View Full Version : Indigenous Wanniyala-Aetto (“Veddahs”) detained for contributing to Kandy Perahera

08-26-2007, 12:03 PM
Indigenous Wanniyala-Aetto (“Veddahs”) detained for contributing to Kandy Perahera

Wiveca Stegeborn, Cultural Anthropologist, Sweden

The indigenous Wanniyala-Aetto people, commonly known, as the "Veddahs" of Sri Lanka were detained 2007 08 19, and face charges on Sept. 5th for collecting honey in their ancestral forestland for the annual Bee Honey offering at the Tooth Temple on the 24th of August at the Esala Perahera in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

The Kandy Perahera is the largest Buddhist religious celebration in the country with many decorated elephants, dancers, chalk coal walkers and sacral music. It is a day-by-day monitored week-long event peaked on Full Moon day, Tuesday 28th. One of their annual contributors are the indigenous forest people, the Wanniyala-Aetto, that travel from, what once was their jungle, to the Buddha’s Tooth Temple to re-enact their historical surrender to the Buddha and their adaptation to his teachings, the Dharma by giving their honey offerings to his temple.

The Maduru Oya National Park guards that survey their ancestral land, presently labelled ´national park´, from trespassers, including the Wanniyala-Aetto, confiscated the honey and their tools. The Wanniyala-Aetto were removed from their tropical forest in 1983 to give way for the Mahaweli Accelerated Project and a national park, The Maduru Oya National Park. We do not yet know if they risked new charges by entering the park anew to recollect new honey offerings to the sacred Dalada Maligave (Buddha's Tooth Temple) or if they, as recommended by The Environment and Natural Resources Ministry, first ought to pass by the closest police station to recollect their confiscated offering by the national park authorities before they proceeded to the Buddha’s Tooth Temple. The news were known to Sri Lanka’s government newspaper Daily News which denies the detention in their headlines, but admit them in the text.

The four detainees are mentioned by name. (http://www.dailynews.lk/2007/08/22/news31.asp). According to the newspaper “the Veddah Community can obtain the bucket of bees honey by submitting a motion in court for which there would be no objections from the Wildlife Conservation Department.”

This new Buddhist tradition, to collect confiscated honey at the Police station, and face charges, may be a future hindrance for the forest people to follow their oath to the dominant religion, Buddhism, of Sri Lanka. For further information please see

The author:
Wiveca Stegeborn, Cultural Anthropologist, Sweden. Worked with, and research on, the Wanniyala-Aetto since 1977. Speak their language and the major language of Sri Lanka, Singhalese. Has contributed to an encyclopaedia on Hunters and Gatherers, professional books and journals regarding the Wanniyala-Aetto for three decades.

08-26-2007, 12:27 PM
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