The People of Sri Lanka

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					The People of Sri Lanka
Ancient Legends and Chronicles

There had been a lot of research work, expeditions, scientific theories, philosophical thinking,
religious ideologies published concerning the first appearance of mankind on earth. Theory of
evolution indicates that man did not just appear on earth but during the course of time he evolved
from the species of monkeys. It is a question left for discussion. The Biblical chronicles which is
known to be the oldest document written on creation has failed to trace the exact details about
the beginning of human existence. The Bible (in the book of Genesis) goes to describe about the
appearance of mankind on earth as follows: In the beginning God created man and
woman………. Without indications to know when was that beginning and where was that
place of first signs of human appearance. Likewise there is no evidence to find as to when and
where was the human existence traced in the soil of Sri Lanka. But legendary related that
according to the Indian narration of the great Ramayanaya, man had been existing in Ceylon
before 3,000 BC. There are other references which trace back to even millions of years.

Buddhist Chronicles which were compiled by certain Buddhist monks in 500                 BC as
Mahavamsa described the origin of man in Ceylon was attributed to the arrival of Vijaya from
India. But even at the time of Vijaya’s sailing into Thambapanni, in North Western region there
had been people living in Ceylon since times unknown, otherwise Vijaya could not have married
Queen Kuveni. Therefore, the human presence may have been in this island long before the
recorded history. Those people had been the direct descendants of the aborigines who were
thought to be Cobra worshipers and Demon worshippers (The Nagas and Yakshas). The time of
origin of those two groups were not known. But it indicated a glimpse of early settlement of
mankind in the island. They had been known as the unspoiled children of nature who were
called Veddhas. They still remain in small numbers in Mahiyanganaya in Uva Province. They
are proud to be called the descendants of the stone age inhabitants. The Veddhas cling to their
indigenous life style, culture and traditions up to this date.

The Sinhalese and Early Settlements

The Sinhalese had never been found from any where in the world. They had been originated by a
mixture of the Veddhas who used to inhabit the land since the times immemorial. There had been
number of similarities such as skin complexion, dark long hair, language, habits between the
Veddas and the Sinhalese. The Veddhas had been involved very strongly in formation of the
Sinhala nation through means of inter marriage between the two groups. The first Sinhalese
settlements were traced along rivers in the dry northern zone of the country. Unlike the Veddhas
they deviated from hunting and killing of animals for their subsistence and accustomed
themselves to agriculture and cultivation of dry food like rice, grains and vegetables. They
found ways and means of preserving water which was very much essential for agriculture. The
Sinhalese began to construct canals, storage tanks, reservoirs, and taught the whole world the
art of conserving and managing water. Such early attempts on irrigation engineering reveal
how brilliant had they been in power of thinking, understanding and inventing. The system of
controlling water by means of valve pit was first discovered by the Sinhalese experts about
2,500 years ago. With the help of this invention they used to construct large scale irrigation
work and preserve water for future use specially during times of drought.

The Sinhala community expanded fast and began to settle down in many parts of the country.
They also got mixed up with Tamils who migrated into the island from South India. Moreover
the Moors or the Muslims who used to travel about through Ceylon for trade settled down in the
country and mingled with the Sinhalese. Later during medieval era when the Europeans like the
Portuguese, the Dutch and the British invaded Ceylon they also settled down in the country and
mixed up themselves with the native Sinhala community. Except the unspoiled sons and
daughters, the Veddhas the Sinhalese became a nation consisted of mixed blood. Thus the
identity of the Sinhalese was gradually diminished. Thanks to the Buddhist influence on the
nation there was a revival of patriotic feeling among the Sinhalese. Their main occupation was
agriculture and cultivation of land with variety of edible crops such as paddy, kurakkan, yams,
fruits and vegetables.

The Sinhalese inherited certain qualitative behavioral patterns like honesty, faithfulness,
compassion, duty consciousness, sense of responsibility they became famous for their hospitality
with kind heartedness. Such high ideals have been commented by certain great writers, travelers,
state leaders as edifying. The literacy they have acquired has been rated as above the standard
level. In many aspects the Sinhalese remain an outstanding nation and they had been able to
build up individuality and identity throughout years.