race, condemned as it were from its very origin to barbarism, which was known by the name of Pulindah,77 and there can still be traced the vestiges of their wandering life, and there still exists the tradition that the country once was peopled by Veddahs, who gradually retired towards Bintenne and Wellassé.78
I have said that the Veddahs have but one tradition of their origin, that they
are descended from kings. I have described that peculiar custom which not only
sanctions but prescribes, as the most fitting of alliances, the marriage of a
brother with his younger sister. This tradition prevails, and this custom
obtains, or did obtain, amongst all the tribes of wild Veddahs which I have
endeavoured to describe, tribes absolutely illiterate, in the lowest depth of
ignorance, utterly unknown to each other, as effectually severed by the
intervening hills and forests as if the Atlantic were spread between their
The bare assertion by a naked savage in the rudest state of barbarism that he is the descendant of kings, seems, at first, a sheer absurdity, though it naturally suggests the inquiry how the claim to so ambitious an origin could have arisen, and having arisen, how it should be so pertinaciously adhered to by tribes unknown to each other.
The custom which sanctions such revolting marriages seems, at first sight, simply a proof of the extreme depth of barbarism to which the race has sunk. But when we consider the tradition in connection with the fact that the Singhalese invariably admit the Veddahs to be of the highest caste, while they in turn affect to look down upon the Singhalese; and when we regard the custom in connection with the story of the marriage of the son and daughter of Wijaya, himself the offspring of a similar connection; when we read the legend of their flight from both father's and mother's kindred to the forests, where, resuming the wild life of their maternal ancestors, they founded a wild race; when we find even yet the district which tradition gives as their refuge, still called by a name indicative of their former existence in it, and still abounding with traces of them—though not a Veddah can be remembered there; and when we can trace among the Veddahs of the present day the remains of Brahmanism—Wijaya's creed—intermingled with the Nat worship, practised by Kuweni's nation; and when there are still in use among them names of Sanskrit affinity, common in India, though, rare among themselves, unknown in Ceylon; it is impossible to resist the conclusion that the wild tribes of the Veddahs are not the "mere remnants of the untamed aborigines,'' but the descendants of the ill-fated Kuweni and the faithless Wijaya; that they are indeed, as they profess themselves, "the descendants of kings."79
Why or when they abandoned their sanctuary in the Sumanto mountains80 who can tell? Probably, as Tennent says, of "a large section of the natives," they, with too good reason, fled before the advance of the Indian adventurers, at once their kindred and their foes,81 and withdrew into the forests and hunting grounds in the south-east of the island."
That the bulk of the aborigines amalgamated with their conquerors, and became
one people with them, there is ample proof ; but the race of Kuweni probably
held aloof from all. She, betraying and betrayed, met her doom on the scene of
her treachery.82 Her children and immediate kinsfolk, outcasts both from the
conquering and conquered races, fled to the forests. A life of isolation was to
them not a matter of choice but of necessity. In their seclusion they naturally
retained, with the superstition of their mother's people, some remnant of their
father's faith, with which they must have been in some degree familiar. They
preserved the high-sounding names of India, and, with the pride of rank, adhered
to the custom of the marriage of a brother with his younger sister, which was
not only the practice of their father's family, but a mark of their royal blood.
Such is the story of the Veddahs. And if my theory be correct it adds a curious chapter to the history of Ceylon.
SPECIMEN OF VEDDAH DIALECT.
(Vowels to be pronounced as in Italian.)
|The sun||Irra podja||Ira||"Podja", probably a corruption of podiya (Singhalese), a small thing.|
|The moon||Păna podja||Handa||Păna (Singh.), a lamp. Handa păna (Singh.) moonlight.|
|The stars||Tarôokagajja||Tarakawa||"Gajja", probably a corruption of sediya (Singh.), anything round. It can hardly be the Sanscrit word gajja, as it would be inappropriate as regards lights apparently so much smaller than the sun and moon.|
|Clouds||Gal périya||Walakula||"Gal" is a stone in Singhalese. In Tamil "kâl peria." Would signify large stone or rock.|
|Thunder||Dewôôla andapi||Hena||"Dewôôla" (Singh.), a spirit, a demon, a god; "andapi" (Singh.), has cried out.|
|Lightning||Ginna wetunu||Widuliya||"Gini wetunu" (Singh.), fallen fire.|
|Water||Biya||Biya||This is also used for rain, for which the Batticalao Veddahs use "wæcha" corruption of "wæssa" (Singh.), rain.|
|Heat||Ginna||Grisma||"Gini" (Singh.), fire.|
|Cold||Ehna||Sitala||I find in "Notes on the Languages of Various Tribes in the Valley of Assam" by Mr. Robinson, inspector of schools in Assam, published in the Bengal Asiatic Society's Journals, the word "yen" for cold, in the Khamti, Laos, and Siamese; and "aiyang" in the Ehari Naga languages.|
|Woman||Mehli||Gseni||"Mæchæli" (Singh.), an old woman.|
|Lamaya||"Petji", corruption of "pencha" (Sing.), a child; "kakula" (Singh.), a bud; "bilinda" (Singh.), young— a child; and "witera", a bud; are applied only to the child-spirits—Bilindoo-yakkoo; has been explained before.|
|Boy||Ammi||Kollâ||In the "Notes" before referred to, I find "amie" in the Miri, Abor, and Kharinaga languages, for man.|
|Girl||Petti||Keli||"Petti" for "penchi" (Singh.), girl.|
|Father||Appa||Appa||My father, "appa latto"; my mother, "amma latto"; "latto", particle of possession.|
|Mother||Amma||Amma||" " "|
|Husband||Hoora||Swamaya||"Hoora" is the Singh, term for that male cousin who is the proper match for a Singhalese girl, viz. her father's sister's, or mother's brother's son. It is traditional that some Veddahs used this term "cousin" when addressing or speaking of the Kandyan kings.|
|Wife||Nehna||Stri||"Næna" is the Singhalese term for the corresponding female cousin.|
|Hair||Eecha kola||Issa keya||"Echa" for "issa", the head; "kola" (Singh.), leaves.|
|Body||Bopati||Enga||"Pett" (Singh.), the side of the body; "bo" (Singh.), great. "Pet" is stomach in the Punjabi language.|
|Kakoola||"Danahis (Singh.), the knee.|
|Foot||Patoola||Paya or Padiya||"Watu kuru (Singh), a round thing.|
|Rice||Watu kuru||Hal||"Dahayâ potu" (Singh.), chaff; "lang", having, i.e. rice in the husk—paddy.|
|Honey||Metchan||Meepsæni||''Mêssa" (Singh.), a bee.|
|A house||Rukkoola||Ge||"Rukula" (Singh.), a hollow tree.|
|A bow||Doongah||Doona||"Doona" (Singh.), a bow; "gaha" (Singh.), a tree.|
|Bala||"Kukka" (Singh.), puppies.|
|Buffalo||Walmannya||Mee roa, or
|"Wal" (Singh.), wild. I find in Mr. Hodgson's Vocabularies of the Aborigines of the N.E. of Bengal, that "menjek" or "menjeg", is the word for buffalo in the Miri dialect. The Batticalao Veddahs say "mee-botah".|
|Gawra||Gôna||The Batticalao Veddahs call an elk "gôna-botah".|
|Moowa||"Kaberra" (Singh.), spotted, "botah" (Singh.), an animal. The Batticalao Veddahs say "moowabotah".|
|Oora||"Hôta" (Singh.), a snout; "barria", heavy or hanging.
