Vedda - Religion and Expressive Culture



Religious Beliefs. The religious beliefs of the Veddas overlap considerably with those of Sinhalese villagers, who are predominantly Buddhists, and with those of Tamil villagers, who are mostly Hindus. All worship a hierarchical pantheon of deities, to whom offerings are made in the hope of gaining favors or relief from suffering. As described by the Seligmanns, the Bintenne Veddas had no knowledge of Buddhism. Their religion was apparently based on worship of Recently deceased ancestors, various local demons, and other minor gods. In contrast, the Anuradhapura Veddas describe themselves as Buddhists, although their participation in Buddhist rites is infrequent. The Coast Veddas are more influenced by their Hindu Tamil neighbors and engage in various forms of temple worship associated with Hindu deities, as well as propitiating local deities and demon spirits. The pantheon extends from locally resident spirits and demons whose disposition is generally malevolent to powerful and benevolent, but more remote, major gods. For those who profess Buddhism, these major gods themselves derive their authority from the Buddha. The most important high gods for the Anuradhapura Veddas are Kataragama and Pulleyar. For the Coast Veddas they are Shiva, Murugan, Pillaiyar, and Valli. The Bintenne Veddas cut off the hierarchy at a lower level and attend only to more localized gods, demons, and ancestor spirits, although a few also worship the high god Kataragama.


Religious Practitioners. Among the Anuradhapura and Bintenne Veddas one of the most important religious practitioners is the kapurala, who intercedes with a god on behalf of his fellow villagers. Among the Anuradhapura Veddas there is also the anumatirala, who becomes possessed by a minor god or demon and performs exorcisms. Specialized religious practitioners are rare among the Coast Veddas.


Ceremonies. The Bintenne Veddas engage in many Different ceremonial dances in which a specialized practitioner becomes possessed by a god or demon. These dances are always a part of an exorcism or an attempt to procure favors or information from the spirit being. The Anuradhapura Veddas hold an annual ceremony at which offerings are made collectively to the village's tutelary deity. Other ceremonies, such as exorcisms, are organized by individual households. The Coast Veddas observe the Hindu festival calendar, but their most important rituals are locally organized possession ceremonies, which are conducted jointly by all concerned Vedda villagers. Personal rites of propitiation and protection are also common among all groups of Veddas.


Arts. Ritual performances, especially possession Ceremonies that include dancing, chanting, instrumental music making, and the construction of temporary shrines, provide some of the principal occasions for artistic expression among all Vedda groups. The plastic arts are otherwise little emphasized beyond acts of individual decoration. The Seligmanns noted that the Bintenne Veddas were once adept at making artifacts and utensils from animal skins and also engaged in rock and cave drawings. Singing is a popular form of recreation among the Veddas.


Medicine. Persons familiar with at least some aspects of the South Asian tradition of Ayurvedic medicine are found among both the Anuradhapura and the Coast Veddas. They use herbal compounds to adjust the balance of humors in the body. Some illnesses are attributed to demonic possession and are treated by exorcism. Among the Bintenne Veddas, almost all illness was treated through ritual ceremonies. Many Veddas now have access to the free medical care, based on Western science and technology, that is provided by the state.


Death and Afterlife. Among the Anuradhapura and Coast Veddas, beliefs and practices regarding death are shaped by Buddhist and Hindu concepts of karma, reincarnation, and the transmigration of souls. The Bintenne and the Coast Veddas also practice rituals to propitiate and communicate with recently deceased ancestors who are believed to be able to influence events in the present life.

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User Contributions:

1
piumi perera
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Dec 3, 2011 @ 10:22 pm
Im so interest on vaddas culture.i thought to do a project on this topic.il be satisfy if you able to send me some information about this topic.
2
Vivanantharasa.T
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Sep 28, 2018 @ 4:04 am
The article gives the basic outline of the Vedda community in Sri Lanka and it is very useful to me to get some idea of the community to do a ethnographic study as a researcher focus on the numerically small community in Esatern Sri Lanka.

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