Ahikuntika people in Sri Lanka, Gypsy in Sri Lanka, Ahikuntika community

Ahikuntika (Gypsy) people in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a small island where many minority communities live contributing to its cultural and ethnic diversity. The gypsies or the nomadic community is a minority ethnic group that enriches the cultural diversity of Sri Lanka. As the term suggests, gypsies live a nomadic lifestyle moving from one place to another to engage in their livelihood. Locally, they are known as Ahikuntika, Kuthadi, Kuravaor Nayi Panikkiya.There are about 1,000 Ahikuntika families living in Sri Lanka and their population is about 25,000. Ceylon Today visited Thambuttegama where a large number of Ahikuntika families live at present, and Mahakanadarawa which is a Thelungu village.

The Ahikuntika community has distinct characteristics that differ from other communities. Their chief means of living are snake charming, monkey performing and soothsaying. In the past, where there were lesser avenues of amusements, they travelled across the country with their luggage and paraphernalia stacked on the backs of donkeys. They carried monkeys and snakes to entertain people. They had no permanent houses to stay, so they put up small tents or huts on barren or abandoned lands.Sri Lanka is a small island where many minority communities live contributing to its cultural and ethnic diversity. The gypsies or the nomadic community is a minority ethnic group that enriches the cultural diversity of Sri Lanka. As the term suggests, gypsies live a nomadic lifestyle moving from one place to another to engage in their livelihood. Locally, they are known as Ahikuntika, Kuthadi, Kuravaor Nayi Panikkiya.

There are about 1,000 Ahikuntika families living in Sri Lanka and their population is about 25,000. Ceylon Today visited Thambuttegama where a large number of Ahikuntika families live at present, and Mahakanadarawa which is a Thelungu village.

The Ahikuntika community has distinct characteristics that differ from other communities. Their chief means of living are snake charming, monkey performing and soothsaying. In the past, where there were lesser avenues of amusements, they travelled across the country with their luggage and paraphernalia stacked on the backs of donkeys. They carried monkeys and snakes to entertain people. They had no permanent houses to stay, so they put up small tents or huts on barren or abandoned lands.However, the present generation of the Ahikuntika community has abandoned its traditional way of living and merged with the majority community. Nowadays it is hard to find them wandering on roads and streets with performing monkeys, and blowing a big flute to charm cobras. They were also famous for reading palms and forecasting the future.

Although gypsies generally move from one place to another, present day Ahikuntika families seem to be an exception. Most of them live in permanent houses in the North Central and Eastern Provinces. They are scattered in areas such as Kudagama and Kalawewa in Thambuttegama Division in the Anuradhapura District, Aligambay and Siriwalli Puram in the Ampara District and Andarabedda in the Kurunegala District.The Ahikuntika community is believed to have been descended from the people of Andra Pradesh in India. However, due to rapid development, they have lost their identity. The technological advancements and development projects launched by the government have resulted in changing their lifestyle. In the process, their traditional customs and practices too have vanished. A major factor for the change of their lifestyle is the non-availability of bare lands where they could put up their tents for a few weeks or months.

When members of the gypsy community found it difficult to live according to their traditions, they made several complaints as well as requests to the government highlighting their plight. Subsequently, in 1969, the government made arrangements to settle them at Nochchikulam in the Vavuniya District. Ending their nomadic lifestyle, Ahikuntika community began to live in permanent abodes, yet they did not give up their livelihood of snake charming, monkey performing and soothsaying. The Ahikuntika males left homes for their accustomed livelihood with their snakes and monkeys leaving the other family members at home. Gradually, they adapted themselves to the mainstream culture and lifestyle.

Ahikuntika people in Sri Lanka, Gypsy in Sri Lanka, Ahikuntika community Ahikuntika people in Sri Lanka, Gypsy in Sri Lanka, Ahikuntika community Ahikuntika people in Sri Lanka, Gypsy in Sri Lanka, Ahikuntika community
Ahikuntika people in Sri Lanka, Gypsy in Sri Lanka, Ahikuntika community Ahikuntika people in Sri Lanka, Gypsy in Sri Lanka, Ahikuntika community Ahikuntika people in Sri Lanka, Gypsy in Sri Lanka, Ahikuntika community
Ahikuntika people in Sri Lanka, Gypsy in Sri Lanka, Ahikuntika community Ahikuntika people in Sri Lanka, Gypsy in Sri Lanka, Ahikuntika community Ahikuntika people in Sri Lanka, Gypsy in Sri Lanka, Ahikuntika community
Ahikuntika people in Sri Lanka, Gypsy in Sri Lanka, Ahikuntika community Ahikuntika people in Sri Lanka, Gypsy in Sri Lanka, Ahikuntika community Ahikuntika people in Sri Lanka, Gypsy in Sri Lanka, Ahikuntika community

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