Okma is only used by them in charms.
|The Arasas (or "mountain kings" as they call themselves and are called), a hill tribe in Tuine valley, in South India, call a tiger "poochee". In charms, I find "diwi pulliya", spotted chetah, used; but they always speak of a chetah as "poletcha". The Batticalao Veddahs say "mitâ botah"—"mitâ", low (in stature).|
|Walahá||"Arachi" and "barachi" only occur in charms, and it is an evident corruption of the Pali expression "achcha tarachcha"—"achcha" a bear, "tarachcha" a road bear, one which infests roads (tara, a road).83|
|Alya, or oeta (tusks)||"Kandah" (Singh.), a hill or mountain.
"Môlah" (Singh.), the thick heavy black pounder used as a pestle in pounding rice—an allusion, probably, to his trunk. The Batticalao Veddahs say "æt-botah" and "cotah bæbela."
|Monkey||Patagahapooeka||Wandura, or rilawa|
|Iguano||Moondé||Talagoya||Called by the Veddahs of Batticalao "goya," "goy-botah", and "hella".|
|Snake||Polongee||Sarpaya||"Polongo", a very venomous snake. The Batticalao Veddahs call a snake "sarra-botah".|
|Kurulla||In the Asamese and Bengali dialects, birds are called "charai" and "chiriya".|
|A crow||Kalu eka||Kăkă||"Kalu" (Singh.), black, "eka", one.|
|Æwadinawa||"Maga" (Singh.), a road; "waattenawa" (do.), to fall; "mittiya" (do.), a hammer; "gahanawa" (do.), to strike.|
|To jump||Bota damanawa||Paninawa||"Bota" (Singh.), the neck; "damanawa" (do.), to place.|
(with bow & arrow)
|To rain||Diya pompanawa||Wahinawa|
|To drink||Diya kanawa||Bônawa||"Diya-kanawa", to eat water—not an uncommon expression among the Kandyans.|
|To eat||Kapat ennawa||Kanawa|
|To speak||Katan kiyanawa, &
|Kiyanawa and katakaranawa|
|Maerenawa||"Miyoona" (Singh.), dead; "miya" (do.), dead; "miya pereliya", dead and gone.|
|I am hot||Raddagana|
|I am cold||Bopati sitaganawa|
|Be quick!||To bang||Wigahata||"To", the pronoun thou; dialect in the Bhotia "bangjjap" is, be quick!|
|Exclamation of approbation||Eetâ!|
|Exclamation of disapprobation||Iss!|
SPECIMENS OF VEDDAH NAMES.
Lôkendra. "Sovereign of the World", from Loka (Sanscrit), "the world", and Indra; unknown among Singhalese or Tamils of
Ceylon, but in use in Bengal.
Kanda. The Singhalese call Skanda, the Indian Mars, to whom the famed temple at Katragam is dedicated, "Kanda Kumaryia"; but the word is unknown as a name.
Wejla. One of the names of Skanda.
Suppa is a corruption of Subhramanya, one of the names of Skanda. Both these are Tamil names in use; and I think I have heard Weyla as a Kandyan name, but it is very uncommon.
Skanda is a favourite of the Veddahs (of India), though unknown to the Veddahs here; and "Valli", one of his consorts (a Veddah female name in use among the Veddahs in Ceylon), was said to have been born of a deer in a forest in Arcot, and found by a Veddah chief Kumdjra (Kumaro was Kuweni's uncle, and Kuma is a Veddah name still in use), and brought up by him.
Kanda, it is true, means, in Singhalese, simply a mountain; but it is more probable that, as a Veddah name, it is a corruption of Skanda, a name descended to them, though they are ignorant of its signification.
Nila. A name in common use in Bengal; also used by Tamils (Hindus); but entirely unknown as a name among the Singhalese. Nila, a personage mentioned in the Puranas.
Benda. Binda, in common use in Bengal, but unknown in Ceylon, either among Singhalese or Tamils. There is a common appellation, a title rather than a name, Banda, in Ceylon; but Banda does not occur among the Veddahs. Binduwa also is a low-cast name among the Singhalese.
Déwa Denna. Unknown as a name in Ceylon. Equivalent to the Hindu "Deva Dattah", given by the deity—which is its signification in Singhalese.
Milalana. Unknown by Singhalese or Tamils in Ceylon.
Koonchi. From "kuncha" (Sanscrit), to go crookedly—a cripple. In use, with the affix Tamby, among the Tamils, but not in use among the Singhalese.
Kangeria. "Kangana" (Sans.), one of the names of Kandarpa, God of Love. Neither used by Singhalese nor Tamil as a name.
Kowa. No such name among Singhalese or Tamils.
Oodira. "Generous, excellent" (Sans.). Not known as a name among either
Singhalese or Tamils.
Kuma. "Kurma" the second incarnation of Vishnu. Not a name in Singhalese or Tamil.
Buduwa. A common name in Bengal and Hindustan. Not known among the Singhalese.
Nanga. "Nagna" (Sans.), naked. Not a name in use either by Tamil or Singhalese.
Toota. ? "Tuta" (Hindu), broken, or "tushta" (Sans.), satisfied? No such name in use among Tamils or Singhalese.
Kombowa. Not known as a name among Singhalese or Tamils.
Konara. Not a Singhalese or Tamil name; though it forms part of the family titles of some Singhalese families, as Konaramudianse lâgé.
Kaira. Neither a Singhalese nor a Tamil name.
Bandena. Neither a Singhalese nor a Tamil name.
Koba. Neither a Singhalese nor a Tamil name.
Pusamittya. "Pusha", the sun (Sans.); "mitra", friend (Sans.); "pussa" (Singh), an empty nut; "mittya" (ditto), a bundle. "Pusamitta", a Yakkho name mentioned in the Mahawanso. No such name is known among either Singhalese or Tamils.
