The Sinhalese are the dominant ethnic group in Sri Lanka. They live primarily in the wetter zones of Sri Lanka in the central, south, and west provinces. Most of Sri Lanka is rural and subsistence agriculture supplemented by some wage-labor is characteristic of much of the Sinhalese population. The Sinhalese are primarily Theravada Buddhists and speak Sinhala, an Indo-European language of the Indo-Aryan group of languages.
Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.
Asia --South Asia
Note: Select the Collection Documents tab above to browse documents.
There are ten documents in the Sinhalese file, all in English, and focused mainly on the Kandyan Sinhalese. Many of these works are heavily oriented to kinship and its integration into other cultural aspects of the society. Yalman's work, based on seven community studies, is probably the best general source on Kandyan kinship and its relation to other aspects of the culture (see Yalman 1971, eHRAF document no. 4). While most of the kinship documents tend to be concerned with the theoretical considerations of British kinship and social structure studies, they are well supported with case histories and community studies material which provide more that just kinship information. A number of these works, for example, provide additional ethnographic data on social structure, architecture, material culture, religion, politics, culture history, and the ethnic conflict between the majority Sinhalese population and the minority Tamils. For more detailed information on the content of any of the individual works in this file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.
This Culture summary is from the article, "Sinhalese," by Bryan Pfaffenberger in the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, Vol 3. 1992. Paul Hockings, ed. Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall & Co. The synopsis and indexing notes were prepared by John Beierle, August 1996.
AN KELIYA rituals -- category 796
ANDE -- traditional sharecropping arrangement -- category 427
ATTAM -- cooperative work groups -- category 476
BETHMA -- the joint working of a portion of a field with the sharing of the resulting profits -- category 476
BHIKKU -- monk -- category 792
Buddhist Committee of Inquiry -- category 795
Ceylon National Congress (CNC) -- category 646
compound groups -- made up of households or GEDARA -- category 621
DAYAKAYA SAMITIYA -- lay benefactor's societies -- category 794
DHAMMA -- religious doctrine -- category 779
DHARMAPALA -- a Buddhist layman -- category 794
Divisional Revenue Officer (DR) -- category 634
GAMARALA leader -- land owner; hereditary chief cultivator -- categories 554, 423
GE -- nuclear family unit -- category 594
GEDARA -- households -- category 592
JANATHA VIMUKTHI PERAMUNA (JVP) -- an insurrectionist movement of Sinhalese youth against the majority government -- categories 669, 668, 665
KAARANA -- theories of causation; "technologies" which attempt to manipulate supernatural forces for immediate ends -- category 789
KAPURALA -- priest of the Devale shrine -- category 793
KUDI -- category 613
MASSINA -- brothers-in-law (may also include cross-cousins) -- category 607
NIKANG -- cooperative work groups -- category 476
PANGU -- category 423
PAVULA -- category 602
RAJAKARIYA -- corvee work used to maintain the tank -- category 653
RATEMAHATMAYA -- category 634
SANGHA -- order of monks -- category 792
TARAWAD -- category 613
Tom-Tom beater's welfare society -- category 747
TULANA -- headman -- category 632
VARIGA -- categories of human beings of all kinds -- castes, linguistic groups, religious groups, racial groups, etc. -- categories 571, 564, 829 (for social concepts of)
VEL VIDANE -- category 624
VIDYALANKARA group -- radical, left-oriented Buddhist monks -- categories 792, 668
village tribunal -- category 692
WANNI NAYAKA -- category 635