The Veddhas also known as the ‘Forest People’ are the last indigenous people of Sri Lanka who are slowly becoming extinct unfortunately although there are reservations that can be visited and their way of life can be seen. The forests of Sri Lanka were inhabited by the Veddhas long before the Buddhists arrived dating back to the 6th century.
One of the general ideas that were spoken by the Sinhalese is that the Veddhas are descendants of Prince Vijaya, who became the legendary first King of Sri Lanka and the archaeological and anthropological studies show that the Veddha tribe is much older than that dating back to the Stone Age era on the other hand. These are the two general ideas as to how long they have been on the island although the origins of the Veddha were not fully documented.
It is safe to say that the first people to take over the Veddha territories were Prince Vijaya and his descendants according to scientific evidence. The Veddhas began to follow their colonizers as free ranged inhabitants after thousands of years. As a number of Veddhas were greatly concentrated in the South Central jungles of Sri Lanka, known as Mahiyanganaya, the indigenous Veddhas were compelled to embrace the traditions of the Sinhalese and Tamil settlers as time passed, losing their identity. The Mahiyanganaya Raja Maha Viharaya built in Mahiyanganaya is considered to be one of the most important and sacred ancient Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka. The remaining Veddhas live in reservations in the jungle and as the future of their culture is obscure, today. The Veddhas who knew better moved further into the jungle, the Maduru Oya National Park which is now named as a Veddha Reservation site is the only place where Veddhas can live according to their ancestral traditions, whilst with some modern amenities, like brick cottages.
Some Veddhas live in the jungle whereas some live in the villages interspersed with the Sinhalese and Tamil towns. Veddhas that live deep in the wilderness live just from hunting and gathering, unlike the ones living in the village area. Too see these indigenous tribes disappear into the modern influences is an intricate situation. It’s a great experience to visit these places when travelling to Sri Lanka in order to witness their lifestyle.