Bissa. "Vishwa" (Sans.), the world; "bissa" (Singh.), an oval basket for holding grain. The name occurs among the Veddahs thus: "Koorahan" (a kind of grain) "bissa". No such name is in use among Singhalese or Tamils.
Peya. A fool or maniac, in Tamil; and "pé" is a spirit, goblin, or spirit of the dead, in Singhalese. Not used as a name among the Singhalese.
Kotali. "Kotalé" (Singh.), a vessel with a spout for drinking from. Not a Singhalese nor Tamil name.
Goolia. Not a Singhalese nor Tamil name. "Gooli" (Singh.), anything round.
Heen kenda. Not a Singhalese nor Tamil name. ''Heen kenda" is the Singhalese for a kind of tree.
Kanata. Neither a Singhalese not a Tamil name. "Kanata", in Singhalese, is applied to ground which has been cleared, and has partially become covered with brushwood.
Nili. A heroine in a Tamil drama. A name in use in Bengal, but unknown as a
name in Ceylon.
Walli. "Valli", consort of Skanda—see "Kanda" among men's names. "Valli" (Sanscrit), a winding creeper—a term of endearment. Also an honorific affix to names of goddesses and princesses. Not used as a name in Ceylon.
Râne. Corruption of ''Rajni", queen; common name in Bengal. This name is used among low-cast women in the Kandyan country.
Nangi. Not used as a name in Ceylon (vide ante, "Nanga"). It means, in Singhalese, younger sister.
Wyrie. A title of Parvati. A name among Hindus; also Kandyan.
Kumie. See "Kuma". Not a Singhalese name, nor Tamil; but "Kuma" is a Kandyan female name, though a Veddah male name.
Alendi. "Loundee" (Sans.), a maiden. A name, I believe, in use among the Singhalese of the maritime provinces.
Abi. Neither a Tamil nor a Singhalese name.
Goberi. Neither a Tamil nor a Singhalese name.
Tehti. Neither a Tamil nor a Singhalese name.
Tangi. Neither a Tamil nor a Singhalese name.
Kagi. Neither a Tamil nor a Singhalese name.
Tandi. Neither a Tamil nor a Singhalese name.
Kombi. Not a woman's name in Tamil or Singhalese; though "Koombi", with the affix "Hamy", is a man's name in the maritime provinces.
Saloo. Neither Singhalese nor Tamil.
Redda. Neither Singhalese nor Tamil.
Pokooti. No such name among the Singhalese or Tamils. "Pookooti", in Singhalese, dwarf-like.
Dimbili. ? From "dimba" (Sans.), an egg.
Kerita. ? From "kelita" (Sans.), playful; or perhaps a diminutive of the Veddah term for a bear, "kerri" or "keria".
Kaddia. ? From "kad" (Sans.), to injure. "Kadia" is a venomous ant in Singhalese.
Kăna. ? From "kænahila" (Singh.), a jackal.
Sangelia. "A chain" in Tamil.
Debera. "Dabera" is, in Singhalese, quarrelsome.
Bahera. Name of a yakka.
1 An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon, in the East Indies, etc., by Robert Knox, a Captive there near twenty years, folio, London, 1681.
2 It may be said that it is a work of mere supererogation, if not
on my part, to attempt to describe the Veddahs, seeing that Sir J. E. Tennent
has so recently devoted several chapters
of his work on Ceylon to this subject. But, interesting as these chapters are—perhaps the most interesting in the book—they contain little else than a
comparison of the habits of the people of
the island, as observed by the ancient voyagers in the fourth and fifth
centuries, with the traditional but now long-exploded customs of the Veddahs as
reported by Knox. The accomplished
author throws no new light on the wild tribes of the Veddahs as they are. On the
contrary, his account of them is in some important particulars defective, and
even inaccurate. He glances casually
at those tribes which are in the wildest state, touching with precision none of
their peculiarities, and dwells in detail upon those only which, from long
association with the Singhalese and Tamil
races, have lost much of their originality. Of the ancient aborigines he has
compiled much that is curious. Of the existing Veddahs he has given us little
besides an epitome of former notices.
An account of the aboriginal races of Ceylon, published under the authority of a late colonial secretary of the island, would naturally be accepted and quoted as accurate and authentic. Sir J. E. Tennent's chapters on the Veddahs, therefore, render it more incumbent on me to lay before the Society the results of my own inquiries. For, though the habits and customs of wild tribes are important aids in determining their origin, a description of them is worse than useless, unless it be made by a person competent of his own knowledge to describe them. I pretend to no competency beyond this.
3 Weddd. (Singhalese) an archer; some trace it to
Bedda (Jungle). Introduction
to Alwis' Sidath Sangarawa.
Vedan (Tamil), a hunter—one who lives in the woods; a name given to rude tribes, aborigines in the Indian peninsula. Vedan (Tamil), corruptly Vaidan, Veddah, also Beddah, or Weden—a hunter, a fowler; a name given to wild tribes, inhabiting the hills and forests of the south of India almost in a state of nature—probably the aboriginal race of the peninsula. Prof. Wilson's Glossary of Revenue and Judicial Terms, The word Veddah is still used in Ceylon as a hunter, and so applied to persons, not "Veddah" in the limited sense of the word.
4 The Weddirates were, under the native government, exempted from all service save military—the most honourable; and rendered tribute to the king, of beeswax, dried flesh, and honey, which was continued for some time after we obtained possession of the Kandyan provinces. But the inhabitants of these districts marry and associate with those of the adjoining districts, and are apparently the same people. There may exist some ethnical difference; indeed, I think even an unscientific eye can detect a difference in the appearance, not only of these people, but of the Wanniahs of the northern and central parts of Ceylon, when compared with the ordinary natives. I have tried to obtain skulls of the different races, of which there are many in the island, viz., Tamils, Moors, Singhalese of the low country and of the Kandyan provinces, the people of the Weddiratas—Wanniahs of Newerakalawiya and Batticalas—Mookwas of the north-west and east provinces, Malays, Goorowas, Rhodias, etc., but it is most difficult to obtain them. The subject may be worthy of the attention of the Ethnological Society, though beside the object of this paper.
5 See Tennent's remarks on the late Mr. Atherton's praiseworthy and successful labours in civilizing the Veddahs of the Batticaloa district, where there are now only some two hundred and fifty who, having resisted all his efforts to improve them, still live in caves near the rock called Gunner's Quoin, and in Palla Palata of the Batticaloa Bintenna. I have been in communication with Mr. Birch, the present agent for government in that district, and, from specimens of their patois which he sent me, and which greatly resembles the Singhalese usually spoken, in those very words in 'which, in the Badulla district, the Veddah dialect differs from it, I am justified in describing them as having had, in some period of their history, more intercourse with the Singhalese than those of whom I am writing.
