Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Vedda are a small group of indigenous people living in the center of Sri Lanka, an island off the southern tip of India. Traditional Vedda life was based on nomadic hunting and gathering at the margins of an area inhabited by the Sinhalese and the Tamils, the two largest ethnic groups in Sri Lanka. Beginning from the 1910s, however, many Vedda families adopted paddy cultivation and settled in permanent villages.


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Asia --South Asia


Sri Lanka

OWC Code


Number of Documents


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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author, date of publication and eHRAF document number.

In addition to this culture summary, the AX05 Vedda collection consists of 3 documents, all of them in English, containing information from three main time periods: 1850s, mid-1910s and late 1960s. The first comprehensive ethnographic account of Vedda in the collection was compiled by C. G. Seligmann and B. Z. Seligmann (Seligmann and Seligmann 1911, no. 1). This book provides a first hand account of Vedda kinship, village life, economic activities, settlement patterns, life cycles, religion, music, language and perceptions as observed in 1907-1908. Seligmanns's account is further supplemented by James Brow's study of kinship and caste system among the Vedda of Anuradhapura district in the Northern Central Province of Sri Lanka (Brow 1978, no. 6). Brow argues that Vedda kinship and caste are shaped by a variety of ecological, demographic, political and economic conditions including environmental factors (notably rainfall), government land policy, rural administration and patterns of marriage, migration and residence. Brow explores this theme by tracing changes in patterns of land use, developmental cycles of households, marriage rules, residence, and organization of work groups. The remaining book in the collection was authored by a British colonial government official called John Bailey (Bailey 1863, no. 2). This book too covers a variety of information relating to settlement pattern, economic activities and religion, despite Bailey's Eurocentric views of the Vedda as "savage," "lazy" and "wild,". The last three decades (1980s to 2006) are not covered in the collection. For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in the collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

Teferi Adem

Ande, share-cropping arrangement - use "RENTING AND LEASING (427)"

Anumatirala, exorcist - use "MAGICAL AND MENTAL THERAPY (755)"

Baga, section of a village - use "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)" with "SETTLEMENT PATTERNS (361)"

Development projects - use "RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT (654)"

Gamarala, village headman (hereditary position) - use "COMMUNITY HEADS (622)", possibly with "STATUS, ROLE, AND PRESTIGE (554)"

Gamvasama, land granted to village headmen in lieu of administrative services - use "REAL PROPERTY (423)" with "STATUS, ROLE, AND PRESTIGE (554)"

Kapurala, spirit medium - use "REVELATION AND DIVINATION (787)"

Nayo, kinsmen - use "KIN RELATIONSHIPS (602)"

Paddy Cultivation - use "CEREAL AGRICULTURE (243)"

Shifting Cultivation- - use "TILLAGE (241)" with "ANNUAL CYCLE (221)"

Tulana, government appointed local headmen - use "LOCAL OFFICIALS (624)"

Ukas, mortgaged land - use "BORROWING AND LENDING (426)"

Variga, caste division - use "CASTES (564)"

This culture summary is based on the article, "Vedda" by James Brow and Michael Woost, in the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, Vol. 3, South Asia, Paul Hockings, ed. Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall &Co. 1992. Teferi Abate Adem wrote the synopsis and indexing notes in November 2006.

Indexing Notes by

Teferi Adem

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