Zimina T. A. The way the Sinhalese see the Veddas: view from the past and present perceptions

Tatyana A. ZIMINA — Leading Researcher, The Russian Museum of Ethnography (Russia, St. Petersburg)
E-mail: Ziminat@mail.ru 

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УД К 397(548.7)
DOI 10.31250/2618-8600-2019-4(6)-60-74


ABSTRACT. The article investigates one aspect of the collaboration between two ethnic cultures which co-existed within the island of Sri Lanka. The paper scrutinizes the beliefs of Sinhalese, who are the main inhabitants of this island country, and the Veddas, a small ethnic group, populating the same island and considered to be autochthons of Sri Lanka. These perceptions are evident in an analysis of the well- known historical and ethnographical texts of the second half of the 19th — early 20th centuries as well as in the interviews collected at present time. The Sinhalese have always marked several features of the ethnic image of the Veddas, for example, their outlook, language, a set of cultural, lifestyle, and behavioral traits. The author addresses several of these traits, mainly those which transformation can be traced in time. The analysis of the Sinhalese perceptions of the Veddas allows the author to approach differently the traditional culture of the autochthonous population and the role of these people in the history of Sri Lanka and its modern stage. For instance, it becomes clear why in popular science literature and online sources one can read about near-disappearance of the Veddas, and that those who call themselves the Ved- das nowadays only perform as ancestors of the ancient population and recreate the tra- ditional way of life for the tourists. In fact, the primary occupation of the people who consider themselves as autochthons is hunting, but at the present time it is prohibited by the state.


KEYWORDS: Veddas, Sinhalese, Sri Lanka, ethnicity, ethnic image, ethnic characteristics, attributes of ethnic culture



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