6 Solely till 1865, when I succeeded in inducing them to turn their attention to cultivation; but they much prefer their own wild life, and their cultivation is very limited. In using the term Bintenne,
7 I refer to that portion of the division of Bintenne which belongs to the Badulla district. A larger portion of the same division is in Batticaloa.
8 A "china" is a patch of ground cleared from the forest for cultivation. The jungle is burnt down, a crop taken off, and then suffered to grow up again. It is recleared again after intervals of from five to ten years.
9 This custom is called gang-gama, lit. village hind leg; "gama" would be better translated "township", as it signifies a tract of ground within certain limits. The lord of the soil claims the "hind leg" of any deer, etc., killed within his bounds.
10 The Veddahs of the Badulla Bintenne appear a distinct sept; those of Nilgala are connected with a Veddah family living just across the Batticalao boundary, close to which their country lies.
11 I use the term "Singhalese" and "Kandyan" in distinction from "Veddah."
12 In a list of heights of Veddahs taken lately at my request, I find two Veddahs measuring five feet three inches, and one five feet three inches and four-tenths; but, if these measurements are perfectly accurate, this is much above the average height. Of fourteen Veddahs of Bintenne, lately measured for me, the tallest was five feet three inches and four-tenths, the shortest four feet six inches and a quarter; the average five feet and half an inch. Of twelve women, the tallest was five feet two inches and a half, the shortest four feet four inches and a half; the average four feet nine inches.
13 Vide the whole passage quoted by Tennent, vol. ii, part ix, chap, iii, note at page 439, 2nd edition, but especially the following: "[Greek omitted]."
14 It was considered to be that of a female between twenty-two and twenty-eight years of age. The skull came from Nilgala, and was the smallest skull ever measured by Mr. Busk.
15I saw some of them display the liveliest curiosity at the sight of their "white sisters", two remarkably good specimens of whom found their way to Nilgala in 1857.
16 Formerly the sacking-like bark of the "Riti tree" (antiaris innoxia, or A. saccadora) supplied the place of cloth; and bags made of this fibrous bark are still used by the Singhalese for carrying rice, etc.
17 They chiefly use the wood of the following trees, doonoomadala (aterospermum chelonoides), the kekala (cyathocalyx zeylanicus), a creeper called kobbéwel, or the pandèro tree.
18 Chiefly the fibre of the niyanda (sansiviera zeylanica), and the bark of a creeper called the areloowel.
19 "They are so curious of their arrows that no smith can please them. The king once to gratify them for a great present they brought him, gave all of them his best made arrow-blades, which nevertheless would not please their humour. For they went all of them to a rock by a river, and ground them into another form." Knox, part iii, chap, i, p. 63 (folio).
20 "It hath been reported to me by many people, that a wilder sort of them, when they want arrows, will carry their loads of flesh in the night, and hang it up in a smith's shop, also a leaf cut in the form they will have their arrows made and hang by it; which if the smith do make according to their pattern, they will requite, and bring him more flesh; but if he make them not, they will do him a mischief one time or another by shooting in the night. If the smith make the arrows, he leaves them in the same place where the Veddahs hung the flesh." Knox, part iii, chap, i, p. 62. Vide Tennent, vol. ii, part ix, chap, iii, p. 440, and note; also vol. i. part, v, chap, ii, p. 668, 2nd edition.
21 "Money to them is worthless." Vide Tennent, vol. ii, part ix, chap, iii, p. 440, 2nd edit. I had been told that they would refuse silver, not knowing what it was, and would accept copper. But I never had a rupee refused when I tendered it; and the word "rupee" is by no means unintelligible to them. A good many years ago, I can well believe money was worthless to them, but that was long before Tennent's time.
22 Tennent, vol. ii, part iv, chap, iii, p. 439. Some wild Veddahs of the Batticaloa district shewed Mr. Birch, when making some inquiries among them at my request, how the bow was drawn with the foot, but said it was never so drawn now.
23 Knox, part iii, chap. i.
24 Percival, chap. xiii.
25 The murdered man was not a Veddah, but a low-country vagrant; several of whom have, of late years, taken up their abode near the Bintenne Veddahs, to their great annoyance.
26 What is commonly termed an elk in Ceylon, is the Samba deer (rusa Aristotelis).
27 It is curious that, while in the Batticaloa district Veddahs are said to eat bats, those of the Badulla district—certainly of Nilgala—reject them.
28 The use of the hunting buffalo is common all over the island. The manner in which the animal is trained is curious. When its horns are young and tender, a string is tied tightly round the base of one of them. The pain thus produced is so acute, that the poor animal is easily guided by the cord, and answers to the slightest touch. The ligature is gradually relaxed; and, when the buffalo is full grown, the recollection of the pain it occasioned is so vivid that he will answer readily to a thin string tied loosely to his horn. With an animal so trained, the hunter can easily approach the deer unseen at night. The buffalo feeds; the hunter crouches under his lee; a touch will guide him, and the hunter advances under cover.
29 This fact I established beyond a doubt. I questioned many Veddahs on that practice, which Knox treats as a fable, p. 63, viz., striking an axe into the sole of an elephant's foot; and I was assured by several that, though they never practise it themselves, the Veddahs of Batticaloa do, and that they even hamstring elephants. To those who know the pluck and dexterity of the professed elephant catchers in the north of the island, there is nothing extraordinary or incredible in a Veddah approaching sufficiently close to an elephant to wound his foot or to hamstring him. But I have inquired, and cannot satisfactorily establish the truth of the statement; and I confess that I am inclined to doubt their physical power to do either.
30 Tennent, vol. ii, part ix, chap, iii, p. 448, 2nd edit.
31 Tennent, vol. i. part ii, chap, i, p. 139, gives a lamentable account of the inefficacy of a charm for bears. I dare say the unhappy moorman there mentioned would have been more fortunate had he known the Veddah charm. The Singhalese have charms for the same purpose; but they differ from those of the Veddahs.
32 Knox, part iii, chap, i, p. 63.
33 Knox, part iii, chap, i, p. 63. The wood so used is chiefly that of the eriminia creeper (zizyphus oenophlia, Mill.), the ettamba—wild mango (mangifera Indica, Quin.), the weera (hemicyclia sepiarta, W. and A.), the réna, the nooga, a species of fig; any wood, indeed, not poisonous, is used. They reject the wood of the kaduru (cerhera odallum, Gæstn.), the gods, kadura (strychnos, nux vomica), the diwi kaduru (tabema montana dichotoma, Roxb.), the kolong (nauclea cordifolla, Roxb.), the milla (vitex altissima, Linn.), the mora (nephelium longanum, Camb.), the kaluwera (ebony, ebenum, Retz), which they say would stupify them; but though the three first mentioned trees would be injurious, it is probably that the rest would be harmless.
34 Tennent, vol. ii, part ix, chap, iii, p. 444, 2nd edit.
35 Tennent says, "The community is too poor to afford polygamy," but I am convinced that is not the cause of its non-existence. We find it in smaller communities than these.
36 In a civil suit in the District Court some years ago, a witness said in reply to a question from me—"How can I tell how many wives he had? A woman is married to-day, and leaves her husband to-morrow. If the wife gets sick, the husband deserts her; if the husband, the wife deserts him." A young girl of sixteen or so once coolly confessed before me to having had five husbands, three of whom were living, and two present in court, of whom one had just attempted suicide for her sake! I met with an instance of a man who had been married fifteen times; and I have heard of a woman who had had thirteen husbands.
37 The Wanderoo is a large monkey common throughout the island, one of the three species of Presbytes, probably the P. Ursinus.
38 I have spoken of polygamy and indiscriminate divorce among the Kandyans in the present tense. I should have used the past, for in 1859 they were abolished by law. It fell to the lot of the late Sir Henry Ward, whose name will be gratefully cherished in Ceylon as long as Ceylon exists, and whose loss is daily becoming more felt and deplored, that this remarkable change in the habits of an Oriental people should have taken place during his rule—a change, originating with the Kandyans themselves, which has given them marriage laws as pure as our own, an extraordinary proof of increasing civilization. In May 1858, a large deputation of influential chiefs waited on Sir Henry Ward, at the Pavilion, in Kandy, to seek the aid of Government to remove what they felt to be a stigma on their race and character, by abolishing polygamy and making the marriage tie a binding obligation. This was followed by a petition, signed by 8,000 chiefs and headmen on behalf of the Kandyan people, repeating their earnest prayer. The result was the enactment of an ordinance "To amend the laws of marriage in the Kandyan country," which will do more to raise the social character of the Kandyans than any other measure can do. They have reason to be proud of having spontaneously wrought this great change, and they fully appreciate Her Majesty's interest in its success, which she graciously desired should be specially made known to them.
39 It is, in fact, what the Singhalese call the Dija lanoowa, the "water-string," i.e., the string which supports the rag of cloth which natives wear when bathing, and which is "full dress" among the Veddahs.
40 The following anecdote is an apt illustration of the value set by a Kandyan on the marriage tie. One of the civil officers of the fort was travelling through his district, explaining the provisions of the new Kandyan marriage ordinance, when a native said to him—"I don't like that ordinance at all." "Why?" he asked. "Why, you tell us we are not to send away our wives, if we like. Now, suppose I bought a piece of rice land, and afterwards found my wife did not know how to weed."
41 "Every Bedouin has a right to marry his father's brother's daughter before she is given to a stranger; and hence "cousin" (bint' amm), in polite phrase, signifies ''wife." Burton's El Medina Mecca, vol. ill. A Kandyan would regard such a marriage incestuous, for such first cousins are considered sisters. The term applied to such a female cousin as is mentioned in the text as the proper bride for a Kandyan is "noena," which in Veddah dialect is the word for "wife." The corresponding word "noora " is the Veddah term for "husband."
42 Mr. Birch informs me that the Veddahs of the Batticaloa district ''indignantly deny marrying their sisters."
43 I am not surprised that Tennent should be ignorant of this custom. It is a most difficult task to obtain intelligible answers to the commonest questions from these ignorant creatures; and unless a clue to some subject is accidentally found, the inquirer would learn little. There are practices as revolting, though not so peculiar, among some of the Indian tribes.
44 It is curious that the only trace I can find of anything approaching to a belief in retributive justice is a tradition of a man, whose name even has been preserved, and whose family still exists, who, they say, was eaten by worms for having exceeded the authorized limit, and formed connections with his elder sisters and aunts. By whom this punishment was inflicted they do not pretend to say; but the painful death they regard as the direct consequence of his incest.
45 Madness is by no means common among them. They believe if one man curse another, the man who is cursed becomes mad. This is evidently the same superstition as is common among the Singhalese, and known as the "Kata waha," "the evil mouth," or "poison of the mouth," equivalent to the prevalent faith in the "Ess waha," "the evil eye," or "poison of the eye." Burton, in his El Medinah Mecca, says, "the national type has been preserved by systematic intermarriages. No evil results are anticipated from the union of first cousins; and the experience of ages and of a nation may be trusted."
46 It certainly was practised among the Kandyans, but never, I think, to any great extent. I have, however, seen two persons who, when infants, were buried alive by their mothers, and rescued.
47 Knox speaks, page 62, of Veddahs, "who lived about Hourly, the remotest of the king's dominions," who were "pretty tame," and used "to come and buy and sell among the people," who resented "being pressed to serve the king" in some expedition, and so ''removed further into the woods and would be seen no more." "Hourly " is evidently the village of "Oora-oola," on the furthest boundary of the Nilgala district, which, though, as tradition has it, it was once peopled by Veddahs, is now exclusively inhabited by Singhalese.
48 Tennent, vol. ii, part ix, c. iii.
49 It is reported, too, that some Veddahs do not claim royal descent, but that only a portion of them do. The Bicetean and Nigala Veddahs certainly, say they, are "Raja-wansiya," of royal lineage.
50 It is very curious that the Veddah term for the Ceylon elk, the Samba deer of India (Rusa Aristotelia), is "gawra," vide Tennent's remarks in his Natural History of Ceylon, p. 49, on the tradition of the former existence in Ceylon of the "Bos gaurus" of Hindustan. I have myself heard the "gaur" described by old Kandyans, who have seen it in the mountain forests, as an animal with, as it were, the body of a buffalo and the legs of an elk. And there are many places still bearing the name "gaura," as, for example, besides gaura ellca, mentioned by Tennent, gaura kelle—the forest of the gaur—gaura kanda; and there is a kind of grass called gaura mannie. It is curious that the elk should be called gaura by the Veddahs, and by no one else.
51 About ten years ago, the Government established a school for the Veddahs of Bintenne, but it proved a failure.
52 Davy, Account of the Veddahs, p. 115 of his work.
53 Tennent, vol. ii, pt. ix, c. iii, p. 441, 2nd ed. This is stated on the authority of "a gentleman who resided long in their vicinity, G. R. Mercer, Esq., of the Civil Service, who held office at Badulla." Those who remember that gentleman's love of a practical joke, will smile at seeing this ''joke" gravely recorded in the Physical, Historical, and Topographical Account of the Island of Ceylon, by Sir J. Emerson Tennent, K.C.S., LL.D., etc.; and my able predecessor, Mr. Mercer, must have been as much amused at seeing it there, as any one else.
54 See Hodgson's "Brief Note on Indian Ethnology," Bengal Asiatic Society's Journal, March 1849.
55 They also speak of them as "witera yakkoon," "child-spirits." They seem to prefer their great-grandmother (maha kiri amma) to the rest of their defunct ancestors; but I cannot ascertain any cause for their preference for the old lady. I may, however, be wrong in describing it as a preference. It may be the reverse, for she is invoked chiefly in cases of sickness, when the patient is supposed to be suffering from the malignity of a spirit.
56 Awâramada Yakko, who especially injures women, lying wait for them in the forest.
57 I find in my notes another version of this invocation, which slightly alters the first words. It runs thus: "Ma mini, ma mini!—my gem, my gem;" but "miya," which signifies "dead," is the most common. [The word in the invocation translated ''God" is evidently a corruption of the Sanskrit dema, a god or divinity. Edit.]
58 And they are invoked without any ceremony at all—by a mere mental ejaculation. I once saw a Veddah make a bad shot, and he threw down his bow with a gesture of impatience, saying—"That was because I did not call on my Bilindoo Yakkoon." And before making his next shot, he muttered an invocation.
59 A superstition similar somewhat to this is prevalent among the neighbouring Singhalese. If a man die who has lived a good life, his relatives give alms to the poor, calling on the dead by name to look down on them, and enable them to follow his good example. If he has lived an evil life, alms are also given; but these are propitiatory offerings for his sins, and to avert his evil influence from his survivors. For, in this case, he has become an evil spirit, apt to injure his own family and their cattle unless civilly treated. The degree of malignity depends on the degree of evil in the life led by deceased. If he dies with a hankering after worldly things, he haunts the house in which he lived in a variety of forms—perhaps most commonly that of a toad or a cobra, probably because these frequent houses. It is also, in some parts, a common belief that if a man die, and shortly after one of the family fall sick, and is not cured by the usual medicines and ceremonies, the sickness is attributed to the spirit of the dead, who must be propitiated by a mess of rice, left in the house for him. This, generally, is supposed to effect a cure.
60 It is curious that in one of their invocations, "mâ deyâ", my God! occurs, see before; and that of thunder they say, "a spirit, or a god has cried out."
61 Vide Tennent's account of the Veddahs, especially vol. ii, part iii, chap, ix, p. 441-2. "They have no knowledge of a God, nor of a future state, no temples, no altars, prayers, or charms; in short, no instinct of worship' except, it is reported, some ceremonies analogous to devil worship."
62 This occurs in several charms. The following (which, though not known to the Singhalese, as applied to wild boars, is identical with one known to them to drive away toothache), not only invokes the sun and moon, but Pasé-B'uddha—the only single allusion to Buddhism among them; but the very meaning of this and other charms is unknown to the Veddahs. They are repeated by rote; they do not pause to understand them, and could not if they would. It is enough for them, as for most Oriental people, that a particular formula is to serve a particular purpose.
Veddah Charm for Protection against a Wild Boar,
|Ira deyené okma.||Boar (?) of the sun-god!|
|Sanda deyené okma.||Boar (?) of the moon-god!|
|Pasé-buduné okma.||Boar (?) of the Pasé Buddha!|
|Situ okma situ.||Stay, boar, stay!|
Singhalese Charm for Toothache,
|Ira deyené seyâ!||Worm of the sun-god!|
|Sanda deyene seyâ!||Worm of the moon-god!|
|Passé Buduné seyâ!||Worm of the Passé Buddha!|
|Daté nositoo dat seyâ!||Stay not in the tooth, thou tooth-worm!|
These are identical; yet the Veddahs and the Singhalese certainly do not associate so closely as to borrow one another's charms. Have they descended in each race since the time they were one? The term okma I can get no satisfactory explanation of. It is not Singhalese, certainly. I assume it means "wild boar", as this is the charm to arrest a boar in the path; but it is not the term used by the Veddahs for a boar in ordinary conversation. The allusion to the Pasé, or Paché, Buddha, is curious as occurring in both; the one people being anything but Buddhist, while Buddhism is the religion of the other. As Gotama Buddha visited Ceylon long anterior to the final establishment of Buddhism in Ceylon, and descended in Bintenne, may not this solitary allusion to the religion have been handed down in this form among the Veddahs from a period even before the invasion by Wijada? In the form of a charm which is repeated by rote, such an allusion would be most naturally retained. So far from having any Buddhist tendencies, they do not even show the slightest outward respect in the presence of a Buddhist priest. The other Veddah charms are, I believe, quite unlike those of the Singhalese, but on that point I am still making inquiries ; aided, as I have been throughout, by Mr. De Loysa, the able and intelligent modhar of Benlotte.
63 They invoke the Gal-Yakko, spirit of the rock; Wedde-Yakko, spirit of the chase; Oonapana-Yakko, of whom I have no knowledge; and the shade of their great-grandmother. They also propitiate "Maha-Takkhini," who appears rather an evil personage. It is to her that they offer a garland of flowers. They describe her as a "foreigner," and say that they know nothing about her, but acquired their awe of her from the Singhalese. The Weddi-Yakko is known to the Singhalese; hunters offer flowers, blood, and burnt meat to this spirit, before hunting, to secure their success. Oonapana-Yakko is known to the Singhalese of the Weddirates, but I do not think he is generally known to the Singhalese.
64 The far-famed Hindu temple of Katragam, which attracts thousands of pilgrims annually from India, and is regarded with awe by the Singhalese, is dedicated to Skanda, the Indian Mars. The temple is built on a spot which, according to tradition (though it is not mentioned in the Skanda Puranas), is the site of Skanda's camp in his wars with the Asuras. I should hardly say that the cock is ''respected" in the neighbourhood of Katagam; but fowls are rarely eaten by the people there, who, if they eat them, must undergo a course of purification. A fowl curry involves the necessity of an ablution of the head with limes and saffron. Peafowls, too, are rejected as an article of food in that part of the island, for a peacock is represented as the vehicle of the gods: of all this, however, and of the existence of Skanda or of Katragam, the Veddahs are profoundly ignorant. The names of Skanda are common appellations among Veddah men, and that of Yalli, Skanda's consort, a common name for Veddah women.
65 Let it be remembered that the Veddahs, of whom I am writing, have never had any communication with the Tamil-speaking Veddahs who inhabit the seacoast of the Batticaloa district, who are in direct contiguity with Hindus. [The inference drawn is not warranted by the fact referred to. The Hindis occasionally have names taken from those of foreign languages. Thus the Regent of Nepal, a pure and high-caste Hindu bore a name consisting of two Persian words. Edit.]
66 It was not for years after I had collected this information regarding the superstitions of the Veddahs, that I read the Laws of Menu. It is impossible not to be struck with the similarity, if not identity, of their rude worship and its precepts; e.g.
"72. But whoever cherishes not the five orders of beings—those who demand hospitality—those whom he ought to maintain—his departed forefathers and himself—that man lives not, even though he breathes."
The Brahman is ordered to make an oblation every day to the following divinities, viz.:—
"First to Agni, god of fire, and to the lunar god".... to the "goddess of the day"; the goddess of the earth and sky; to the "winds" and "water gods''; the "gods of large trees"; to the spirits "that walk in light," and those "who walk in darkness." The reverence of deceased ancestors is then insisted on. "The Pitris, or great progenitors, are free from all wrath—intent on purity—even exempt from sensual passions—endued with exalted qualities."
"The divine Manes are always pleased with an oblation in empty glades, naturally clean, on the banks of rivers, and in solitary spots." Sir William Jones's works.
67 A paper "On the Veddahs of Bintenne", by the Rev. J. Gillings, was published in the Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society for 1853. Mr. Gilling's paper treats of the Veddahs inhabiting that portion of Bintenne which is in the district of Batticaloa, and it shews how materially they differ from the Veddahs of Nigala and the Badulla Bintenne, whom I have just described. He states that they have intermarried with the Singhalese, with whom they are "mixed up to a large extent"—that "adultery and polygamy are still common among them"—that "theft and lying are prevalent"; and he speaks of divorce as habitual. The absence of these practices among the Veddahs of the Badulla district is clearly to be accounted for by the greater isolation in which they have lived.
68 Nothing can be more charming than that portion of Tennent's work in which he undertakes the proof that they are the descendants of the Yakkhos, as the Buddhistical writers termed the aborigines. And we may well forgive him for giving way to the temptation of reviving exploded customs, and discussing them in the present tense, in order to prove that the habits of the Veddahs, in the year of grace 1860, are identical with those of the Besedæ, in a.d. 400; for there can be no doubt that, about a century ago perhaps, the peculiarities mentioned by the ancient travellers did exist among the Veddahs of Ceylon.
69 "Thereupon she, being desirous of conferring the whole sovereignty on her lord, replied .... In the city Siriwattha, in this island, is a Yakkho sovereign (Kalaseno), and in the Yakkho city (Lankapura) there is another sovereign. Having conducted his daughter (Pusamitta) thither, her mother (Kondanamika) is now bestowing that daughter at a marriage festival on the sovereign there Such an assemblage will not occur again. Lord! this very day extirpate the Yakkhos." Tumour's Mahawanso, chap, viii, p. 47. Vide also Tennent's remarks on the historical value of this ancient chronicle, and Tumour's introduction to his valuable translation of the work.
70 See the accounts of wild tribes of
India in the Journals of the Royal Asiatic Society; of the Bengal Asiatic
Society; and of that of Singapore. But especially see the account of the Khonds, one of the Pulindas, or wild tribes of
Orissa, by Capt. MacPherson, vol. vii, Journal Royal Asiatic Soc. They worship
the sun and moon, the spirits of hills, of stones, and of forests. They
propitiate the god of the chase with ceremonies not unlike those of the Veddahs,
the weapons of the hunter bearing a prominent part in them. Can the "Bulenda
Silenda", classified among their local divinities, of which unfortunately no
particulars are given, have any relation to the ''Bilinda" or ''Bilindoo" of
the Veddahs? It is worthy of note that the language of Uriya or Orissa is said
to bear a marked resemblance to the Singhalese.
See also an account of the Puttuwas or Juanguas, who inhabit certain of the tributary Mehals of Outtack, by Mr. Samuels of the Bengal civil service. Journal of the Bengal Asiatic Society, 1846. They resemble the Veddahs, apparently, in pursuits, in the absence of distinction of rank, of idolatry, and of priesthood, in their homage to ''nameless spirits, which they believe inhabit the woods and mountains", in their worship of deceased ancestors and prayers for protection from wild beasts. See also the notices of the tribes of Northern Oachar. The Meekirs ''worship the sun and moon, and large rocks, and trees in the forest, which they consider the abiding places of unknown and invisible deities." Among the Kookies, "a deity exists in every tree", and polygamy is forbidden. See also the Tamulian tribes in the valley of Assam, described by Mr. Hodgson in the Journal of the Bengal Asiatic Society, 1849. "The Kocchs sacrifice to the sun, moon, and stars, to the gods of the rivers, hills, and woods", and "to deceased parents, though they believe not in a future state." The religion of the Bodo and Dhimal is "the natural religion of man, viz. the worship of the most striking and influential of sensible objects, of the starry host, of the terrene elements." They have river gods, forest gods, mountain gods, sun, moon, earth, old gods, and young gods (see a former note on the Veddah's Bilindoo and Witera Yakkoon). Vide also the accounts of the Mechs, and other tribes. In the Tenesserim provinces, adjoining Pegu and Siam, there exists among the aboriginal races the same N&t or spirit worship. The same worship prevails among the hill tribes between Burmah and Arracan. The Rev. S. Hobbs, formerly a missionary at Tinnevelly, has given me some interesting particulars of a hill tribe, calling themselves, and called by the natives round them, "Mâle arasars", "mountain kings", or simply "arasars", "kings"; among whom he long laboured. They inhabit the hills bordering on the Travancore territory, and in many instances they greatly resemble the Veddahs. See the account of the Hill Arrians residing to the eastward of Cottayam, in the Madras Church Missionary Record, June 1860, who "worship the spirits of their ancestors, and certain local deities supposed to reside in most of the high peaks and rugged rocks." The chastity of their women is another point of resemblance, and their love of truth. See the same publication for January 1862, report by the Rev. J. G. Belittle. He speaks of "various hill tribes who, though standing in no relationship whatever with the Arrians, yet, like them, call themselves the 'Lords of the Hills'; addressing any one that comes within their reach 'thou'." They subsist on roots, honey, and the produce of the chase. They belong to Travancore. See also the Church Missionary Record for June 1861. The Rev. F. N. Alexander's report on the Koi mission, in which mention is made of the Kois who "worship the spirits of the mountains", and call themselves "Doralu", "lords", and their women "Dorasdnalu", "ladies", etc. I wish to add here that, at the time I noted down the customs and superstitions of the Veddahs, I had never seen any account of the wild tribes of India. Vide remarks at p. 304, with regard to the names of Skanda and his consort—favourite deities with the Veddahs of India, though unknown to the Veddahs of Ceylon.
71 "The Tamulians include the whole of the aborigines of India, whether civilized or uncivilized, from Cape Comorin to the snows, except the inhabitants of the great mountain belt confining the plains of India, towards Thibet, China, and Ava, which are derived from the Thibetan and Indo-Chinese stock." Hodgson on the Aborigines of North Eastern India, Bengal Asiatic Society's Journal, 1849.
72 In the Valley of the Ganges.
73 Vide Mr. Cagic Chitty's paper on the "Ruins of Tamana Nuwera," in the sixth volume of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. A local tradition, which represented Wijayo to have landed on a point of land called Tundamuni, a little east of Putlam, was verified by the discovery by the late Mr. Caulfeild, of the Ceylon Civil Service, of the ruins of Tamana Nuwera on the east bank of the Mee-oya, in the forest Kandukalimali. There is a Tank near still called Tamanavilla.
74 See a former note.
75 Only, however, when no other suitable alliance was procurable. This practice was sanctioned among the ancient Egyptians and Persians. Atopa, daughter of Cyrus, married, first, her own brother Cambyses. The Peruvian Incas married their sisters; but the practice was confined to royalty.
76 The extracts quoted above are from Tumour's Mahawanso. The following is a literal translation of the same passage, in the copy of the Mahawanso, in the Asgiria Wihasse in Kandy:—"They repaired to the rock Sumanta kooba; and being permitted by king Wijaya to dwell there, they became man and wife, and had children and grandchildren. Thus, a wansiya (a race) sprung up, called Pulindah."
77 Vide note at page 185 of Wilson's Vishnu Purana. "Pulinda is applied to any wild or barbarous tribe;" and they are met with in the deserts along the Indus, the mountains and forests across Central India. What more natural than that Wijaya's followers and descendants should give the same terms to the wild tribes here? Pulinda, one of the fifty-six countries of the Hindu geography.
78 Wellasse, in the district of Badulla. Nilgala is a subdivision of Wellassé.
79 I arrived at this conclusion by the process I have described, the fact, if it be a fact, gradually dawning on me as I continued my investigations. I was very glad to find my theory corroborated in Mr. De Blur's Sidath Saugarawa, which I saw for the first time in May 1860. In the Introduction, p. viii, he says—"Hence, it is by no means improbable, nor therefore unreasonable to suppose, that the limited number of Wijaja's followers, by intermarriage with the more favoured (Takko) natives, became united into one nation; while the less favoured betook themselves to the utmost recesses of the jungle, where they settled themselves as a distinct tribe of Singhalese, now known as Veddahs. For, without tracing the Veddahs to the descendants of the natural children of Wijaya, or to a very small portion of the (Yakko) aborigines of this island, it is difficult to assign to them an origin common with the amalgamated race of Singhalese."
The Kois, a wild tribe in the district of Ellore in Southern India, give an account of their own origin, not unlike that which I attribute to the Veddahs. They say they are descended from Beemadu, brother of Dharma Raja, who had an intrigue with a wild woman of the woods, and that they are sprung from the fruit of this connection (Madras Church Missionary Record, June 1861). Beemadu was (in Hindu mythology) one of the five brothers of Dharma Raja, the Hindu Pluto, and (in history) one of the five sons of Pandu, king of the Curu tribe, near Delhi.
80 Percival says, chap, xiii.—"Those
bordering on the district of Jaffiiapalalm" (probably Wanniahs are here meant), "and the tribes who inhabit
the west and north-west quarters of the island, between Adam's Peak and the Raygam and Pasdoon Korles, are the only Bedahs who have been seen by Europeans, and
are much less wild and ferocious than those who live in the forests of Bintan."
I cannot ascertain Percival's authority for Veddahs having been in these
districts so recently. I have made careful inquiries, both in these Korles and
the district of Saffiragam; and though traces of their former existence there
are evident and numerous, there is every reason to believe that many centuries
have passed since they were there. Fields, villages, and families yet retain the
name of Veddahs, as Weddeya pangoo, Wedde coombore, Wedde watte, Wedde ella,
Wedde gala, Weddege, etc., in the district of Saffiragam, which is the country
at the foot of Adam's Peak, and in the Raygam Korle. Indeed, Saffragam, or
Habara gamowa, means the district of Veddahs, or barbarous people; and in this
form of the word, the former existence of Veddahs again can be traced, as Habara
goddege, Habera kadowa, etc. It is traditional throughout Saffragam, that once
Veddahs predominated over Singhalese in that district, and that, as the latter
gained ground, the former withdrew towards Bintenu and Wellassé. But Mr. Macready, of the Civil Service, has given me very important proof of the
existence of Veddahs "near the Sumanta mountains." He has given me the
translation of some stanzas from a Singhalese poem, written about 400 years ago,
called the Pirawi Sandese, or the Dove's Message. The poem treats of a message
sent, by means of a dove, from Ootta (near Golembo) to Vishnu at Dondera, at the
extreme south of the island. The dove takes its course exactly over the
districts lying below Adam's Peak. The poet addresses the dove, and tells her
she will see "the daughters of the Veddahs" clothed in Riti bark, their hair
adorned with peacock's plumes. So wild are they that the poet describes the
herds of deer as being startled at the sight of them.
81 Tennent makes an unaccountable mistake when he says, vol. i, chap. vii, p. 371.—"Even the children of Wijaya by his first wife, Kuweni, united themselves with their maternal connections, on the repudiation of their mother, and retained the attributes of the Yakkhos." He refers, as his authority, to the seventh chapter of the Mahawanso; but this proves the exact contrary. It is there distinctly stated that, so far from doing so, they were compelled to flee with their uncle to avoid their mother's fate, and that Wijaya himself came to their refuge, assigning to them a place of security from their incensed "maternal connections" in "the Sumanta mountain," probably Saffragam, far removed from the scene of their mother's brief triumph and death (the present district of Putlam).
82 One copy of the Mahawanso describes the scene of her death as near Tamenawillo, i.e., Tamenanewera, near Putlam. Her spirit is still supposed to haunt a well in the neighbourhood, whence she issues forth, invisible, and pelts with great stones rash treasure-hunters who invade her solitude in search of the treasure they believe is buried near.
83 I am indebted to Mr. De Zoysa for this interpretation. He adds, "In the Pali Nighandu, 'achcha' is said to mean bear, and 'tarachcha' a bear that bends his neck." According to some, 'arachcha' is the hyena. Probably the Singhalese writers confused the bear with the hyena, and considered the latter a species of bear.